The Forge Archives

Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: TonyLB on July 14, 2004, 04:44:34 PM



Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 14, 2004, 04:44:34 PM
For those who are interested, I've put up an Example of Play (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/example.html) for Capes (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/).

Capes is a superhero game with the Premise "Power is Fun, but do you deserve it"?  It has a system of Debts and Drives:  Players can boost their power temporarily by taking on Debt in various moral arenas (Justice or Duty, for instance).  They if prove their worth in tasks concerning those endeavours, later in the game, it works off that debt.

Tobias pointed out (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=128017#128017) in a previous thread that this leaves wide open the question "Where do supervillains fit?"

I think this is tightly intertwined with a question that has been preying on my mind:  What if people just decide not to pay back their Debt?

Many supervillains don't care at all for principles like Justice.  Some actively oppose them.  Yes, I know there are exceptions... getting to them later.

It seems to me that if a player actively avoids paying back their Debt in one or another moral arena, it is because they, too, don't really care about that aspect of the game.

Does this make their character a villain?  An interesting moral question... much more interesting than any single answer I could give.  I would like to build a way into my system to actually address that question.  How far do you stray from accepted principles before heroism becomes something else, and what does it become?  It is, in a very real sense, the necessary flip-side to the question "Are you worthy of power?"... "And what if you aren't?"

I'm thinking that players should be given an option, when their debt in a drive soars high enough, to trade in that drive for... something else.  A new, subtly different, probably more selfish drive in that same slot.

Maybe a hero who shows no interest in Love replaces it with a need for Respect.  And if he doesn't at least tread water in that Drive he eventually slides into something explicitly villainous (Power, for instance, as a mode of interacting with those close to him).

The result of this that I like is that you can have half-heroes, those who are strongly heroic in some Drives but selfish (or even villainous) in others.  And you can have half-villains... folks who use abominable methods in the pursuit of noble goals, or who pursue horrendous agendas with honor and decorum.

But if I like the results, I worry terribly about the process.  This could be really, really annoying if the Drives that replace the standards are boring.  They should still be as much fun as the Drives they replace.  Indeed, given that they only come up when those Drives have proven not to be fun for an individual player, they should presumably be more fun.

And I'm totally unsure how to handle the transition from one to the other.  I have a trained aversion to letting "raw numbers" rule such choices.  But, again, these Debt numbers are something that the player only takes on somewhat voluntarily:  even if they end up in a high level of Debt because of a lost Stake, there are ways and ways in which that is voluntary.  So I could be convinced (against my instincts) that just saying "If you exceed five, or three times your Drive in Debt, whichever is higher, you swing to an alternate Drive".  Do you think a straight numeric solution will be satisfying?

And should villains use roughly the same rules, just with different Drives?  Or should they work on a subtly different system?  I can totally see them working not with debt but with credit:  they have to do some evil things first, and then save those tokens up to use powers later.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: JohnG on July 14, 2004, 04:57:56 PM
I like the idea that the more debt a hero has the weaker he gets morally.  Kind of like ethical kryptonite?  A hero with less and less justice starts killing thieves instead of dragging them to the cops because he thinks its justified with his new warped perspective.

In other words the more debt they accumulate the more burned out on being a paragon of morality they are, and the more shortcuts they take.  That way the penalty builds up in character slowly and the character who thinks he's still a hero finds himself on wanted posters at the post office.

For villains I would suggest a different set, instead of something like charity you could have greed for example.  That way the more debt they have the more it dawns on them that what they're doing is wrong and they start to feel guilty.

That's this man's opinion, hope it's helpful.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: inky on July 14, 2004, 07:35:38 PM
Quote from: StrongBadMun
I like the idea that the more debt a hero has the weaker he gets morally.  Kind of like ethical kryptonite?  A hero with less and less justice starts killing thieves instead of dragging them to the cops because he thinks its justified with his new warped perspective.


But wait, in this system, the ways you accumulate debt are either by taking the debt voluntarily in combat, or by losing a bet on the drive. In the former case your actions have nothing to do with the drive you took debt in, and in the latter, ok, you failed in the cause of Justice, but that doesn't mean you're necessarily going to turn into the Punisher; it probably just means you're going to feel guilty and resolve to do better next time.

For that matter, I'm not sure that the whole debt system applies to guys like the Punisher anyway. For "Power is great, but do you deserve it?" it makes perfect sense to have the characters have to do heroic things to make up for throwing the powers around. But the Punisher's premise is presumably more like "Can you adopt the methods of the enemy without becoming the enemy?" That suggests to me something more like, I dunno, that the Punisher can remove his debts by going out and being an anti-hero, but that the enemies get one miracle point for their overall plan for every point of debt he gets rid of.

For villains, right, they just have Arrogance and Sadism and so on, and get dice for strapping heroes to conveyor belts or sticking them in giant hourglasses or telling them their plans (hrm, unless those would be handled better as tropes -- I guess it depends if this is fundamental to the villain or just a one-time move).


Title: Re: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 14, 2004, 07:37:32 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
For those who are interested, I've put up an Example of Play (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/example.html) for Capes (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/).


Oooh. Neat. It's too late for me to piece together how all the mechanics are pumping (will have to re-read), but I love the flavor of it.

Quote from: TonyLB
What if people just decide not to pay back their Debt?....should villains use roughly the same rules, just with different Drives?  Or should they work on a subtly different system?  I can totally see them working not with debt but with credit:  they have to do some evil things first, and then save those tokens up to use powers later.


This is a very simple, very cool idea. It makes villainy not only the thematic opposite of heroism but also the mechanical opposite. And there's no reason why a hero in dire straits (or just in a bad mood) can't get evil credit and use it for their powers, is there? I'd imagine this as doing something nastily expedient to get an advantage: "Doctor Bad Guy is getting away? Hmm, I'm kinda deep into debt now... Okay, I throw the Heromobile into overdrive and zoom straight through the crowd of pedestrians after him... That's four credit dice for me! And, um, some blood on the windshield. Oops."


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: JohnG on July 14, 2004, 08:53:27 PM
I dunno, why even have debt.  Why not just make the cost of using them be losing them like Force Point in Star Wars D20.  And then to get more you have to advance or do something really heroic or whatever.  That way characters will save them for more desperate situations.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 14, 2004, 08:55:46 PM
Quote from: inky
That suggests to me something more like, I dunno, that the Punisher can remove his debts by going out and being an anti-hero, but that the enemies get one miracle point for their overall plan for every point of debt he gets rid of.

There is something oh so enticing to me about the possibility of a hero's actions earning Victory Points for the villainous side (or vice versa).

I haven't figured out what to do with that, but when I do I will definitely credit you again.  That's a really nifty notion that I will really have to adopt.  There are emergent behaviors to the combination of that with the current system.  I can half see them.  Need to sleep on it, maybe for many days.  But I'll thank you now, because I have a strong feeling I'm going to like the results.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 14, 2004, 09:36:49 PM
Inky, Sydney:  You are both touching on a really useful question:  Are villains and anti-heroes outside of the Premise of the game?  In short, should their actions address that Premise, or is there a separate Premise they address?

My initial thought is that they're important characters, they should address the Premise as stated.  I may well be wrong about that, but I'll run with it for a little bit and see whether it leads me anywhere.

So let's say that you've got an arch-villain.  His stated goal is to kill everyone on the planet.  He gloats, he cackles, he does all the basic villain stuff.  In short, he enjoys his power.  Halfway to my Premise already.

The question remains how he's meaningfully addressing the question of whether he deserves the power.  What would he, a cackling supervillain, need or want to do in order to prove his worth?  And to whom does he prove it?

