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Title: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on February 28, 2009, 10:35:59 AM
Paul and Dave came over.  We ate some food, we drank some drinks, we talked about all'a you people on the Internet.  And then we broke out some old-fashioned Trollbabe action.  My main goal in this post is to highlight one or two unclear points of the old text, in the hopes that it's not too late to get a few of them clarified in the fresh-money tricked-out new version of the game. 

Couple of textual issues:
1.  The big problem with my brain occurs on Injury, on page 20.  I've read that a million times and it confuses me each time.  Amazingly it made perfect sense in play the other night, but that might be attributable to wine.  In any event, the first paragraph on page 20 is... dense, and might bear some more explication.

2.  I think the scenario creation rules could probably stand to be a little more robust.  I find that there's not quite enough guidance there to get to reliably juicy scenarios.  Meanwhile my friend Scott routinely overthinks the scenarios he comes up with, and I'm having a hard time trying to explain to him what's going wrong (which implies that it's not clear in my head, either).  Some advice on how to deal with a "turtling" Trollbabe would probably be helpful too. 

3.  Is there a point to distinguishing between the Stakes and the Consequences?

4.  I find the terminology of Roll, Series, etc. a little confusing.  A roll = series, a series = several rolls, therefore roll = rolls.  It makes sense when you take the time to sort it out, but it's disorienting when skimming through the text.

5.  Let's say there are several NPC's involved somehow in a conflict with the Trollbabe.  Can that player then create relationships to each of those NPC's based on that one conflict?  (I.e., looking for one person with the help of two others = three relationships?)

These are, of course, minor points and didn't significantly affect our enjoyment of the game, but I just wanted to flag them in the hopes that they might be tweaked.

We had a great time playing the game.  Trollbabe exists at this weird junction between the Muppet Show, Bakshi's Wizards, Tomoe Goezen, and the Brothers Grimm, which is a very fruitful place imaginatively.  Paul and Dave were very easy-going players and a lot of fun to game with. 

* Dave created "Ingrid Vorhild," the first Trollbabe I've seen with a surname.  Hand-Held Weapons, Troll Magic, Insightful.  Green hair down to her middle back, short horns angled forward.  Number 2 (obtained by rollind 1d10).  Ingrid was raised among humans and has never met a Troll.

* Paul created "Thora Seakind," skilled in Athletics, Human Magic, and Feisty.  Dirty blonde dreadlocks and ram's horns.  Number 8.  Thora was a foundling at sea, and was raised by Trolls.  She's never met a human.

Both players wanted to play in the Silent Forest, which (I decided) was the home of a Troll community, which I played as an otherworldly fairy-land Scandinavian thing.  I'll post the elementary relationship map here:

* Gantwood, a big scary dumb lonely feral troll
* Mollywort, a good girl Troll who cares about Gantwood
* Virresprocket, a Troll aristocrat who wants to wed Mollywort

Plus some lesser NPC's, like Timbuckle the Troll-child who is practicing how to spook animals, and Klaus the human prisoner.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 05, 2009, 12:32:27 PM
Hi James,

I should probably clarify that the new rules text is not a re-write or a brush-up of the old text. It was all completely written from the blank page on up. Scenario creation, for instance, is now a whole chapter. A lot of your points read like recommendations regarding the existing text, which is essentially now all gone.

Therefore instead of going through your points one by one in full, I'll pull out the procedural questions and answer them directly. I'll definitely print out your points and compare them to the existing text, though, and I appreciate you contributing them here.

Quote
Some advice on how to deal with a "turtling" Trollbabe would probably be helpful too.

Huh - it's a highly personal thing. In some cases, aggressive framing means the player can settle comfortably into a more traditional, reactive form of play; in others, allowing for a relatively gentle and not particularly pushy pace to the story is better. The only problem is that each tactic is disastrous when applied to the wrong person.

Quote
Is there a point to distinguishing between the Stakes and the Consequences?

The way I'm now saying it is, the Stakes are a tangible "thing" (person, et cetera), and Consequences are events or outcomes. So conceivably, given a certain designated Stakes, you as GM still have many options concerning the kinds of Consequences will serve as your framing and intensity guide throughout play. A scenario defined by whether the girl will stay with the tribe or leave is very different from another defined by whether the same girl will live or die.

Quote
5. Let's say there are several NPC's involved somehow in a conflict with the Trollbabe. Can that player then create relationships to each of those NPC's based on that one conflict? (I.e., looking for one person with the help of two others = three relationships?)

The requirements for a Relationship are (1) for the NPC to have been involved somehow in a conflict, and (2) for the trollbabe to interact with him or her right afterwards. That means that you can only get one Relationship out of a conflict, because if you make one, then you can't fulfill requirement #2 for the second.

Now, if your trollbabe's Scale is high enough, you could have her sit down with several of the characters in a group and form a single Relationship with that group, but I don't think that's what you were asking about.

Quote
Trollbabe exists at this weird junction between the Muppet Show, Bakshi's Wizards, Tomoe Goezen, and the Brothers Grimm, which is a very fruitful place imaginatively.

I agree! That's a really good way to put it, although I suggest that the precise nature of that junction is just as much, or more, a product of your mind as reader and practitioner as it is of mine as author.

You did a fantastic prep decision for these two trollbabes: one's never met a human and one's never met a troll, so you toss them a troll tribe with a captive human. Perfect! I will definitely reference that.

Best, Ron
edited for format hassles - RE


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 06, 2009, 02:59:46 PM
I am the Paul in this game.

First of all, a big thanks to James--he put together a really great situation/scenario, and populated it with really charming, memorable NPCs. I was trying hard not to laugh (from appreciation) at his depiction of the characters through much of the game.

