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Personality mechanics that work(for you)

Started by sirogit, August 15, 2003, 04:27:10 AM

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Emily Care

Hi Windthin,

Quote from: youSorry to say, not all players are created equal, and it is up to the GM at times to guide players toward choices that better suit them, that they can better handle, or help them when they make choices that are beyond them, but which may help them to grow.
Different mechanics would allow each of these traits you mention to be handled differently.  In most games, it's up to gm/play group discretion how much of a given trait the player has to be able to carry off in order to invoke the trait. Sounds like you'd be like mechanics that require more work from the player and give less "mechanical" successes.  What games have mechanics that support this?

--Emily Care
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Zheng He

Quote from: gobi
Quote from: ValamirI find the systems that work best offer a reward for playing to the trait rather than a penelty for violating it.

That is my one complaint about the UA passions. Though they're integrated into the rest of the system fairly well, there is little incentive to actually play them except that you can flip-flop or mulligan once per session if it triggers a passion.

Hi Forge. This is my first post, so be kind to me, will you? Thanks

Well, I think the central point of some traits is to be punished in some way if you don't follow them. Most of psy disads fall inthis category, as long as psychology goes. Someone with a phobia does not get something positive from it, she only gets negative feelings when coming into it. This works also for all the "parental requirements" or superego indications of any sort. They work as triggers that get on only when the person is in conflict with them, but do not bring nothing good by themselves to the life of the person. So, if we want some realistic traits, I think we should stick to the way they're supossed to work in reality. We can bend it after, if they don't work, but they are not a reward, nor a stimulus to play them. They exist by themselves and for themselves, and so should be played.

Windthin

Quote from: Emily CareHi Windthin,

Quote from: youSorry to say, not all players are created equal, and it is up to the GM at times to guide players toward choices that better suit them, that they can better handle, or help them when they make choices that are beyond them, but which may help them to grow.
Different mechanics would allow each of these traits you mention to be handled differently.  In most games, it's up to gm/play group discretion how much of a given trait the player has to be able to carry off in order to invoke the trait. Sounds like you'd be like mechanics that require more work from the player and give less "mechanical" successes.  What games have mechanics that support this?

--Emily Care

You are correct; so far as pure personality, charisma, wit, so on, I do prefer encouraging players to stand on their own two feet.  I do feel a good GM should know their players AND their characters, and can often tell a player some things their character should or might know or realize that they won't... you cannot expect a player to know everything they are going up against, dealing with, especially the more alien and vast a world gets.  Willpower is a trait I feel makes for a solid stat... but at the same time, it is not something that should be tossed about haphazardly; the player should be encouraged to play out exertions of willpower, either actively or in response to outside or inside influences (outside being a mental attack or peer pressure or food before a starving werewolf in the middle of battle, inside being things like intense curiosity, phobias to be battled, so on).  Intelligence... we all have played characters who know more than us, or who know more about things we don't know much of ourselves, so this again requires some player/storyteller participation.  Wit, on the other hand... I am against players rolling for a good plan rather than coming up with one themselves.  This is a delicate issue, as is Charisma, charm... clearly appearance and such plays a part in a character's personality, but I disapprove of any stat that demands reactions from other characters, especially because this brings up an uneasy situation when it is turned upon other players, who may well rankle at being told they MUST react favorably or unfavorably, and rightly so.  It's a situation both too easily abused and too easily capable of falling flat.  It's not a matter of mechanics... but a matter of interaction, and stats like this seem to me a pale substitute for the real thing.  There is a problem, I know, with people who want to play characters more charismatic and witty and sly than they are... and I don't believe these problems are as easily solved as more solid ones.  If you want these traits in a character, I feel you should work on establishing them, either by the force of your own talents or by working with the storyteller on what you want to portray.

As to psychological defects, quirks, foibles and strengths... some of these things cannot be measured in terms of strength.  A phobia is definitely a flaw, through and through... but it is can be a roleplay strength, played well, and the overcoming of a phobia can make a character stronger.  All of these things have the potential to be the source of a character's downfall or triumph, but should not exist as solitary aspects of a character.  If you have a phobia, why?  How does it effect your morale?  How IS it effected by your growing physical prowess, your advanced intellect as opposed to a normal one, your increased mastery of magic?  A person afraid of water may well develop skills to combat this fear, or simply avoid it altogether and plan to never deal with it.  The key to working with these traits is to make them a part of the character truly, not set them aside as odd quirks that rear up suddenly and disappear again as suddenly, without any real connection to the character as a whole.  When that happens, it is a charicature, a two-dimensional event, and an unconvincing one at that.
"Write what you know" takes on interesting connotations when one sets out to create worlds...

