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Author Topic: Having too much source material too full of rules  (Read 10544 times)
Christoffer Lernö
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Posts: 822


« Reply #30 on: October 17, 2002, 10:14:26 PM »

I'm gonna throw out a random idea I had just now reading Walt's text.

Imagine you have a system where you use keywords to compress mechanics info like I explain in this thread.

Let's envision you have "Great Balls of Fire" as a shorthand description for a spell. You might also have a powerlevel, say 8.

If we crank it through some hypothetical mechanics generator for a D&D style game that might give us: "Shoots 8 fireballs doing 1d6 of damage each" or it might be "Shoots two big fireballs doing 4d6 damage each"

However it's not clear which version it actually is. Now deciding that the total damage should be 8d6 is dictated by the translating mechanics, but we have no guide on range, number of fireballs and so on.

Now what if... What if that "undecided" part was explicitly ruled to be entirely guided to increase outcome quality? Basically the GM is granted the license to rule details to increase outcome quality. There is already a part which is guided by the mechanics. For the rest the GM usually acts like a referee, Walt points out. What if the GM instead was supposed to act like a story creator in these cases.

"Pathless" has a maxium mechanical challenge maybe. But how it works is 100% based on increasing outcome quality.

Or to put it differently: effects are only determined when they actually affect the outcome. Basically I want to grant the GM to retcon behaviour that hasn't affected the story.

It might seem obvious, but Sim usually works differently. First the full behaviour is established, then (and only then) can the effect be allowed to enter into play.

Another way to phrase this is the common saying that "the players should have a chance to know what's happening". People here seem to be arguing that if you give the GM free hands to work outside of the rules he would proceed to kill the characters. Which conveniently forgets that the reason there is an adventure at all, is because GM put it there. This is thinking that the GM is something of a lawmaker and a judge. The players need to know how to adher to the law.

My view is that the GM should be thought of as the author of a book, and the players are both reading it and continuously offering suggestions to the GM on how it should continue. What reader would blame the author for not fully establishing the complete rules of the world (and then strictly adhering to it) instead of making story first and not telling "why" until the story demands it.
So "mechanics on demand" rather than a static prewritten mechanic that might not mesh well with the story. If this could be the default mode, then that get you a bit along the way.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #31 on: October 18, 2002, 06:09:57 AM »

I think we're just going to have to disagree here.
Quote from: Pale Fire

It might seem obvious, but Sim usually works differently. First the full behaviour is established, then (and only then) can the effect be allowed to enter into play.
Some Sim works differently. But a game as Sim (Gamist, even) as Hero System, designed as Champions in 1980, has incorporated just this idea that the rules exist behind the description, and the GM adjudicates the rest. For example, in Champions it says that if the "special effect" (that is, the description of the effect, in narrative terms), would seem to have additional affects, then the GM should add them. So, if an attack is listed at doing 8d6 because of it's power level, and the special effect is "Great Balls of Fire" the GM is free to add dice of damage to a character who is doused in oil. Or anything else that he sees fit.

Quote
Another way to phrase this is the common saying that "the players should have a chance to know what's happening". People here seem to be arguing that if you give the GM free hands to work outside of the rules he would proceed to kill the characters. Which conveniently forgets that the reason there is an adventure at all, is because GM put it there. This is thinking that the GM is something of a lawmaker and a judge. The players need to know how to adher to the law.
Baloney. Nobody is saying that. If you want to leave leeway, we're all quite comfortable with that. We respect our players, and know that they will understand our judgment. But that does not mean that there is no advantage to having mechanics as far as one does. For example, by having some idea of the mechanics, a player can have some idea of the potency of his abilities. Which makes sense, as the character would probably know, and if the player does not, he cannot make reasonable decisions for the character.

There are other advantages as well, but I'd rather not get into that debate. The point is that all I have ever advocated is that you have some method that related to the rest of your mechanics. If you were to have some "power level" as you state above, that would probably be just fine. In fact, it's very much what I had indicated you did need. I've given you examples on two occasions that match this idea.