A few interesting notes:

It was the first time playing Trollbabe, for both Dave and I. We made characters by each rolling a d10. As his number was low, and mine was high, I think it inspired us to make our Trollbabes foils for one another. Dave's was a nature-loving, huge-hammer-carrying druid sort of Trollbabe, who, though she had never met Trolls, was an expert in Troll magic. My 'babe, having a very poor Magic roll, I decided must know some human magic--but only at a very basic, uncertain level, since she had only lived among Trolls and had never met a human. There were some other ways, too, in which our characters were kind of mirrors for each other, which I really enjoyed.

We played the second session (both were pretty short, so it felt more like one "regular" session to me, with the two halves being separated by a week of time) last night, and concluded the story quite nicely. I hope James will post about that, too!

Though we had some trouble with the mechanics (I'm still confused by how the "wounding" or conditions stack, and how bringing multiple conflict types into one conflict changes that), it was a really nice game. It's funny: te way it turned out, it was exactly what I always tried to do with D&D as a teenager.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 06, 2009, 07:08:09 PM
Man, I'm ambivalent about the whole new rules text, because I think "first edition" Trollbabe kicks ass except for a few confusing parts of the text.  Also, I don't deserve any credit for the "antithetical Trollbabes" thing: that was entirely player-generated and caused me no end of confusion as a GM: I had to use Post-It notes with arrows to remind myself who was who.

I'm uncertain whether discussing the "classic rules" makes much sense, but here goes:

1.  Trollbabes with numbers close to either extreme appear to be at a very serious disadvantage in the game.  The GM can, if she were a total ass-wipe, declare a whole string of unfavorable conflicts, which would just pummel the player horribly.  Alternately, if the player declares a favorable conflict, the GM could always add the Social action type, screwing the player again.  (I'm not saying this would ever happen among non-ass-wipes, but the fact that it could happen at all is pretty weird.)

2.  Let's say in Conflict 1, a Trollbabe gets Incapacitated.  Some time passes, we frame a scene where she recovers back to Injured.  She then gets involved in Conflict 2, which features two different Action Types, and therefore she rolls two dice.  Both dice fail.  Does this mean that she's straight Incapacitated again?  Poor Paul kept running into this repeatedly in the game.  (I should mention that this was the nightmare scenario about Injury, I think, that fortunately never arose in our first session, but kept coming back to haunt me during our second session.  I felt a very strong need to hand-wave Thora's injuries away, in part because it would spare me from having to parse the text, and to be nice to Paul.  It seems there's something very close to a death-spiral there.)

3. It looks like an extremely clever and socially attentive player could run rings around a GM, first by initiating conflicts (which looks like it's a key skill in the game as it allows players some Director-level stance over the scenario), and then by clever use of Goals, would never need to spend re-rolls until a real emergency.  She runs the risk of being repeatedly being discommoded in conflict after confict, but because she never re-rolls she doesn't get clobbered.  Meanwhile she can narrate failure to avoid severe problems - and who knows, maybe she'd win.  This appeared to be Dave's approach with "Ingrid"--I don't think he spent a re-roll the entire game, and he was clever enough about avoiding conflicts or stating his Goal so that losing the conflict was usually a pretty mild occurrence.  This is in contrast to Paul, who kept going for re-rolls and getting hammered.  Snagging re-rolls is a fun thing, mechanically and narratively--but it looks like it's not "optimal" play to the extent such thoughts apply to the game of Trollbabe.

4.  What happens if two Trollbabes team up to take on one villain (having complementary but different Goals)?  I ended up running this as two Conflicts in series, rather than in parallel, but I wasn't sure if there's a preferred approach.

Surprisingly for me, I do have some "theoretical generalizations" or whatever they are, about our experience of play, but it's late and I'm tired.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 06, 2009, 07:55:50 PM
Hi James and Paul,

Since we're in the limbo between first-version and new-version rules, I should clarify the points for purposes of your game. I'm going to assume that it's OK with you guys to adopt some of the new rules concepts; after all, I wrote them in order to bring the game into yet better play-procedures, and I think it's probably more constructive to learn and use them than it is to try to band-aid or mess about with the older versions.

Also, James, I'll be interested in those generalizations.

Quote
1.  Trollbabes with numbers close to either extreme appear to be at a very serious disadvantage in the game.  The GM can, if she were a total ass-wipe, declare a whole string of unfavorable conflicts, which would just pummel the player horribly.  Alternately, if the player declares a favorable conflict, the GM could always add the Social action type, screwing the player again.  (I'm not saying this would ever happen among non-ass-wipes, but the fact that it could happen at all is pretty weird.)

Not as bad as you might think. The GM and player are equal when it comes to conflict declaration within a scene, so potential to see that fear expressed in play is pretty minimal compared with most games. I recommend completely ignoring the multiple Action Type rules; those are absent from the new rules and tended to cause trouble with conflict goals.

Quote
2.  Let's say in Conflict 1, a Trollbabe gets Incapacitated.  Some time passes, we frame a scene where she recovers back to Injured.  She then gets involved in Conflict 2, which features two different Action Types, and therefore she rolls two dice.  Both dice fail.  Does this mean that she's straight Incapacitated again?  Poor Paul kept running into this repeatedly in the game.  (I should mention that this was the nightmare scenario about Injury, I think, that fortunately never arose in our first session, but kept coming back to haunt me during our second session.  I felt a very strong need to hand-wave Thora's injuries away, in part because it would spare me from having to parse the text, and to be nice to Paul.  It seems there's something very close to a death-spiral there.)

Well, we can reduce the noise of the problem by sticking with one Action Type. Another way to do it is simply to recover back to full capacity, which is a lot easier in the new rules too.

And finally, the new rules treat Injured as injured, period. In other words, taking another injury while injured doesn't bump the character to incapacitated - she's just now injured twice, that's all, and the rules-status of injured remains unchanged. She begins the conflict closer to incapacitation than she would if uninjured, but the initial failed roll merely hurts her again with no rules-effect beyond later narrational concerns; it doesn't pop her to incapacitated right away.