Valamir

Quote from: Zheng He
Hi Forge. This is my first post, so be kind to me, will you? Thanks

Well, I think the central point of some traits is to be punished in some way if you don't follow them. Most of psy disads fall inthis category, as long as psychology goes. Someone with a phobia does not get something positive from it, she only gets negative feelings when coming into it. This works also for all the "parental requirements" or superego indications of any sort. They work as triggers that get on only when the person is in conflict with them, but do not bring nothing good by themselves to the life of the person. So, if we want some realistic traits, I think we should stick to the way they're supossed to work in reality. We can bend it after, if they don't work, but they are not a reward, nor a stimulus to play them. They exist by themselves and for themselves, and so should be played.

Welcome to the Forge Sergio.

I think you first have to determine the context of your play.

If your goal is to attempt to portray how a real person might respond in a given situation you may be right here.  I say may because clearly the human psyche is far more complicated than any roleplaying "disadvantage".  Phobias generally don't work the way they're portrayed in game text.

But if your goal is to portray a protagonist character who has a psychological quirk that makes him interesting to an audience as in literature or a movie, than I'd say no.  Treating it as a penalty really isn't the best way to do it because its not really a penelty to our protagonist.

Take a TV character like Monk.  That guy is a walking laundry list of psychological disorders...but none of them really disadvantage him.  Rather they serve as the back ground color to make his character interesting and differentiate him from Mike Hammer style detectives.  His phobias and compulsions are pure flavor for the purpose of defining his character and giving the audience a character they've not seen before.  The only occassions where any of his "disadvantages" become "disadvantageous" is when its dramatically interesting or comedically amusing for them to be so.  For instance, Adrian climbing a Ferris wheel to rescue Sharona was all the more funny because of his fear of hieghts.  But that fear did not actually prevent him from accomplishing his goal.  If that had been a roleplaying session, the player was clearly "hamming it up" but no real penalty was ascribed.


When dealing with penalties given to player characters you are making the character less effective.  But by extension, since the player interacts with the game primarily through his character you are making the player less effective too.  You are decreasing the players ability to impact the game.  What you have to ask yourself (either as game designer building such penalties into the system or as GM enforcing them) is "why".  Why do I want to reduce the player's effectiveness.  What is being gained and what is being lost by doing so? What purpose is being served and what purpose is being thwarted if I hit the player up with a big disadvantage?

Only then can you determine if assigning a penalty will give you the results you want in actual play.  If so, do it.  However, often times "its more realistic that way" sounds great on paper but it makes the actual play experience annoying, boring, tedious, or just plain grinds the action to a screaching halt.  This would be why so many GURPs players work overtime to avoid having to actually pay the price for the disadvantages they bought during player creation.  Because they're just not fun.

And if they're not fun, what's being gained by enforcing them?  Is the sense of being true to reality more important than enjoying play?  Maybe.  But if not, than personality traits as enforceable penalties probably isn't the mechanic that's needed.

M. J. Young

I really thought that was a great post, Ralph; I sort of disagree about Monk, but it's a minor thing.

If you examine it, Monk is such a great detective precisely because of his particular bundle of annoying problems. He notices when the pictures aren't straight or something isn't balanced in the room because it bothers him; and because he notices these things, he picks up on the clues everyone else misses. That guy has something on his shoes; what is it, and how did it get there? Something is not right here; it bothers him, and he knows it. So in that sense his apparent disadvantages are his advantages.

It would be interesting to try to design that into play; to pair advantages with disadvantages in sensible ways. I suspect, though, that it would be too difficult to really do it well.

You also reminded me of something a Star Trek writer once said: the Prime Directive, in the original series, was never mentioned except when it was a problem. It was mentioned precisely to give conflict to the situation, to make it so that they couldn't just do what they wanted to fix things. They couldn't give guns to the good guys because of the prime directive; but they could invoke General Order 44 to destroy an entire planet when the life of the captain and first officer were threatened, without anyone mentioning the Prime Directive, because there was already enough on the line without that.

In the same way, disads would have to be used to create tension when it didn't already exist. Will Monk be able to overcome his fear of heights to rescue Sharona? In one sense we know he will, because he's the hero and she has to be there next week; in another sense, the fact of his fear of heights creates the tension, as he has to overcome that. Climbing the Ferris wheel is easy; it's beating his inner fears that are difficult.

How to catch that in a game, though, is challenging.

