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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Victor Gijsbers on February 06, 2005, 02:06:41 PM



Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 06, 2005, 02:06:41 PM
I'm planning to start a short campaign of Otherkind beginning next thursday. Both the theme and the dice-allocation mechanic really appeal to me, and I look forward to seeing this game in practice. However, I have a few questions and a few ideas that I think I may wish to try out, and would like to hear your thoughts on them.

1. The thing I'm most confused about is the orcs. They can't kill, but they love hunting and are predators. How is this to be explained? I have trouble imagining an orc character who is both a predator and for whom every death is true pain.

2. The thing I am most worried about is the narration die. I haven't tested it yet, but it seems very likely that as GM I will near always end up with the right to narrate. After all, since the main consequences of the characters' actions are decided by the other dice, it is relatively risk-free to let the GM narrate the outcome. But I would really like to see the players narrate wuite often. Should I, as GM, make clear that if I get to narrate I will make things more difficult for the characters in some way?

If I think about it long, the mechanics don't really seem to make sense at this point: the choice of dice-allocation is a choice of balancing three things which are important to the character (his success; his health; the life of others), and one meta-game concern (the right to narrate). These things are so _different_! What happens to the game when you take narration out of this four-some, and let the players roll it apart?

Yet another possibility is that instead of designating who narrates, the narration die designates who gets to choose who narrates.

3. Based on the previous Actual Play reports I've seen, I'll certainly make all the players specify what their character cares about in this world. But rather than letting them choose some specific goal ("I wish to retrieve the numenous necklace of my previous human lover"), I am thinking about letting each player answer this question: What can you find in the World that you cannot find in Elsewhere? Beauty; Passion; Love; Excitement; Freedom; Individuality - you name it; I'll abbreviate it with `WnotE'. This would accomplish several things. A. It would help to define Elsewhere (in a purely negative manner). B. It explains why the character is staying in the World - he is not ready to leave WnotE behind forever. C. It suggests a personalised approach to numenous items. The numenous items that a character tries to bring to elsewhere are those that somehow represent WnotE. This explains why he values those items. D. Perhaps, and now I might be stretching things too far, loss of the Connection to Life mean loss (in some way) of the ability to value WnotE. Does this sound like a workable idea?

4. Concerning non-violent conflicts, several suggestion have been made about interpreting the 'Life' die. Everyone seems to agree, and so do I, that a 1 or 2 always means someone's death. But opinions diverge on how to do this; I see three main possibilities. A. Have someone show up who gets killed. B. Describe some, sometimes perhaps convoluted, chain of causes and effects that starts with the character's action and ends with someone's death. C. Make it clear that someone dies, but do not go into the details. I wonder if there is any consensus on which of these three works best? C is a bit undramatic to my tastes, but A and B have the danger of becoming comic if called in too often. I am leaning towards copying the brilliant "The Horror Revealed" mechanic of My Life with Master, and forcing players to narrate either an A- or a B-type event whenever their life is low.

I'm looking forward to comments on these topics; and I'm looking forward even more to playing this system, for I have a feeling that it has the potential to be a gem.


Unrelated comment: Vincent, I was really, really impressed by "Hungry Desperate and Alone". Normally, the fiction parts of horror RPGs are more scary than the rules; but in HDA, the fiction parts are light and jocund compared to the true horror of the rules. They actually terrify me - the idea of playing this game makes my skin crawl. I have heard and can see that the mechanics are broken, but it would be a terrible waste to let that go unmended. Mind if I play around with the rules a bit and see if I can make something out of it?


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Bankuei on February 06, 2005, 02:31:10 PM
Hi Victor,

Just to put some thoughts in on questions 2 & 4...

Narration

Just like in Donjon, the question becomes what other neat stuff can you introduce/change with narration aside from straight success?  Players can use narration and start doing stuff like putting conflict between foes, perhaps producing allies("But one soldier takes pity, and secrets my broken frame away, leaving me with the wise woman of the woods...").  Narration is a question of long term vs. short term strategy, if success is the only concern, but also is just a fun thing in terms of story creation, and that might be enough for players to go with without the other concerns.

Death

Kind of linked with B- it could also be fun to decide that a horrible doom or fate is put upon someone as a result of the failure... perhaps something just as bad as death?  Considering fairy tales and myth, being turned to stone, dancing oneself to death, eternal madness, being transformed to something else, being eaten by something, or having a loved one accidently kill you are all pretty easy to work in.  Even if the fate doesn't drop instantly, perhaps an agreement that it will work its doom by the end of the session could be a fun one, especially with the understanding that everyone is to narrate, build it up, and clearly point the fault at the PC(s) responsible for it.

Chris


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 06, 2005, 02:50:25 PM
Hi Chris,

Concerning 2, you may be right - perhaps I am just seeing problems where there are none. I'll take care to point out to my players all the great things they can do with the right to narrate, both in terms of strategy, and in terms of fun and vision. Play itself will prove whether or not the narration die is consistently chosen to be the lowest.

