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Independent Game Forums => Half Meme Press => Topic started by: Paul Czege on June 25, 2002, 04:48:57 PM



Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Paul Czege on June 25, 2002, 04:48:57 PM
So, Ralph's deconstruction of my mechanics for Nicotine Girls was a painful heads-up to me that I probably needed to get a hell of a lot more serious about understanding dice and probabilities if I was going to be anything more than erratic in my ability to design functional games. So with some effort, starting with Mike's fantastic post on dice probability formulas for designers (that ought to be an article), and some private messages back and forth with him about number randomization and factorial formulas in Excel spreadsheets, I think I've advanced to somewhat-better-than-functional. And quite honestly, I'm pretty geeked about it.

To summarize, the problem with the FUDGE dice mechanics I wrote for Nicotine Girls is that adding more dice to a roll doesn't increase the chance of success. Effectively, it means there's absolutely no mechanical reason for a player to take on items from the Fear table, or to work toward growing their character's Hope. That means no progression. No increasing desperation. No endgame. No nothing. Blecch!

So the game now uses d10's. Ordinary conflict resolution is now rolling a number of dice equal to your Motivation and counting the number that come up under your Method. Rolling under Method was Mike's suggestion. It's nice and elegant, and although I'd like to think so, I'm not sure I would have come up with it myself. Probabilities for success are as follows:

Code:
#dice  method 1  method 2  method 3
1       10.00%    20.00%    30.00%
2       19.00%    36.00%    51.00%
3       27.10%    48.80%    65.70%
4       34.39%    59.04%    75.99%
5       40.95%    67.23%    83.19%
6       46.86%    73.79%    88.24%
7       52.17%    79.03%    91.76%
8       56.95%    83.22%    94.24%
9       61.26%    86.58%    95.96%
10      65.13%    89.26%    97.18%
11      68.62%    91.41%    98.02%
12      71.76%    93.13%    98.62%
13      74.58%    94.50%    99.03%


That means generally, rolling 4-6 more dice is in the ballpark of being equivalent to a Method of one greater, and Smoke has a statistically significant impact on outcomes.

Fighting is handled by straight Fear rolls, counting ones as successes. To win a fight against another girl, one success is needed. To win against a guy, two successes are needed. The probabilities are:

Code:
#dice   1 success   2 successes
1        10.00%        0.00%
2        19.00%        1.00%
3        27.10%        2.80%
4        34.39%        5.23%
5        40.95%        8.15%
6        46.86%        11.43%
7        52.17%        14.97%
8        56.95%        18.69%
9        61.26%        22.52%
10       65.13%        26.39%
11       68.62%        30.26%
12       71.76%        34.10%
13       74.58%        37.86%


The endgame roll for getting your Dreams is a straight Hope roll, counting ones as successes, and two successes are needed.

What do you think?

Paul


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Paul Czege on June 25, 2002, 08:47:16 PM
Regarding Smoke. If the character takes and uses the advice given, they add dice equal to their Smoke score when rolling to resolve the conflict. And if they do not take the advice, they subtract dice.

Does that create a currency break point? Putting both 2's in non-Smoke Methods, and only a 1 in Smoke creates a character that has an overall greater effectiveness than a character with a 2 in Smoke, because a 1 greater Method is worth more to the odds of success when using it than the possible 2 dice that might come from taking good Smoke advice.

Paul


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 26, 2002, 06:07:51 AM
First, ironically, I realized that after you credited me with the roll under mechanic, that I had gotten it from Ralph. Was part of an early edition of Universalis, actually. And I believe that he may have worked that out with Mike Sullivan (Gentry? too many damn Mikes) a long time ago.

That is a problem with Smoke. The intuitive thing is to use it to boost the other method. That makes it very powerful. But that's cool, it means that a player can use a low number of dice occasionally and get away with it.

What happens (using either method) when failing to use advice brings you down to zero or lower? Automatic failure? Or do you always have a minimum of one? The former is kind of blunt, but sends a message. The latter means that a person with a one method can ignore advice without repercussion (well, they don't get a bonus, and have a cruddy chance; just no moreso than before).  

Another option is to make ignoring advice a reroll instead of lowering the number of dice. So if you ignore advice from a smoke of 1 then you have to succeed twice to actually succeed. To succeed after ignoring smoke 2 advice, you have to roll three times successfully (the chance of rolling one die 1 or less three times is .1%). This way there's no bottoming out.

This is unnecessary to mirror, on the positive end as it would just be adding even more dice, effectively. Doubling and trippling as opposed to just adding. OTOH, that would be very powerful, and consistent.

Mike


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Paul Czege on July 15, 2002, 09:36:08 AM
Hey Mike,

What happens (using either method) when failing to use advice brings you down to zero or lower? Automatic failure?

I can't believe I didn't respond to this. The belated answer is that if you get Smoke advice you decide not to follow, and your Smoke score is greater than the Method (Fear or Hope) you were wanting to use (i.e. the subtraction of dice results in a negative pool), you automatically fail. This is mitigated by the fact that you can always add to your Fear by taking on something from the fear table, so you can always put yourself in the position of rolling some dice (and not necessarily failing outright). The consequence is that your  narrative becomes characterized by increased dysfunction and life chaos, and you're one conflict closer to an endgame where you don't have much of a chance of getting your dreams.