--M. J. Young

Daniel Solis

Quote from: M. J. YoungIt would be interesting to try to design that into play; to pair advantages with disadvantages in sensible ways. I suspect, though, that it would be too difficult to really do it well.

I think the whole concept of an advantage and a disadvantage is dated concept, honestly. Anything that describes the character should be considered a trait and leave it at that. Its mechanical value should be determined in the context of the actions being taken and in what way they affect the dramatic tension either in or against the character's favor.

Some systems would have being an obsessive compulsive weirdo be a disadvantage, even if it's very useful for the situations in which they're used. I fail to see the necessity of the distinctions between ads and disads out of the context of dramatic relevance. If I'm a monk-ish weirdo, is that an advantage when I'm trying to do detective work? Yup. If I'm a monk-ish weirdo, is that a disadvantage when facing a dirty, filthy crime scene? Yup.Same trait(s), different type of relevance.

(Sorry for the rambling post.)
¡El Luchacabra Vive!
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Meatbot Massacre
Giant robot combat. No carbs.

Jack Spencer Jr

Quote from: gobiI think the whole concept of an advantage and a disadvantage is dated concept, honestly. Anything that describes the character should be considered a trait and leave it at that. Its mechanical value should be determined in the context of the actions being taken and in what way they affect the dramatic tension either in or against the character's favor.
Agreed. I had notice when I was playing GURPS that in many cases a so-called advantage would be disadvantageous and vice-versa. The reason why, I would fathom, had to do with trying to develop point values for everything. The effect seems to be like Charisma values where positive = fair and a negative value = ugly. It's awkard attempting to asign a numerical value to a judgement call that more-or-less comes naturally.

Andrew Martin

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr...playing GURPS that in many cases a so-called advantage would be disadvantageous and vice-versa.

Agreed! I've got an roleplaying acquaintance who regularly turns character advantages into disadvantages and turns character disadvantages into character advantages! It makes a mockery of conventionally designed games, like GURPS and WW Storyteller, where there's points to be gained and lost through advantages and disadvantages.
Andrew Martin

Daniel Solis

Are there any systems where there are no "merits and flaws"? Where the value of a character trait is determined by context and not by an arbitrary attempt to apply, as Andrew said, a numerical value to a judgement call?

It's one of the central premises of the PUNK system I'm currently developing, but I'd definitely like to see other people's takes on the idea.
¡El Luchacabra Vive!
-----------------------
Meatbot Massacre
Giant robot combat. No carbs.

James Holloway

Quote from: gobi
That is my one complaint about the UA passions. Though they're integrated into the rest of the system fairly well, there is little incentive to actually play them except that you can flip-flop or mulligan once per session if it triggers a passion.
They also show up in other ways, usually in "penalty" ways -- like the automatic stress checks imposed by the Fear and Noble stimuli. So to some extent they're unavoidable.

You're right that there isn't a terribly strong incentive to play them, but I've never seen this to be much of a disadvantage. They're not overwhelmingly important to the characters like the Obsession is, but they do come up.

Mind you, I tend to make note of them and pitch conflicts directly to them, so that might just be me.

In a non-mechanical way, I think they're also important in that they're the first thing you do when you create a UA character, which I think sends a message from the designers about where the game's priorities lie.

Also, I quite like FVLMINATA's personality mechanics, although I think it's ridiculous that players get a bonus for having their humors in balance. Balanced humors, while an admirable standard to force the personae to try to live up to, are not terribly exciting in play.

kamikaze

Quote from: Andrew Martin
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr...playing GURPS that in many cases a so-called advantage would be disadvantageous and vice-versa.

Agreed! I've got an roleplaying acquaintance who regularly turns character advantages into disadvantages and turns character disadvantages into character advantages! It makes a mockery of conventionally designed games, like GURPS and WW Storyteller, where there's points to be gained and lost through advantages and disadvantages.

That's just bad management by the Judge.  As Hero says, "A disad that doesn't inconvenience you isn't worth any points".  If a player is somehow using their disads in a positive way, then it's the Judge's responsibility to make the player play the character correctly, or take away the extra points and everything bought with them.

Can you give an example of these turnabouts your acquaintance claims to pull off?  I have a hard time believing that any disad can be made advantageous, without complete incompetence from the Judge.  I've seen them negated or ignored quite often by munchkins, but that's an entirely different matter.

What munchkins do is not a fault of the game system, and having less rules will not suddenly make munchkins into good role-players.