Quote
3. It looks like an extremely clever and socially attentive player could run rings around a GM, first by initiating conflicts (which looks like it's a key skill in the game as it allows players some Director-level stance over the scenario), and then by clever use of Goals, would never need to spend re-rolls until a real emergency.  She runs the risk of being repeatedly being discommoded in conflict after confict, but because she never re-rolls she doesn't get clobbered.  Meanwhile she can narrate failure to avoid severe problems - and who knows, maybe she'd win.  This appeared to be Dave's approach with "Ingrid"--I don't think he spent a re-roll the entire game, and he was clever enough about avoiding conflicts or stating his Goal so that losing the conflict was usually a pretty mild occurrence.  This is in contrast to Paul, who kept going for re-rolls and getting hammered.  Snagging re-rolls is a fun thing, mechanically and narratively--but it looks like it's not "optimal" play to the extent such thoughts apply to the game of Trollbabe.

How is this running rings around a GM? You're assuming the GM wants the trollbabe to get into conflicts and take damage, which is bad Trollbabe GMing because it's play-before-play.

Let's clarify something: you're failing to do something here. You're failing to work with the conflicts that the trollbabe keeps losing. Accepting the failure and not re-rolling means she loses in whatever conflict of interest has come up. That means she gets physically pushed around, psychologically victimized, socially marginalized, physically restrained in freedom of movement, and above all, nothing she wants happens.

You need to make those lost conflicts stick, narratively. They need to have consequences for the trollbabe and consequences for the Stakes.

Quote
4.  What happens if two Trollbabes team up to take on one villain (having complementary but different Goals)?  I ended up running this as two Conflicts in series, rather than in parallel, but I wasn't sure if there's a preferred approach.

That's a complex and carefully-outlined topic in the new rules. For now, you're probably best off sticking with the parallel conflicts like you're doing, but to make this work, make sure the goals are orthogonal - in other words, both might succeed, both might fail, and either/or in both directions. Also, a new-rules thing you can try is to have the second trollbabe to announce (or get announced into) the conflict be constrained by the Pace of the first.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: angelfromanotherpin on March 07, 2009, 06:28:18 AM
I just want to say that I find it hilarious that each of your Trollbabes specializes in the magic of the species they've never interacted with.  In my experience, most players see the two-choice species-specific Magic specialization as the indicator of which of the two peoples they are more familiar with.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 07, 2009, 10:49:29 AM
While keeping in mind that I really enjoyed this game, I did experience some frustration on the mechanics level (again, not enough to ruin the game for me, but I did go home scratching my head about it afterwards).

I think Dave experienced some of that, too. We both had Trollbabes with extreme Numbers (2 and 8). This meant that we were pretty effective in a conflict suited to our strengths. However, when a conflict came up that was NOT suited to our strengths, things looked very grim, and I felt completely unsure about how to handle that.

For instance, my Trollbabe had great Fighting odds, right? Her number was an 8. But her Social and Magic were pretty awful--and Dave's Social roll was a 1 in 10.

However, I did not see my character as a violent Trollbabe at all. And the scenario (essentially, the best outcome would be to reunite two lovers and create peace between two villages) is not one that seems like it could or should be solved with a fight.

Having gone all the way to Incapacitated in my very first conflict, I found myself in situations were I constantly faced potential Social or Magic conflicts.

Having no real recourse to rerolls (or more than one, or two at most, being Incapacitated or Injured), it was tempting to just avoid conflict altogether. Win 2 out 3 when your odds are 20% per roll? Pretty unlikely. For Dave, Social conflicts were 10%--almost inconceivable to see a victory, unless you're only rolling once.

What it led to is that we always tried to bring a second conflict mode into every conflict. James let us do so, and things came off well in the end, even though they felt awkward mechanically.

I'm left wondering whether that feeling of helplessness was due to some misunderstanding of the mechanics on my part, misguided play, the consequence of having extreme Trollbabe Numbers, or something else altogether.

It's worth noting, I think, that it never became a social issue among the players. To me, it felt like we (all three) were all enjoying the game. Conversely, we (again, all three) were all concerned about how we could get anything other than a total death spiral as a conclusion to the story. James, as the GM, particularly had a worried look on his face when it seemed like his role was to push a Social conflict onto a Trollbabe with such a low chance of success.



Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 07, 2009, 11:36:16 AM
I just want to say that I find it hilarious that each of your Trollbabes specializes in the magic of the species they've never interacted with.  In my experience, most players see the two-choice species-specific Magic specialization as the indicator of which of the two peoples they are more familiar with.

I'm not kidding about using Post-It notes to remind me which Trollbabe was which.  During the first session, I made Dave point to his (human) ears and made Paul mime little horns, to remind me.  At the start of the second session, I nearly insisted on swapping the Trollbabe's magic-types to avoid losing my mind.

Paul, the good news is that a Trollbabe can shift her Number between adventures, so you're not completely screwed.  But I think you guys were in for some hard times.  I understand why Ron made social rolls to be the smaller of the two ranges: if it's the larger, you end up with these super-competent trollbabes and there's a strong incentive to pick an extreme Number.  But if it's the smaller of the two ranges, then there's more incentive to pick a Number between 4-6, which means that you still fail pretty often but at least have a fighting chance in every Conflict.

I actually have a lot to say about Trollbabe, but I'll save some of it for a little bit later.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 07, 2009, 11:44:16 AM
James,

Looking forward to hearing more.

Just for the record, I'm totally down with "Social range is the smaller of the two". That makes sense to me on every level, from a designer's standpoint.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 07, 2009, 01:43:26 PM
One more note:

James,

You know what you described in Judd's Dogs thread? I totally felt that, too, and it took the wind out of the game a bit.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 07, 2009, 02:08:48 PM
Hi Paul,

Clearly something was not fun for you. You've danced around it in every post so far and I'm getting a little tired of trying to read between the "We really had fun but" parts.

