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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Seed of an idea  (Read 10446 times)
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2002, 03:55:27 PM »

I guess it comes down to my own personal view that having the players define and think of their characters in game terms as a series of numbers, stats, bonuses, etc can at times make them appear to be just that - an ordered list of numbers, bonuses, values or whatever.

I totally buy what you say about some players wanting to "know" how the system works. You can't hide the math, although you can disguise it's use.

Once players figure out how the system works then they can do the math themselves. Point is, even if they do know how things work it's the actual application of the mechanic that matters.

I'll pinch your example to show what I mean.

Q."What are you using to open the box?"
A. "My Fair intelligence."

I wouldn't even ask that sort of question in that sort of way if the player had announced that their character was trying to open a locked puzzle box.

I'd ask, "How are you trying to open it." and I'd expect an in character statement of intent  not an out of character one like, "Using my fair Intelligence".

Sure, a player could still answer, "I'm using my Fair Intelligence." but where is the roleplay in that?

The player could try to smash the box open "I have a crowbar, I'm going to try and prise it open and if that doesn't work I'm going to give it a few hefty whacks." (implied Strength assuming it's a bloody big box).

Or maybe the player could try to finesse it open, "I'm going to see if I can try and figure how the thing opens, is there a lock mechanism?" (implied Intelligence or Knowledge of some description.)

The point is I'd expect the player to tell me what their character is actually doing and infer from their stated intent what trait is most logically being employed.

In essence by limiting the requirement for the players to view aspects of their character in "game" terms (like stats or bonuses) I would hope to promote more in character roleplay.

It is very hard to be objective with ones own ideas and I fully appreciate your take on things. You're not ranting. You are giving an honest opinion which to be fair is one that some of the players in my own group would probably share.

Question: If a GM proposed running a game and presented you as a player with this kind of idea would it be a step too far?
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2002, 10:12:32 AM »

Quote from: wfreitag
This is an elegant mechanism. Since you were interested in similar ideas discussed previously, I'll point out that it has a lot in common with the high-granularity variant of the "Symmetry" mechanism I use for most of my role playing. Some of the similarities are:

- A variable number of dice rolled, with a result that's interpreted differently based on whether the chance of success is above or below 50%.

- The symmetrical quality itself, such that chance of failure if you roll equals chance of success if the opponent rolls, and vice versa.

- Centered on a 50% chance, and the residual chance of success or failure decays exponentially as one adds dice to move the odds away from 50%.

I gotta say, though, I like your mechanism better in many ways. Probably better overall, too, though I can't tell for sure until I've tried it out.

And I agree that the way you propose having the GM determine the number of dice during play, without mentioning the numbers or the descriptors out loud, can work. I've done this myself with high-granularity Symmetry. (The original low-granularity version, in which four points of difference have the same impact as one point in the high-granularity version, seems to fit better when the players are doing their own adding and subtracting and small modifiers can come into play.) It works because each die represents a doubling or halving of the task's relative difficulty to the character, so the on-the-fly assessments the GM is called only need ballpark accuracy. They're more convenient and even seem, to me at least, more natural. (Research has shown that in many cases, human senses and gut feelings are more oriented toward logarithmic scales than linear ones. That's why, for example, the decibel scale for perceived loudness of sound is logarithmic with respect to the actual energy of the sound.)

There's one issue you may want to consider in the numbers vs. descriptors issue. One thing Symmetry, and your system too I believe, is very good at accommodating is extreme old-school character advancement. Mechanically there's no difference between a character with a decoding skill of 5 attempting a decryption of difficulty 4, and a character with a decoding skill of 9 attempting a decryption of difficulty 8. In fact, there's no mechanical reason you couldn't go on to have a skill of 20 confronting difficulties also in the neighborhood of 20.

Tying the numbers to descriptors reduces this flexibility somewhat, because descriptors above "superb" tend to lose any clear sense of their relative meaning. That is, a "23 vs 20" situation remains easy to understand as numbers, while whatever descriptors you'd have to assign at that magnitude just get silly.

Using numbers alone without descriptors also helps at the low end of the advancement spectrum. If I have a skill of 3 and I routinely beat challenges of 1 and 2 (and sometimes even prevail over challenges of 3, 4, and 5) that arise, my character comes across as competent and I don't have to think of his skill as really just "mediocre" relative to some universal scale.

Of course, this is a non-issue if you don't want (as most designers here don't usually want) open-ended character advancement.

Best,
Walt


Thanks for the feedback wfrietag, much appreciated.

Your point about descriptors becoming less useful when you have a large scale (say 1 to 20) is one I agree with totally.

In practice I'd hope to maybe work the seed of an idea into running a game in my favorite setting which is Middle-Earth (I just love the ICE modules).