And in totally freeform games, sure, you don't need ads/disads...  But then, for totally freeform games, you don't need any rules.  You can use my SIX WORD RPG! if that's all you want.  The reason most people play games with rules in the first place is to resolve ambiguous cases without constant out-of-character arguments.

The world has had plenty of games without personality mechanics: D+D, Traveller, Runequest...  And the trend has not been to produce more games like that, now that we know better, but to always have personality mechanics in new games.  Even before merits/flaws were added to Vamp, it started out with Conscience, Courage, Willpower, Humanity, and social backgrounds.

D+D3 is the only game I've ever heard of where personality mechanics were taken *out*: there were penalties for diverging from your character concept in most older editions, but D+D3 doesn't have them.  Now your Lawful Good Paladin really can go all Untouchable Trio on people without repercussions.  I'm fairly sure that's not the model anyone else wants to follow.

Mike Holmes

Lots of games these days do not distinguish between "negative" and "positive" traits in any way. Take Fate, for example. The designers mention "negative" traits as such, but really only to discuss labeling issues. In play, they're handled like any other trait. My Synthesis system charges you points for taking what other games would call flaws or disadvantages. And, well, in Universalis a trait is a trait is a trait.

The GMs mentioned above who are "allowing" their players to turn advantages and disadvantages on their heads are not incompetent, they're drifting the design. What they're saying is that they don't like the way that these things work in these games. That's all a preference issue. In any case, some of the other games mentioned might be more to thier liking.

Unknown Armies is an interesting case. Basically, I think that if the player accepts that the game is going to beat up on him, then the mechanics don't really punish the player, just the characters. I mean, you wouldn't say that a character taking a HP loss in D&D is being punished for anything. In fact, in some ways, they're being rewarded with an interesting challenge. I think UA falls into that catagory with their mechanics in a powerfully sim way.

Mike
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Walt Freitag

It seems to me that this discussion is getting confused between two very different propositions:

1. Advantages and disadvantages are equivalent (and are or should be treaded the same by the system) because the right circumstances or clever play can turn an advantage into a disadvantage and vice versa.

2. Advantagaes and disadvantages are equivalent (and are or should be treated the same by the system) because they're both ways of building interesting situation around a character and/or focussing attention on the character.

Kamikaze, your skepticism regarding proposition 1 is understandable. The occasional exceptional ability to reverse an ad or disad in a specific situation isn't really a very strong argument for ads and disads to be treated as equivalent resource-wise. (This even echoes a real-world practice I find distateful, the lame attempt to find all lots in life equally desirable: sure, there are compensations for being blind and downsides to being rich, but don't try to convince me that being rich or being sighted aren't blessings that few sane people would be willing to give up.) But most of the systems of the type Mike describes, that treat ads and disads the same, are doing it primarily based on proposition 2.

This is largely a matter of GNS-linked differences in perspective and play techniques. Gamist play would strongly tend to test proposition 1, and either accept or (most likely) reject it based on the system and the exact nature of the desired challenge, while finding proposition 2 simply inapplicable. Narrativist play would strongly tend to test proposition 2 and either reject or (most likely) accept it based on the system and the exact nature of the Premise, while finding proposition 1 simply inapplicable. Simulationist play could end up deciding either way on either proposition depending on the style and technique (purist for system, high-concept, open sim, creative pastiche, etc.) or at odds over either proposition if participants are not in agreement with each other or with the system assumptions over the exact creative agenda.

- Walt
Wandering in the diasporosphere

Jack Spencer Jr

I think it has less to do with munchkins or GNS priorities as it does with negative point values are a bad idea. Or, are difficult to get to work well at the very least.

I cite the mass combat rules for original D&D Swords & Spells which gave Orcs a point value of -1. Murphy's Rules noted that you could technically have an infinite number of them.

This problem is evident in negative-point valued disadvantages. IIRC my GM used an arbitrary cap, which is in the book if I am not mistaken. The effect was taking many social/mental disadvantage to gain additional points to spend on combat abilities. Often, these disadvantages didn't have much effect on the game. One time the player who took Odious Personal Habit: Constantly Humming was told by the GM to stop doing that. Five points for free, then.

I like the way other games do it without negative points for anything. Anything you want about your character costs you. There is less change for odd effects that way IMO.

Lxndr

And then there's the way Nobilis handles flaws, which I like:

You don't pay points for them, OR get points for them.  However, whenever they come up AND seriously impact/impede you, you get a "reward."

Thus, players are rewarded for negative aspects, which in term encourages them.  But they're only rewarded IF THEY ACTUALLY APPEAR IN THE STORY.

It's far from the only good way to do it, but I like it.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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