What was it? Spit it out, please. Remember, this isn't like any other site. The content supercedes the conversation. I really want you to say what you mean; there are no social consequences or points to be scored or lost.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 07, 2009, 06:19:19 PM
Ron,

I wanted to make sure I didn't come across as being too negative (this being the Internet), so I tried to mention now and then that the game was fun. It seems I overdid it--now you seem to be saying "the lady doth protest too much". :)

However, I meant exactly what I said. I had a great time, really enjoyed the game.

What I didn't like is exactly what is being discussed, here and in Judd's Dogs thread: there was a point where it seemed like success was so difficult that we all ended up softballing a little. James felt he had to pull his punches, and Dave and I (or maybe just me--I shouldn't put words in his mouth) weren't sure how to push our characters' agendas. It wasn't disastrous or unpleasant, but it felt a little like walking on thin ice. Like we were tiptoeing a bit in order to avoid a potentially seriously unfun situation.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 07, 2009, 07:26:16 PM
Hmm.  I'm worried this conversation is heading backwards.  Paul's issues don't make sense without understanding the context (both fictional and mechanical) in which they arose.  Explaining the fictional context requires me to explain my scenario & GM'ing, which first requires some explanation about my prep, which gets me back into "big picture" observations about one of Trollbabe's unstated design priorities. 

Sigh.  That's going to take time.  Let me start on the design issue.

An All-Too-Common Trollbabe Conversation

A lot of conversations about Trollbabe begin with the phrase, "It's actually a really good game!"  By which I mean: gamers love to roll their eyes at the title and, to some extent, the premise.  I've seen a lot of conversations on the Adept Press Forum that go sort of like this:

Dude - "Hey, I like the rules of Trollbabe, but not the, y'know... Trollbaby part of it. So I'm thinking, like, half-vampires!  Or Hellboy!  Or... like, yeah totally Half-Micronaut/Half-ROM Spaceknight!"

Ron - "(nearly chokes on his own bile) What are you doing?!  Trollbabes are part of Trollbabe.  That's why I call it 'Trollbabe.'  That choice of color is totally non-incidental.  I can't stop you from doing whatever you're going to do, but I want to.  It's a key design element."

Dude - "But... but... I mean... Trollbabes, Ron?  Seriously?"

Ron - "Yeah seriously!  People see a title like Trollbabe, they can't stay away!  It's like they have to play it.  I sense great insecurity in you.  Stop fretting over what some hypothetical person might think."

Dude - "Ain't nothing hypothetical: I left it lying around one time, and my girlfriend gave me a sarcastic look.  And I'm like, 'No, actually, it's a great game...'"

(This conversation obviously only exists in my mind as a distillation of many internet threads about Trollbabe.)

The Death of Daydreamer Fantasy
What's really going on here is a disconnect among fans of fantasy fiction who remember 1970's pop culture and those who do not.  "Fantasy," as it existed in the early 1970's, bears almost no relation to the label as it's used today.  We have, as a culture, lost something--and lost it so thoroughly that anyone who came of age in the early 1980's or afterward probably has no clue it ever existed. 

Bear with me for a second as I invent some distinctions within fantasy fiction.  Perhaps most familiar to readers today is High Fantasy--epic quests and myth cycles in the style of Tolkien or Dunsany.  Far less well represented on modern bookshelves, Sword & Sorcery fantasy: Conan, Fafhrd, those guys.  You've also got Weird Fantasy, now largely forgotten: A. Merrit & William Hodgson, for example; this shades a little bit into Lovecraft territory too. 

But, for a brief time from the mid-1960's to the mid-1970's, there was also the sub-niche of Daydreamer Fantasy.  By the late 60's, college kids had gotten tangled up with Tolkien and fairy tales, and tied this stuff into their revolt against notions of Progress and Industry.  Major works of Daydreamer Fantasy include the works of Vaughn Bode, Richard & Wendy Pini's Elfquest stuff, Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, a smidgen of R. Crumb's work, the art of Jim Holloway, some of the art of Erol Otus (though it's more properly part of the Weird Fantasy tradition).  Musically, maybe some of the "fantasy songs" by Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.

It was underground fantasy, largely uncommercialized: 'zine stuff at best, enjoyed by dweeby comics geeks, wifty stoner chicks, and heavy metal motorheads.  It was, for a while, a distinct strand of early 70's youth culture.

And then it pretty much got lost completely.  You can still see strands of it: The Muppet Show; some of the character designs in the Star Wars films (the Jabba Palace stuff, Dagobah, and the Ewoks especially).  James West, of course, rocks this stuff so hard.  But by and large, Daydreamer Fantasy got eaten alive by the twin forces of commercialization and the fanboys' desire to concrete-ize everything. 

Trollbabe is proudly and unapologetically carrying on the tradition of Daydreamer Fantasy, almost single-handedly.  We joke about these "hippie RPG's" of ours, but in an important way Trollbabe really is a Hippie RPG. 


It is difficult to explain how completely this sub-genre has been scrubbed from our cultural memory.  So you've got . . . gamers of a certain vintage, like Ron, saying, "See?  'Trollbabe,' get it? (gestures at something which no longer exists)"  And anyone born after, say, 1974 saying, "What are you talking about?"  The bitching about the name is a symptom of this cultural impoverishment, because "Trollbabe" is an absolutely pitch-perfect name for a work in this tradition.

I want to connect this broad sociological comment to the specifics of our play, but I need to get some sleep.



Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: David Berg on March 07, 2009, 09:23:21 PM
Re: "softballing":

The characters' situation was such that losing conflicts generally meant being sidetracked off the quest, which was to get to the big number one issue in the game and address it.  If Paul's character Thora gets captured by humans, now we have to play some more scenes before we can get to the confrontation in the dell with Virashprocket to resolve the game's main issue, the fate of Gentwood.  In our goal of addressing the main issue in limited time, we really didn't want Thora to be captured.  As such, James and Paul totally forgot that Thora was at Incapacitated (or maybe just Injured?) going into the conflict with the humans.  I remembered, but didn't point it out.  Afterward, I think there was some vague, "Oh, wait, wasn't Thora all messed up?" talk, but no one wanted to revise what had already been introduced into the SIS.  Other similar instances of willful ignorance + fudging followed. 