See, we agree with you about this sort of design. It would be very much like Hero Wars (a game of which I started last night). In that game, you have spells with a narrative description that are linked to a single stat that is rated just like every other stat in the game, but relates to the magic in question. So, one character has Sorcery 17. Which means that any spell that he casts that falls under this rating will have a game effect the same as any other level 17 skill or ability or relationship.

Yes, this works, and it works fine. I leave it to you to adapt this principle to your own game.

Quote
So "mechanics on demand" rather than a static prewritten mechanic that might not mesh well with the story. If this could be the default mode, then that get you a bit along the way.
This principle works for books, but not for RPGs. It leaves the player in the dark. When you finally do decide what the mechanics are in a particular situation, I gaurantee that some player at some point is going to be very disappointed. Worse, this breaks your Illusionism. At this point it becomes painfully obvious who has control of things. The reason to have arbitrary-appearing mechanics is so that when you do perform Illusions, they seem to be arbitrary, and thus the illusion is maintained. Reduce the apparent arbitrariness of the rules, and no Illusion is possible. You'll have Participationism instead. Which at that point begs the question, why not just go all-out with the make up mechanics on the spot for all resolution? What makes magic so different from a player's POV that they will want that sort of resolution to be by GM fiat, and all other resolution to be by an arbitrary system?

I'm not buying it.

Mike
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #32 on: October 18, 2002, 07:21:46 AM »

Hmm.. Mike, about Hero, I'm not contesting that. However, if I remember Hero right there can be a lot of calculating before you can be sure that your points add upp right.

Ideally I'd have a Hero-system-ultra-light kind of thing. Something which produces differentiated mechanics but with practically no bookkeeping whatsoever nor with long lists of component effect. Something like that would help a lot.

I don't have it though.

It's kind of frustrating because I know what I'd like to achieve, but I have no clue as how to get there. Existing rules seem to offer very little in this direction as Walt points out.

I don't see Hero as actually promoting "made up on the fly effects" more than maybe in theory. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this one.

Something else. Later on you seem to contradict yourself. This might stem from a misunderstanding of what we're discussing (on my side, yours or both).

First you say:
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Baloney. Nobody is saying that. If you want to leave leeway, we're all quite comfortable with that. We respect our players, and know that they will understand our judgment.

when I'm talking about how people say that the players should have a chance of knowing what's happening and I find that problematic.

However, in the segment just after that, you seem to take the totally opposite stance:
Quote from: Mike Holmes
This principle works for books, but not for RPGs. It leaves the player in the dark. When you finally do decide what the mechanics are in a particular situation, I gaurantee that some player at some point is going to be very disappointed

What I'm talking about are the same approach, basically only having a guide "This NPC has the Power Of BOB which is a Legendary-Class power" and then allowing the GM to put off defining what the heck the Power of BOB is when the players find out, and not before that.

Or to put it differently, as long as something hasn't been established within the game it is not nailed down. And even if it's in the game, only the part that is defined is fixed.

This seems to be essentially what HeroWars does anyway. All I'm suggesting that you could be allowed to do the same thing in a game which doesn't explicitly give the same powers to the players. Allow cheerful retconning of the story by the GM. In fact encourage it. Maybe the players hear that the Wizard of Gobbly has the power of BOB. At this point there is no need for the GM to decide what the power does or what the mechanics is for it. Later they run into someone claiming that the power of BOB creates small slimy creatures that like to feed on virgin chickens. However this doesn't immediately establish that the power of BOB is that. Further on they encounter the Wizard and he uses the power of BOB to warp time & space and send them forward in time 100 years.
Is this the true power of BOB? It seems to be established that the power of BOB can warp spacetime, but what about the chickens? There hasn't been anything saying either is true. The GM can decide if it is later on. The GM can even decide that the time bending powers of the Wizard isn't that of BOB but that of an artifact wielded by said wizard. And so on and so on.

This isn't unlike what people already do. What I'd like is to have it supported in the rules (like it is in HeroWars).

This, of course is on the GM controlled end. What about the magic? Well what I was thinking was that there could be a player controlled retconning device to extend powers. However when a player chooses a power, it has to be frozen somewhat - unlike GM controlled powers.

