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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 154 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Observation on Open-Ended Systems  (Read 2143 times)
eyebeams
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Posts: 93


« on: December 13, 2003, 02:51:14 AM »

Just something that;s come up for me lately:

In an open-ended system (one where you can acheive many results beyond the scope of the ability of any GM to necessarily poredict, like free form magic), challanges shift to opposing uses of that system.

Example: In Mage, a PC with Correspondence 2/Forces 2 can tear someone apart psychokinetically from the other side of the earth. Antagonsist typically make an effort to foil Correspondence use.

The flipside is that in most cases, we don't want broad-counter uses because we don't want anybody to just sheild themselves from all possible harm. There must be a diminishing reward or a limit to the number of counters.

Returning to Mage, a long running game's magical battles tend to have a strategic quality, where PCs and NPCs search for each other's "weak spots." Both sides have a limited number of spells they can reasonably cast at any given time, so the anti-PK from Tokyo spell may be at the expense of a spell that spies on the mage with precognition.

Understanding this is, I think, something that goes a long way toward getting rid of fiat as a way to impose limits on characters. The NPC and the PC have the same arsenal.
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Malcolm Sheppard
Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2003, 04:34:35 PM »

But isn't it the point that powers, which are largely whatever the player/GM asserts, aren't quantifiable? Does somthing like that ever equal out?

It sounds more like your suggesting a pretty standard bartering system 'Okay, you can do this, but it'll cost ya this' system. Which you'll see happen everywhere to various extents. While 'fiat' is still basically bagaining, but one side is limmiting themselves to either accepting it or leaving the table entirely (usually because its a social contract issue based on the old, IMO absolute BS assertion that the GM is always right).
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
eyebeams
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Posts: 93


« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2003, 07:21:08 PM »

Nah, the results are open ended, not unquantifiable. They can still be manipulated with hard numbers at one level of abstraction "up" from specific effects. Again, in Mage, there may be a variety of things you can do with an Arete roll, but it's still a matter of generateing successes to act and to oppose. and these have enough crunch to count. We don't necessarily need to know exactly what the dice represent, but as dice, they have an effect.

What is somewhat more abstract is the range of effect and countereffect represented by a broad power category. In play, the GM and players typically come to a consensus about whether counter Y's breadth covers attack X, using the rules as a guideline. That three progned process works fine for determining the answer.

There's no "bartering" here, because nothing is being "spent." It's fairly standard rules interpretation, but with a more democratic style. That wasn't really my point, though.

My point is that lots of gamers get hung of on broad powers and Gms just cheat by, for example, making precognition useless. The answer isn't to do this, but to provide a response consistent with what the player is doing. This tends to make these games more character-oriented, because GM characters become and important way to provide challenges that would normally be circumstantial (like a mystery in a game where people are clairvoyant) in nature.
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Malcolm Sheppard
Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2003, 04:09:29 PM »

Quote from: eyebeams
Nah, the results are open ended, not unquantifiable. They can still be manipulated with hard numbers at one level of abstraction "up" from specific effects. Again, in Mage, there may be a variety of things you can do with an Arete roll, but it's still a matter of generateing successes to act and to oppose. and these have enough crunch to count. We don't necessarily need to know exactly what the dice represent, but as dice, they have an effect.

Ooh, but you'd have to say that they are hardly like D&D 'this has a range of 50 feet and affects 5 by 5 squares'. On a sliding scale its quite far away from that. But I agree, its not at the unquantifiable end either...but it is closer to that end than the D&D end of the scale, yes?
Quote


What is somewhat more abstract is the range of effect and countereffect represented by a broad power category. In play, the GM and players typically come to a consensus about whether counter Y's breadth covers attack X, using the rules as a guideline. That three progned process works fine for determining the answer.

There's no "bartering" here, because nothing is being "spent." It's fairly standard rules interpretation, but with a more democratic style. That wasn't really my point, though.

