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Author Topic: Responding to the Invitation  (Read 7383 times)
M. J. Young
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« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2002, 01:50:55 AM »

If I'm reading between the lines and picking up the hints correctly--well, let me quote myself, and comment:
Quote from: I
I find it difficult to imagine that you've included a point system which
    [*]doesn't limit either maximum or minimum character power
    [*]doesn't adequately measure character power and
    [*]doesn't impact game play[/list:u]

    It would seem that you have not done this, exactly.

    Although the points don't directly limit character power and don't adequately measure it, there is an implication that the points measure character power well enough that they give the group a handle on being able to determine whether limits ought to be imposed. That is, we could sit around for hours arguing about whether Superman is too powerful or Jimmy Olsen too weak to be in the same scenario, but if we can actually point to the number of points spent we have something tangible on which to base such an objection. In the words of Wallace & Davis, "It's not good, but it's a reason."

    More significantly, there is this undercurrent that the point system plays some role after play has begun. This doesn't strike me as at all unreasonable. Star Frontiers did not use point-based character generation but a combination of randomizers, minor adjustments, and menu choices; but once the game began, points earned could be translated directly to improving characters, whether by increasing ability scores, buying new skills, or building skill ability levels in existing ones. I'm not saying that's what you have in mind; but there is something reasonable to a system that uses points to develop the characters initially because the points are going to continue to have meaning in play. There are scattered hints about this, including that the expenditure of points in an area creates the presumption that the game will include aspects which involve that area, that more points spent on something does something more than merely raise the value, that they are somehow connected to the damage system--all of which is interesting, and suggests that the function of point-based character generation is only fully understood when connected to the gameplay aspects.

    If that's incorrect, I still don't get it. I think that the hesitancy of players to go overboard on character creation is mostly a psychological benefit derived from their experience with point-based systems and, as (I think) Andrew has said, I've got players who would run with this.

    For my part, I have a tendency toward the strong generalist. They say we all ultimately play ourselves, and in some sense there is truth in that--we play characters which express facets of our personality, even when those facets are underplayed in life. I'm a generalist (I learn less and less about more and more until ultimately I will know nothing about everything); a disproportionate number of my characters are also generalists. I have no particular distaste for point based systems, but I think I would create a character with a lot of strengths in a lot of areas. I would defend that choice in that most of the people I've admired in life were generalists. My cousin, back in high school, was state champion wrestler in his weight class, all-state orchestra cellist, honor roll student, Eagle Scout (at thirteen, I believe), well liked by his peers, and never lost at Risk or Stratego; and I wished I was more like him. Cut me loose to play my fantasy character, and that character is going to be extraordinary even in a completely non-gamist environment. That's just me, of course; but there are a lot of people like me in this regard, I'd wager.

    Quote from: Fang Langford, a.k.a. Le Joueur
    So [in Multiverser] you relegate the mixture of the game's characters on the gamemaster's plate? That works pretty good (but can require gamemasters of some skill at times). Do you offer any advice or techniques on how to 'clear characters?' What suggestions do you offer when two people want characters who are clearly of far different caliber? I'm always curious how other games do that.

    We do state that we wrote the game for experienced referees and experienced players; but also that we are convinced anyone can do it with the tools we provided. We also emphasize that it is more of a disadvantage than an advantage to play a "not I" character in most cases. There is within the I game framework the implicit assumption that at least initially your character knows what you know, recognizes what you recognize, understands what you understand. I have no problem with the idea that a twentieth century human can recognize and distinguish the principles behind a transporter, a magic lantern, a ghost, an alien life form, and a telepathic voice. Once you step outside yourself, you no longer have that presumption working for you, and we have to consider much more carefully whether your character, whoever or whatever he may be, has the same understanding as you. So we tell people that they should play themselves, and when they define themselves we ask them to provide some evidence for any abilities they claim that are well above normal. That is, if you tell me you've got an intellect that puts you in the top two percent, I'm going to ask why I should believe that--what tests have you taken, what awards have you won. If you tell me you're an expert in a field, I'm going to want to know what books or articles you've written and where they were published. As long as you're playing yourself, it's really relatively easy to get a version of yourself which is not a superhero, even if someone might quibble with a detail here or there.

