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Author Topic: Mechanics as they relate to the world  (Read 2099 times)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« on: September 06, 2001, 11:03:00 AM »

This is similar to the last post but different enough to warrant a new thread, I think.

Maybe it's just the hardcore simulationist in me, but how am I to know what the limitations on things like weapons, technology, and magic are in Alyria? Is there something in the game that will statistically define the capabilities of these sorts of things? The reason I ask is that since these things don't exist in the real world, and hence we have no actual common referent for them, how will players know what to expect from them?

Hypothetical: I have a character who wants to attack a Blessed NPC with a knife. My character might have a very good idea of what this character is capable of, but as a player, I really have no idea. I might know that he has certain virtues as a player, whiich might give me an idea of how dangerous the a Blessed is, but the character probably shouldn't be making his decisions based on this sort of information. Instead the character should be making his decision on what is generally, or specifically known about Blessed.

Given this, how do I portray the character accurately? Is this the point where the GM or other well educated player comes in and tells me what I should know about Blessed in general? And what about specifics? I sure some Blessed are more powerful than others. How do I guage these things without stats in order to make reasonable decisions for my character?

Or is this all intentional, and it's just a case of my simulationist brain getting in the way? Am I as a player supposed to ignore what is reasonable for a character and only do what the characters other values would indicate? I can sort of see this, but it still seems odd to me.

Can you elucidate how this should work?

Mike
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2001, 07:47:00 PM »

Simple answer, actually.

Ever play Champions?  Are you familiar with the concept of "special effects"?  (I hope that was the term that was used.)

If not, let me explain.  In Champions, superpowers were built from a list of generic abilities plus advantages and disadvantages.  So, if your character could throw lightning bolts, that might be an Energy Blast.  His fire-throwing buddy might also have Energy Blast, as would their sonic screamer friend.  From a rules perspective, each attack would be handled identically.  However!  They were not identical.  One attack was lightning, one was fire, and one was sound.  The GM was expected to make allowances for this.  For example, the sonic scream should not work in a vacuum but might have increased effect underwater, since water conducts sound better than air.  The lightning bolt fired into a pool might affect everyone, instead of a single target.  And so on.  These special effects were placed on top of the same mechanics, and the GM was told to allow room for variance.

In Alyria, technology, the Blessing, any weird Misbegotten power, the Gifts of the Chosen and dragon cultists, all these are merely special effects laying over the basic mechanical framework.  So, to take your example, the fight between the hypothetical knife-wielder and the Blessed would probably be Force vs. Force (although the Blessed could make a case for Determination instead).  Activate Traits if desired and roll the dice.  If the Blessed wins, narrate appropriately.  Perhaps he called lightning from the sky and blasted the knife-wielder.  Maybe the knife melted in the attacker's hand.  Whatever.  The Blessed won, and it should be reflected in the action, given the "special effects" present.  The same goes the other way.  Use the "special effect" of the knife.

I can hear the next question already.  "But how do I know if I killed him or just hurt him?"  The answer to that question lies in a couple of areas:  the relative successes of the dice rolls and the pacing and narrative requirements of the scene.  Yes, I do plan on explaining how this works in the book.  Won't be easy, but I'll give it my level best.

This, of course, only applies to powers that are used in opposition to something else.  If something is going to be used in a non-opposing manner (say, a jetpack to fly) then this is purely up to the Narrator to allow or disallow.  Of course, if the jetpack pilot were to get into a chase, then the normal Attribute roll (Insight vs. Insight, most likely) would apply.

I hope that this makes sense.  Please feel free to ask more questions if you are uncertain of what I mean.  Best for me to begin to work out some of the bugs now.  :smile:

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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2001, 12:11:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-09-06 23:47, GreatWolf wrote:
Ever play Champions?  Are you familiar with the concept of "special effects"?  (I hope that was the term that was used.)


I've played more Champions (and other Hero System games in my own settings), than you can shake your big storytelling stick at. I get what you're saying about "special effect" in general, but...

Quote

If the Blessed wins, narrate appropriately.  Perhaps he called lightning from the sky and blasted the knife-wielder.  Maybe the knife melted in the attacker's hand.  Whatever.  The Blessed won, and it should be reflected in the action, given the "special effects" present.  The same goes the other way.  Use the "special effect" of the knife.