Oh, I don't mean in points or anything. I mean more like somthing like 'Gah, no way that's gunna hurt my sense of disbelief a lot/cost a lot, so I'll try to suggest/bargain him to something else.'. Its about people judging how they feel about somthing and suggesting/making a deal on somthing that makes them happy/is a good deal. Real democracys sort of the same, because your spending your vote based on how you feel about the political party. Anyway, I'm happy to call it a democratic process too, I just wanted to illustrate my opinion a bit more.
Quote


My point is that lots of gamers get hung of on broad powers and Gms just cheat by, for example, making precognition useless. The answer isn't to do this, but to provide a response consistent with what the player is doing. This tends to make these games more character-oriented, because GM characters become and important way to provide challenges that would normally be circumstantial (like a mystery in a game where people are clairvoyant) in nature.


See, the reason I mention the sliding scale before is because for stuff at the D&D end, this is easy. For stuff closer to the unquantifiable end, its harder...unless your player co-operates with you 'So I don't get to tear him apart while he's on the other side of the planet, but because of his set defenses I do get to brake some of his bones? And I can't do this again for a little while?'. Now, if players aren't disposed to accept somthing this and/or make a deal, your stuck. Only the D&D end of the scale will help. But if they do accept this, your fine. Is this what you mean?

You might mean that such counters would be written down so its more solid. But I think as you get closer to the unquantifiable end of the scale, the amount you'd have to write down would be enourmous and perhaps impractical.

Or did I miss the point entirely? :(
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Philosopher Gamer
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eyebeams
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Posts: 93


« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2003, 09:44:12 PM »

I think I maybe mean something a bit more boring:-) One character has 5 points in the Art of Cheddar. One character has 3 points in the Art of Swiss Cheese. They can do a whole bunch of loosely limited things with their powers (create, transmogrify and otherwise fool with theor respective cheeses; the rules give loose limits, but don't tell you everything you *can* do, a la DnD spells).

But the millions of permutations of Cheddar and Swiss magic don't matter if I pit Cheddar against Swiss. What matters is whether the rules or the GM says about how Cheddar and Swiss interact, then comparing theoir respertive ratings. Narrating it comes afterwards, as does the specific effect (changed by possible opposition, if any) of the cheese magic.
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Malcolm Sheppard
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2003, 03:22:15 PM »

I've been trying to parse this thread. And I think I may just be a bit dense here, but I'm not sure what the issue is at all. Could you try rephrasing, maybe?

One side of me thinks that what you're asking for is some way to balance open-ended powers. If that's it, then the answer is, I think, FitM. Take for example, Hero Quest. In that game you'd pit your Swiss Affinity against my Cheddar Affinity, and we each say what our goal is. Then we roll a contest against our Abilities. The one that rolls best has their goal accomplished.

Is that what you're suggesting? Because if so, then, yeah, I'm totally behind you. If not, I'm really confused as to what you're getting at.

Mike
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Walt Freitag
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Posts: 1039


« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2003, 04:08:41 PM »

I think what Eyebeams is getting at is a network of fixed superiority relationships between each possible pair of disciplines. Like, if I have Rock Magic I can hurl boulders, compress coal into diamonds, cause landslides, petrify enemies, or any other rock-y thing I can think of; and if I have Paper Magic I can master bureaucracies, glide through the air, make fortunes in the market, or inflict painful cuts in similarly open-ended fashion. But if Rock Magic comes into opposition with Paper Magic, well, paper covers rock, so the Paper Magic either always succeeds or requires a higher score in Rock Magic to overcome.

To make this work, you have to have a finite number of specific available disciplines to choose from, and your advantage-network would have to lay out all n-squared combinations (where n is the number of distinct disciplines). That's doable, but in the process you'll find some superiorities are hard to justify (and these are the same ones that are hard to assess on the fly too). You could say that Precog beats Rock Magic but doesn't beat Paper Magic, but it seems kind of arbitrary. On the other hand, it's better than what most effects-based systems do, in which Precognition ability is affected only by a specific Anti-Precognition ability. (Specific anti-powers suck. Players instantly recognize them as powers they'd never bother to buy for their own characters, but that every important enemy PC is likely to have -- which then just becomes another form of GM nullification of PC powers.)