The second question is the easy one, for me:  This is the same issue as the Outsiders in My Life with Master.  The evil Master must have some people outside of himself whose opinion he values and whose approval he courts.  In comic books this is, almost without exception, the hero.  The villain wants the hero to recognize his motives as valid.

But what Drives do they actually try to prove themself in?  I think that the villainous Drives can be seen as different interpretations of elements of the heroic Drives.  The villains actually think they've got it all figured out, and that if the heroes just understood what they understand, they'd agree.

What sort of twisted drive could justify mass extermination?  Plenty:  Justice:  "The world is full of sin, it needs to be cleansed."  Truth:  "Notions like love and charity are just a gloss over the yawning abyss that is reality... people are better off dead."  Love:  "If I cannot be reunited with my lost love then it is intolerable for the world to continue at all... Such is the strength of my love!"

Yes, if they understood what the cackling supervillain understood, the heroes would see that it's reasonable to kill everyone on earth.  

Okay, I think I'm on a roll here.  Bear with me a moment longer.

What are villains (and heroes) doing when they Stake their Debt on an outcome?  They are trying to prove a point.  They are trying to marshall evidence that the world is the way they see it, not the way their opponent sees it.  The goal is to reaffirm their own faith and shake the misplaced confidence of their wrong-headed enemies.

Say you've got a villain who says "Love fosters weakness".  And he's paired up against a hero who argues "Love creates strength".  How do you decide the issue?  Well, if you're the villain you kidnap the heroes love interest and dangle her off a bridge in the most challenging, unfair hostage situation you can devise.  After all, if love really creates strength then he should be able to save her, right?  But you don't expect that... you're the villain.  You figure he'll fail, and then he'll better understand the truth that Love is just another weakness.

My thinking, having written this up, is that villains should have Debt just like heroes do, and should gamble it just as heroes do.  And, indeed, that they should often gamble it against the heroes directly.  

"Professor Muerte Stakes Despair.  Captain Courage Stakes Hope.  Who will be victorious?"


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: John Harper on July 15, 2004, 09:35:34 AM
You're really on to something here, Tony. I love it.

An observation: In the comics, a good supervillain is written to be the perfect foil for a particular hero. Superman, the paragon of might, is thwarted by Lex Luthor, the paragon of cunning. Superman wants Peace -- Lex wants Power. Superman wants people to be free -- Lex wants people to serve his will.

Maybe the GM creates characters during the set-up session while the players are making heroes. The GM creates a nemesis for each hero, based on a contrary moral principle. Or better yet, the players create the supervillains that they want to do battle with.

Similar to Spiritual Attributes in TROS, the various Drives could serve as a blueprint for conflicts during the game series. Does your hero really care about Family? Bam! You just created a villain whose goal is to show that Family is nothing compared to Duty.

Quote
"Professor Muerte Stakes Despair. Captain Courage Stakes Hope. Who will be victorious?"

This gives me goosebumps. This is what a superhero game should be about. I am so excited to see where this game is going.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on July 15, 2004, 02:28:18 PM
Following up on John's post, I find myself thinking that it might be illuminating and useful to write up a hero as two poles : The hero in the perfection of his virtue, and the fallen hero in the nadir of his vices. Then you can have characters that slide up and down along this continuum.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 15, 2004, 06:14:05 PM
This is all cool -- but, darn it, I still like the idea of "villainy credit." Suggestion: There's no reason that both heroes and villains can't both go into Heroic Debt and get Villainous Credit. It depends on whether they're endangering themselves in order to prove a point (debt) or endangering others for their own advantage (credit).

When you put yourself on the line for something you believe in, you get power by going into Debt -- in other words, just as you make yourself vulnerable in the story, you make yourself vulnerable in the mechanics. This can be (as put very nicely above) Spiderman rescuing Mary Jane and going into Debt on Love because "love makes you stronger," or it can be the villain going out of his way to kidnap the girl and draw the good guy to him, going into Debt on Love to prove "love makes you weaker." (Note that the villain in these scenes is not usually just using the love interest as a hostage; he's trying to prove a point). Otto Octavious maniacally rebuilding his fusion generator (yes, I just saw that movie) is another example of a bad guy going into Debt -- he's throwing himself body and soul into something he believes in, however twisted.

Conversely, when you stay safe yourself but endanger others in order to gain temporary advantage, you earn Credit you can parley into power -- in other words, just as you're refusing to put yourself at risk in the story, you're not risking yourself (going into debt) in the mechanics, either. This is truly despicable villainy, of the "endanger bystanders just to distract the hero" kind -- but it's also the hero in desperation doing something expedient, like opening fire when the hostages aren't clear or conducting a high-speed car chase through crowded streets.

What I like about this idea is that it allows villains to make themselves vulnerable in sympathetic ways (going into debt on drives) while tempting heroes to earn Credit through nasty expediencies.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 15, 2004, 08:35:20 PM
Quote from: John Harper
Or better yet, the players create the supervillains that they want to do battle with.

Blink, blink....

Of course they should.

Of.  Course.  They.  Should.

I don't know how to get across in text how much I'm shaking my head in chagrin that I could have overlooked the obvious necessity of this.

Shreyas:  I agree that it's essential for people to have some hands-on consideration of the system... to be able to think immediately "This is a way my hero could slide".

Sydney:  I agree that there should be a game-system temptation toward the dark-side.  The fact that a moral slide is easy is what makes it heroic when you stay the course... and even more heroic when you slide and then claw your way back to more deeply considered virtue.

So I've got a whole new page (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/AdvancedDrives.html) dedicated to just this issue.  I'm not sure exactly where (or whether) to integrate it into the rules yet.  But the system I've drafted to handle it is way too complex to describe entirely in a post.

Here's the executive summary:
  • Any time they're about to take Debt, a player may choose to change one of their Drives for something less clearly heroic.  Doing this takes their existing Debt off the table, so it no longer penalizes them.  There's the temptation that Sydney points out the value of.
  • There are five villainous Drives.  They are opposite in world-view to the five heroic Drives (though they are not, strictly speaking, opposite in the actions they imply).
  • There are ten "conflicted" Drives (need a better word for that).
  • For any two Heroic or Villainous Drives, there is an unique conflicted Drive that they can both transition to.  So any heroic drive can transition to any of four possible conflicted drives.
  • You shift from Heroic to Conflicted to (if you so desire) Villainous.  The possible ways in which people can shift are made myriad by the topological complexity of the conflicted layer.
  • People get a chance to sample this terrain because it's the same system that they use to sketch in the backstory and motivations of villains that they create in collaboration with other players.  You start with someone who has the potential to be a hero, and then see how they slid into villainy.  That will (hopefully) foster an understanding of how people can slide, which will help the players deal with their own heroes conflicts, as Shreyas points out.[/list:u]


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Tobias on July 16, 2004, 12:51:21 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
The question remains how he's meaningfully addressing the question of whether he deserves the power.  What would he, a cackling supervillain, need or want to do in order to prove his worth?  And to whom does he prove it?

The second question is the easy one, for me:  This is the same issue as the Outsiders in My Life with Master.  The evil Master must have some people outside of himself whose opinion he values and whose approval he courts.  In comic books this is, almost without exception, the hero.  The villain wants the hero to recognize his motives as valid.


You ARE aware you've just given THE explenation of why supervillains always have to explain everything to the hero, right? (Other than the audience also getting it).

This is very good stuff (at least, I think)!


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 16, 2004, 08:41:48 AM
Loved your example of villain creation. The mechanics of the Heroic-Conflicted-Villainous drives strike me -- like the rest of the system -- as really cool in their complex interplay, but potentially over-complicated. But then that's what playtesting is for: to strip stuff down.

