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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: Incarnate: CharGen Achieving Gamist Support?  (Read 1064 times)
deadpanbob
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« on: April 28, 2003, 12:50:13 PM »

All,

I'm still slowly slogging through a complete re-write/draft of my game: Incarnate.  It's slow going - but I'm committed to finishing sometime this century.

As stated in the design goals, I'm trying to facilitate Gamist prioritization during play with the mechanics as much as possible, with secondary support for Narrativist prioritization during play.

The issue at hand: does the game have to have some form of numerical/points based/balanced character generation in order to appeal to those who want a 'Gamist' game?

Related to this issue is the fact that the game is designed to pit the Seneschal (Game Master) against the players and the players against each other - but at the same time it's trying to get everyone to make some meta-game/story decisions via Consensus.

Currently, Consensus is enforced by penalizing the points that each player has to create their character.  Put another way, if a given player wants control of a given story/setting element in a way that's contrary to the prevailing consensus within the Troupe, they have to give up a portion of their character's starting power to get it.

In playtests, the issue of "open-ended" vs "points/balanced" character generation has been one of the most contentious in terms of how (subjectively) fun the game is to play.  My players who tend to exhibit Narrativist leanings favor the former, while my players who tend to exhibit Gamist leanings favor the latter.  In general, both camps of players are relatively satisfied that they can co-exist within the context of the game - with the exception of the Character Generation rules.

Here is the game text on Consensus.

Here is the game text on Story Setup.

Finally, here is the game text on Character Creation.

I haven't had time to trasfer a new outline of the rules in play to my website - but if everyone feels that that information is needed to answer this question I may try and get them updated ASAP.

Thanks,


Jason
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2003, 10:37:04 PM »

Taking the question in the abstract, the worst thing you can do in character creation in a gamist game is give any player the impression that he's gotten short shrift. Particularly in a game where players are opponents, each needs to believe that he got a fair deal, whether because random generation was part of the risk or because he spent his points as he thought best.

Similarly, if they are competing against the referee, they have to feel that the referee is constrained in some manner that prevents him from winning outright.

This might not be what you meant, but from what you said, I would say that it is of prime importance to the chargen system that the players feel they've gotten a fair deal at the start.

--M. J. Young
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2003, 05:22:57 AM »

M.J.;

Thanks for the reply - and I appreciate the advice, and I understand that players who tend to have Gamist decision making priorities will want to make sure that everyone at the table is starting on the same playing field.

My question, however, is whether or not a points-based character generation or random character generation is required to acheive this perception of balance, or if a free-form character generation with a social contract mechanism for enforcement of balance will work?

My gaming group is rather insular, and I don't have a sense of how well they represent other players.  They are split on this issue, and I can see both sides of it.  Some like the idea of free-form character generation with a Social Contract mechanism to enforce starting balance, others say that a points based system is required.  I've used both in playtest, and neither one from my perspetive seems to hurt play.

Again, I appreciate your thoughts.

Cheers,

Jason
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2003, 07:24:08 AM »

Hey there,

You wrote,

Quote
My question, however, is whether or not a points-based character generation or random character generation is required to acheive this perception of balance, or if a free-form character generation with a social contract mechanism for enforcement of balance will work?


Here's my take on the issue, qualified up-front by saying that I'm still musing over lots of these things. Here's how it looks to me at this moment, though.

Speaking strictly historically, the latter only works if "character effectiveness" (by which I really mean a player's ability to strategize effectively) is not much affected by choices during character generation.

So, let's say that we all make characters in the free-form way - if we all roll 3d6 to do X, where X is "what my guy does," then the potential Gamist goals are either helped or at least not impeded. But if the free-form PC generation results in me getting 5d6 and you getting 3d6 (and these rolls are all we have, not just one among many), then those goals are getting hammered.

Think of Once Upon a Time. We can all make up characters free-form all throughout play. But each characters' "oomph" is the same; its actual impact on game-play is going to depend on how I, as a player, strategize my remaining cards, not on any intrinsic features like Strength scores or whatnot.

However, in Tunnels & Trolls, the utter randomness of character generation is correlated, I think, with the extreme importance of the characters' attributes during play, scene by scene and confrontation by confrontation. [This works in T&T, for a few reasons local to this game, far better than it does in the 1977 D&D (Holmes) or 1979 AD&D (Gygax).]

And similar to T&T (as you point out, and contrary to many people's intuitive conclusions), the point-structuring of Champions attributes permits a Gamist take as well, also because the attributes themselves are so important to play.

In other words,

1. Both the "random so we're all at risk" and the "point-structured so we all have the same resources" approaches are better suited to games in which the attributes/skills/etc are very significant at the individualized-performance level.

2. The "freeform plus Social Contract" approach is better suited to games in which the strategy is based on something besides the attributes/skills/etc (in Once Upon a Time, it's card management).

Best,
Ron
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