    But with the not I characters, the referee does have the final say. But no, we don't provide a lot of guidelines on this. As it turns out, neither absolute nor relative character power is terribly important in play. It will change the kind of experiences you have, but it won't minimize the experience. I've had a third grader join a game in which another player character had already developed to very near superhero abilities, and they played together perfectly well.

    One reason is that there's nothing to earn. That applies to a lot of games, one way or another, but it is notable here. You never fight something because you're going to get experience for it. You fight it because you want to or you have to; there's no reward for winning besides winning.

    But then, you must understand also that it is normative play in Multiverser for characters to be doing completely unrelated things simultaneously. This impacts situations significantly.

    Let's suppose that I've got a guy who's a combat monster and another who's a practiced psionicist and a third who is an average high school kid. I I'm doing my job right, there will be challenges available for each of them that they can pursue. But if they're all in the same world, they may well decide to pursue the same things. (That doesn't always happen; I've often had it happen that player characters were in the same world and ignored each other entirely, each doing what appealed to him. But it happens often enough.) Probably the combat monster and the practiced psionicist are going to go after something they perceive as dangerous and rewarding. That could mean that they're going to go to the abandoned city and explore it, knowing full well that there are some very deadly creatures within. It could mean that they're going to try to steal batteries from broken down robotic battle machines in the north, along the edge of the strange mechanical warzone they don't understand. It could mean they're going to try to rescue a princess or something. Maybe they're going to start working on a project to attempt to build a kinetic pulse cannon, based on what they've learned elsewhere. Whatever it is, it's going to be dangerous for them. Now, if it's dangerous for them, it's going to be potentially deadly for the kid. What's going to happen? Well, maybe the kid will decide to do something else, and let them do what they want. That's fine; the game is designed to support those decisions. Maybe the kid will go along and the strong guys will try to protect him, making the story more interesting because of the threat to his life. And maybe he'll be killed--but that doesn't matter at all; if the kid is killed, he immediately finds himself in another world where he gets involved in another story, and since now he's on his own I don't have to have anything in that story that's challenging for his friends. Thus the disparity of ability is irrelevant. If you tackle something too difficult, you get knocked into another world and find something else to challenge you. If you stick with the easy things, they aren't terribly rewarding--remember, this isn't a game where you can rack up points by killing kobolds; the reward from fighting comes from having succeeded when you thought you would fail. "I've always wanted to fight a desperate battle against incredible odds," says Grig; if you're looking for something challenging, you'll find it. If you'd rather sit around and do something peaceful, the game will accommodate you (while accommodating everyone else). I've got a player right now who is having a great time trying to design steam power systems and hydrogen dirigibles in a world that's been knocked back to wind and water power, flirting with a bright NPC fifteen years his junior, and doing nothing more dangerous than a weekend camping trip into the Rockies. He's enjoying it. That's fine.

    It is also inherent in the system that no one stays where they start. One of the first people to comment publicly about Multiverser from a base of having seen it said he wasn't so egotistical as to imagine he, as himself, could survive or be a hero. But the system makes it possible for you to learn and do anything at all, given the right circumstances. When I started playing, I was a thirty-something father of five in pretty poor shape who had never been athletic at all; but within a few months of game sessions my character was getting in better shape, remembering the tumbling I learned as a boy, practicing acrobatics and balance, and otherwise getting into extremely good shape, plus learning to do a few other things that would be the building blocks of a much stronger character. One of my sons started when I did, and inside of three months he was teaching psionics to Paul Atriedes. It doesn't matter who you are when you start, because if what you want is to become more powerful, you can become as powerful as you want.