(N.B.: You're in Alexandria. I'm in D.C. If you ever need playtesters, and I can get a babysitter, I hereby volunteer myself for your hideous experiments).


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: John Harper on July 16, 2004, 09:31:07 AM
From the new villain creation text:
Quote
To craft a new villain together, the group starts off with a set of the Heroic drives.  Then, in turn, going around the table they describe some event in the villains unfolding history, and transition a Drive further toward villainy.


Dude.

Dude. You are rocking my world. This is friggin' amazing. I've been toying with group villain creation for Danger Patrol but this nails it.

There's gonna be some Capes playtesting 'round these parts.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Stephen on July 16, 2004, 09:51:34 AM
Purely to play devil's advocate:  Why do supervillains have to "fit" at all?  If the point of the game is to play heroes, then once a hero slips down into whatever your Villainy demarcation point is (the equivalent of Humanity-0 for Sorcerer), why not just consider the hero "lost", take it over as an Editor character, and simply ignore that part of the rules?

Given that this game seems to reproduce the "nobody ever dies" feel of the comics, this gives players something to lose (your character can't die, but he can fall into a moral abyss), and ups their investment in the game.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: dalek_of_god on July 16, 2004, 11:08:56 AM
Stephen, I believe your sig answers your question ... "Even Gollum may yet have something to do." Redemption  may not always be possible for the villain, but the possibility needs to be there.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 16, 2004, 08:59:28 PM
Well, actually, I'm not clear in my mind yet whether redemption is part of the Premise I'm addressing.  Because I discover increasingly that the Drives aren't easily contained within the superhero in question.  They also pertain to the world that the heroes are living in.

Let's hypothesize a hero, Major Victory.  He's a military man.  He believes in following the rules.  His Justice Drive gets a good work-out, all the time.

(I could go on a tangent here about how Anarchy Lad, who believes that rules exist to be broken, is also highly invested in the Justice Drive.  Maybe later)

Major Victory is trying, on some level, to prove two things:  (1) That he follows the rules and (2) That the world is such that following the rules is the right thing to do.  He is trying not merely to justify that he does follow his morals, but to justify the objective validity of those morals.

Note the all-important paradox here:  The Major's actions change the world.  Heroes make the world more like they believe it to be.  Villains also make the world more like they believe it to be.

If the Major falls from Justice to (say) Righteousness then his faith has been shaken.  He no longer believes in a world where following orders is enough.  And it's probably not for any minor reason... it is probably because the game world, as created by the players together, isn't one where following orders is enough.  Some interpretations of Justice may hold together, but his particular one does not.

The Conflicted Drives are ones laced with doubt.  The hero doubts the world, and doubts himself.  And that, in my opinion, is all well and good.  The 'Righteousness-verson' Major Victory is not diametrically opposed to other people's conception of Justice.  Indeed, he may be trying to craft a new, more fully developed, world-view where he can once again assert an important place for Justice, and live his life accordingly.

But the same cannot be said if he falls (for instance) from Righteousness to Dogma.  The Villainous Drives are not about doubt.  Villains are just as certain as heroes... often more so.  They are certain that the world is a nasty, unpleasant, unworthy place.  A place where God, if he exists, is an evil, sadistic twit.

The problem is that the Gods of the imagined world are the players!  If the world is a nasty, immoral place then it is so because the people playing the game (Editor most certainly included) made it that way.  So villains are (indirectly) insulting and challenging the players!  I believe that's why we get such a thrill out of proving them wrong through our imaginary champions.

I think that a player who gets into that role of antagonism with the players, even by way of an imagined proxy, is in for a world of trouble.  Heroes do fall, and the descent into that level of bitterness is often a terrific story.  But I agree with Stephen that when things have finally gone that far it becomes time to retire the character.  So...
  • Moving from a Heroic Drive to a Conflicted Drive:  Possible for heroes or villains
  • Moving from a Conflicted Drive to a Heroic Drive:  Possible for heroes or villains
  • Moving from a Villainous Drive to a Conflicted Drive:  Possible for villains only
  • Moving from a Conflicted Drive to a Villainous Drive:  Possible for villains.  Possible for heroes, but only at the cost of retiring the hero from active play.[/list:u]Of the four of those, the latter two don't seem (to my mind) to require much in the way of rules mechanics.  The mechanics I've posited for the first one are pretty sketchy, but I think they'll do the job.  But the second transition, from Conflicted back to Heroic... that's a tricky one.  I'd like to ask some advice on that one.

    I originally wrote in the rules that heroes could transition back from a Conflicted Drive when they had zero debt in the drive.  That made the mathematics tidy... but it didn't really encourage the type of stories I'm aiming for.

    A hero who is debt-free in a drive is (IMHO) contented in that area.  They're fairly sure that their view of the world (as detailed in that drive) is correct.  So why would a hero who has zero Drive switch to a different Drive?  They're throwing out a world-view that's working for them at the time.

    The other thing I've thought of is to say this:  You have (of course) recorded the Debt you had in the original Heroic Drive before you switched.  When your Conflicted Drive is in Debt equal to or greater than the Heroic Drive then you may switch back to the Heroic Drive by combining the two debts.

    The hero would then be massively in debt in that Heoic Drive.  If they've done a good job of figuring out a new way to view the Drive then they'll be able to prove (through action) that the Drive as they now understand it is a valid part of the game-world.  Which means that eventually they'll be able to get out of debt by staking and succeeding, staking and succeeding.  But there's obviously going to be a period of challenge and remorse.

    What do you think of that?  I hope it creates some... interesting dynamics between the hero (who, one presumes, always wants to avoid Debt) and the player (who, in order to create a situation might need to accumulate Debt deliberately).


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 16, 2004, 09:08:29 PM
On a practical side-note:
Quote from: Sydney Freedberg
Loved your example of villain creation. The mechanics of the Heroic-Conflicted-Villainous drives strike me -- like the rest of the system -- as really cool in their complex interplay, but potentially over-complicated. But then that's what playtesting is for: to strip stuff down.

I'm not sure whether it's really all that complicated, or whether my presentation is just clumsy.

I've tried rewriting it again, on the page (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/AdvancedDrives.html), this time with geometric diagrams.  But I'm working with them so closely that I can no longer tell whether they actually communicate or whether it's just that I know what they're saying.  I'd appreciate it if people could take a look and tell me whether the diagram makes things clearer or more murky.
Quote
(N.B.: You're in Alexandria. I'm in D.C. If you ever need playtesters, and I can get a babysitter, I hereby volunteer myself for your hideous experiments).

Ah, excellent!  I had noticed that you were right in my back yard.

I'm drafting people in my already-scheduled group to do a little work on the combat mechanics, but at some point we'll have to run actual sessions, and for that I will certainly contact you.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: inky on July 16, 2004, 10:10:42 PM
Quote from: TonyLB

A hero who is debt-free in a drive is (IMHO) contented in that area.  They're fairly sure that their view of the world (as detailed in that drive) is correct.  So why would a hero who has zero Drive switch to a different Drive?  They're throwing out a world-view that's working for them at the time.
[..]
What do you think of that?  I hope it creates some... interesting dynamics between the hero (who, one presumes, always wants to avoid Debt) and the player (who, in order to create a situation might need to accumulate Debt deliberately).


