Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Help me with IntCon facilitating mechanics

Started by Christoffer Lernö, November 22, 2002, 01:11:05 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Christoffer Lernö

I'm looking for help investigating how to write mechanics to facilitate certain types of IntCon play within Sim systems.

I'm familiar with two different basic approaches of IntCon:

Drama->Mechanics->Effect GMing
In this GM wants effect A because this would create the drama needed, so he/she creates a rule interpretation of this event called B, hoping that this event is close enough to what is needed to produce effect A.

Drama->Effect->Mechanics GMing
Just like in the previous description the GM wants effect A and promptly describe that as happening, relying on the flexiblity of the system and/or fudging to retroactively motivate this by the rule interpretation of the event (B).

I'd like to call these two methods Mechanics versus Effect First. (Yes, this ties into stuff from this thread.

Assuming the social contract is that the GM and players are both using the same system (overtly anyway) then I find that it's very difficult to achieve the latter.

Only when the system is internalized and you trust yourself to be able to tweak the system - while preserving the illusion that you're using it - can you start using it with any confidence.

Let's look at a problematic AD&D situation (running AD&D IntCon style)

    Desired drama: The King is assassinated.

    Mechanics First - GM thinks: "This arrow with super poison to kill even a level 20 person, is shot by the assassin who is shielded with all sorts of magics. I hope he hits and that the king fails his Saving Throw, otherwise I don't get the right effect"... and then starts rolling.

    Effect First - GM says: "The arrow hits the king straight through the heart, he falls to the ground already dead" (Players are no doubt noticing that the GM at this point is violating the social contract by ignoring the rules)

    It could be suggested that the Effect First isn't a problem, just change the social contract. But that's assuming the players aren't big on rule consistency. I suggest that a lot of times they might be, so it's not a perfect solution.

    Obviously system matters.

    I've suggested before that "less rules help" but that's mainly because I feel that less rules usually are easier to fudge and tweak. However in the AD&D case I mention, it's not a problem of simplicity. Maybe the phrase I should be using is "more rules give more potential problems" :)

Mechanics First approach "solves" the problem but the effect isn't necessarily the desired - not to mention that there is an overhead in trying to motivate everything in rule terms before adding effects. My own experience suggests that this makes for a lot less atmospheric play.
(The overhead is big so unless there is a great benefit to introducing the effect it's hard to make the effort to go to the rules and create its rule-doppelganger)

I believe there are some things that could be done to the rules to help "Effect First" along:

    a. Rules consistent with setting (That would solve part of the AD&D problem)
    b. Rules designed to be easily interpretable from desired effect (games built to facilitate transitions should be good canidates for this)
    c. Enable "free" additions of colour
    d. Whatever effects the rules create, they should be fairly predictable "challenge wise"

    This is just a start though. Some notes on the rule modifications above:

    c) Free "colour" can be given liberally to both players and GM. For the players it has the effect that they can create fun and colourful scenes. If it's complicated to create colour, few will have inclination to create it. There should be no rules for colour, only guidelines at the most.

    (Look at how difficult it is to create ambient magical effects in AD&D. It's not because there isn't supposed to be any, but because they aren't given to the players and they aren't suggested to the GM. Hence the result.)

    For the GM colour is often enough to produce the effect wanted. And if the players have a lot of freedom it's not a stretch to give the GM the same. This way it might be easier to stick to the social contract and still get the desired drama.

    d) Here's a biggie for games driven through "challenges". If the GM is supposed to be able to run IntCon, then knowing what's a "dangerous" challenge and what's a "harmless", is a must. If the GM is using enemies defined by setting, then this can be learned through play. However if the GM is making up monsters on the fly this stuff becomes a whole lot more tricky. An easy way to judge these things would be very useful.

    Anyway this is just a start. Any further illumination on rule techniques to drive this sort of play would be great.
formerly Pale Fire
[Yggdrasil (in progress) | The Evil (v1.2)]
Ranked #1005 in meaningful posts
Indie-Netgaming member

Andrew Martin

I think the biggest problem is simply the fact that you've got examples of rules not fitting the setting. For example, in your description of the assassination of the king using AD&D rules, one has to work around the incoherent rules not matching the desired setting. So if one wants a realistic, simulationist setting (where the GM is obeying the game rules), one has to have rules that match this setting, and not use rules which generate a setting opposed to this (like the AD&D rules do).

So if the GM is relating that the assasin slays the king with a single arrow, this implies that bow and arrows can kill anyone with one shot, that unaware targets don't automatically dodge, and don't have any defence against missile weapons. This also means no cheap ressurection, as a king wealthy enough to hire adventurers (I'm assuming they're nearby!) is automatically wealthy enough to have clerics on standby with ressurrection items (which is permissable with AD&D rules).

So to make the GM's narrative, "The arrow hits the king straight through the heart, he falls to the ground alread dead", compatible with the rules, requires rules that match this implied setting. In other words, a coherent set of rules that match the desired setting. Then the GM can narrate a scene and be assured that the assasin can do his job, and not break any game rules. Once you've got these rules that match the setting, then both Mechanics First and Effect First vanish away in a puff of invisible smoke! :) As the GM can do either and the players know the GM is following the rules, because the rules match the setting and the way that things happen.
Andrew Martin

Christoffer Lernö

Yeah Andrew, that was I was thinking about with a) "Rules that match the setting". You describe it perfectly.