    And since most of the time you're on your own, it doesn't particularly matter if you're more powerful than everyone else at the table combined, because you'll be playing in scenarios in which that power is necessary to face the challenges. When you get together with them, who knows what wil happen? Perhaps they will all ask you to teach them what you've learned; or maybe they'll have things to teach you; or maybe if I'm really on top of my game there will be challenges you will have to meet because only you can do them, and other challenges they will have to meet while you're otherwise occupied.

    I feel I should say two more things about this. One is that because of the use of bias, it's often the case that a player character is very powerful in one world and not terribly effective in the next. If you've become a great wizard, that's good as long as you're in worlds in which magic is easy; but you just might find yourself in a world in which magic is very difficult and everything is done by ultratech. At that point, your magic will still work to some degree, but you've got an entirely new set of challenges.

    The other is that all this talk of how powerful a character is sounds very gamist. That's because it is generally gamist players who strive for more powerful characters. Not all players do. Some become extremely explorative, wandering around in the worlds they visit just to see what's happening, helping out where it seems appropriate, and staying out of trouble until something unavoidable sends them to another world. Some become much more involved in people and events, but never try to better themselves. When we speak of whether there needs to be limits on what a character can do or be, it is very much the gamist aspects of play that require these (not that they are never required by the others, but that for narrative and simulationist concerns it is more a matter of defining the way the thing should be than preventing it from becoming what it should not).

    The I game concept brings in another limiting factor that we didn't recognize until we were involved in play testing. Because players are playing themselves, they always come to lines they have to consider crossing. That is, each of us has a self-concept beyond which we could no longer recognize our selves as our selves, possibly not as human. I found for myself that I could not push my character into "impossible" body skills; that is, I would not be able to adjust easily to having chameleon-like skin, or wings, or stretchable body parts. That would push me beyond the lines of what I perceive as "human", and I won't go there. People do; and I do a lot of things that some people won't do. I know players who cannot accept the idea that their character could or would learn psionic abilities, because they perceive these as being inhuman. Some won't use cybernetic prosthetics or enhancements (and I've got my limits here, as well). When your character concept is, "This is me, in some extraordinary situations", that aspect of it being you becomes a limiter on what you'll allow.

    I've said a lot more about Multiverser than I have about Scattershot in this post; but I'll hope you excuse it on the basis that Scattershot seems to be after many of the same objectives as Multiverser, so understanding how we create characters may translate in some ways. I sometimes tell people that we don't have a character generation system; we have techniques for translating people, real or imaginary, into game characters. That strikes me as very like what you're after: I have this idea for a character, how can I translate him into game terms so I can play him? Because I do it directly, I don't understand the need for points; but as I say if those points actually have some function once play begins, there may be a reason for them which is not apparent from their place in character creation.

    --M. J. Young
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    Le Joueur
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    Posts: 1367


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    « Reply #16 on: November 13, 2002, 09:37:52 AM »

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    BTW, Fang, the reason people believe that Scattershot is a complete game that you are only thimbling out, is because that's how you present it. It's never, "Scattershot will have x, y, z when it's done". It's, "In Scattershot, this is how this works." It's hard to swallow that you know that any of it works when you don't apparently have an entire system. And if you've actually played it, and know it works, then where's the rest of the system?

    Do you see the problem? It also makes commenting difficult. There is this feeling that it'll all make sense someday, once we see it all. But until then all we can do is wait. Are you interested in feedback and suggestions, Fang, or are you just here to design a game in front of everybody?

    <boink!>

    Blink, blink.

    And the clouds parted.  And the light shown down.

    Y'know Mike, that is exactly what I needed to hear.  (I'm surprised it took me this long to hear it.)

    You're absolutely right.  And I think I know why.  In my line of work, at least once a month they take us out and beat us with the 'be professional' stick.  There's indoctrination and the whole nine yards.  How does that impact here?  I overdo the professionalism.  I keep presenting things in an overly professional manner and keep wondering why people don't see how rough everything is in Scattershot.  I'm swimming in professionalism so I don't notice how it looks to other people.