I don't think it's correct that heroes always want to avoid Debt, or that people who are Debt-free are necessarily content in that area. It seems to me that the most important statement about a hero's feelings about a Drive on the character sheet is the score the player's assigned to the Drive, not the amount of Debt on the Drive. I think Drives are like muscles -- you draw upon Justice when you're doing something that requires extra effort, and then later you refresh yourself by doing Justice-y things. Being in Debt, in that case, may just mean that you've been getting a regular workout in Justice, and right now you're tapped out. But you may well be expecting to refresh it in the future.

On the other hand, someone with a score of 1 in Justice clearly doesn't care that much about Justice. Ok, I guess you can call them content with their beliefs but only because they don't have much to threaten.

Anyway, I grant that even under this analogy it's possible to overstrain your Justice muscle and slip into something else (Righteousness, I guess). But I don't know that coming back should be to a debt-ridden Justice -- it seems to me that not being sure of your convictions any more is better represented by a low score in Justice, where you can't rely on your beliefs for much inner strength until they're strengthened once more.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 17, 2004, 08:26:41 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
....Drives aren't easily contained within the superhero in question.  They also pertain to the world that the heroes are living in..... Heroes make the world more like they believe it to be.  Villains also make the world more like they believe it to be.


(Head goes POP).

Now can you reflect that in the mechanics? Or should you even try?

Quote from: TonyLB
....at some point we'll have to run actual sessions, and for that I will certainly contact you.


(Gives thumbs-up sign, goes to check on baby).


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 17, 2004, 01:19:48 PM
I believe it's already reflected in the mechanics.  It's why Debt is Staked on success in a scene, rather than some more personal or internal criterion.

When a hero and a villain Stake their Debts against each other, they then vie (in a local way) to create a world-situation that confirms their belief.  When they're done, the world conforms slightly more to the beliefs of the winner (because they said "This is what my beliefs say will happen" and then made it happen).  

Mechanically, the one that succeeds is less endebted.  The one that fails is more endebted.  This may reflect the winner having more conviction in their beliefs, while the loser has a harder time clinging to beliefs that have not been borne out in practice.  I think it does, but... but...

Where do the transitions from one Drive to another play into this?  

Inky's quite right that the rules as I have them don't work.  The rules aren't encouraging any emergent behavior yet.  They're just sort of convenient place-holders until I figure out something with more zing.

Modifying Drives (as Inky suggests) might very well be it.  The problem is that I don't yet see the common thread to the types of thing I'd like to encourage, so I don't know quite what effect to aim for.

Darth Vader's redemption in Return... I liked that one.  He is redeemed not when his side is on the verge of defeat, but when they are on the verge of an unacceptable victory.  He realizes that the victory of the Dark Side, now that it is within his grasp, is no longer what he wants to believe in.  He would rather die creating the world that Luke believes in than live in the world that his own beliefs have created around him.

And there is (of course, always) Miller's Dark-Knight/Batman.  A "hero" who has clearly discarded some of the heroic Drives, and who seems (by the end of the book) to have made peace with where that leaves him.  " 'Sure we're criminals,' [he] said.  'We've always been criminals.  We have to be criminals.' "

And there's Peter Parker, the world's greatest misery magnet.  He so rarely has an unequivocal victory, and is so often saddled with trials that would shatter the faith of most men.  And yet he sticks to his principles, even when the rest of the world scorns them.  He believes in the power of virtue even when the only decent things happening in the world are the ones that he, personally, has made happen.

I could really use some help.  This is going to drive me crazy.  What is there really in common between these three figures?


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 17, 2004, 03:23:14 PM
It seems to me that you've become fixated on a certain resolution to the question of Villains.  Your stated Premise is "Do i deserve the Power i have been given?"  Defining Villains in the same way as heros seems to be counter-intuitive to that since Villains don't think that way.  Of course Villains deserve the power they have!  It is that very surety that allows them to do whatever they want.  They don't have a sense of responsiblity to anything other than themselves.

It seems that the really interesting stuff is already covered in the mechanics.  Batman indebts Justice to prevail in Hope.  He's willing to kill or torture in order to "save the people," even if it is from themselves.

The only thing i think you need to add is a spiraling increase in Wonder Level penalties as you rack up debt.  You already have -1 Level penalty when you get debt above the Drive's value, increase that to a -2 penalty when you exceed double (or triple, or whatever) the Drive's value.  This allows a hero to throw away a Drive indefinately, but eventually that hero is no longer able to accomplis his goals.

Don't worry about playing Villains, i think any efforts to produce such play would weaken the Premise of the game.  Allow a hero to throw away a Drive by continually indebting it to achieve his other goals, this really drives the Premise forward.

Think about it this way:  Peter Parker has a Love for M.J.  He is constantly indebting that Love by distancing himself from her in order to keep her "safe".  This works for a while, and it allows him to be a "better" hero, accomplishing things faster and with fewer complications.  But eventually he has to deal with it because without that anchor to life outside of responsibility he slowly loses his ability to do anything at all...

Thomas

EDIT: To anwer your "what is it they have in commmon question" i say:  They are each at different points in paying off debt.

Spiderman keeps his accounts balanced which makes it harder in the short run, but easier in the long run to keep going.

Batman has a massive debt in something.  This makes it incredibly hard to dig out of that hole, but it allows him to rack up more debt in order to accomplish his goals.  The problem is that he becomes less and less effective as his debt mounts.

Darth Vader has somehow managed to pay off his huge debts in a short period of time.  He made sacrifices in Hope for Justice (absolute Order at the cost of individual freedoms) and Luke has transferred major parts of that debt to himself in order to save Vader (that's kind of a stretch).


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 17, 2004, 03:38:21 PM
After all that, i think i may be rethinking what i said.  A Villain is simply a Hero with a big stack of Debt which somehow doesn't impare his Wonder Levels.  It seems that the key to redemption lies in allowing that debt to affect you.

So i guess you could simply define a Villain by allowing them to define 1, 2, 3, or 4 of their Drives as non-inhibiting.  No matter how much Debt they rack up in that Drive they will suffer not penalties.  Don't allow all 5 drives to be non-inhibiting because that would result in a character with no reason to exist.  I'd be tempted to say that you have to start at the lowest value drives as non-inhibiting and that the highest value can never be non-inhibiting.

Then allow a Hero to make a Drive non-inhibiting through some really horrible action (perhaps a huge debt incurrance as well) like allowing your Exemplar to die...

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 18, 2004, 12:50:52 AM
We played some Capes (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=128621).

Quick summation: it was fun; it needs some work, but it's a solid start.

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 18, 2004, 08:24:50 AM
Quote from: LordSmerf
It seems that the really interesting stuff is already covered in the mechanics.  Batman indebts Justice to prevail in Hope.  He's willing to kill or torture in order to "save the people," even if it is from themselves.

Huh... yeah.  Yeah, that's how I started out trying to design it.  And it's probably the right way to keep going.

But I don't think I agree that Villains aren't trying to fulfill their own Drives.  I like the symmetry of both people trying to fulfill largely opposing Drives.

New thought:  Any character (hero or villain) may Stake debt in one of two ways.  First, they may affirm the importance of the Drive (Justice, etc.) in the world.  If they do that then the Wonder Dice they spend on Victory get added into the Hero Pool.  Second, they may disavow the importance of the Drive, in which case their Victory Points get added to the Villain Pool.  They win or lose based on the Pool they're donating into for that scene.

I have a feeling that this would require subsidiary rules to make it sing:  Probably a way to handle people betting mid-scene (i.e. the Darth Vader last-minute Stakes), and a way to bet on complications as well as whole scenes.

Would players ever take this option?  What would it take to make it support the kind of things I've been aiming at?

And let me give due credit here to inky for his post on heroes earning villainous VPs (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=128152#128152).


