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Author Topic: Beliefs, Traits, Instincts  (Read 5503 times)
nebulous menace
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Posts: 8


« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2003, 06:55:07 PM »

I guess I'm the reinforcements. . .

in our game, we've only had a few adventures, so people's characters haven't really changed much from the way they started.

My character, "Kite", is the utter freak of the group. He's a sorceror, former necromancer, from an albino tribe.  Under contacts he has the headless, handless ghost of his former mistress, who he didn't kill quite thoroughly enough.

Traits: Skulking, Sucking up, Iron Stomach, Gifted, Albino, Secretive, Cold-blooded, Murderous, Charming.

Beliefs:
They will come for me.
The only good enemy is a truly dead enemy.
I can pull off this look.

Instincts:
Stay in the shadows.
Keep Eldritch Shield up.

How has this shown up in play? Well, when they DID come for me, I was utterly unsurprised. And I had an Eldritch Shield up. I've played CSI with dead bodies, getting crucial clues, while others were covering their noses and keeping their distance.

And as a six foot two, scrawny albino in a black hooded robe, I think the self-confidence in the look is crucial . Because when albinos blush, it's not pretty.

As for "Skulking" and "Sucking up"- I didn't choose those lifestyle traits, but they had a surprisingly large effect on how I played Kite from day 1. Being a male in an Amazon society, it's good to have 15 years practice skulking and sucking up.

I'm thinking my next Belief might be: "White Fire fixes everything." Maybe it's my rolls, but I've gotten one-shot kills every time except one, and he had an Eldritch Shield up.


From a game mechanic point of view, if you make the good Traits too good, there will be even LESS reason to take bad Traits. (I personally think that "Blind", "Stupid", "Quadripilegic", etc. should be 0-point traits or something.  )
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Bankuei
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2003, 08:08:20 PM »

Hi Neb,

this is kinda the reason that I'm wondering about more explicit rules about traits resulting in Artha awards.  This would be a good reason for folks to take negative traits.  Fang Langford's Scattershot system does this, in that XP dice are awarded for bringing in your Disadvantages.  Otherwise, without a reward, I don't see a point in having Disadvantages cost points.  The other possible use would be if they provided some occassional advantages, with some guidelines of them in use.

Chris
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Valamir
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« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2003, 05:38:36 AM »

Hey Rick, great clarification.  What you describe is largely the sense that I got from the book.  That instinct is a way of codifying the age old debate between "but you didn't say it" vs. "but my character would do it".

Some of the D&D DMs I've gamed with would actually expand the "standard marching order" into a whole S.O.P. that the party would use so that we could do the "check for traps", "listen at doors" routine without slowing play down to explain every single step and getting screwed if we forgot.


Quote
Valamir, I get the idea of what you describe as "Director Stance" and I'd have to say that although we don't go with much of that in our gameplay, Instincts create a nice little zone of wiggle room for such player influence. If Rerun had actually used up all his crossbow ammo in game, and the dramatic moment with Deadeye arose, I might have reminded Luke of the instinct, and asked if there was any chance that while Rerun was running around on the battlefield, he might have seen stray bolts lying about that he might have instinctively picked up for Deadeye, hoping for a last minute reprive. But I would not expect to automatically get it; it would be GM's discretion.


That's how I'd describe what you explained too...providing just a touch of Director Stance to give a little bit of wiggle room.
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Luke
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« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2003, 07:40:42 AM »

BEWARE: rant herein
Yes, Instincts and Beliefs are there to cut down on table shite like arguing and gm-screwing. But they are also there to make the characters more believable. It is impossible to represent a person/thought entirely through numbers. These very loose rules allow players to inject thoughts into their characters (which are otherwise numbers).

Investiture is a similar rule. Very little mechanics, but it provides "wiggle room" for the GM and the player to make something magical happen.

Instincts and Traits can be used to wiggle further and harder. The Scavenger trait is the perfect example. A successful Perception test and the character can find nearly anything they want whenever they need it. Inexplicable, occassionally frustrating, and great fun. But it costs 4pts in character burning.