Concerning 4, I like both the suggestion that the result does not have to be death, but could also be some other kind of Doom; and the suggestion that it does not have to take place instantly, but can slowly unfold throughout the session. That would really add a layer of creepiness to the game, as your characters start meeting people whom the players already know to be doomed! That is pure tragedy. How beautiful. I think I'll go with it.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Bankuei on February 06, 2005, 03:11:01 PM
Hi Victor,

About #4, its important (for me, anyway) to keep the feeling of responsibility about the doom.  That is, the player has to recognize the actions of their character had a big part in this happening.  Stuff like vows or curses tend to work really well in myth for this part.  So, if the fae is trying to do something, and declares, "Any who stand in my way shall find their joy to ruin, and will die by their own hands!" before realizing who or what may get in their way... oooh boy.  There's no guiltless or clean death to be had here, its part of the losing innocence and terror of living in the world :)

Mistakes, irresponsibilities, etc, also can do the same thing.  "Oh, I accidentally poured the love potion in THIS guy's wine, and he fell in love with his mother...um... yeah, I better get out of here before I get caught!"  It takes a sadistic bent on the part of the GM (and hopefully the players will also narrate in some stuff too) to really make this into the horrible clusterfuck of a situation, much like what you get in Shakespere.

Chris


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 06, 2005, 09:39:35 PM
Hello,

Helpful links:
Otherkind playtest (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=2415)
Otherkind-ish mechanics in action (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=2674)
Otherkind in action (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=2835)
Indie Netgaming Monday: Otherkind (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=2855)
Otherkind (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=3074)

I suggest that your concern with orcs is no problem. Look at this way ... most people who eat vegetables experience absolutely no ethical problem whatsoever with stealing, destroying, and digesting another living being's tissues when they chomp on a carrot.

Figure that the orcs feel exactly the same way about hunting and eating animals. Killing or harming a person or Otherkind is considered a totally different and unrelated act.

It doesn't really matter whether you or I agree or disagree with the orcs about this. It's a worldview which isn't particularly hard to imagine or to observe in actual people.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 07, 2005, 12:45:42 AM
Hi Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Figure that the orcs feel exactly the same way about hunting and eating animals. Killing or harming a person or Otherkind is considered a totally different and unrelated act.

O, I see - the Otherkind are only hurt by the violent death of a human or otherkind, not by the violent death of an animal? I read the rules as implying that they are hurt by the death of animals too: "[For otherkind] causing or even witnessing a violent death hurts their closeness with Life. In that way, they're unlike people, who kill animals and otherkind and even one another with no such loss."

But I guess your interpretation is the only way to make sense of the orcs, so it must be the right one.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: lumpley on February 07, 2005, 06:36:23 AM
Another possible interpretation is that predation isn't violence.

Victor, you should fool around with the narration rules however makes sense. My group decided that we all like talking all the time, so we just ditched that die. Or you could have it that whoever's talking can talk, but nothing's true until the person with "narration" rights says it's true.

Quote
I am thinking about letting each player answer this question: What can you find in the World that you cannot find in Elsewhere? Beauty; Passion; Love; Excitement; Freedom; Individuality - you name it; I'll abbreviate it with `WnotE'. This would accomplish several things. A. It would help to define Elsewhere (in a purely negative manner). B. It explains why the character is staying in the World - he is not ready to leave WnotE behind forever. C. It suggests a personalised approach to numenous items. The numenous items that a character tries to bring to elsewhere are those that somehow represent WnotE. This explains why he values those items. D. Perhaps, and now I might be stretching things too far, loss of the Connection to Life mean loss (in some way) of the ability to value WnotE. Does this sound like a workable idea?

I like this a lot.

It also gives you the GM some clear direction for Moonlight.

-Vincent


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 07, 2005, 08:18:20 AM
Hello,

As far as narration goes, we played it just like we play any game with formal "narration rights" (The Pool, Dust Devils, Trollbabe, Universalis, Nine Worlds, etc). Anyone can talk, but the current narrator is Where the Buck Stops, and also owns the "we're done now" button.

It's very, very easy for an important reason. These rules in these games all formalize what tends really to happen in role-playing anyway. It's actually weirder and harder to have a single all-purpose narrator, and even groups whose members claim that's how they play are often observed to be violating their own perceptions.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Paganini on February 07, 2005, 08:42:02 AM
Hey Victor, in case you aren't aware, Vincent recently posted some updated mechanics for Otherkind to his blog. I can't remember the exact date on the entry, but scroll down a bit and you'll run into them. I think they work much better than the original.

I think Jon Walton posted a thread about our game using them in actual play called "Anotherkind." (If he didn't, he needs to!)


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: lumpley on February 07, 2005, 08:50:38 AM
Here's a link: Otherkind Dice (http://www.lumpley.com/anycomment.php?entry=148).

I'll take mild exception to "work much better," since they're just a slightly generalized version of the exact same rules. In particular, I think that Otherkind's focus demands the more focused approach.

-Vincent


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Valamir on February 07, 2005, 11:43:37 AM
Quote
If I think about it long, the mechanics don't really seem to make sense at this point: the choice of dice-allocation is a choice of balancing three things which are important to the character (his success; his health; the life of others), and one meta-game concern (the right to narrate). These things are so _different_! What happens to the game when you take narration out of this four-some, and let the players roll it apart?