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 18, 2004, 09:09:30 AM
If you want to encourage a balancing act, i see the solution as rather simple.  "Staking" a drive villainously doesn't incur debt.  If you're all tapped out on your Drives there will be a huge temptation to take the "easy" way out rather than taking a Wonder Level penalty.

One thing that might show your "winning means they have validated their worldview" idea could be allowing each side to spend it's points on things at the end of each session, once victory has been determined.  Stuff like "I spend 10 Hero points to reduce violent crime in the city.  See, it's working!" would really provide consequences to playing by the Villain's rules.  Even if you get 30 Hero points and "win" if the Villains got 29 then the overall change isn't that great, but if the Villains only got 18 then you can begin to see a difference...

How does that sound?

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 18, 2004, 11:14:04 AM
Quote from: LordSmerf
One thing that might show your "winning means they have validated their worldview" idea could be allowing each side to spend it's points on things at the end of each session, once victory has been determined.  Stuff like "I spend 10 Hero points to reduce violent crime in the city.  See, it's working!" would really provide consequences to playing by the Villain's rules....How does that sound?


I like that. It gets very mythic, very fast, albeit kinda subtly. It's similar to folk magic: the way a ritual battle between the God of Winter and the God of Summer will not only leave one smacked-down in the dust, but affect the crops for the whole community for the next season. Or, to take a more modern example, to the way that when the couple in a romantic comedy break up (prior to getting back together again, of course), it usually starts raining -- I vaguely recall this being described in high school English as "the pathetic fallacy" (not because it's lame, but because the external world mirrors the pathos of the character's internal world).

And since this is a Narrativist game (or more accurately, "simulates" narrative structure instead of physics), there doesn't even have to be any justification for how spending the victory points affects the world -- it just does -- and not necessarily in straightforward "crime rates rise or lower" ways:

Does Power triumph over Justice when Dr. Megalomania clobbers The Straight Arrow with a Buick? Then the next day at the Daily Planetoid, where the Straight Arrows works in his mild-mannered secret identity, a new Rupert Murdoch-esque magnate takes over and starts firing people unfairly.

Or does "Love is Strength" triumph over "Love is Weakness" when the Amazing Dung Beetle saves his red-haired love interest from the vicious Magenta Goblin? Then the next day, out of costume, our friendly neighborhood Dung Beetle seems to pass happy, kissing couples at every cafe, and his lovelorn best friend finally gets up the courage to apologize to his girlfriend and ask her out again.

Mechanically, you might work this by making Victory Points from a super-battle work as plot points for later on -- each VP earned by the heroes allows the players to make a positive statement about the wider world, each VP earned by the villains allows the narrator to make a negative statement.

EDIT: I realize my superhero/villain names in examples are getting increasingly, uh, weird. Allow me to plead very powerful migraine medication.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 18, 2004, 02:27:02 PM
I've compiled a single list of my suggestions for the game.  Disclaimer: these are all "In my opintion" so don't think of them as absolute truth...

Capes – Suggested Changes:

    1. Reveal more about Heroes as they activate Powers
    2. Use accumulated Wonder Points in the Epilogue
    3. Provide a reason not to roll all of your Dice Pool every Turn
    4. Consider (do not necessarily provide) additional ways to work off Debt
    5. Produce a reason for there to be a contest over who gets to resolve Complications
    6. Consider (and list) ways to mechanically make Compromises (using evil to fight evil)
    7. Mechanically reinforce a comic book “feel”[/list:u]
    Issue 1: Mechanically encourage the revelation of information regarding Heroes (similar to revealing information about Villains as they activate Powers)

    1. Require detailed character developing statements when Debt is incurred.
    2. Provide bonus dice whenever a Revelation is made about a character[/list:u]
    Issue 2: Provide a Use for accumulated Wonder Points at the end of a session in order to show the degree of victory.  How much have you changed the world?

    1. Allow both sides to spend Wonder Points during the Epilogue to state Facts
    2. Allow the winning side to spend the difference in final Wonder Points to state Facts[/list:u]
    Issue 3: Consider mechanical encouragements not to roll all your dice every turn

    1. Give +1 die to whoever has the most unrolled dice (crude)
    2. Give some sort of penalty to whoever rolls the most dice (probably not a good idea)
    3. Put some sort of cap on the number of dice you can roll (I like this, but I don’t know what the cap would be)[/list:u]
    Issue 4: Consider ways of slowing the accumulation of Debt

    1. Make Activating Powers a 1st Level Wonder and don’t add Power level to the dice pool.
    2. Increase the starting values for Drives[/list:u]
    Issue 5: Consider ways to mechanically encourage both sides to Resolve Complications

    1. Award Wonder Points towards victory equal to the number of Points you have invested in that Complication if you successfully resolve it
    2. Reduce debt when or provide bonus dice when you resolve a Complication[/list:u]
    Issue 6: Consider ways to mechanically push the issue of Compromise (using evil to fight evil)

    1. Allow extra dice or extra Wonder Points to be earned by adding Victory to the Villains instead of incurring debt
    2. Allow players to reduce debt through “expedience” – I’m not sure how that would work mechanically other than using solution 1[/list:u]
    Issue 7: Mechanically reinforce the comic book “feel” of the game

    1. Include a rule that requires the description of a number of panels (comic style) for each die you spend on an action[/list:u]
    So, that's what i think anyway...

    Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: inky on July 18, 2004, 03:59:59 PM
(Sorry, this is a scraps-and-patches post with replies to a couple people in it)

Quote from: Sydney Freedberg
Or does "Love is Strength" triumph over "Love is Weakness" when the Amazing Dung Beetle saves his red-haired love interest from the vicious Magenta Goblin? Then the next day, out of costume, our friendly neighborhood Dung Beetle seems to pass happy, kissing couples at every cafe, and his lovelorn best friend finally gets up the courage to apologize to his girlfriend and ask her out again.

Mechanically, you might work this by making Victory Points from a super-battle work as plot points for later on -- each VP earned by the heroes allows the players to make a positive statement about the wider world, each VP earned by the villains allows the narrator to make a negative statement.


I agree that the thing you're describing is a pretty integral part of comic books (and stories in generally, really -- there's pretty much always background stuff that mirrors the main story, whether it's Shakespeare's low plot/high plot or the romance between secondary characters in a romantic comedy) and the system should be set up to encourage them, but I don't think there's any real need to encourage them at the end of the game. What should happen is dilemmas get introduced during the main part of the game and then at the end we know how they resolve -- if the heroes win they resolve happily, and if the heroes lose they resolve unhappily (or maybe you have an ironic twist or two for some of them, but the overall thrust is known).

Quote from: LordSmerf

Issue 1: Mechanically encourage the revelation of information regarding Heroes (similar to revealing information about Villains as they activate Powers)


It seems to me the place for this is in the non-action scenes that Tony mentions elsewhere. I'd like to see them used for Debt recovery so that'd lead to mechanical encouragement, but presumably there'll be some reason to have them.

Quote from: LordSmerf

Issue 3: Consider mechanical encouragements not to roll all your dice every turn


The encouragement for this ought to be as simple as "you tend to lose a good chunk of the dice when you roll them, so you should save your dice for when you really need them". I agree the system doesn't always seem set up to encourage this, but there are some minor things that work in favor -- most notably, since you get a bonus to your wonder level for every power you have in play, it seems like you're better off activating a couple powers and then rolling a bunch of dice, so you can score an overall higher-level wonder (assuming a level-X wonder is better than two level X/2 wonder, but I think that's often the case).