From the player's POV everything should look sim. If there is a retconning system for the players it has to be motivated by the setting. However, unless we have a framework for the making a retconning magic, there is little need to create setting for it.

I'm really sorry I can't contribute more. Maybe we should simply pause this thread and I'll return to it when I have some ideas. Unless you others think you have ways this might be implemented in actual mechanics? I'm out of ideas. I can only keep on explaining what I'm aiming for, but that's mostly a waste of time to read for the people involved in this thread.
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Kester Pelagius
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« Reply #33 on: October 18, 2002, 09:55:33 AM »

Quote from: Pale Fire
I'm gonna throw out a random idea I had just now reading Walt's text.

Imagine you have a system where you use keywords to compress mechanics info like I explain in this thread.

Let's envision you have "Great Balls of Fire" as a shorthand description for a spell. You might also have a powerlevel, say 8.



This sounds very familiar.

I think something like this has been done before, a template mechanic in which elements were used with a descriptor to provide effect.

If anyone out there is reading this has been gaming awhile do you remember what this game was?

(And I'm not thinking of that Mage to Mage combat system posted online a few years back either, I'm pretty sure.)

Sorry, Pale Fire, that's the best I can recollect about the system.

But it was formulaic.  You'd pick you element, or in D&D terms "sphere", and a descriptor which would then define the output effect.

Sort of like "Fire+ Blast" or "Water + Cold" or something like that, effects were invested in, I think, with something akin to Manna points??

That's all I can get out of my imp of memory.


Kind Regards.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #34 on: October 18, 2002, 11:49:43 AM »

Kester,

You may be thinking of Ars Magica or possibly even Chivalry & Sorcery (Acellerate Stone). The former more likely. With the latter all accellerate stone could do was, well, accellerate a stone.

Christoff,

I think we're in agreement on what you need. Of course Hero System is way, way, way too complicated for what you want. I keep repeatedly saying (and am now getting tired of doing so) that I am not advocating anything at all on the complexity of Hero System. Just that a system that is as complex as that can be used to do what you say if that is what one wants. For strange and unusual people like me, we actually like play to cease for half an hour while we work out the details of how the spell is going to work out this time. But this is obviously not what you're after. You want something much more like Hero Wars, I suspect. Which is great. Nifty. We all agree.

On the subject of my apparent contradiction, you misread me and Hero Wars. In that system, and in any system (I agree with you here), the GM will not let on the mechanical values associated with an item before the PC would have such knowledge. Why would he (with the exception of very open Narrativist games, perhaps)? And, in fact, I am of the opinion that in certain styles of play that perhaps he never should reveal that data. How's that for sounding contradictory? But what I advocate is that there be a system in place that the player is aware of by which the stats might be enumerated, and that the GM should either assign such a stat, or, if playing in an illusionist fashion, he should do his best to make it seem as though such a defined stat exists.

Because that's the nature of illusionism. The player, because he cannot be sure whether or not the GM is using illusion or not, has to assume that the GM is not, and thereby he can get that "arbitrary world" feel that we seek in illusionism. So the arbitrary system must exist. In Hero Wars, for example, sure the character may have no idea what his magic item does until its used, but when it is, it is assigned a mechanical value that does not change (unless in-game circumstance would cause it to). And from that set metric, to the extent that the player knows what it is (often through character efforts to determine the level of effect) the player can feel that he can rely on the results, and the arbitrary feel is maintained.

But keep in mind that this is HW that we're talking about. Playing that without Sim drift, we'd never find the GM hiding the scores from the player, as that would be counterproductive to effective player Author stance play. Further, the resolution system being as "light" as it is in terms of detail generated mechanically, the players already have decided to forgo much of the whole "arbitrary system" feel. They only have a single number or two in many cases to go on (though you'd be surprised how often that's plenty). As such they have already decided to trust the GM with the description of events more than in most Sim games.