This "uh, whatever, let's start from this box on the flow chart, that's friendlier" attitude was enabled by some minor confusion over injury levels (which aren't recorded on character sheets), starting position on the conflict flow chart (w.r.t. injury), and movement along the flow chart in multi-attribute conflicts (i.e. using multiple dice per roll).  We spent a few minutes trying to figure these things out, but when that wasn't sufficient for us to grasp everything, we weren't inclined to keep at it due to our ticking clock.

Hopefully that helps clear up some facts. 

As for overall takeaways from the experience:
- These glitches didn't bother me much; I felt like if it had been important for us to solve them, we would have.
- I really enjoyed the way we all felt prompted to fill in a lot of thematic and aesthetic prompts/blanks with our own spins on game color.  Trolls as Midsummer Night's Dream fairies and troll magic vs human magic as animal-communing vs. clockwork... making that stuff up rocked.  I'll happily elaborate if this thread goes in that direction.

Ps,
-Dave (/David/whatever)


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2009, 05:27:12 AM
My recollection of rules-fudging is that it only happened once, when we were mid-way through a Conflict and I realized I'd goofed up the injuries, and decided, "Ah screw that, we'll remember it next time."

Deep Prep
As Paul, Dave, and almost everyone who's played Trollbabe attests, one of the most pleasing aspects of play comes from all the incidental color that gets thrown into the game.  This isn't accidental: Trollbabe exists as kind of an empty space for painting all kinds of trippy groovy fantasy colors, as befits a Daydreamer Fantasy style of play. 

So, as a general principle, I wanted to do something interesting and fun with the trolls.  The art and text of Trollbabe give the impression that trolls are basically these hairy, horned dudes who are into shamanism and who occasionally eat things they shouldn't eat.  Frankly, this does little for me, imaginatively.  So I hit up Wikipedia's Scandinavian Folklore page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_folklore), including the nifty links at the bottom of the page, and browsed around until I got inspired.  Scandinavian / Teutonic myth is a deep part of the cultural heritage of the English-speaking world, but one that seldom gets a lot of attention. 

Contrary to the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, in actual folklore there's little distinction between trolls, fairies, goblins, pixies, brownies, sylphs, ogres, etc - so I decided that the word "troll" in Trollbabe encompassed all of these things, a catch-all for the charming-and-monstrous critters of Fairy-Land.  And this is cool, because in folk-tales Fairy-Land only exists as a counter-part or foil to human communities, a sort of critique or antithesis of whatever human value is under discussion.  So functionally it's no different than the way trolls work in Trollbabe's implied setting, but it's a little more fun for me personally.

I should stress that none of this prep was intended to function as a bestiary, sociology, world-history of Fairy-Land, or any of that shit.  Instead: this is the stuff that the Daydreamer Fantasy guys were turning on to.  It's more of a feeling or a state of mind.



Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2009, 11:22:26 AM
Hi Paul,

However, I meant exactly what I said. I had a great time, really enjoyed the game.

What I didn't like is exactly what is being discussed, here and in Judd's Dogs thread: there was a point where it seemed like success was so difficult that we all ended up softballing a little. James felt he had to pull his punches, and Dave and I (or maybe just me--I shouldn't put words in his mouth) weren't sure how to push our characters' agendas. It wasn't disastrous or unpleasant, but it felt a little like walking on thin ice. Like we were tiptoeing a bit in order to avoid a potentially seriously unfun situation.
For myself, if I had walked on thin ice and skirted a seriously unfun situation, I couldn't call it a great time or that I really enjoyed the game. That's me, obviously, but close shaves with seriously unfun situations doesn't reduce your overall rating of an activity?


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 08, 2009, 04:42:34 PM
Wow.

I started this thread hoping to discuss our little threesome's experience playing Trollbabe, both to highlight certain issues with a particular set of rules, and to critique a certain design feature common across a broad swath of Indie Games.  But if the process of sharing our experiences with y'all means, when a participant says "I felt X", somebody else says or implies "No, you really felt Not-X" not once but twice, it really saps my desire to share, y'know?

I don't want to speak for Paul or Dave.  But I'm not here for therapy.  I'm here to provide field test data.  I still wanna do it, but that requires a certain baseline level of trust.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on March 08, 2009, 07:45:54 PM
I like your literary analysis of Trollbabe, James. It gives me more strands for my own understanding - I'd sort of come to the same conclusion you do here, except the literary antecedents are somewhat different for me here in a different country and a different decade. Although I'm considerably too young for a firsthand experience of the cultural wave you describe, this stuff is very familiar to me second-hand, and not the least because what you call "daydreamer fantasy" is a much larger part of the fantasy culture landscape here in the Nordic countries than it seems to be in modern USA.

I'll obviously need to check out this Wizards, though - everybody seems to reference it in this context, and the only Bakshi film that's remotely known in these parts is Lord of the Rings. Should clearly get to know his work better.

Nothing substantial to add on the actual topic, though. Carry on.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 09, 2009, 05:17:37 AM
Quote
this stuff is very familiar to me second-hand, and not the least because what you call "daydreamer fantasy" is a much larger part of the fantasy culture landscape here in the Nordic countries than it seems to be in modern USA.

Eero, that's interesting: it kind of matches my (uninformed) cultural stereotype about European fantasy stuff.  I'm curious: what's the bookstore situation look like in your country?  In the United States, we've got a "Science-Fiction" section and a "Fantasy" section.  About half the shelf-space for each, is devoted to franchised novels (Star Trek, Dragonlance, etc.).  The rest of the "Fantasy" section is largely full of Tolkien-clones.  Is that the case where you live?

Wizards is . . . well, it was very eye-opening for me, because it's a pretty pure expression of this school of Fantasy, and it re-arranged a lot of things in my mind to help me recognize where Trollbabe is coming from.  It's fun, light-weight stuff.  I especially like the voice of the Avatar character.