Quote from: LordSmerf

Think about it this way: Peter Parker has a Love for M.J. He is constantly indebting that Love by distancing himself from her in order to keep her "safe". This works for a while, and it allows him to be a "better" hero, accomplishing things faster and with fewer complications. But eventually he has to deal with it because without that anchor to life outside of responsibility he slowly loses his ability to do anything at all...


There's something important here about how you can only tap the relationship for so long before you risk breaking it, and the resolution at that point has to be taking the relationship to a new level (which might mean getting rid of it entirely), not just going back to where you were before.

Quote from: TonyLB

Darth Vader's redemption in Return... I liked that one. He is redeemed not when his side is on the verge of defeat, but when they are on the verge of an unacceptable victory. He realizes that the victory of the Dark Side, now that it is within his grasp, is no longer what he wants to believe in. He would rather die creating the world that Luke believes in than live in the world that his own beliefs have created around him.

And there is (of course, always) Miller's Dark-Knight/Batman. A "hero" who has clearly discarded some of the heroic Drives, and who seems (by the end of the book) to have made peace with where that leaves him. " 'Sure we're criminals,' [he] said. 'We've always been criminals. We have to be criminals.' "


This and the last quote seem to be getting at something pretty central in comic books, which hasn't really come up explicitly before -- personal integration. Batman's got this question of Justice he's always trying to grapple with, and I think good stories are ones where he sees what it costs him in terms of Truth and decides if he's willing to pay. Spider-Man has a similar decision he's making in terms of Duty and Love. Darth Vader does an even more extreme version of this, where he decides to sacrifice Need or whatever for Love. Here he doesn't just go into Debt for it, he actually switches drives.

Anyway, none of these points are exactly helpful, and I'm not sure the system can cover all of the, but it seems like there are a few things that I've mentioned that could end up in Capes.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 18, 2004, 09:34:40 PM
Wow, lots of really good stuff to consider!

The idea of bidding your Wonder Total for indirect effects on the game-world is extremely cool.  From a meta-game perspective, I love how it draws the players into collaboration in defining the setting.

Mechanically I like the notion of the reward system being that the world gets better, not that the heroes necessarily get more powerful.  I had been thinking that the difference between an experienced hero and their humble beginnings was less about power levels and more about Drive levels.  But the Drives and the world-improving thing are interconnected, so that's probably going to work out as the rules develop.

And Inky has, I think, given me the perfect question to think about in terms of encouraging more strategy in how many dice are rolled:
Quote
assuming a level-X wonder is better than two level X/2 wonder, but I think that's often the case

What's the strategic difference between two level X/2 wonders and one level-X wonder?  Or, rather, what should it be?  I think I need to make very sure that Wonder Effects are constructed so that low-level Wonders have a different and useful place in an overall strategy.  I'm not quite sure what that place should be yet, but it's a good place to start thinking.

I'd like to have people offering (indeed insisting) that their players be beaten up at the beginning of a fight as a stepping-stone to their eventual dramatic victory.  It's pretty thoroughly ingrained in the genre, and I'll be happy if I can alter the dice-mechanic so that it encourages that sort of dynamic.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 18, 2004, 09:54:30 PM
Quote from: TonyLB
I'd like to have people offering (indeed insisting) that their players be beaten up at the beginning of a fight as a stepping-stone to their eventual dramatic victory.  It's pretty thoroughly ingrained in the genre, and I'll be happy if I can alter the dice-mechanic so that it encourages that sort of dynamic.

I think this problem is "solved" by simply mentioning it in the text.  Make it explicit that dice spent work toward victory no matter what you do with them.  And that means that you can spend your own dice to have yourself beaten up and still overcome the Villain.

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: WiredNavi on July 19, 2004, 05:45:59 AM
Quote
Darth Vader has somehow managed to pay off his huge debts in a short period of time. He made sacrifices in Hope for Justice (absolute Order at the cost of individual freedoms) and Luke has transferred major parts of that debt to himself in order to save Vader (that's kind of a stretch).


I'm not totally up on the Capes system, though I've read the rules and example of play, but it seems that the latter example above - allowing a Hero to offer to take on some or all of the Villain's burden of Debt - might be a good way to systematically represent Villains changing their Drives from Villainous to Conflicted to Heroic.  This gives the possibility of redemption for the Villains slowly, over time, as the Heroes take on their burdens and thus demonstrate the superiority of their worldview to the Villain, and eventually start helping the Heroes who have spent so much trying to help them.  (Think Peter Parker and Doctor Octupus in Spiderman II - i.e. 'You told me my genius was a gift and a responsibility, and I lived up to it by trying to stop you...  Now help me save the city!)

This would come at great cost to the Heroes, so it's not the kind of thing they'd want or be able to do for every Villain, just the most sympatheitc ones or perhaps the ones who remind the Heroes most of themselves.  It would also provide a nice counterbalance to the Villains who are trying to convince the Heroes that their worldview is correct by making them fail.  Furthermore, it emphasizes that Villains don't get better on their own.

 Perhaps when a Hero and a Villain stake conflicting Drives (as in the previously mentioned 'Professor Muerte stakes Despair.  Captain Courage stakes Hope.  Who will win?') then when the Hero wins, he can attempt to take some or all of the Villain's debt in Despair, converting it to an addition to his debt in Hope, to get the Villain to acknowledge that the Hero was, in fact, correct in thinking that Hope is stronger than Despair and that life isn't all about suffering.   Of course, this would likely leave the Hero with an enormous Hope debt, but that's as it should be.  Luke ends RotJ with a gigantic debt... but he redeemed his father, and it was worth it.

I don't think the game is or should be about forcing Heroes to Villainy when the Villains win, so a reciprocal system for Villains taking on Hero debts is probably not a great idea - but it might be worth thinking about.  Perhaps that's how a Conflicted Hero drops finally to Villain status - the Villain who just defeated them takes on their debt but thereby drives them to take a Villainous Drive - and makes them one of their highly-conflicted but villainous henchmen.  This would be determined by the Hero's player, of course.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 19, 2004, 07:06:45 AM
Quote from: TonyLB
What's the strategic difference between two level X/2 wonders and one level-X wonder?  Or, rather, what should it be?  I think I need to make very sure that Wonder Effects are constructed so that low-level Wonders have a different and useful place in an overall strategy.


Two words: Diminishing returns. If lots of little wonders that add up to X are actually more cost-effective than one big wonder costing X, then there's a strong incentive to hold back, even at the cost of being beaten about a bit -- but at the crunch moment, when everything's on the line and efficiency no longer maters, then you go for broke.

How to make the mechanics work? [Crickets chirp, wolves howl]. Dunno. That's why it's so much more fun to kibbitz on your game than to work on mine....


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 19, 2004, 09:28:44 AM
Okay, here's a thought for the mechanics of diminishing returns, by way of Conflicts.

These rules come in a package, as they're interrelated:
  • You can no longer donate directly to Victory Points.  All Wonders go into control of Conflicts.
  • Each combat starts out with at least one Conflict.  For typical fights, for instance, you'd start with "Clobbering", with both heroes and villains having zero control until they start clobbering each other.
  • Resolution can only occur if the side that controls the Conflict declares they're resolving it, and then maintains control of it (uninterrupted) for a full turn around the table.
  • Debt may be moved from the hero worksheet to a complication (with the exception to follow).  While the Debt is on the Complication it is not counted for any penalties the hero accrues.
  • When your side (Heroic for the heroes, Villainous (probably) for the Editor) is in the process of Resolving a Complication you may not move debt onto it.
  • When a Conflict is successfully resolved the wonder points contributed by the losing side are transferred to the winning side's Victory Pool.  The winning points go away.
  • When a Conflict is successfully resolved, and two opposing sides have both Staked equal amounts of Debt on its resolution, the losing side incurs the entire Debt.
  • When a Conflict is successfully resolved and only the winning side has Staked Debt they take their Debt back.
  • When a Conflict is successfully resolved, and Stakes were involved, the winner narrates some new fact about the world in support of the viewpoint represented by their Drive.[/list:u]I think that what this will do is leave a lot of major conflicts on the table, with players looking at it like a jigsaw puzzle that might lead to victory if assembled properly.  