In terms of scale I would make a conscious effort to set PC traits so that absolute maximum values would be about 8 or 9 - denoting an extreme level of ability.

As a rough guideline, and totally off the top of my head, I'd probably have Superhuman/Supernatural traits (Nazgul, Trolls, Ents) falling in a range between say 8 and 12 with demi-god like traits (think Sauron, Gandalf or other Maia) upwards from 13.

i.e.
A fairly weedy Troll would be Incredibly (8) strong in human terms but an Uber-Troll might be Phenomenally (12) strong.

Nazgul would induce a Supernatural (9) aura of fear in most creatures, the Lord of the Nazgul could possibly have that ability at (11).

I don't expect the players to be mixing it up with the likes of Sauron though.

Most of the main protagonists in my games however tend to be humanoid rather than super-human monster-fiends so expect lots of Vicious (5-6) Orcs usually commanded by one or two Formidable (7-8) Uruk-Hai with maybe the odd Servant of the Eye (8-9) thrown in for fun.

That's the kind of scale that I see the mechanic working on.

For game balance and to present a challenging conflicts I figure that really hard antagonist traits/difficulties would be around the 7-12 mark although that obviously depends on the traits of the protagonists themselves.

Character advancement is a whole other topic although in practice I tend to employ in-play character rewards rather than metagame character advancement.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2002, 11:12:25 AM »

I understand what you're going for. But there is nothing about having "Fair" on the character sheet that makes a player less likely to give a roleplaying description of their actions, than to just state the stat. I'm not saying all players do this, or that all would with your system. Just that the system is not achieving your goals, IMO.

You're goals, are, BTW, just fine. I'm not arguing with the notion that it might be cool to have a game that promoted such play. I'm only looking at what you have critically, and trying to help see whether or not it will achieve your goals.

I have played, and in fact run games in the manner that you describe. I've been using examples from those experiences. What I found is that my players hated it. They wanted to know the mechanics, and not knowing them just made them fidgety. They'd ask, "Well, what sort of chances does my character have to accomplish x?" etc. They wanted to know for various reasons, but a lot of it has to do withy control. I even experimented with systems where I, as GM, did all the rolling myself. THe players never saw anything mechanical at all. They hated this even worse. They wondered if it wasn't all arbitrarily being decided by me (after all I could be fudging every roll). Players get a sense of control from not only rolling their own dice (which you sensed, probably, as you didn't take that away from them), but from seeing the mechanics in action.

Now, my players are particularly of a certain variety. And not all players would respond so. But to the extent that the mechanics enhance the eperience, the players enjoy seeing them in action. To the extent that the mechanics don't enhance play, they should be non-existant. The system is, itself a part of play. If you don't want a resolution system to at all be the center of any of play, I suggest you not have one at all. Freeform RPGers (mostly the online variety; this does not refer to LARP) do without resolution systems just fine.

This is not to say that you can't keep the fortune system and yet still promote the sort of play you like. I think it just needs something else. For example, you should definitely include the "roleplaying bonus" as seen in games like Sorcerer. That is, if the GM likes the description, he could, for your system, bump down the difficulty by one level, or two in the case of extremely well described events. This incentivizes players not to say, "I use my Fair intelligence," or, "I hit it" as the descriptin of the intent of their action, but to be as narrative as possible.

These are the sorts of mechanics that actively enable the sort of play you describe. I've seen no evidence anywhere that simply relabeling traits accomplishes this in any way. I've seen as many FUDGE players go either way with their descriptions. Mostly seems to depend on what the "norm" was for the group they played in prior. Because, like your system, FUDGE does little to actively inform the player that the game is about better descriptions.

Now, that example mechanic is just a vague idea. But I'm sure that if you put your mind to it, you can come up with something linked to your game's premise that will produce the kind of play you're looking for.

This is getting to the point where it's going to become important to know what the other design goals of the game are before you can tweak it further. This highlights the problem of discussing any particular mechanic outside of the context of the game for which it might be used. Do you have something in mind?

Mike
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Paganini
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Posts: 1049


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« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2002, 11:43:58 AM »

Cass, would joining the indie-netgaming group be a possibility for you? I'm really excited about the success of our Monday night games. They're regular as clock-work, and we've got a decent-sized core group that you can count on to show up, and a fairly large group of folks who are less regular, but some of whom can be counted on to show up every week. We hardly ever have fewer than 4 people these days. We play a large slice of indie games. It's all very informal, also. If you want to play something, you just bring it up on the mailing list (it's a yahoogroup).

You'd be able to try out a lot of different play styles. I think you might be surprised at how different the kind of gaming you've been doing (Window with task resolution) is from the kind of gaming you say you want. I know I was. :)
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2002, 12:38:15 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
This is getting to the point where it's going to become important to know what the other design goals of the game are before you can tweak it further. This highlights the problem of discussing any particular mechanic outside of the context of the game for which it might be used. Do you have something in mind?