    Gosh, I wish I'd learned this sooner.

    Well, I taught myself to say "I think" or "here's my idea" or "...is my opinion," this'll just be a matter of putting it "I want..." or "Scattershot could..." or "If I find a way..." into everything I post.  I'll make that my top priority.

    I can't say how grateful I am for this pearl of wisdom, Mike.  (If you catch me slipping back into 'professionalism mode,' let me know.)
      As a side note (and to demonstrate how 'overly professional' I've gotten), I'd like to point out a couple of important contributions others have made to Scattershot.

      A while back someone heard what he thought was me talking about an instant
    player rewards system in one of my posts (damn my eyes, but I can't find his name).  I thought so highly about the idea that I quite directly asked if I could steal it.  I talked it up for a while (again over-professionalizing it) and slowly came to understand what it could do for a game.  That amalgamated with the whole Genre Expectations idea (which, if you go back and read, it was a half formed, half-assed idea) and finally resulted in a decent and usable mechanic only very recently.  I'm still trying to work out if I can get it, as a whole, to support the Transition design goal by actually creating a number of Genre Expectations.  (By the way, it was Ron who identified that Transition was system facilitated Drift, my original concept was something not so elegant.)

    And you, Mike, the whole opposed-only, unopposed-only, and mixed-bad, thread lead me to analyzing our die mechanic that turned up the fact that it was a covert opposed-only system and gave me a concrete basis to work numbers from (something that I did not have before and was just 'winging it').

    I guess I should've been clearer that these kinds of things have been going on all along.  I frequently incorporate things into Scattershot that I've heard or learned on the Forge.  I'd say, by now, about 30% of the content is Forge inspired; what I have trouble with is noting that when I'm speaking (too long in the vat of professionalism).  Any suggestions?[/list:u]
    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    You are arguing in circles. It all comes down to the fact that you need them for the Gamist play. Presumably because they are "power balancing" to make it all "fair", right? Or is there some other reason you can explain?

    But the problem is that you've already pointed out how point systems fail to make power balanced characters.

    I suppose I deserve that crack.  It isn't too far off the mark.  With the Transitional goal, there is a need for Gamist-priority-play-facilitating Mechanix.  I'm working really hard on finding ways to 'make them at least useful' for other Approaches, but a lot of that is still somewhat nebulous.  (Too much professionalism here too, trying to make it look like 'I already got it.'  The only truth is 'I just know it can be done,' not how.)

    I would like to point to one important 'missed space' in the logic of you remark that gives me hope I may find this someday.  "Fair" and "balanced" in this situation are not congruent; this is especially true when Scattershot's points don't do the 'fairness test' themselves, but aid in doing it as the group is comfortable with.

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    So, why would we want it for The Gamist version if it doesn't work. And why would we want it for the other versions if it does nothing at all for them? It sounds like you are saying that people ignore them in those modes of play anyhow. Which, frankly, is what I'd do with them if I were to play. Just like I do with GURPS, Hero, etc.

    MJ is right, you haven't demonstrated their usefulness beyond balancing, and they are of dubious use for balancing.

    While it may be true that points are dubious at balancing by themselves, that has proven to be a functional practice in other games (I'm still trying to figure out why so bear with me).  I believe I can say that as far as Gamist 'balancing goes,' the whole catalog of Scattershot powers and such does balance as well as any extant system.  (Here's the full superpowers list circa December 1999 as an example; it works as well as any other Gamist point-based system, I think.)  I wasn't so much saying that my 'Gamist balance' system doesn't work, so much as I was saying that none of them are perfect.

    It is my hope that at some point I won't have to tell other Approaches to ignore the point-based Mechanix.

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    Note that I believe you can make a balanced point based system (some sort of balance anyhow). Just that this isn't it, and neither are many systems that exist. Also, there is a potentially different and interesting use for points which is in-game. Which you seem to have, possibly, but won't let us in on. But as an example, In Hero System, the number of points in a power determine how hard it is to drain for example, or what size pool can contain that power. Very important in play. Not particularly well designed, as far as efficiency goes, but it works.

