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Author Topic: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)  (Read 22899 times)
lumpley
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2003, 07:32:50 AM »

I'd suggest that the "maleness" of Universalis is in its challenge and interruption mechanisms, not in its conflict resolution and reward mechanisms.

I've been thinking about how we've played it, and here's my first stab.

--

Contributive Interruptions

Before you interrupt another player's turn, you have to get that player's permission.  This is as informal as the first step of a challenge.  Catching the player's eye or bouncing up and down in your seat are fine ways to ask to contribute, as is just asking.

If the other player refuses your interruption, you have to sit on your hands.

If the other player accepts your interruption, you pay for having interrupted, then introduce things and pay for them as always.  If the other player challenges your contributions you should retract them at once.  Once you're finished, the other player's turn resumes.

The other half is that you should be gracious about accepting interruptions and moderate about asking for them, in proportion to your own personal tendency to go on and on.

--

We've been playing Universalis this way without (before now) formalizing it.  It matches my longstanding personal policy: if a woman's talking, I don't interrupt, and if I'm talking and a woman interrupts, I shut up.  (I don't always stick to it but it's my policy.)  So in that sense, it's gendered - A way for me, male, to adapt to conversations with women.

--

But I haven't at all addressed Paul's very interesting insight about playing to draw details out of your fellow players.

-Vincent
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2003, 07:33:35 AM »

After some more thought on using charts to generate Complications i have come up with the following:

The chart is a generalize guideline like "physical attack" or "insult of reputation" or "the chosen course is blocked."  The details will have to be generated cooperatively by the players.  This way you feel less like some other player is "out to get you" by introducing Complications and more likely to feel a sense of shared creation of the Complication...

Thomas
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Valamir
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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2003, 08:15:29 AM »

Quote
I'd suggest that the "maleness" of Universalis is in its challenge and interruption mechanisms, not in its conflict resolution and reward mechanisms.


So I guess my editing out the third stage of the Challenge process...knife the guy if he still won't agree...was a good thing   ;-)
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2003, 08:33:44 AM »

Another thing that i feel tends Universalis towards the "male" is that it keeps score (via coins).  I find that i often put together a lame Complication so that i can replenish my dwindling supply of coins.  Now i see why coins are used and why Complications replenish them (drive the conflict), and i don't have anything better.  Perhaps it's just my inexperience with the system, but it seems that at its core it doesn't facilitate a kind of "cooperative" play...

Thomas
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Valamir
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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2003, 09:08:50 AM »

I hesitate to turn this thread into a Universalis rules discussion, but Smerf, some of your concerns about "lame Complication" are addressed in this thread

A pertinant quote from that thread that is more broadly applicable

Quote
It actually flows quite well into the game's self balancing mechanic.

consider:
1) I spend all my Coins in a flurry of activity
2) I then begin a Complication for the primary purpose of using a bunch of Traits for free dice to generate a bunch of bonus Coins which I intend to pocket.
3) But, someone like Mike, who still has enough Coins to interrupt me, does so and activates most of my Traits against me in the Complication leaves me likely losing the Complication and not generating nearly enough free dice to make up for what I spent.
4) So given that I've now discovered that Complications are not always automatic Coin refreshers, I now must be more cautious about when and how I spend them.


I think Paul hit this issue on the head above in his response to Emily.

Its not that Universalis doesn't support Cooperative play, its that its decidedly geared towards Yang style Cooperation rather Yin style.

In other words its the kind of cooperation and consensus building one uses when playing King of the Mountain.  Since the game was inspired in large part by free market capitalism (a decidedly Yang economic form, and which was drastically more heavy handed in earlier versions) this isn't surprising.

So I'd hesitate to say the game doesn't foster cooperation.  As Paul pointed out, its all in how you define cooperation.

As far as facilitating a more Yin form of cooperation, I don't think that the game discourages such play at all.  Vincent's descriptions of how they play Uni involve really only some modest rule changes easily done with a gimmick or two.  I'll try and collect a bunch of these ideas for my next web update.

But even without such gimmicks, a vast amount of Uni depends directly on the social contract of the group.  Throw Mike and I into Vincent's group and their simple concessions might be insufficient to to curb my own innate Yangness ;-).  However amongst themselves (correct me if I'm wrong here Vince) they accomplished a more Yin form of play without needing to actually formalize what they were doing as an explicit gimmick.  It was just a natural consequence of the way they interact in their play.

But certainly there is built in a degree of Ego based cooperation in Uni.  Something that I can clearly recognize but probably wouldn't have noticed if these threads hadn't pointed it out (blinders and all that).