Paul


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 15, 2002, 10:08:42 AM
Paul,

I had a thought about this. Is there any way that a character could become a Bad Girl? Having despaired of reaching her dreams, she instead devotes time and energy to dragging others down? This adds sort of a different "success track" that a player could enter, if he or she wants.

I don't mean to turn the game into a competition, but rather that the character could still be playable as a Bad Girl even if her chances of getting her dreams have been shot to hell.

So the group-outcome could then include some characters who've reached their dreams, some who tried but failed (without becoming bad people), and some who've become Bad Girls.

Best,
Ron


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Paul Czege on July 18, 2002, 08:11:44 AM
Hey Ron,

Is there any way that a character could become a Bad Girl? Having despaired of reaching her dreams, she instead devotes time and energy to dragging others down?

A few years ago, a coworker of mine married the one decent guy in a family of abusive and bigoted brothers. I'm sure you can guess what the other wives were like. And predictably, they were all very close. Family events (birthdays for parents, and for kids, barbecues, camping trips, and boating excursions) were almost weekly, and again, predictably, were characterized by drunken arguments, threats of divorce, incoherent political discourse, heavy-handed disciplining of the children, and of course, fights.

And early in the marriage, when my coworker would arrive for family events with her husband, the first thing one of the sisters would do is hand her a baby. Isn't he darling? Self-esteem pressures you, if you aren't confident about the life decisions you've made, to validate them by provoking others to make the same choices.

So although I know what you're saying, I think "bad girl" delivers too strong an impression of overt hostility and destructiveness. These are desperate and scared girls. And when I was first writing the game, I did consider incentivizing the desperate and scared girl "career path" with a mechanic where a player can reduce his character's Fear by one point whenever his Smoke advice is taken by another player. But ultimately, I rejected it for what might actually be not a very good reason. It just felt at odds with the escalation of Fear that should typify a sequence of game sessions. I couldn't figure out how to make it work. It felt like it would create a cold and unaffected style of play in a game that's about being tossed about in a storm of life chaos. Am I wrong?

Paul


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Stuart DJ Purdie on July 18, 2002, 08:46:35 AM
Paul,

The one thing that strikes me is that a mechanic whereby benefit for ones character accrues from giving of advice
  • would encourage a mutual bonding between the characters, and give rise to the sort of behaviour (of characters) one might expect - namely a circle of friends talking over thier problems with each other.

I'm not entierly familer with the subject matter, so I'm not certain that's what you want.

  • Would it have to be good advice? The description of smoke suggests that the objective quality of the advice is not important, only that it was given.

Stuart


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 18, 2002, 08:47:47 AM
Hi Paul,

Small stuff first: "bad girl" is of course over-negative as a term, but I think I'm aiming at describing a person whose actions in application can only be termed malevolent, regardless of her inner sensations or what we call motivations.

More importantly: one concern I have with Nicotine Girls is the unrelentingly bleak conclusions. The chance for the game all to end in a shambling, wadded mass is very high. If I'm not mistaken, this is precisely what has led Jake and Clinton to state their reluctance to play (for the record, I have every intention of bullying Jake into playing at GenCon).

My suggestion in this case is trying to reconcile (1) the potential disaster for the character with (2) increased enjoyment for the player. That is to say, if a girl gets her Dreams, then ginchy - fun for the player is all set. But I'm looking for a way to continue to have fun even when my girl is hitting the skids, and stays on the skids. Having her become ... well, a force for Evil, for lack of a better term, yet quite likely facilitating (in a negative way) the triumph of one of the other girls, seems like a good way to do that.

I would very much like to have you delve deeply into Violence Future, which is the only game I have ever played that permits both redemption and damnation to be completely enjoyable. Unfortunately, the copy you currently have does not explain the rules to any extent that helps me make my point. I'll try to lay it out here.

In VF, when a character enters Endgame, all his scores max out and he takes double damage. It will very likely result in the character's death, although not guaranteed. The player has full rights as to the character's actions (who he is trying to kill, save, or whatever). In all cases I've seen so far, the player also opts to use the Drama mechanic of the game, permitting him full narration rights per single scene (risking death on the die roll for each one).

I'm not suggesting a full duplication of the VF mechanics for Nicotine Girls - I'm trying to state that the "endgame" element permits the ending to contain surprises of its own, decisions of its own, and a lot of player power. Right now, it seems to me that the final scenes of a nicotine girl's story will be a nearly-foregone conclusion given the first few scenes, and that doesn't send me, in comparison to the potential of the final scenes of Violence Future.

Best,
Ron


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 18, 2002, 09:21:10 AM
I really like the payment for advice mechanic. But I also agree that there needs to be downward pressure, if not quite a spiraling effect. Stuart brings up an interesting point as well about the quality of the advice. Hmmm...