    Then I believe we agree that 'it can be done?'  I haven't done it yet.  What we see in this thread is me struggling to 'do it' behind the scenes while practicing altogether too much professionalism.

    Simply, yes at this point only the 'Gamist balancing' part of the point system is solid (and I think it works, I may have to start another thread to ask; provided I can figure out what the question is beyond 'does this work?').  What I want to add is I can sense (like you, I think) that there is value that can be generated using points for the other Approached, but right now I'm still struggling (and open to suggestions) about how to do that.

    Sorry for all the confusion, I am going to change the way I post about Scattershot.

    Fang Langford
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    Le Joueur
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    Posts: 1367


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    « Reply #17 on: November 13, 2002, 11:20:59 AM »

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    Although the points don't directly limit character power and don't adequately measure it, there is an implication that the points measure character power well enough that they give the group a handle on being able to determine whether limits ought to be imposed. That is, we could sit around for hours arguing about whether Superman is too powerful or Jimmy Olsen too weak to be in the same scenario, but if we can actually point to the number of points spent we have something tangible on which to base such an objection. In the words of Wallace & Davis, "It's not good, but it's a reason."

    More significantly, there is this undercurrent that the point system plays some role after play has begun....

    ...There is something reasonable to a system that uses points to develop the characters initially because the points are going to continue to have meaning in play. There are scattered hints about this, including that the expenditure of points in an area creates the presumption that the game will include aspects which involve that area, that more points spent on something does something more than merely raise the value, that they are somehow connected to the damage system--all of which is interesting, and suggests that the function of point-based character generation is only fully understood when connected to the gameplay aspects.

    If that's incorrect, I still don't get it. I think that the hesitancy of players to go overboard on character creation is mostly a psychological benefit derived from their experience with point-based systems and, as (I think) Andrew has said, I've got players who would run with this.

    It's correct, but in my previous urge to seem all so professional-like, I was hiding a few underdeveloped parts.

    For the most part, I think it would be poor gamesmanship to self-select as something other than the Joueur Approach to gaming (loosely related to Gamism) and then take such advantage of the 'limitless points.'  I haven't worked out all the details, but I'm pretty sure that such a character played in the other Approaches, Avatar-Swashbuckler-Auteur, would be of little extra value (like playing a min-maxed character in a Simulationist or Narrativist game).  Likewise that still leaves me wondering what such a theoretical player would say to justify these expenses in their Persona's Sine Qua Non (or how they'd justify it to the other players, vis a vis the 'Superman to Jimmy Olsen' problem) if it weren't for the purpose of playing in Joueur Approach.

    Joueur Approach, I believe we've all but decided, will require the group create some scheme of cut-offs.  However, as Mike points out, that more-or-less says that the points aren't for all Approaches.  While I believe they can be made so, I haven't got any clear ideas yet.

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    For my part, I have a tendency toward the strong generalist.

    The question is, do you prefer a more Joueur Approach (placing primary value on what you, through your Persona, can do) or Swashbuckler Approach (placing primary value on what you can do things to)?  In the former, a point-based system will probably require some sort of limitation because that kind of play tends to use the Mechanix as an 'I dominate the spotlight time' engine.  In the latter, I suspect the nebulous thoughts I've been having regarding a 'generalist' of 'jack of all trades' skill might be exactly what you are looking for.  (At the moment, my thinking is that these have been treated too vaguely in the past, but Scattershot's way of handling the 'scope' of a skill may give a way to moderate this; I haven't had any time to consider it, or its ramifications.)  What do you think?

    And again, that doesn't do much to bolster the unsupported idea that I can make points valuable to you self-selected Approach to play.  I'm just 'thinking out loud.'