Yet another possibility is that instead of designating who narrates, the narration die designates who gets to choose who narrates.


Actually, I'd argue that all 4 are meta game concerns.  They are all about what's important to the PLAYER not the character.  The player can always allow the character to get hurt because the PLAYER thinks that would be the more dramatic result.  The character (if sane) would always prefer to not get hurt.

Each of the dice are like this.  The priority the player gives to the dice may very well NOT match the priority the "character" would give.  For instance the character may be all about getting that goal.  That's their driving passion.  They REALLY want that goal.  Yet when the dice are rolled, the player puts the high die in narration and the low die in goal...why?  Because the player wants to narrate the dramatic tragedy of the goal not being achieved.

If you think of the dice as "what do I the player want to happen to my character" as opposed to "what would the character (if it were real) want to have happen" your above concern goes away completely.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 07, 2005, 01:21:26 PM
Thanks for all the comments, people.

I will

1. Stop worrying about orcs.
2. Talk with my players about the narration die, lay out the options that you've presented, and probably find something that works. ("If we do it according to the normal rules, are you guys ever going to value narration rights over the other dice?" - that would be a good starter. I hope they say 'yes'.)
3. Go with my initial idea about having players define something which their character seeks in the world. I'll tell you how it works out.
4. Reach an agreement on the 'Life' die in non-violent conflicts, keeping especially Bankuei's point about guilt in mind.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 07, 2005, 01:29:09 PM
Hi Valamir,

Quote from: Valamir
Quote
If you think of the dice as "what do I the player want to happen to my character" as opposed to "what would the character (if it were real) want to have happen" your above concern goes away completely.

I am not sure that it does. Indeed, I don't think I agree with your equation of meta-game mechanics with player concerns, and of game mechanics with character concerns. (If that is established usage, I apologise for using these terms confusingly.) Rather, the three non-narration dice set direct constraints on the elements that will enter the SIS, whereas the narration die does not such thing; it rather sets constraints on the way in which things enter the SIS. So I am tempted to think that the narration-die is the odd one out, quite apart from how much I distance myself from my character. (Which is generally pretty far; I rarely employ actor stance.)


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Valamir on February 07, 2005, 01:44:31 PM
Well, lets back it up a step so we're on the same page.  If you see the narration die as being the odd man out, then that implies you think there is a need for them to be parallel to begin with.  Why are you thinking they need to cover the same sort of stuff in order to be handled with the same mechanic?


If you present the dice thusly:

1 determines the degree of progress towards your goal
1 determines the degree of injury suffered
1 determines the degree of injuy inflicted, and
1 determines everything and anything else including HOW the above occur, I think it likely that the players will see the narration die as perhaps the most important of the 4.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 07, 2005, 01:57:19 PM
Well, I don't really think that things have to be more or less the same to be handled by the same mechanics, far from it really, I just have a feeling that _trade-offs_ between very different things are risky. But I haven't tried the system in actual play, so I might be seeing ghosts of my own creation.

I like your presentation of the four dice a lot. Suddenly, I also see where your idea that I was thinking too much from the character's point of view came from: my unfortunate statement about the GM making things more difficult for the characters. Hm, I think I may have been more confused on this entire topic than I was aware of. Let me take another step back.


If the allocation of the dice represents an ethical choice (How much do your health and your goal mean to you compared with the lives of others?), then the narration die is the odd man out, since it does not represent a concrete value.
But if the allocation of the dice represents a purely narrative choice (What do I, the player, want to be this story like? What about my character killing all these guys in a grand theatrical way?), this problem dissolves. On the other hand, it seems to take _some_ of the bite out of the mechanics.

I'll have to think this over.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: xiombarg on February 07, 2005, 05:08:35 PM
I should mention in passing that when I chewed up and spat out the Otherkind system for Pretender, that I changed the way the narration die worked because of the exact problems you mention. In essence, if you got a high roll in Narration, you decided who narrated -- which could be any player, including yourself, or the GM -- and if you got a low roll, the GM decided who narrated, which didn't have to be the GM.

This ensures that the narration die is valued and that narration is traded around the table regardless.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 08, 2005, 09:31:55 AM
I have on more simple rules question: when Iron is greater than the value of the die from which it is to be subtracted, what happens? Is it set to 1, so that 1 Radiance will bring it back to 2? Or is it set to 0, or -1, ..., so that players need to spend more than 1 Radiance to bring it back to 2?


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 15, 2005, 09:50:27 AM
Anyone knows the answer to my last question? (I mean, surely Vincent knows. ;) )


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: lumpley on February 15, 2005, 10:05:13 AM
Oh! Spaced it, sorry. The answer is: the latter. The die "goes negative," so you have to match Iron point for point with Radiance to bring it back up.

-Vincent


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 16, 2005, 01:54:01 AM
Thanks. :) First real session next friday; I'm looking forward to it.


Title: [Otherkind] Questions and Ideas
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on February 27, 2005, 09:22:35 AM
I posted an Actual Play report about our first two session here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=14511). This system definitely had some surprises for me!