Then there are questions like how does opposing of Precognition actually work? Does the opposing magic have to be in use at the time the Precognition is used, or does it have to be in use at the future time and place that the Precognition is trying to observe? How do the people being Precog'ed or Clairvoyance'd know that it's happening in order to oppose it?

Then there's the effect of environment and situation to consider. Does Paper still beat Rock in the middle of a coal mine? If Cheddar beats Swiss in England, does it still do so in Switzerland? What about Cheddar vs. Cheddar? And what about open-ended magic vs. non-magical opposition?

That's not to say that the scheme wouldn't work. It's actually quite promising. But perhaps not as straightforward to create as it sounds at first.

- Walt
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eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2003, 12:00:10 AM »

Mike, I think you're getting it.

Walt:

I don't think the power categories need to be fixed in number. We don't have to map every possible interaction in the rules. We *do* have to provide tools for GMs to map these interactions with.

Basically, we have three processes at work:

1) Do the two power sets interact at all? And to what degree? I prefer systems with a strict yes/no answer. Cheddar either affects Swiss or it doesn't. After that, we rely rather heavily on less clearly delineated factors.

2) Does this usage interact with the other usage? A fireball may interact with an energy shield. It probabvly won't interact with teleportation, unless we're defensively teleporting the spell away. Again: a yes/no thing is my preference.

Player description is often a big deal here, but some games' powers have limits no matter how they are applied. Cheddar magic may always be touch range, so it can't affect a SWiss spell 100 feet away.

3) So if there is interaction, we then compare the raw power (mechanics-wise) of the active traits, but not their manifestation as as shield, teleport spell, whatever. We already took care of the nature of the interaction with steps 1 and 2.

The big deal is really that to create resistance for the characters, we have to let those dynamic powers get used by both sides to the fullest. This is a big problem in Mage, where PCs have lots of time to come up with extremely clever applications and GMs don't.

Good insight with precognition. Again, the answer depends on the game. In Mage, how Time warding is used depends on how the player sets up the spell; it can either cloak the present moment or seal off another period. In that game, all magic has a flavour as well that mages can sense, and since Time magic can affect other times, it can retroactively cover moments that existed before it was sensed -- but the mage would have to guess at how long she was being spied on.

Another mage may require warding only apply to the present time cast before the present time, with duration staying nice and linear.

(This reminds me: In a cut sequence in something I wrote last year, the PCs can spy on a WW2 train using Time magic, but of they do, a guy on the train might sense it, trace is back with precognition, then, leave a note for descendants to cause trouble for the PCs. Luckily, Mage's Paradox system gave me an excvuse not to have the bad guys attack before the PCs begin scrying. In another game, we might say that if this does happen, the attackers and PCs simply shunt over to an alternate universe, leaving the "baseline" game set, but take this too far and it gets overly deterministic.)

I think if anti-powers and part of powers themselves, it's OK, but yeah: IU've never been fond of something that only counters.
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Malcolm Sheppard
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2003, 12:48:15 PM »

Ah, I get it now. Turns out I've been working on something like this myself in a gross way. That is trying to come up with a system that's basically nothing but a notation of how things inter-relate (not just magic, the whole game world in all it's parts).

At this point, all I can say is that it hasn't been easy. I have some preliminary notions, but whenever I seem to try to get concrete with it, it seems to melt away.

There's always just freeform. That is, just note things about the world as if they were real world notes. No mechanics, just "Rock Magic, for all it's strength, seems to always be conquered by paper magic."

The problem is the potential scope. You can't list everything. So you have to find some way to shortcut things so that they're only presented in play, and as they become pertinent to play. Vague, I know, but that's where I'm at right now.

Mike
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