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    Quote from: Fang Langford, a.k.a. Le Joueur
    So [in Multiverser] you relegate the mixture of the game's characters on the gamemaster's plate? That works pretty good (but can require gamemasters of some skill at times). Do you offer any advice or techniques on how to 'clear characters?' What suggestions do you offer when two people want characters who are clearly of far different caliber? I'm always curious how other games do that.

    ...But with the not I characters, the referee does have the final say. But no, we don't provide a lot of guidelines on this. As it turns out, neither absolute nor relative character power is terribly important in play. It will change the kind of experiences you have, but it won't minimize the experience....

    One reason is that there's nothing to earn. That applies to a lot of games, one way or another, but it is notable here. You never fight something because you're going to get experience for it. You fight it because you want to or you have to; there's no reward for winning besides winning.

    ...It doesn't matter who you are when you start, because if what you want is to become more powerful, you can become as powerful as you want.

    I've always felt this creates a problem (or at least a lot of work) with a 'displaced Gamist.'  A 'displaced Gamist' is someone who recurrently prioritizes Gamism in a group that mostly doesn't, the more polar opposed, the more problem.  Being able to "become as powerful as you want" chafes the other players in many ways.

    On the other hand, I've found that 'left to their own devices,' a group of Gamists with open-ended power levels tends to set its own pace.  If the gamemaster can suss out that pace, the game keeps to it too.  We decided to not set that pace in the Mechanix (like so many games do), because that can interfere with the fun.  The strangest thing happens though; the pace is much slower after a game or two, much slower than I even expected.  Life is funny.

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    ...The other [thing I should say about this] is that all this talk of how powerful a character is sounds very Gamist. That's because it is generally Gamist players who strive for more powerful characters.

    That is typical to some forms of Joueur Approach (the effect the Persona, therefore the player, can have on the game is highlighted).

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    Not all players do. Some become extremely explorative, wandering around in the worlds they visit just to see what's happening, helping out where it seems appropriate, and staying out of trouble until something unavoidable sends them to another world.

    This is typical to the bulk of Swashbuckler Approach (the contents of the game are highlighted).

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    Some become much more involved in people and events, but never try to better themselves.

    And this is typical to a few forms of Auteur Approach (the overall aspect of the game, like important people and events taken together, is highlighted).

    We've also identified players who highlight what goes on 'inside' their Personae as Avatar Approach.

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    When we speak of whether there needs to be limits on what a character can do or be, it is very much the Gamist aspects of play that require these (not that they are never required by the others, but that for Narrativist and Simulationist concerns it is more a matter of defining the way the thing should be than preventing it from becoming what it should not).

    Exactly what this thread seems to be getting at.  (About the parenthetical remark: while I don't have as much done on this as I gave the impression of earlier, I think it can be done and am highly interested in finding a way to do it.)

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    I've said a lot more about Multiverser than I have about Scattershot in this post; but I'll hope you excuse it on the basis that Scattershot seems to be after many of the same objectives as Multiverser, so understanding how we create characters may translate in some ways.

    Note: I did ask for this information.

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    I sometimes tell people that we don't have a character generation system; we have techniques for translating people, real or imaginary, into game characters. That strikes me as very like what you're after: I have this idea for a character, how can I translate him into game terms so I can play him? Because I do it directly, I don't understand the need for points; but as I say if those points actually have some function once play begins, there may be a reason for them which is not apparent from their place in character creation.

    In part, that's exactly it.  I want the Sine Qua Non-to-points set up to work exactly like that.  However, I have, on occasion, done the reverse; I start toying with the eccentricities of a system's point mechanics and 'find' a character concept.  I also recognize that character creation is not limited even to those two methods.  That's why I keep up with the 'combine all ingredients, in any order' priority for the initial Persona Development Mechanix (and that means points could, technically, be last, as long as I create some reason to have them later in the game).
          (And I keep having to tell people that we don't have an initiative system for combat; we all have our crosses to bear.)[/list:u][/list:u][/list:u]All in all, you've done a wonderful job illustrating the direction I need to go with 'making points valuable to other Approaches,' I'm just sorry that I let my professionalism turn it into an argument that it didn't need to be (your 'what good are they' versus my professionalism-veiled 'I know I can make it work, eventually').  I'm going to change how I present things in the future.  (Thanks Mike!)