But what can I say. dominating the world through my own force of will is appealing to me ;-)
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2003, 11:54:37 AM »

I think that to an extent, Ralph has captured my feelings about this in the above post. That is, I think Universalis sets up a framework that's very naturalistic in many ways. Sure you can call it Free Market Capitalism, but aren't personal relationships handled that way? Think of it in terms of Transactive Psychology. Players are purchasing Strokes from each other, really. What the game does is to give players a way of transacting above board, and from an equal footing. That's footing, it doesn't make them equal. Harrison Bergeron would still stand out.

The Complications are put in the game very much to create conflict. But that's absolutely neccessary. Because it's a game about creating stories. The mechanics only encourage that. I fail to see how you can get story without conflict. What this means, however, is that Universalis is only "male" or "yang" assuming that stories are male or yang.

As for the social level that goes on "above" the game, that will, of course, be based on the players social norms. I'd expect that Vikings would play much more competitively than even Ralph. In any case, I think that game goes out of it's way to make it so that competition isn't the default of play. I think that, of RPGs, Universalis is potentially the most "female" yet. Because players aren't advocates for individuals neccessarily, they're advocates only for the story by default.

Any bias after that is the player's own. I'm male, so is Ralph, so is Paul. Any chance that this "maleness" is being projected on a blank slate? Em?

Mike
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2003, 01:03:50 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I fail to see how you can get story without conflict.


It's not that you can have story without conflict.  It's that the mechanics of Universalis encourage the PLAYERS to have conflicts, and projects that conflict onto the story components to create action and interest.  Is that not the case?  Aren't players encouraged to bid for whatever outcome they want and then roll for success?  Isn't that the way of resolution system emphasized in the examples?  Sure, you could also just negotiate your way out of things, but the game makes that option seem "less fun" because you don't get to utilize all the neat mechanics.  You might as well just be playing freeform in that case and god knows we wouldn't want that ;)
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2003, 02:13:11 PM »

I have to agree with you on conflict Mike, without it there is no story.  I'm not advocating that we have no conflict between characters.  However, the Universalis ruleset turns inter-character conflict into inter-player conflict because it makes you pick a side.  The reward goes to whichever side "wins."  There's no reward for producing an interesting, albeit doomed, set of opposition.  There is, however, and incentive to produce an overpowering set of opposition, even if you plan on narrating that opposition as failing.  I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, merely that it is limiting.

I don't know that i have a good suggestion to change this (if you want to, not everyone will).  Maybe distribute Complication dice equally regardless of who was on which side of the conflict.  This seems to bear some thinking on...

Thomas
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Valamir
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« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2003, 05:19:41 PM »

Quote
There's no reward for producing an interesting, albeit doomed, set of opposition


I think with a few more games under your belt you'll realize that that's not the case at all.  Even being on a side that loses can wind up generating net profit Coins for you.  I activate 4 traits, I roll 4 dice, I lose, I get 4 Coins.  

In fact, even if you choose to go in gung ho guns blazing and get into a bidding war spending tons of Coins to buy dice, then you lose you still break even at worst.  The only way to actually come out behind in a Complication is if you spend Coins like crazy...WIN...but win with such a low roll that you wind up generating fewer free Coins than you spent

So, in fact, doing this:

Quote
There is, however, and incentive to produce an overpowering set of opposition, even if you plan on narrating that opposition as failing


can actually get you screwed.  Doing the thing that you say the game incents is, in fact, the only way one can come out behind.
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Green
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« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2003, 06:35:04 PM »

*risks being labelled as a self-promoting egotist*

I think my game, Kathanaksaya, would be interesting to look at in the context of this discussion, if only to provide both points of comparison and a points of contrast.

Because it is particularly necessary in this discussion (as well as to prevent many incorrect assumptions), I will come out and say it: I'm a woman.  I've often deconstructed my game in an attempt to see what works, why it works, and what is interesting while not being obvious.  In the context of this discussion, this is what I figured out.

K. is a very feminine game in terms of its orientation, goals, and methods of reward.  Character design is holistic and highly internal.  Most of the Story Points come from understanding how your character ticks and relating that information to the story.  All the details you create for your character are not equally considered.  The number of Story Points you get depends not on how many details you give, but the nature of those details.  The main behavior you will find rewarded is developing an intimate portrait of your character.  I am willing to concede that I am demanding too much, but at the very least I wanted to create a system that would allow this to happen and encourage it, as opposed to relying on chemistry and assumptions about "good roleplaying."