I do actually and although it's by no means concrete but I'll do my best to try and flesh it out.

I chose the word "Fate" in the mechanic because it's a major aspect of the idea I have in my head.

After the characters have been written up but before the very first session each player will be asked to define what they believe to be their characters True fate to be but also their Dark Fate.

Both Fates must be realistic outcomes for the character given the setting and are tied in some way to the initial character concept.

This essentially has the players set what they believe their characters parameters for winning and losing.

Clearly defined player goals linked to their characters in the game.

The setting I run most of my games in Middle Earth mid 3rd age as Sauron is beginning to regain his influence and Dark Fates are usually tied in some way to furthering the cause of Sauron.

Arwen Example:
True fate = Marrying Aragorn, becoming mortal, having lots of little Aragorns.
Dark Fate = Seduced by Sauron into betraying her father and becoming the possesor of the ring of power owned by Galadriel.

Or maybe more generically take the X-Files:

Agent Mulder:
Ideal Fate: Finding the ultimate truth.
Dark Fate: Becoming part of the lie.

Use of the "Fate" resource in play would either push the character to their True Fate (win for the player) OR drive them closer to their Dark Fate (loss for the player).

In simple terms, if Fate reaches 0 then the character becomes a victim of Fate and their Dark Fate happens. The character ceases to be a player controlled protagonist in the game and the player assumes the role of a new character.

If your Fate reaches 10 (arbirtrary figure at the moment) then the characters True Fate comes to pass and is tied into the game. The player either sets a new True Fate for their character or the character ceases to become an active protagonist, the choice is the players.

The idea of winning and losing are Gamist but having the players actively think about what they really want to happen and perhaps more importantly what they don't want to happen to their characters is intended to help the players form a vested interest in the game driven by their own conceived goals.

Potentially, one players True Fate might come into conflict with another players - which could be fun to play out.

Risk (via the use of Fate in the mechanic) either helps the player get closer to their True Fate or moves them closer to their Dark Fate.

Rewards for "Good Roleplaying" could mean additional Fate points, and in line with the characters efforts to achieve their True Fate.
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2002, 02:07:12 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I understand what you're going for. But there is nothing about having "Fair" on the character sheet that makes a player less likely to give a roleplaying description of their actions, than to just state the stat. I'm not saying all players do this, or that all would with your system. Just that the system is not achieving your goals, IMO.


Creating and maintaining the impression during play that the players are to all intents and purposes their characters is a big part of what role-play is about for me.

"I'm going to use my Fair Intelligence to figure out how to open the puzzle box."

or...

"I'm going to try and figure out how to open the puzzle box and I'm going to use my Intelligence."

...or more bluntly...

"I'm going to try and figure out how to open the puzzle box I've got +3 intelligence."

Doesn't do anything as far as I can see to mantain the illusion that the players are actually playing the roles of their characters.

Each and every time that happens in play the player is dropping, albeit momentarily, the illusion that they are acting out the role of their character in the game.

"I'm going to try and figure out how to open the puzzle box."

For me maintains the illusion that the player is essentially still thinking and speaking in character. The illusion isn't broken.

I'll give you some typical examples from a d20 game I'm in at the moment. The GM is constantly asking things like...

"What did you get."
"What's you such and such bonus."
"Give me a reflex save."
"Give me a spot roll."
"What's your AC."

And loads of other little phrases which make you switch from character mode to player mode and back again. Drives me nuts. You are constantly reminded time and again that your character is just a bunch of numbers and bonuses. Playing Vampire is the same, just a different set of phrases.

I not a big fan of Freeform. Arbitrary decisions made by the GM and/or other players directing the course of play just don't excite me at all.

I like that element of chance that Fortune provides. The feeling that a contest can go one way or another and no-one really knows which way the dice will roll or what the eventual outcome will be. There is just something utterly suspenseful about rolling some dice and knowing that things could go badly.

Irrespective of all that I've got to say that I'm inclined to agree with you that some (maybe most) players get a big kick out of "the system", plus this, minus that, 10 dex, level whatever, are a big part of the games that we've all played.

Take that away and I think that players are likely to feel somewhat uneasy playing an RPG without some of the obvious elements they are used to.
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2002, 02:10:55 PM »

Quote from: Paganini
Cass, would joining the indie-netgaming group be a possibility for you? I'm really excited about the success of our Monday night games. They're regular as clock-work, and we've got a decent-sized core group that you can count on to show up, and a fairly large group of folks who are less regular, but some of whom can be counted on to show up every week. We hardly ever have fewer than 4 people these days. We play a large slice of indie games. It's all very informal, also. If you want to play something, you just bring it up on the mailing list (it's a yahoogroup).