          Fang Langford
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        M. J. Young
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        « Reply #18 on: November 14, 2002, 09:25:16 PM »

        Somewhere in all this there was a question; ah, yes, there it is.

        Quote from: Fang Langford, a.k.a. Le Joueur,
        The question is, do you prefer a more Joueur Approach (placing primary value on what you, through your Persona, can do) or Swashbuckler Approach (placing primary value on what you can do things to)?  In the former, a point-based system will probably require some sort of limitation because that kind of play tends to use the Mechanix as an 'I dominate the spotlight time' engine.  In the latter, I suspect the nebulous thoughts I've been having regarding a 'generalist' of 'jack of all trades' skill might be exactly what you are looking for.  (At the moment, my thinking is that these have been treated too vaguely in the past, but Scattershot's way of handling the 'scope' of a skill may give a way to moderate this; I haven't had any time to consider it, or its ramifications.)  What do you think?

        Not to duck your terminology, but to avoid confusion: I want my character to be able to respond intelligently and effectively to whatever happens in the game world. If the party medic is shot, I want someone to be able to save his life, and if I'm the only other one there, it has to be me. If someone has to fly the thing, and no one else can, I want to have a chance.

        Perhaps you can understand what I'm after if I explain why it's not a problem for me in Multiverser.

        I remember being in a Star Frontiers game in which we were all carrying these "first aid" kits which contained the medicine to save anyone. Because we came upon a battle between creatures we had hoped to contact and a group that had attacked us several times in the past, and immediately decided to join that fight. We split our six into two groups of three, including a medic with each. In the group which contained my character, two of us were temporarily delayed and the third, the medic, pursued the enemy--and was shot, what was certain to be a fatal wound. We rushed to his side, but he was unconscious and could neither take action nor instruct us. It was at that moment in play that we discovered that the first aid kits we carried were useless, because we did not have the medical skill to use them. O.K., that's a flaw in the system, a game system that had been simplified to the point that anyone who learned to stop arterial bleeding also had a chance to do brain surgery. But it drilled home to me the need for every character I built to have a chance to do anything.

        In Multiverser, any player character always has a chance to do anything. The skill acquisition system decrees that at any moment a character can attempt to teach himself to do whatever he needs to do. In that situation, my character having just discovered that he doesn't know how to administer the drugs he's carrying, a verser would say, "well, I've seen this done, and I've got the necessary background to understand that this injection has to find a vein to be useful, so right now I'm going to try to teach myself how to give this medicine." At that moment I have the chance to save the guy's life. I don't need any unspent points or anything like that. I don't need to argue that I studied something never before mentioned in play. Even if I've never seen it done, I have a chance to do it (a smaller chance, and for extremely difficult tasks which are way beyond my character's ability--such as a character just figuring out how flintlocks work trying to repair a time machine--possibly non-existent after modifiers). I can try to teach myself how to do something at any moment. Thus I am a lot less concerned with whether I know what I need to know.

        I find in most game systems, since you don't know what's around the next bend you have to be "ready for anything". I don't like my characters to be overly dependent on his companions; rather, I want to be able to do whatever needs to be done, and know that if I'm the only guy standing, or the only guy who can get to that place, or I'm cut off from everyone else, I can still have a chance of doing it. I'd like everyone else in the party to be generalists, too, but that's more reflected in my character's attitude that specialists, as important as they are, are not the best people to have around. If there are only two of us, I want the guy with me to be able to do everything, too, just in case it's up to him to save us.

        That's the sort of generalist I am in games. In life, I'm a generalist because I can't contain my interests. (Did you know that geckos can climb walls because they use weak force molecular bonding to become part of the surface for an instant? I find that fascinating. I find too many things fascinating; I can't learn enough about all of them.) I try to project that reason into a lot of my characters as their motivations, but my motivation for making them generalists is that they are more survivable.