The point being that if you want to promote Illusionist play, then you need to have the ability to enumerate things in a manner that is coherent with the rest of the system. A single number may not do it for Ygg, because this implies that the GM will be making up a lot of the data when magic is played. More than he would in other situations. Again, if the players ae going to be satisfied with a certain level of GM use of system in one circumstance, why would they feel it was OK to have another level of control in another? I don't think they will.

The main problem I see with extending your current system to cover magic in any simple way is that you hav too many sub-resolution systems. What this means is that players will expect the same number of sub-resolutions in the magic to cover the same things. But you might be able to come close.

I've tried repeatedly now to give you an idea of the sort of mechanics that one could use to make your system into the sort of system that I honestly think you're saying you want. I will try one more time:

NOTICE: this is supposed to only inspire you to figure out how to do this on your own. As written, it will not make sense with your system precisely. I only present it so that you may get an idea of what such a system may look like in general terms. If you come back and tell me that it will not work based on it's exact application to your game, I will never speak to you again.

What one could do in your circumstance would be to just map the magic system by the skill system. That is, currently you have a system whereby a player uses skills to acomplish things in game. If one were to just assign magical "skills", and define what those skills could do in terms of spell descriptions, then one could simply use the current skill system to resolve events. The GM would do what he does in any skill situation, he would look at the skill rating, and what the character was trying to do, assign difficulty (does the spell employed make sense in this circumstance; how tough is the target), and then the player rolls. If he succeeds, then somebody narrates how the spell worked in this circumstance. If the character fails, then somebody describes how that happened.

Is this clear?

This is very much how a system like Hero Wars works. No, I will not go into more detail about the exact workings of that system, or any other for that matter. If you want to know more, buy or play these systems. There are probably a number of free games that work like this, though I can't think of one off the top of my head. Actually, see Dunjon Krawl if it's still up. In any case, I also have no inclination to be a co-author on your game, and as such, I will not create this mechanic for you. You have to do whatever research you need to do to understand this concept (though it seems clear to me, here), and then you need to figure out how to apply the concept to your game.

Mike
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #35 on: October 20, 2002, 06:35:14 AM »

Hi Mike,

Quote
If you come back and tell me that it will not work based on it's exact application to your game, I will never speak to you again.

Haha, fair enough.

Anyway, it seems we're on the same page, actually we might have been for some time now. I have been thinking about this problem over and over again, but a good solution has escaped me so far which is (I think) why I have kept trying to reformulate my "requirements", I have been hoping to find some angle which I might have overlooked.

So for me discussing this is both a way for me to check that I haven't missed something (since writing things down tends to structure one's thought somewhat) and also to see if others see things I'm overlooking myself. I put it in theory because it might be applicable to other games, such as Peregrin's Wayfarer's song (but his PDF had it much of those problems cleaned up - although since he's already using free-to-chose descriptor type of skills he might benefit from looking at this thread as well, but I could be wrong).

Inevitably though, we slid over to discuss the particular application in Ygg. I tried to lift the discussion to a tread in Game Design but it didn't quite work :)

But I'm rambling (as usual)

To the point ->.

What you suggest Mike is actually very useful, because you're pointing at two old things that I didn't pay enough attention to. First is the analogy between descriptors and magic spells. The second that I might need more than a single value to create a full descriptor.

Before that I was thinking of say "Great Balls Of Fire 17", but that didn't say enough. If I let in more that one parameter (this might be applicable with the decriptors as well) there is suddenly a whole lot more you can do with it. I was thinking of more than one value for places and items, but that was pretty much because they were like simplified characters, not because I was thinking of attaching several variables to the actual effects.

Unfortunately I have no clever solution for it yet, but I'm thinking about it (actually it's in my dreams as well *sigh*). Maybe too much even.

It's not that I can't think of implementations, it's just that I can't think of implementations that does all I want it to do. Anyway, I know I'm not adding so much with this posting.

Just want to say that I appreciate you taking the effort Mike and that I hope I can return with something useful sooner rather than later.

P.S. Call me Christoffer or Chris (although the latter might create some confusion considering there are already a few active posters here right now with that name). Christoff is weirding me out. It can't be that much effort typing the last two letters can it ;P
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