OK, great, I have an idea of the effects of lightning, and knives (enough to at least have my character know that it's more dangerous than his flimsy knife). Now what about a quicksilver blade? Are they as hard as steel? Will it work exactly like a blade? Does the act of extending it make it more dangerous due to the speed that it can be extruded? Or the secrecy with which this might be done in HTH? Is there something in the rules that says so? How do I know? More importantly, how do we get a group consensus on appropriate narration of the special effects. I can see some player having quicksilver (what are those guys called again?) and making it sound extrememly deadly, while another player might put all sorts of limitations on it. This is fine if only one player has the ability, but if two do...

Quote

I can hear the next question already.  "But how do I know if I killed him or just hurt him?"  The answer to that question lies in a couple of areas:  the relative successes of the dice rolls and the pacing and narrative requirements of the scene.  Yes, I do plan on explaining how this works in the book.  Won't be easy, but I'll give it my level best.


This part I get, actually. As a player I understand that the mechanic will drive the result, and that the special effect has little or no actual effect on the level of the outcome. But the character doesn't know that. He can only go on what he's heard about quicksilver. Which is hard for me to portray for my character as I as the player know very little about how dangerous it is as a weapon.

I feel like I'm not getting through. It may be a Simulationist desire of mine to want to know what my character knows in order to either be immersed or portray him well, or both, but it seems to me that good portrayal of character is important even in Narrativist games.

What I'm assuming is that the answer is probably the same as the other thread, that there will be sections that have details that cover these concepts in a narrative fashion (small n as in with words, not mechanically). Especially given that there would be no use for such statistics otherwise. This is a problem I find in a lot of Narrativist or rules-lite RPGs (including you-know-what). Since things are not rated in objective fashion, the GM must transmit to the players an idea of how powerful something is, and often is not supported by the text in meaningful ways.

A common failing is for everything to be described as Awfully Powerful. Well, then is one Awfully Powerful thing afraid of the next? You can get around this by careful verbal comparisons I suppose. Perhaps that's the best way, but it's labor intensive.

So, I suppose that this is just a plea to not leave some of the ideas in the game to open to interperetation. So as to avoid problems with players not being able to guage things when interpereting how to narrate (not to mention making it easier on me as GM). Or perhaps I'm just not seeing the big picture. Who knows?

Mike
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2001, 01:05:00 PM »

Okay, I understand some of your concern.  I'll give a quick answer right now and perhaps a longer one later.

All that info should be figured into the appropriate Attribute.  For example, someone with that (fairly popular) quicksilver armor should reflect the fact by having a higher Force.  After all, butt-kicking equipment can figure into that Attribute.  Therefore the system does end up reflecting the relative power levels of the characters.  

Yes, I do plan on including guidelines on how to set each attribute, to take some of the guesswork out of it.  It will probably take the form of several questions for each attribute.  e.g.  "Is your character bold and outspoken or he is timid and quiet?"

Remember that resolution is still based on system and not on special effect.  Special effect is used to narrate, not resolve.  If your knife-wielding character has a higher Force than the Blessed, then he's most likely going to win, Blessing or not.  The details of the narration are what is at stake with special effects.  Does that clarify at all?

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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
GreatWolf
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2001, 09:29:00 PM »

Just had another thought.  To mangle a quote from Heinlein's Starship Troopers, there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous men.  Alyria is not very concerned with the weapon at hand.  That is only a special effect.  However, the will to use it....ah, that is a different matter.


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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2001, 09:45:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-09-07 17:05, GreatWolf wrote:
All that info should be figured into the appropriate Attribute.  For example, someone with that (fairly popular) quicksilver armor should reflect the fact by having a higher Force.  After all, butt-kicking equipment can figure into that Attribute.  Therefore the system does end up reflecting the relative power levels of the characters.  

Yes, I do plan on including guidelines on how to set each attribute, to take some of the guesswork out of it.  It will probably take the form of several questions for each attribute.  e.g.  "Is your character bold and outspoken or he is timid and quiet?"


OK, that seems cool, and is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. A questionaire like this would really give people a way of relating characters and other stuff to each other magnitude-wise; give a basis from which to determine how to guage a character's reactions. Even just example characters would help a great deal. And it should be a fun part of chargen as well. I use questions as a standard part of many of my games, nowadays.

Mike
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