Personally, I run a very tight game ship. My players learn about hardship, suffering, and pain. So I want the Instincts and Beliefs to be gritty and tied to the "real world." I do not want characters pulling chicken wings out of the air every time they are hungry. Nor do I want characters to be in any way indefatigable. This is a dice-based game. The dice ultimately decide defeat or victory. I like it like that. And I like my characters, at least in some way, vulnerable and human. (This is what creates compelling stories for me.)

Quote
But there are sizeable circles of traditional gamers who will roundly declare that there *arent'* supposed to be rules for character behavior or psychology

Not only am I am member, but I am also the president of the school which Valamir refers to.


Never. No. Uh uh. Nope. God forbid. There should be a papal bull.

A system should NEVER force a player to roleplay/behave in certain way. YES, there should be guidelines--as in Beliefs or Instincts. NO there should not be a resolution mechanic that says, "Gee, your Belief says "X", your Instinct says "Y", the dice say, "Z". Ok, you agree to be his slave for life."

argh.

I know, an extreme and ridiculous example. Let's take FVLMINATA. It's brilliant. System and Background are great. Yet, the social resolution mechanic makes me flop like a fish drowning in air. No. No. No. Dice should never tell a player character what he or she should do. One, it is condescending. You are stripping control from your players and assuming they don't know how to play. Two, it contains the potential for the largest exercise in munckinism this side of Rolemaster. (And, in the results, there is utter success but no room for abject failure. argh.)

Perhaps my guidelines are exceedingly vague: "There are guidelines. They should influence your character in play." That's all they really say. But beyond that, I couldn't conceive of writing out rules for the infinite myriad of BITs and BITs gestalt that exist in the game. If you have suggestions for a workable mechanic (that does not go beyond the scope of BW as a game mechanic, i.e. no coins.), I am dying to hear it. To me, though, it is up to the players to infuse their character with this loose agenda.

Lastly, I did see the flaw in the Artha system and how it related to BITs. I have corrected this. I think the new variation is better suited to BW gameplay.

thanks for your thoughts and input,
-luke
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Valamir
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« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2003, 08:18:10 AM »

Heh, I certainly appreciate your perspective...different strokes and all that.  After all, the sorts of thing that send you into flumoxed conniptions may earn a big shrug and a "so what" from me, and vice versa.

However, I did want to take a brief second to make one little point.

Quote
I know, an extreme and ridiculous example


The danger in using extreme examples, is if you repeat them oft enough they become a sort of mantra which serves as blinders.  Any reference to a behavioral "mechanic" than instantly queues up this mantra which leads to instant and summary rejection.

I suggest that there are NUMEROUS examples of behavior mechanics that operate on a much subtler level and more importantly, on a less prescriptive level than your example.  At the risk of annoyingly bringing up TROS as a repeated example, its SAs serve as behavioral mechanics that are 100% mechanical (honest to god number crunching game dice impact) and 0% prescriptive in any way.

If you repeat that extreme example to yourself too often, you just might find yourself missing out on some really cool gaming possibilities that maybe you wouldn't mind so much...even though they'd fall into the same general category of behavioral mechanics.  In other words, not only is your example "extreme" its also extraordinarily narrow and represents only a tiny fraction of such mechanics.

For the record...the extreme example you note repulses me too.  But there are alot of other options out there that are actually very exciting and game enhancing to me as well.
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taepoong
Member

Posts: 120


« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2003, 08:33:07 AM »

[quote="abzu
Lastly, I did see the flaw in the Artha system and how it related to BITs. I have corrected this. I think the new variation is better suited to BW gameplay.
[/quote]

The new Artha system goes hand-in-hand with BITs as they are intended to be played in BW from the beginning. Now you are rewarded with Artha for: playing our your Traits - good or bad; sticking to your Beliefs, especially if they create appropriate drama; and having creative and timely Instincts. This has always been the heart of the BITs and Artha connection, as I interpreted it. With the new system, we have been given stricter and more explicit guidelines for establishing this symbiotic relationship. Hopefully, this will fulfill the need by some to have well-defined rules for everything versus the freedom desired by those who are able to imagine things on their own.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #21 on: June 09, 2003, 08:34:10 AM »

Hi Luke,

That right there is the sort of input I've been looking for(at least on the "intent and spirit of the law" level).  It's also the point at which I was being confused.  Clearly in BW it states that your BITs can change by out and out in-game behavior.  So if I choose a set of lifepaths that give me stuff like Cowardly, Run away, or similar Traits, and I play my character as a fearless, never-back-down warrior, then I can change the traits over.