Anyway: back to the Trollbabe session:

Shallow Prep
I came up with the scenario 18 months ago, when my girlfriend and I were living through the End of the World.  In 2006-2007, my girlfriend and I were living through the End of the World.  You know the emotional tenor of Cormac McCarthy's The Road?  Such were our lives. 

The basic set-up was like this: you've got this troll who despises himself, and the more he despises himself, the more monstrous he becomes (due to a curse).  Figuring out how to help him is non-trivial, because the more you help him, the more indebted and miserable he feels, and therefore sinks deeper into the curse.  This is Gantwood

The Stakes are: what happens to Gantwood? and the Consequences are: Gantwood overcomes the curse and re-joins the troll community, or, Gantwood becomes a ravenous slaughter-beast who kills humans (and possibly other trolls).

The curse was inflicted by Wirresprocket, a fiendish elf-type of guy, who wants to have his way with Gantwood's puppy-love girlfriend.  So via magic, Wirresprocket burns down a human's barn and plants evidence that Gantwood was responsible.  Gantwood, chased by humans, comes to Wirresprocket for help... and Wirresprocket works a debt-curse upon him.

Gantwood's love-interest is Mollywort, who wants to help him but doesn't know how.  Wirresprocket is making the moves on her and wants to get married. 

The only guy who knows the score is Klaus, a human huntsman who chased after Gantwood and saw Wirresprocket put the curse on him.  Unfortunately, Wirresprocket captured Klaus and put a spell on him that forbids him to reveal the secret.

There were a few other details too--some cute NPC's and an idea about Wirresprocket's wedding ring--but that's the gist of it. 



Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on March 09, 2009, 08:07:16 AM
Eero, that's interesting: it kind of matches my (uninformed) cultural stereotype about European fantasy stuff.  I'm curious: what's the bookstore situation look like in your country?  In the United States, we've got a "Science-Fiction" section and a "Fantasy" section.  About half the shelf-space for each, is devoted to franchised novels (Star Trek, Dragonlance, etc.).  The rest of the "Fantasy" section is largely full of Tolkien-clones.  Is that the case where you live?

The situation in this regard is sort of interesting here because the concept of genre literature itself is a very American phenomenon. In the bookstore this means that the "fantasy" section tends to include first and foremost translated American literature which is explicitly recognized as belonging to the genre of fantasy. (80% Tolkien-clones here and less franchises, incidentally.) And then we have the local stuff which might or might not go into the fantasy shelf, not depending on whether it's fantasy literature but on whether it is marketed as such with American fantasy iconography. Thus a Finnish sword & sorcery novel will get categorized into fantasy while a love story between a troll and human well might not, even when written by an established genre author. It's sort of like every writer here is Doris Lessing and nobody knows what to do with them.

...actually, that's probably not so different from the American situation. I imagine that writers get shunted into weird genres there as well depending on how the publisher decides to market a given book. It's just that we have such a small market area that most published authors are not genre literature, which makes the actual fantasy section very translation-dependent.

That viewpoint might also explain the perceived disappearance of "daydreamer fantasy" - could it be simply that it's a genre of fantasy that's not routinely categorized on the right shelf in the mindspace? As described above, any fantasy literature that isn't a Howard or Tolkien pastiche will play the odds in the bookstore as to where it ends up. Considering the Finnish fantasy literature, which tends to be more "high literature" than recent American stuff, it's often presented in the mainstream shelves where it tends to get lost as a "genre" in its own right.

But, this is seriously drifting. Appropriate topic of the Adept Press forum, I imagine.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 09, 2009, 09:17:25 AM
Let me jump in here again.

James,

Your post about Daydreamer Fantasy is incredibly insightful, and has made a lot of this make sense for me. And your interpretation of Trolls through mythology also brings the whole thing together in such a way that I had assumed it was the way Trollbabe was, and the only way it could be. I'd like to read the book, now, to see what's actually presented there. (I've been procrastinating on this, of course, because I'd rather read the new, upcoming text, and so I wait.)

Just wanted to say that was great stuff, and I really enjoyed reading what you wrote there.

The scenario outline really made some things click into place, as well--since we didn't get to see it all in play. Would it be inappropriate to ask you to spill the beans about the wedding ring, etc.?


Callan,

You are right, of course. Such hiccups do reduce the quality of play. However, they don't automatically make fun into un-fun. That's the distinction I was trying to make. I think Dave (Berg) explained it well--there was a slight feeling of disconnect between what the rules were and what we were trying to do, story-wise and game-wise. Part of it may have been the need to wrap up quickly, as well. Had we been playing in the middle of the day, with no deadline by which to end things, we might have been more relaxed about it.

The situation was more like:

"Hang on, this is strange. These odds look bad. How's this going to go? I'm getting worried this might not be any fun..."

"..." (some more play, which may or may not have involved fudging some rules)

"Oh, OK! It all turned out well. That was fun!"

I don't know if that makes any more sense to anybody. Kind of like when you have fear something might go wrong, but then are relieved that it turned out well instead.

It IS something I would worry about were I to play Trollbabe again, however. I'm not sure I would be able to relax and trust the rules to do their thing. And that's why I brought it up on this forum.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 10, 2009, 11:47:12 AM
Hi guys,

Here's my take, and I hope it's believable that I'm not telling you how much fun you had, or whether that was enough fun. I can, however, make a pretty good case about how the interplaying parts of Trollbabe work, and how I see from this thread that certain parts were not utilized to their full (and fully trustworthy) extent. I'm not sure I have the time to write it in the most elaborate and pedagogical way, though. Maybe brevity will help.

The key issue is the Stakes. Paul, you wrote about them in a way which jarred me upright: that the trollbabes were supposed to get to a certain place in order to confront a problem which would then resolve the scenario.

Whoa.