        Quote from: Fang Langford, a.k.a. Le Joueur
        I've always felt this [aspect of allowing characters to become as powerful as they want] creates a problem (or at least a lot of work) with a 'displaced Gamist.'  A 'displaced Gamist' is someone who recurrently prioritizes Gamism in a group that mostly doesn't, the more polar opposed, the more problem.  Being able to "become as powerful as you want" chafes the other players in many ways.

        It's not a problem, that I've seen, largely because:
        1) when that player character is not in the same world as I am, what he does with his power doesn't much matter to me. It's more like channel surfing, in that regard--we'll watch some of his superhero show, some of my sci-fi, some of someone else's romantic comedy, all playing at once as we shift between them.
        2) if we're in the same world, I don't have to associate with him. I've seen situations in which some player characters are literally sitting around laughing at the posturing and bragging of the "superhero" type, which is fine with everyone, because it simply means that the superhero will go do something suitable to his wishes and everyone else will find something to do together that fits their interests.
        3) even if I decide to associate with him, I can usually incorporate him into something related to my interests. I'm particular remembering a rather humorous set of events in which the referee was running out of ideas for what to do with me in one world, and was trying to get me killed. He created an adversary of significant power, a monster really, and set me up to face it. I sidestepped the initial encounter by confusing the beast and walking away. Seeing that this wasn't going to work, he versed in another player character who was terribly powerful and dangerously wreckless--the sort of guy who takes on space ships single-handedly, but is likely to get himself killed in the explosion, who never supposes he might not be up to the challenge, whatever it is. Before the referee knew it, I'd managed to get the superhero to destroy the supervillain.

        There is a sense in which each player is in his own game which overlaps with the others; each is creating his own story, facing his own challenges, exploring his own worlds. Each decides to what degree he wants to do each of those things. When they come together, each becomes a character in everyone else's story, and everyone else becomes a character in his. It's always about the adventures of these seperate people, even when they come together.

        This sounds unworkable; yet it works. It actually works very realistically. Let's imagine for a moment that we were in a real isolated adventure situation; you and I were in a lifeboat, one of several that made it to shore following a marine accident. We start to explore our situation and discover that among our fellow survivors are Arnold Swartzennegger, Thomas Edison, Dick Rutan, and James Randi. Now, I can think of all kinds of things we could do in our situation for whom those people would be wonderful assets; but the fact is they aren't assets, they're people. If each of those were a player character, I would have no right to dictate what they would do, any more than I would in real life. My story is still going to happen, and so is yours, and so is each of theirs; and those stories will overlap and interact because we're in the same microcosmic world. But they are independent stories, and will only interact to the degree we want to work together.

        Of course, Multiverser has always dissociated game play from the "party" concept. We don't care whether the players work together or not--we just provide some situations in which it will be fun to do so, and others which are just as fun handled individually.

        I should comment that there is another limiter to power gaming which seems to be inherent in gamist play interacting with the system. It is much easier to improve to superhuman levels of ability by the very boring activities of practice, and Multiverser rewards long-term practice with gradual improvement. It is possible to improve a skill by a sudden inspirational "new use" during an adventure, but this proves actually slower than the practice aspect. This catches the powergamer in a sort of bind: as long as he's practicing, he's probably not really "out there" doing something. Thus there is a tendency to try to practice a bit while doing other things (which means very slow improvement), or to take short breaks to practice for a few months and then go back (which means spurts of improvement). The gamist wants to be more powerful, but he also wants to do things with his power, and so he has to limit his own rate of improvement to the degree that he wants to do things. This is counter-intuitive to most game design (which rewards doing things, and thus creates the odd notion that you get better only by adventure). It is possible for some types of adventure to be viewed as a sort of practice (and thus result in slow improvement) but this too is very slow.

        I think that answers the questions?

        --M. J. Young
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