My only concern in that is that the guy who wants to play the latter pays a price in getting less Artha for "bad roleplaying" when in fact, that's what they wanted to roleplay all along.  While this isn't a "hard rule" like alignment would be in restricting players, this is still a tendancy that will push many players to treating BITs as such, instead of the open system that they are.

What I would like to see, is a solid set of guidelines, just like you've got for Artha, saying what can and cannot be done with BITs.  Not a list of such, for each one...

For example-
-If you tie, and have an appropriate BIT, then you win(perhaps just barely)
-If you lose, and you have equal dice to the challenger, you get a reroll
-If you want to claim that you've done some small action that would make a big difference(such as hiding extra money in a sock), or remembered to bring some small item, and have the appropriate BIT, then you do.
-etc, etc, etc

In other words, a list of guidelines that can be applied across the boards on BITs.  

Thanks again,

Chris
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taepoong
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Posts: 120


« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2003, 09:11:53 AM »

Quote from: Bankuei
this is kinda the reason that I'm wondering about more explicit rules about traits resulting in Artha awards.  This would be a good reason for folks to take negative traits.  ... Otherwise, without a reward, I don't see a point in having Disadvantages cost points.  The other possible use would be if they provided some occassional advantages, with some guidelines of them in use.


I think the new Artha system goes a long way in addressing your concern. You are rewarded for playing your BITs. The more creative they are and the better you play them, the more often you will be rewarded with Artha. And they are more explicit. But I guess I just posted all these points. So...

Off to a more explosive and passionate topic - Traits!

All traits have a cost. Period. The more the Trait benefits your character, the more it costs. The worse it is for your character, the less it costs. Period. Thus, the Gift is 5, and Blind is 1. It's pretty straight-forward.

The reason behind this is fairly straight-forward, as well. Something that is free is valueless. Something that is free is something that anybody can have. It will usually be taken for granted and have no meaning to that person. Just take a look at my toys when I was a child!

To make things appreciable, they must require some sort of sacrifice. Even if that sacrifice is minimal, it will give that thing importance and value.

Further, BW considers personal drama and story-telling to be just as important as the dice. Consider this in terms of Trait cost. Which creates more opportunities for drama; having a lame leg or being Glib? The answer for me is being lame. Struggle creates drama. Overcoming difficulties creates drama. Thus, whatever causes struggle and obstacles is more valuable to a story than something that makes life easier.

And so, bad traits cost.

You might argue, then, that bad traits which are really bad - like being blind - should cost more than lesser evils - like being stinky! I contend that point with a simple phrase, "That's just mean!" The cost of 1 pt. is the sacrifice required to give it value and that's enough for me.

The great thing about this cost system is that if you think it's unfair, there is no rule which forces you to purchase negative Traits to balance your positive Traits. I always hated that about other Trait systems. Why should my leperous, hunch-backed rat-catcher have any good Traits?
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Bankuei
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« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2003, 09:18:49 AM »

Hi Tae,

I have no problem following the logic that "some characters are just fucked up", and that some players may want to play that, just cause its fun.  I'm cool with all that.  What I'm talking about, which I'm glad the new Artha rules address, is making sure that people who play those jacked up characters get something for their roleplaying, vs. "Johnny got an Affinity for Bows" who gets his advantage from the Trait itself.

Chris
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taepoong
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Posts: 120


« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2003, 09:25:09 AM »

Quote from: Bankuei

My only concern in that is that the guy who wants to play the latter pays a price in getting less Artha for "bad roleplaying" when in fact, that's what they wanted to roleplay all along.  While this isn't a "hard rule" like alignment would be in restricting players, this is still a tendancy that will push many players to treating BITs as such, instead of the open system that they are.