What a) done correctly does is to pave the path for illusionist techniques. If the king can be killed by the arrow then the players can be "tricked" to believe that everything was rolled for and done properly.

But I don't know if that alone puts us on solid ground. It solves the AD&D problem but that's only solving part of the problem. b-d) involves other difficulties. I think it can be summarized thus:

    a. Creating events through improvisation
    b. Creating new setting elements during play (such as monsters, items, magical places)
    c. Creating colour during play
    d. Creating challenges (player difficulties) during play
    Maybe that clarifies it somewhat. (Well I can dream, right?)
formerly Pale Fire
[Yggdrasil (in progress) | The Evil (v1.2)]
Ranked #1005 in meaningful posts
Indie-Netgaming member

Le Joueur


I'm a little confused.  You're asking for Intuitive Continuity mechanics, but you keep talking about 'Drama.'  As far as I have read, 'Drama' is not covered in basic Intuitive Continuity.  Since I hadn't run across the theory before coming to the Forge, here is what I've seen:

Quote from: Originally, RonThe GM provides a number of encounters and interactions to the players early in a session or series of sessions, without pre-determining their importance. He then uses the players' interests and responses during play to decide which NPCs and situations are going to be the basis for the actual conflicts and concerns.  It requires a GM who is willing to use the players' interests as the first priority of design.

He's shortened it up, leaving even more room to 'play around' in the current essay:

Quote from: In the GNS essay, RonThe GM uses the players’ interests and actions during initial play to construct the crises and actual content of later play.
Conflicts, concerns, and crises might sound like 'Drama,' but only if that's what you're looking for.  One of the most crucial points only comes up when you compare Intuitive Continuity with the rest of what Ron listed,

Quote from: In the GNS essay, Ron also
Linear Adventures
    In which the GM has provided a series of prepared, in-order encounters.[/list:u]
Linear, Branched Adventures
    In which the GM has done the same as above but provides for the players proceeding in more than one direction or sequence.[/list:u]
Roads to Rome
    In which the GM has prepared a climactic scene and maneuvers or otherwise determines that character activity leads to this scene. (In practice, “winging it” usually becomes this method.)[/list:u]
    In which the GM has prepared a series of instigating events but has not anticipated a specific outcome or confrontation. (This is precisely the opposite of Roads to Rome.)[/list:u]
Relationship Map
    In which the GM has prepared a complex back-story whose members, when encountered by the characters, respond according to the characters’ actions, but no sequence or outcomes of these encounters have been pre-determined.[/list:u]
What that means is that Intuitive Continuity does not support any "Desired Drama" at all.  The whole list reads as Linear Adventures (railroading) to Intuitive Continuity (open-ended).  I'm pretty sure you can't plan "The King is Assassinated" and then make it happen with Intuitive Continuity.  You aren't using "players' construct crises," you're 'front loading' them.

Otherwise, I don't have a lot of advice, I'm still working out what I'd do over in the Symbolic Gamemastering thread.  The idea being, you can 'front load' conflict if you don't attach labels like "King" and "Assassinated" to your "Desired Drama;" you let "players' interest" in the "King" and murder paint these two specifics onto the symbolic "An Epic Tragic Ending."  The improvisation occurs at the wedding of specifics with symbolics.

Hope that helps.

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

M. J. Young

Without disagreeing with the concept, please forgive me for taking issue with the example.

In OAD&D, assassins had a unique mechanic for assassinations which might have been an early form of Fortune in the Middle. In essence, the player running the assassin would outline his plan for the assassination to the referee, and a single roll would be made against a table (which could be modified for circumstances) to determine whether it was successful or failed. There were a few other wrinkles to it, depending on the plan. For example, the player might have said that he was going to disguise himself as a waiter, and while serving the victims food he would backstab him with a poisoned dagger. In that case, there would probably be a roll for the disguise, and then one for the assassination. If that roll was successful, then the assassination plan was deemed to have been successful, and the king was dead. However, if that roll failed, there might still be a hit roll, leading potentially to multiple damage and/or a saving throw situation, either of which might kill the victim anyway.

It wasn't a simple system, exactly, but at least it was within the rules for an assassin to kill someone on a single well-placed blow.

--M. J. Young


[OAD&D assassins]
I'm very sorry to divert this thread.
The OAD&D assassination table and mechanic is very misunderstood.  I just want to add to MJ Young's summary further for those not familiar with it.

Originally, the table meant the percentage of the assassin killing someone in a single hit, which would mean hitting in the heart, etc.
However, rules in the books mentioned variables like "the king has 2 guards with him."  This didn't mean that the assassination roll simulated the assassin sneaking into the bedroom and killing him.  It meant that the assassin couldn't effectively stab the king in the heart because his two bodyguards would get in the way of the weapon swing.
Similarly, if the assassin was disguised, the king and his bodyguards wouldn't expect a "servant" to whip out a sword and stab him in the heart with it.
Somewhere along the way, people thought the assassination table simulated a whole series of events as opposed to resolving a single attack.  Even the 2nd edition rules preview got it wrong.