In playing Trollbabe, the characters are under no obligation to do any such thing. Sooner or later their actions and inactions will resolve the Stakes, even if they come nowhere near it, find out nothing about it, care nothing about it if they do, and do nothing about it directly. In that extreme circumstance (and I stress, not necessarily to be avoided!), the GM's job is to "close the case" and have the Stakes meet his, her, or its end as dictated by the circumstances.

Long ago, Jesse wrote that he struggled with the perception that Trollbabe was about "hunt the wumpus" scenarios. We talked about that quite a bit, and I think that over time, he found that there was no need to treat the Stakes as a goal for the scenario, but as a tool for the GM to know when the adventure was over, no matter what happened, what the trollbabes did or didn't do, or whether they succeeded or failed at what they wanted.

I'm going only by what's been posted here, but the issues of failed conflicts, the issues of "not getting where we need to be," and the issues of injury and incapacitation - which resulted as you've both written, in cautious play focusing mainly on Color - all seem to me to reduce to that single point.

If, say, two trollbabes are in an adventure and both end up incapacitated, or incapacitated enough times, as to be ineffective regarding the Stakes - then no big deal. The Stakes end up going in a particular "way" (live or die, escape or remain caged, et cetera) and you have a grim and battered story as a result. I think embracing that possibility isn't such a bad thing.

Let me know what you think.

Final point: James, that was a great orientation post about fantasy and Trollbabe. However, I submit that the activity of this type of fantasy is still very much with us, although it is not currently commodified. I sometimes think that's for the better.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 10, 2009, 02:48:57 PM
Ron, thanks for that post, and for the way in which you made it.  I certainly welcome any advice or diagnosis; later on this evening, I'll try to describe the events of the session in more detail so that everybody's operating from the same body of data. 

Quote
I submit that the activity of this type of fantasy is still very much with us, although it is not currently commodified. I sometimes think that's for the better.

Agree 100% on how lucky we are to have escaped its commodification.  Rock 'n Roll may be dead, but at least we still have this.  I have to say that in my experience, artworks of Daydreamer Fantasy are all-too-thin on the ground, but as sort of a widespread collective-unconsciousness type of thing, I think this is where everyone's imagination lives, at least when it's allowed to operate freely.  I think that's a big part of the appeal: it feels so intuitive and natural, like the easiest thing in the world.

Anyway-- quickie adventure summary and rules points to follow.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: David Berg on March 10, 2009, 03:45:13 PM
Hi Ron,
I have no trouble at all imagining a given game of Trollbabe unfolding exactly as you describe (incapacitated PCs, dire resolution of stakes), and I agree that's a fun possibility to keep on the table.

However, I have a lot of trouble imagining how that could have unfolded in this particular game we played.  My impression was that the PCs themselves were major agents of change in this scenario, and that without us pushing things along, the situation might grind to a rather slow pace, slow enough that nothing would get resolved by the end of the evening.

Of course, with the PCs neutralized, James could simply have given us a distilled narration, even relating years of in-game time in a few minutes if that's what would cover Gantwood's arc.  But man, that would have felt weird.  Without Paul and I responding to evolving situations, James would have had to simply decide, "Uh, well, I guess at some point Gantwood would get driven out... and then, with no one to help him, the humans would probably find and kill him eventually..."  That seems distinctly less fun.

So, I'm curious to see what other options we had, options which I failed to anticipate.  James, maybe you have actual answers to some of this?  If you'd rather wait on that topic, that's cool, no hurry.

-David

P.S. Re: Daydreamer Fantasy vs modern fantasy, I wonder where ElfQuest fits in?  Timbuckle and Hobwart had me thinking Petalwing and Picknose...


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 10, 2009, 05:58:35 PM
Dave, there was certainly a fail condition in the scenario: Mollywort marries Wirresprocket and together they agree to "adopt" Gantwood, driving him into madness to the point where he completely loses it and gets killed.  This is a bummer, but Daydreamer Fantasy carries with it the possibility of bummers.  (In my only time playing Trollbabe, a little girl was sacrificed to a sea-demon.  C'est la vie.)  It wasn't a foregone conclusion; I suppose there were a lot of ways to solve the problem: disrupt the wedding, remove the curse, take Gantwood away from a toxic environment. use evidence from Klaus to absolve Gantwood, etc.

Actual Play
Scene 1 - Ingrid, the trollbabe raised by humans - is in the Silent Forest, talking to the animals, when she hears a monster crashing through the underbrush.  Retreating, she sees it is a troll: Gantwood.  Ingrid tries to make friends with Gantwood, but he panics and knocks her unconscious.  (Minor Social Conflict - Ingrid fails to make friends with Gantwood.)

Scene 2 - Thora, the trollbabe raised by trolls, while passing through the Silent Forest, encounters Mollywort, who seems agitated about her friend Gantwood.  Relieved to have someone's shoulder to cry upon, she invites Thora to her house in the Dell.

Scene 3 - Ingrid is awakened by Timbuckle, a troll-child who is an apprentice scare-monger, who excitedly takes her back to the Dell.  On entering the Dell, Ingrid performs a magic ritual to see if she has any relatives here.  (Player-initiated Minor Magic conflict - Ingrid discovers that Wirresprocket is her relation.)

Scene 4 - At the Dell, we get an info-dump: Mollywort's parents Hobwort and Aniseed disapprove of Gantwood in varying degrees, and Aniseed looks forward to Mollywort's marriage to Wirresprocket.  Wirresprocket, meanwhile, is disturbed that two trollbabes have come into his little fiefdom, and tries to either drive them out, or magically compel their loyalty to him.  (Medium Social + Magic Conflict - Thora and Ingrid remain free within the Dell, and Ingrid wins Wirresprocket's trust in a we-recognize-each-other-as-schemers sort of way.)

Scene 5 - Thora gently suggests that Mollywort shouldn't marry Wirresprocket, and they go hunting to find Gantwood.  (Player initiated Medium Magic + Fighting conflict - Thora fails to find him before the humans do, and Thora is incapacitated.)  Paul narrates this as she finds Gantwood . . . but is captured by the humans hunting him.  Thora buys enough time for Gantwood and Mollywort to escape.