In our games, Artha is not given out solely to those who play their BITs to the tee. It is also given to those who break their molds. Your example of a cowardly snit wanting to be a hero is perfect. Imagine the battle he is in is turning against his side and he finds himself presented with a choice; flee the battle now and live, or risk his life in an effort to win the day.

It is my opinion that both options are Artha worthy. If he turns tail and runs, he gets an Artha point for playing his idiom. However, if he betrays his BITs and chooses the heroic path, then he will be rewarded with a point of Artha - perhaps Rolling with the Punches or some other category.

I believe this is the way the relationship between Artha and BITs was intended. I would not prefer to have anything stricter in terms of rules that would take away this choice.
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Valamir
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« Reply #25 on: June 09, 2003, 09:42:21 AM »

Quote

It is my opinion that both options are Artha worthy. If he turns tail and runs, he gets an Artha point for playing his idiom. However, if he betrays his BITs and chooses the heroic path, then he will be rewarded with a point of Artha - perhaps Rolling with the Punches or some other category.


ABSOLUTELY.  The point is NOT to turn characters into robots.  The point is to say THIS...THIS THING...RIGHT HERE...is what is important.  

And here's the cool part...important to the PLAYER.

Important to the character is irrelevant because at the end of the day, a character is just a piece of paper with numbers on it and a vision in our shared imaginary space.  All that matter is what is important to the player.  To the extent that "playing in character" is important to the player, great.  To the extent that "challenging the archetype" is important to the player, great.  But it all comes back to the player.  

By highlighting what's important, any act that ADDRESSES that importance is a powerful addition to the story...confirms it, denies it, adhers to it, violates it...doesn't matter, it got addressed and thus had impact.  That's what makes it Artha worthy.

I'm not sure if you're really seeing what I'm getting at or not.  Your comment about about "people who need rules for everything and people who can use their imagination" is so 100000% off the mark I don't even know where to begin.  Maybe that was just one of those off the cuff remarks that get made...but if so...its definitely an example of a blinders producing mantra.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #26 on: June 09, 2003, 10:00:53 AM »

Hi Tae,

Upon further reflection, and Ralph's post, here's something of note:

Quote
Further, BW considers personal drama and story-telling to be just as important as the dice.


Which is exactly why I'm pushing for more guidelines on using BITs.  This also completely links into my statement that BW backs off at the point of actually stating that there are "bigger goals in play" than simply "realism" and leveling up.  If it's important, it deserves guidelines.

Chris
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taepoong
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Posts: 120


« Reply #27 on: June 09, 2003, 10:01:19 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Quote

Your comment about about "people who need rules for everything and people who can use their imagination" is so 100000% off the mark I don't even know where to begin.  Maybe that was just one of those off the cuff remarks that get made...but if so...its definitely an example of a blinders producing mantra.


It was meant to express how frustrating it must be for a game designer to create a balance between these extreme camps. It was meant to express my opinion that these new artha rules do a good job of achieving that balance.

I am sure I could express this sublime thought properly in Haiku, but I suck at poetry. And I can't write Japanese. ;)
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Luke
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« Reply #28 on: June 10, 2003, 07:35:16 PM »

Chris, Ralph:

I've been thinking a lot about your comments on BITs in BW and I want to thank you. You've got my gears turning. I don't have any answers yet, but I am thinking on the subject.

thanks again, I really do appreciate the comments and wrangling.

-L

(must...play...more...)
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Bankuei
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« Reply #29 on: June 10, 2003, 08:21:50 PM »

Hi Luke,

Thanks for your input and thoughtful replies.  I'm interested in seeing what churns out from your thoughts about this.  I'd also like to see what you think if you get a chance to play some Riddle of Steel, the Pool, Hero Wars/Quest, or some Trollbabe as examples of games that do things differently but have elements of what BW does, in very different and interesting ways.

Looking forward to your musings,

Chris
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