The feminine elements of this game also extends to character creation.  Most games present character creation as a linear process wherein Step B follows Step A, not because it's easier, but because it's necessary.  It's hard to know what your character's attribute modifier is if you don't know the character's attribute score.  K., on the other hand, only uses a systematic method of character creation as a tool to make things easier on the players.  It is possible to just jot down ideas as they come to you then figure out how many Story Points they are worth, or to determine which aspects you want to detail first.  In fact, this is mainly how I create characters for K.  The outside-in and inside-out stff was only developed later on after players seemed to have difficulting understanding just how they were supposed to make their characters.  Then again, this may just be a difference between Narrative games and Sim/Gamist games.

But, if there is anything particularly feminine about character creation, it would be the intuitive nature of the process.  I should probably be ashamed of myself for saying this, but most of the design decisions I made regarding this game were rather haphazard.  I didn't think about them beyond whether or not they would work during play and if they made sense on a gut level, based on what feels right.  In essence, a long string of Eureka! moments.  As a result, the mechanics of K. are decidedly simple.  The most logically abstract part of the game is the addition and subtraction required to keep track of Story Points.  The difficulty for me proved to be translating the game in my head into a system that would allow for the integrated roleplaying experience that I enjoy most.  That is, using intimacy with a character as a means of exploring and creating an answer to a particular concept, question, or idea related to human nature.

Outside of character creation, there are other aspects of K. that strike me as particularly feminine.  The first is how rewards don't necessarily come as a result of a character's success.  Especially in replenishing Story Points.  Success in the case of K. comes more from developing an interesting story as opposed to fulfilling specific objectives.  The second is how the bidding mechanic need not be used in a purely competitive way.  Players may combine Story Points in bids to represent things their characters do to assist each other.  Once again, this may just be the difference between Narrative games and Sim/Gamist games.

K. is masculine in the sense that conflict resolution, while ostensibly about the characters, can be between players.  I believe this is because Story Points are a metagame mechanic and player resource.  As a result, players can vicariously settle conflicts through their characters, but all within the events of the story.

The masculine element also rears its head with the bidding mechanic.  Bidding is often an aggressive, competitive thing, although it need not be.  However, the fact that players have to narrate what each bid represents implies that the other players involved in the bid should not interrupt.

You could also argue that the mathematical representation of narrative power, the organization of the game, the detail I put into explaining just what can and can't be done in this game, as well as the seemingly logical approach to character design are masculine.  Yet (and this is interesting now that I think about it), these things are precisely what gave me the most trouble when I was writing it.  In several revisions, I felt like I was drying up the wells of inspiration (so to speak) in order to make the game read more clearly, which my mind translated into making the game seem more like a chemistry textbook devoid of pictures.
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hix
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Steve Hickey


« Reply #25 on: October 15, 2003, 09:01:21 PM »

Reading this reminds me of my script editing. For five years, I worked on the principle of observing the changes I believed needed to be made and then I'd argue through each one of those changes. In other words, very Aristotelian, very A versus B - an environment of conflict and argument.

All of that changed when I adopted the De Bono "6 Hat" method where you consider a problem from a variety of different perspectives in turn: emotional, structural, creative, etc.

The point: the 6 Hat method institutes a structure that gets people looking at a problem or situation in parallel - it encourages "best solution finding" rather than defending "my" opinion against "your" opinion.

Maybe it's this parallel, team based thinking that needs to be rewarded whenever the story-telling in this new game reaches a decision point?

Steve.
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Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Emily Care
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« Reply #26 on: October 16, 2003, 10:44:56 AM »

Thanks for sharing about your game, Green, and about yourself. Many different approaches are good to hear.  I had one of those "intuitive" mechanics moments in our last session of gaming. Always good when they work out.

Quote from: hix
Maybe it's this parallel, team based thinking that needs to be rewarded whenever the story-telling in this new game reaches a decision point?


That's an important aspect of how my game group plays. I call it fully co-gm'ing, which is inaccurate in some ways--we do take turns guiding the story, and each have game elements that we veil from the others--but in all aspects of play our primary goal is to actively help each other develop characters, plot and setting.  Even when we have character conflict, we collaborate on setting up satisfying opposition.