You'd be able to try out a lot of different play styles. I think you might be surprised at how different the kind of gaming you've been doing (Window with task resolution) is from the kind of gaming you say you want. I know I was. :)


Thanks for the invite Pag. I'd love to do something like although I'm guessing that most of you guys are from the States.

I live in England so the time difference may be a problem, we are 5 hours ahead of EST.

What time do you play?
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zaal
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #22 on: December 04, 2002, 02:20:24 PM »

Cassidy,

Have you heard of Fudge?  It's a pretty nice system that may work for you.  Trait levels are focus very much on words, but you can use dice to randomize results.  It's available online at Grey Ghost Games'website.

Jon
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #23 on: December 04, 2002, 02:23:44 PM »

Have you read the System Does Matter essay, Cassidy?

What is the point to the first four fifths of that last post? How does it contradict anything that I've said?


And I like Fortune resolution, too, FWIW. The point is that in having such a system, that the system makes itself known through play. And there's not much you can do about it.

Mike
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #24 on: December 04, 2002, 02:25:50 PM »

Quote from: zaal
Cassidy,

Have you heard of Fudge?  It's a pretty nice system that may work for you.  Trait levels are focus very much on words, but you can use dice to randomize results.  It's available online at Grey Ghost Games'website.

Jon


Got my own set of Fudge dice so I have - very funky looking. It's a nice system but a little too math heavy for what I want.
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #25 on: December 04, 2002, 02:40:41 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Have you read the System Does Matter essay, Cassidy?

What is the point to the first four fifths of that last post? How does it contradict anything that I've said?


And I like Fortune resolution, too, FWIW. The point is that in having such a system, that the system makes itself known through play. And there's not much you can do about it.

Mike


I've have read the "System Does Matter" essay. Is there a specific element of the essay that you want to draw my attention to?

My previous post wasn't meant to be a contradiction of anything that you said.

I was merely trying to illustrate how use of the mechanic in play would facilitate the illusion that the players are acting out the roles of their characters.
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Andrew Martin
Member

Posts: 785


« Reply #26 on: December 04, 2002, 03:00:36 PM »

Quote from: Cassidy
Got my own set of Fudge dice so I have - very funky looking. It's a nice system but a little too math heavy for what I want.


Could you explain further, please? I'm puzzled by this.
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Andrew Martin
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #27 on: December 05, 2002, 03:50:51 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Martin
Quote from: Cassidy
Got my own set of Fudge dice so I have - very funky looking. It's a nice system but a little too math heavy for what I want.


Could you explain further, please? I'm puzzled by this.


Fudge seems ideal for a Simulationist approach to play. Doing ad-hoc math is standard for Fudge, i.e. roll 4DF,  shift your skill up or down depending on the result, tell GM result. Sometimes you add bonses for circumstance, sometimes you may check a chart to extrapolate results, that kind of thing.

The mechanic I've been trying to present is not meant to facilitate or promote a Simulationist mode of play among the players. If it was then I'd use a suitable RPG system that I'm familiar with. There's plenty to choose from.

The type of games I like which are ones in which the GM tries to emphasize and encourage a Narrativist approach to play.

The mechanic is merely a tool that is used to guide the narrative at certain points where either success/failure is important to some aspect of the story or where success/failure may both be equally good directions for the story take.

The characters traits identify those broad aspects of the character that are likely to be influencial in the creation of the story and when necessary actually quantifying them. The 'traits' are not meant to be narrow definitions of an ability, a skill, etc since I'm not attempting to simulate the imagined game reality in a degree of detail that say a system like Fudge can be made to do.
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Paganini
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« Reply #28 on: December 05, 2002, 07:44:54 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy

Thanks for the invite Pag. I'd love to do something like although I'm guessing that most of you guys are from the States.

I live in England so the time difference may be a problem, we are 5 hours ahead of EST.

What time do you play?


Most of us are, but not all of us. One guy is in Norway, I think, and another guy is down by Austrailia someplace (New Zealand I think). Anyway, gathering time is 8:00 PM CST, although most of us usally get there a bit early to talk shop. We usually have a game started by 8:30 or 9:00, assuming that we don't wait for anyone.
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Paganini
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Posts: 1049


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« Reply #29 on: December 05, 2002, 07:52:33 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy


The type of games I like which are ones in which the GM tries to emphasize and encourage a Narrativist approach to play.


At this point I'm sitting here chanting "Shadows! Shadows! Shadows!" like a fan at a sports game. :)

But, seriously. I might be able to point you at a game you're *not* familiar with that will do what you want, but I need a little more info. For one thing, are you looking for something more or less generic, as the Window is, that you can apply to any setting / genre etc.? Or does your group have a particular setting that you always play in?

Frex, if you want D&D style fantasy with a narrativist approach, Donjon is probably the way to go. The Pool and Shadows are more generic.
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