    "If we just let Herr Shibboleth have the Clobbering Conflict, he only gets the seven points we've put in so far... and if we can rescue the hostages, defuse the bomb and save spunky reporter Doris Dane while he's racking up points in Clobbering, we'll have enough to win the scene!"

    I don't know if this would encourage rolling less dice than you have (although I think it might in many circumstances) but it would definitely encourage people to invite hits in Conflicts that they didn't want to win... the less they oppose their enemies on a given Conflict, the less the enemies gain when they resolve it.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 19, 2004, 11:19:45 AM
I like it, a lot.  It really brings the focus to the conflict over things and people (Complications) instead of being a beat-em-up... Let me offer a few suggestions:

1. Let the Villains control the first Complication with two points, this indicates that the Heroes are reactive, they can't do anything until the Villains show up.
2. Every point of debt that you put into a conflict weakens your control of that conflict as if the opposing side had spent a Wonder Point on it.
3. Debt is applied toward the Victory of your opponent regardless of who wins the Complication.
3. If you win a conflict your debt goes away, if you lose the conflict you get your debt back.  That's easier to understand, and since you'll probably be racking up debt in the fight anyway, you'll probably end with more debt than you started.
4. When someone achieves Victory all Complications are automatically resolved in favor of their controller with ties counting as losses for both sides.  This will give Heroes another question to answer: "Do i defeat Captain Cruelty right now or should i rescue the people from that burning building first?"

This allows the Heroes to lose in Victory but still pay off a lot of debt.  So "yeah, he got away, but i saved those people in that burning apartment building."

I don't really like World-Changing Narration to come out of fighting, i really like the idea that it comes out in the Epilogue of each session.  That way you get a sense that it's not the battles that count in the grand scheme of things, it's the war.

I'm not sure if i like the fact that you get points towards Victory based on what your opponent has spent for two reasons:

1. If you spend nothing in a Complication it can't hurt you.
2. The above leads to silly situations: "Captain Cruelty sets a nearby apartment building on fire, you can hear the tenets screaming.  Cruelty spends a point to begin resolving this, you can hear the structure groaning, it won't last much longer."  "Well, i think it's more important for me to defeat him so i'm going to spend some points in the 'Bank Being Robbed' Complication where we both have 5 points, since i control it now i'll begin to resolve it."  "Ok, next turn, no one can do anything, the Apartment Building collapses killing all those still inside.  You foil the bank robbery.  Ok, you get 5 points towards victory and lose nothing for allowing all those innocents to die..."

Do you see my problem?  I almost want to say that you get Victory Points equal to the number of Wonder Points you have invested in a Complication.  Perhaps the difference between how many you've invested and how many your opponent has invested?

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 19, 2004, 01:03:37 PM
Yes, I see the problem.

I don't think that villains should be powerless to do bad stuff if the heroes don't try to stop them.  At the same time, I do think that the villain should be unable to reach their greatest potential to do evil without someone opposing them, someone whose saccharine morality they are trying to prove wrong.

What do folks think about a resolved conflict giving the winner the sum of Wonder Points spent by both sides?

Also, setting aside for a moment the issue of whether world-changing narration should happen immediately or be deferred... what do people think of the idea that world-changing narration is run off of repaying Debt, rather than earning Victory Points?

Personally, I like it because I think it gives the heroes a motivation to accrue debt in the first place.  Without debt tokens they can win the battles but they cannot meaningfully improve the world.  But I'd like to hear other opinions.

EDIT:  Cross-posted to within a matter of seconds.  Freaky.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 19, 2004, 01:03:37 PM
After some thought on the matter i got the following idea, i am not sure whether it is any good or not yet.

Victory is still derived from the number of Wonder Points the opposition has invested (as you earlier wrote).  Now however whenever a Complication is started both sides choose an Appropriate Drive to stake on that Complication.  The winner has his debt reduced by his Bet and the Loser has his debt increased by the Bet.

This circumvents my earlier point about ignoring a Complication because it didn't matter if you lost.  Now, it always matters.
"Captain Cruelty has set the Apartment Building on fire, he bets 1 Hope (or anti-Hope, whatever)."
"I will bet 3 Hope."
"The Captain spends some Wonder Points to take control of the Bank Robbery Complication in which you both have 1 point of Justice staked.  He's going to begin resolving both Complications now."
"I only have enough Wonder Points to take one of the Complications...  Do i choose Hope or Justice?"

That seems to be the kind of questions that we want to encourage...  How does that sound to you?

Thomas

EDIT: Crossposted (again!)

EDIT: This is in reply to the crosspost by TonyLB
I think that the next big issue to tackle in design is the non-combat play.  I think some really great things can (and should) be done with debt during non-combat play, and that until that gets fleshed out we don't really have a good feel for the game itself...

Also, i don't really see a need to further encourage players to accrue debt.  From our playtest it seemed apparent that if you wanted to win a fight you were going to have to accrue debt.  It wasn't really an issue.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 19, 2004, 01:13:59 PM
"Encourage" is the wrong word.  I know they're going to accrue debt.  The system makes it virtually impossible to avoid.

But this will hopefully make them value the debt they've accrued.  It's no longer just an unpleasant side-effect of what they wanted to do, it is a resource of its own, giving them greater narrative control.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 19, 2004, 01:22:09 PM
Hmm...  I think that one thing that might help (at least it would help me).  Is a solid definition of what Debt represents.  I am beginning to think that you and i may be thinking of different things when we use the term.  We both agree about its definition mechanically, but i do not think that i understand what you are trying to get it to represent narratively.  That may render a lot of my suggestions silly or irrelevant.

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 19, 2004, 01:54:56 PM
Hrm...  Not really sure.

Or, rather, I know how it functions, but I'm having trouble figuring out a thing in the universe that I can point to and say "There, it functions just like that known thing".  But I'll give it a try.

Debt tokens represent the gap of faith.  The distance between "I believe" and "I want to believe".

A hero's confidence is provisional.  It is based off of beliefs regarding himself and regarding the world.

Now those beliefs can never be fully proven.  It can be argued that they can never be fully disproven either, though I'm not up to tackling that argument just now (despite my thread title).

But at zero Debt the hero is pretty well satisfied that he is sure enough of those principles.  The evidence he has seen is sufficient to justify the reliance he's placed on them so far.

As the hero goes around doing these wild, impossible things in service of these principles he is relying more and more upon their being true.  The evidence which justified rearranging his furniture does not necessarily justify rearranging the buildings downtown.  The evidence hasn't changed, but the heroes reliance upon it has.

Crude metaphor:  If you're just using a bungee cord to strap down the trunk of your car then you glance at it, say "Looks sound" and tie it on.  If you're counting on that same bungee cord to stop your weight when you leap off a bridge you probably examine it much more carefully.  Has the bungee cord changed?  No, but you're counting on it much more.

So there is a natural urge for them to go out and test themselves and their beliefs.  And then the evidence changes, but their reliance doesn't.  This either helps them feel that they've seen enough proof to justify the things they've done, or... it doesn't.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 19, 2004, 02:15:38 PM
So that seems to mean that Debt represents blows against that Faith.  that would mean that your faith in Justice would go into debt whenever evidence was presented against Justice being a valid idea (i.e. Criminals stealing things) and your faith in Duty would be compromised when evidence was presented that Duty is not the way of things.