How about this? When doing a smoke scene, the player playing the advice giver secretly writes down whether the advice they gave was good advice or bad advice. Essentially, this gives the advice giver some directorial power, as they also decide why the advice is good or bad. The player playing the recieving character tries to guess whether it's good or bad in deciding to use it. If the advice was used and good, then the recieving player gets the bonus but the giving player gets nothing. If the advice was used but bad, the recieving player gets a penalty, and the giving player reduces their Fear by one. In narrating the result, the giver reveals some fact about why it's good or bad advice, which gets incorporated into the description. The GM can deny any rewards or penalties for lame explanations. They must make sense in order to get the reward (this helps the reciever in guessing). Advice always sounds good...

This creates a little economy. You can help each other succeed, and try to get places, but, if you feel the need, you can sack a friend to make your self feel better (as in Paul's RL example). This will, of course, make the other players leery, however, and you might not get asked for advice again (be sure to allow time between Smoke sessions and actual resolutions so the bad advice givers can hit up several people if they like). So you'll probably only do this if you're really high on Fear and need to get it down. Which means, again, that players will be leery of a character with lots of Fear. Which makes for a cool dynamic, I think.

For a really nasty game that would simulate Paul's example, allow players to Push fear on each other. Make a Fear vs. hope roll: the giver rolls Fear, the reciever rolls Hope. For every success rolled by the giver that is uncancelled by the reciever, the giver gives the reciever a point of fear. I'd say once per session or some other hard limit.

Whatsmore, the reciever can voluntarily roll no dice if they like. This allows the circle of friends to sort of share the fear, which is, I think, in genre.

Howzat?

Mike


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: xiombarg on July 18, 2002, 09:27:50 AM
Mike, I have one thing to say about your suggested mechanics:

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma.

http://www.lifl.fr/IPD/ipd.frame.html
http://www.miskatonic.org/pd.html
http://www.xs4all.nl/~helfrich/prisoner/
http://www.spectacle.org/995/source.html

Your mechanic smacks of an iterated prisoner's dilemma... which is good, becuase it's considered a good simulation of social situations in a lot of ways. The main reason I mention this is looking at the work in IPDs (particularly in terms of payoff matrixes) might be helpful here.


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 18, 2002, 09:39:36 AM
Ooh, got another idea on how to do it. It occurs to me that giving out bad advice really doesn't make the giver feel any better in reality. Doesn't stop them from doing it, however. How about, when advice is applied, if the giver fails their Smoke roll, they give bad advice instead of good. No Fear reductions, just bad advice. Alternately, the player can decide whether or not their advice is bad or good, and have to roll to see if it works out that way.

Lot's of ways to handle this.

Mike


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Mike Holmes on July 18, 2002, 09:41:23 AM
Quote from: xiombarg
Your mechanic smacks of an iterated prisoner's dilemma...
Not accidentally. I am a big fan of classic game theory. This is why I mentioned economy. One common use of game theory is to explain the behavior of markets.

Mike


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: xiombarg on July 18, 2002, 09:46:31 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: xiombarg
Your mechanic smacks of an iterated prisoner's dilemma...
Not accidentally. I am a big fan of classic game theory. This is why I mentioned economy. One common use of game theory is to explain the behavior of markets.

I suspected as much. But I wanted to mention it explicitly for everyone's benefit. Not everyone has that sort of background, you know.

Hell, even I don't. I was originally exposed to the iterated prisoner's dilemma in the book Metamagical Themas.


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Paul Czege on July 19, 2002, 08:55:26 AM
Hey everyone,

I've updated the Nicotine Girls rules. The update comprises only the shift from FUDGE dice to d10's described in my first post to this thread and does not reflect any of the more recent discussions about alternate career paths or endgame mechanics.

I will say that the recent discussions have been phenomenally destabilizing - in a good way - to my thoughts about my game designs. With Nicotine Girls, I purposefully did not provide a "success track" for fallen girls. Had I, it might have been some kind of endgame Fear roll. But it seemed to me that there are very few thematically satisfying outcomes to the game, and with the low likelihood of a girl getting her dreams, the last thing I wanted to do was part out the fallen girl outcomes in such a way that they could be readily predicted from early gameplay, essentially telegraphing the endgame to the players in just a few scenes. So I avoided the fallen girl success track to preserve some uncertainty for the endgame. Dav, it seems, did something else entirely with Violence Future. He re-apportions options to the characters, rather than allowing endgame to follow in a cause-and-effect sort of way, using a mechanical catalyst to provoke thematically coherent but untelegraphed outcomes from the players. My God, it's full of stars.

Paul


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 19, 2002, 08:57:07 AM
Hi Paul,

So that means that Nicotine Girls is (a) revised a tad but (b) not yet fully baked? Just checkin' on the status report, so I know what I'm looking at when I get the new version.

Best,
Ron


Title: nicotine girls, smoking again
Post by: Paul Czege on July 19, 2002, 09:07:44 AM
Hey Ron,

a) revised a tad but (b) not yet fully baked?

You know how at a college party you fill a trash can with a bunch of kinds of alcohol to make jungle juice, and when the can gets low you add some more alcohol? I needed to fix the dice mechanics to make Nicotine Girls drinkable, but as of now I don't think I'll be adding to the can until I have a chance to play Violence Future.

Paul