Mike, I'm open to the idea that gender bias is being projected onto Universalis--complications can be approached in non-confrontational ways, and there's nothing blocking anyone who plays from collaborating on world etc. What may be missing is specific mechanics that encourage this behaviour.  
My anecdotal experience with Universalis (one game with Vince, Meg and Tony, an assertive and funny male friend of ours) leads me to believe that assertive characters are at an advantage over quieter or less forward players in Universalis. The game gives you the freedom to create and rewards you for introducing dynamic interactions. That's what can make it a fast-paced, fun game, but the personality of players become an asset in the game. Those who can think fast and are confident can drive the game.  Everyone has the same option to do so, but not all are equipped with the same inter-personal tools to do so.

Just so, Jonathan Walton's changes counter-balance that dynamic.  What he did in Uni-Face Dancers sounds a lot like techniques used to help facilitate meetings so that everyone gets an equal opportunity to contribute.  And these traits cut across gender boundaries.  If it's useful to think of them as "male/female" that's fine, but these are issues that will arise in any group, regardless of the gender mix among the participants.

And, finally, that is just my experience from one game. It seems like the social contract would determine a lot about what it's like to play Universalis.

Regards,
Emily Care
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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Valamir
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« Reply #27 on: October 16, 2003, 10:58:21 AM »

Quote
That's what can make it a fast-paced, fun game, but the personality of players become an asset in the game. Those who can think fast and are confident can drive the game. Everyone has the same option to do so, but not all are equipped with the same inter-personal tools to do so.

It seems like the social contract would determine a lot about what it's like to play Universalis.


Quite.  In fact, in the section on social contract the text (unless I'm remembering an older version) addresses this very issue; indicating that the games Pacing can be set as a Social Contract tenet in order to try and counterbalance this effect.
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #28 on: October 16, 2003, 11:18:55 AM »

After an interesting session of Universalis last night (i'll post a link when i get an Actual Play written up) i think i agree with Emily's point that it's not that Universalis disallows cooperative problem solving.  It's that the mechanic does not encourage it, the mechanic seems to encourage confrontational problem solving.  Again, this isn't bad, most of the time i enjoy it.

Anyway, what was so interesting about the game last night was that it was just two fairly laid back players telling a story.  I don't think we used a single mechanic.  We spent coins (sometimes) but never started any Complications or Challenges...  It was interesting...  I'm not even sure if we were actually playing Universalis...

EDIT: The actual play write-up can be found in the Actual Play Forum: here.

Thomas
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #29 on: October 17, 2003, 09:49:56 AM »

Quote
My anecdotal experience with Universalis (one game with Vince, Meg and Tony, an assertive and funny male friend of ours) leads me to believe that assertive characters are at an advantage over quieter or less forward players in Universalis. The game gives you the freedom to create and rewards you for introducing dynamic interactions. That's what can make it a fast-paced, fun game, but the personality of players become an asset in the game. Those who can think fast and are confident can drive the game. Everyone has the same option to do so, but not all are equipped with the same inter-personal tools to do so.


I fail to see how this is any different from Freeform play. Perhaps that's my male POV, but it seems to me that with, or without Universalis rules in play, player personality is going to have a huge impact on how play goes.

Complications, while portrayals of conflict, are themselves, I'd argue, co-operative.

Look at how they work. No player entering into a complication stands to lose anything. It's not a Zero-Sum game. All participants profit. Yes, the winner is more likely to profit more, but that just incentivizes each player to add to the complication on their own. Yes, in theory, the player who does not profit as much from the complication because he was outspent, is losing an opportunity for profit, but he's not being damaged. In fact, unless he chooses to put in Coins, which is optional, he isn't really participating. Declaring a Complication gives an opportunity to all players to participate in the potential profit by being a contributor to the conflict.

This was intentional in the design (we could dig it up in the notes). What we wanted to have happen was for everyone to be encouraged to participate in Complications, and for each player's motive to be "enlightened self interest" in a situation which could be called a(Ricardo?) "Mutual profit" situation.

Look at this fact. If I Control both sides of a potential conflict, I can't create a Complication, I can only just resolve things normally. Only when two players have Components they Control in conflict with each other can a Complication occur. What often happens in play is that one player will ask another to Take Over one of their Controlled Components in order that they might start an Complication with them. So, distinctly in this case, it requires co-operation to even start the Complication. I see much more in the way of "let's do a Complication" sorts of play than "Hah, I'm putting a complication on you!" style play.

Now, will some players approach the "bidding" in a competitive manner? Surely. Does that mean that the game encourages it? I'm not so sure. I think, again, that here what you see is mostly that particular player projecting themselves on the game.

I'd even be willing to accept that there might be a slight bias in there. But much less, I'd argue than most other games in existance. I mean, certainly games other than RPGs, but amongst RPGs as well.

Mike
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