If this is the case then it seems that it would probably be more appropriate to allow the Players to define 5 Drives for their character (just as players define Spiritual Attributes for their character in The Riddle of Steel).  That would allow you to define a "Hero" with a drive for Vengeance.

If you do that though you will want to define a way to have drives change as a Drive reaches some critical level of debt.

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on July 19, 2004, 07:22:04 PM
Lord, it's like watching some extraordinary tennis match.

Suggestion: Heroes go into debt in the A plot; they get out of debt in the B plot. Conversely, heroes earn victory points in the A plot; they spend them to change the world in the B plot.

We've already talked about the possibility of characters turning their victories in battle into something that affects the wider world for good (or turns their defeats into cosmic bad stuff). Why not apply a similar principle to Debt, in reverse? Characters rack it up by doing extraordinary things in their super-identities, leaving themselves spiritually exhausted; conversely, they could then restore themselves emotionally and get out of debt by interacting with friends, family, and other "connections" (to use the My Life With Master term) in their normal identity. So when a player wants to get out of debt, s/he has to request scenes of the hero's "normal life" (including possibly origin story and flashbacks) to do it. These need not be happy interactions -- witness Peter Parker's endlessly fraught relationship with Mary Jane, or his revelation (SPOILER ALERT) to Aunt May in the 2nd movie that he is in a sense responsible for Uncle Ben's death. They just have to be genuine and reveal something about the hero as a human being.

In essence, when heroes win, they help make the wider world a better place; when they suffer, by racking up debt, the wider world helps them back. They need the world and the world needs them. It's all about giving the super-battles an emotional grounding.

(Note: Originally came up with this toying with ideas for a Sorcerer game, where humanity = connection to others and thus you could counterbalance the humanity drain of demon-summoning by, say, going to your kid's softball game or striking up a conversation with the all-night convenience store clerk. I'm now considering making it central to the recovery mechanism in my "emotional commitment as gambling" mechanic, if I can ever figure it out).


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 19, 2004, 11:31:57 PM
Okay, there have been so many good ideas that I was starting to get fairly seriously confused.  Not a good state for me to be in with a mini playtest session coming up tuesday night ("tonight", I guess, technically).

So I've chosen a set of modifications that I think make a coherent whole, and I've revamped the Rules Web Site (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/).

I've also rewritten much of the Example of Play (http://home.earthlink.net/~albasch/Capes/example.html).  As before, I simply set up the situation and started rolling dice for both sides and aiming for reasonable strategies.  I am really happy with how this one turned out, though I won't know whether it was a lucky fluke until I try some more playtesting.

And now I have to go get to bed.  Must sleep.  Maybe more talking in the morning.

Okay, a little more talking now.  Some of the Wonder Effects now are noticeably less cool than others (Inspiration and Group Inspiration, particularly).  Any thoughts for what should replace them?


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 20, 2004, 05:44:08 AM
Quick clarification, since my 3a.m. wording could be taken as offensive.

I don't get confused by the existence of good ideas.  I get confused when I say "Oooh, that would be a great idea to add, and that would be a great idea, and that one too", and I forget which ones I actually have added, and how they form a new whole.

Hence my rewrite.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 20, 2004, 01:26:40 PM
First, good luck on your test.  Second, i will try to read your new play example this evening.  Third, i agree that the Inspiration Wonders are clunky, and probably not even necessary since there are so many other ways to get dice (though i should note that they were used 3 or 4 times in our game towards the end of the battle when dice started to run out, allowing the PCs to turn 6s into dice for another player gave them an advantage).

Fourth, and at the moment i feel most important there is still the problem of giving people a reason not to roll all their dice.  Example (in which i will change the rules slightly, 5's are now treated as 6's): You have 9 dice, you will lose 1/3 of every roll and get 1/3 successes.  I'm rounding going to be using fractional successes in order to remain statistically sound.

You can roll all your dice every time with results of: 3 successes, 3 lost; 2 successes, 2 lost; 1 1/3 success, 1 1/3 lost; 1 successes, 1 lost; 2/3 successes, 2/3 lost.  For a total of 7 successes before you run out of dice.

Or you can roll dice 3 at a time.  1 success, 1 lost x6 leaves us with 2 dice.  2/3 successes, 2/3 lost; 1 die left: 1/3 success, 1/3 lost.  1 die left with 7 successes.

I'm sure that my math has some rounding problems, but essentially either way you handle it you'll get the same number of successes statistically.  Since the higher powered Wonders (and the fact that the earlier you get the successes the faster you can win) seems to suggest that there is no reason not to roll  all your dice at once.  Now, there is some cool strategy in whether to spend a 5 for a Wonder Point or to save it to roll again, but that is not the problem.

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Bob McNamee on July 20, 2004, 03:38:11 PM
Just found these Capes threads...

Cool stuff, I've been looking for a good Super's system for a while.

Love the example of play, even if I'm not quite sure on the mechanics (haven't read the webpage yet, but have read the recent threads).

This generates a type of play I find really cool, and not common at all in other games.

I'm really excited about seeing this game. It could be what I'm looking for!

Supers RPG with a brain, and heart.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: LordSmerf on July 20, 2004, 07:56:57 PM
I just thought of an interesting alternative rule for Inspiration.  Instead of supplying the number of Wonder Points spent in dice, supply a number of dice equal to the number that you didn't roll...  This will also encourage people not to roll all of their dice.  This might be too powerful though, and you might need to  balance it by making Inspiration a higher Level Wonder.

Thomas


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: Marhault on July 21, 2004, 05:16:31 AM
Just a few comments:

1)  Capes kicks ass!  I can't wait to try it.

2)  Not to drift the thread off the topic of villainous drives, but I agree with LordSmerf.  There's no reason, statistical or strategic (as yet), not to roll all your dice.  What about having a maximum number of dice that can be rolled per "round"?  (3 the first round, 6, the second, etc.)  That way the fight builds from the little hits to the major overkill instead of the other way around.  Although you probably would prefer something that encourages rather than forces, that kind of play, right Tony?  Just thinking. . .

3)  Back to the topic of Drives, I find the earlier version of the interlaced drives (the one with the chart, rather than the wheel) to be easier to understand.  The Drive Wheel sure does look nice though.

4)  The conflicted / villainous drives are very cool, but I wonder if having a backdoor for heroes to be nonheroic will damage the kind of play you're shooting for?  Someone like Spider-Guy never just gives up on, say, Love, ("I don't care about Love, I only care about Respect") but instead fights tooth and claw for it, even when it means being pounded senseless.  I say, either use this system solely for Villain creation, or don't allow players to change drives after Chargen (which would allow for some cool conflicted, Antihero types).

I have some more questions, etc. about the text, but that'll have to wait 'til later.


Title: [Capes] The Problem of Evil
Post by: TonyLB on July 21, 2004, 05:39:11 AM
I had thought that the new "Strength Through Adversity" Wonder Effect I put in at level 3 would give a statistical reason for holding back some of your dice pool.  At least it seemed to do that in practice in the playtest.

I agree that the conflicted drives are cool, but shouldn't go in the system.  Indeed, I've decided they aren't going into the system.

The rules have changed to address some of the issues of the thread, but it's hard for me to communicate whether an issue is still open in my mind, or whether I think I've addressed it.  I'm going to start a new thread discussing some of the issues of the playtest.  Mostly, I must admit, that's to give us a clean slate for discussion.