===At this point, we broke because it was late at night, and reconvened a week later===

Scene 6 - Ingrid (who was brought into Scene 5 as a "sudden ally") protects Mollywort and tries to track down the escaping Gantwood.  She then tries to ascertain what's wrong with Gantwood generally.  (Player-initiated Medium Magic conflict - Ingrid discovers that Gantwood is cursed, so that the more indebted/incapable he feels, the more bestial he becomes.)

Scene 7 - Thora recovers in a human camp, watched over by Asgerd (mother of Klaus-the-captive).  Thora, who's never dealt with humans before (role-played very nicely by Paul), tries to make friends.  (Player initiated Social + Magic conflict, in order to get some extra dice due to Paul's terrible Social score - Thora fails and is either Incapacitated or Super-Incapacitated (we got mixed up here) - resulting in Asgerd deploying a magical manacle to force Thora to lead the hunters directly to the Dell.) 

That's where things begin to get wobbly: Paul went from being Incapacitated, to Injured, to (at least) Incapacitated again, pretty much immediately.  It didn't help that Paul's dice are broken and cannot roll successes.  But I think he felt somewhat de-protagonized by the rules, because he couldn't really do much.

Scene 8 - Ingrid and Gantwood head out to rescue Thora.  There may be a minor social conflict with Mollywort, can't remember.

Scene 9 - Thora, still reeling under Asgerd's magic, tries to lead them astray.  (Minor Magic Conflict - Thora leads them to a "false Dell".)  There's a very funny scene where Thora tries to mimic the ferocious man-eating trolls and intimidate the huntsmen into fleeing.  (Medium Fighting + Social conflict - Throa scares off several of the hunters.)

During this conflict, I forgot that Thora was already Incapacitated, and couldn't re-think the series/re-rolls/etc. to correct it, so we just went with it.  It's the only point in the game where I overturned the rules.  I suspect this would have been Paul's third Incapacitation in three scenes, had I remembered the rules.

As Thora makes a ruckus at the "false Dell," Gantwood and Ingrid arrive.  (Player-Initiated Medium Fighting Conflict: Ingrid fails to drive the humans off without hurting them.)  Gantwood goes berserk and starts maiming / killing people.  (Player-Initiated Medium Fighting + Social Conflict: Ingrid manages to calm Gantwood down and save a few lives.)  Thora, meanwhile, persuades Asgerd to take off the manacle.  (Player initiated Minor Social conflict: Thora's a free woman.)

===At this point it was nearly midnight and I wanted to go to bed.  I thought about ending here (sucks) or postponing resolution for yet another week (sucks), but decided it'd be better to frame a quick resolution===

Scene 10 - The trollbabes take Gantwood, Asgerd, and the unconscious human surviors to the Dell.  Ingrid approaches Wirresprocket, and offers to take his rival away with her if he agrees to lift the curse.  Wirresprocket agrees, but reneges during the ritual.  He decides to poison Gantwood unto death.  (Major Magical Conflict - Ingrid cures Gantwood.)  Thora confronts Wirresprocket and beats him until he confesses in front of the Dell that he's the one who framed Gantwood (Major Fighting + Social Conflict - while dueling, Thora disgraces Wirresprocket).

Story ends with Gantwood cured, but helping to rebuild the Klaus's barn and his own sense of worth.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 10, 2009, 06:53:14 PM
James,

That's a great summary!

We also had a very children's film kind of ending (and I mean this in the best way), where the Trollbabes sentenced Wirresprocket and Gantwood to repair the damage done to the humans' village, and established peace between the two villages.

One minor correction which may or may not be important: I'm pretty sure that Thora getting free from Asgerd was a Fighting + Social conflict, was it not? And I seem to remember Thora initiating a conflict to keep Gantwood from hurting the humans in there, as well, and failing (she fell into the river, and Gantwood tore some human's arm off). Or am I mixing two things up? Anyway, it's probably not too important.

Also, does "Minor-Medium-Major" indicate the Pace of each conflict?


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 10, 2009, 08:33:29 PM
Hi guys,

I am torn again, because the new text is extremely focused on these issues - exactly how to utilize the Stakes, the events so far, and scene framing techniques. Not, I stress, to "keep the story on track," but to provide the circumstances such that whatever happens, it's a story.

Dave, I can see where the anticipation of less fun might come from if the trollbabes crash and burn, and if the Stakes get settled by the GM more or less on his own ... but no, it's not less fun. I can't say the current text literally teaches you how to do that, but the new text does. I mean, with diagrams, circles & arrows and examples. (All my new examples are based on actual play, by the way, no exceptions or massaging.)

Anyway, you guys don't have the new text, so I'm not sure how constructive I'm being in telling you this. Only, if you would, go ahead and try it next time and

Finally, deprotagonizing and failure ... well, it's hard to detach the two, but it can be done. Since you have the narration rights over the circumstances of most failure, it's worth considering that this is a crucial aspect of play. Sometimes I get the idea that we can all easily visualize our characters being our characters when they succeed, but less so when they fail. (This, despite our favorite comics and film and other genre heroes being stomped to dogshit all the time.) So it might be worth considering that if and when you play Trollbabe, her local failures in individual conflicts as well as her overall failures in larger terms are part of her as your heroic character. Preserving her hero-ness by putting her "value" into the circumstances of success is not really going into the darker, wilder territory of this kind of fantasy, I think.

It might help to think of a total bummer scenario, in terms of the impact on other people (and independent of the Stakes, possibly), as a prequel to the next adventure.

It also might help to think of the Stakes as not being defined as "trollbabe succeeds, trollbabe fails." For instance, if the Stakes are something like "the girl lives or the girl dies," then one of the two will happen - through whatever confluence of effects or events affected by the presence of the trollbabe in the situation. It does not mean that the scenario is "trollbabe saves the girl, trollbabe tries and fails to save the girl."

I hope this is useful advice and not a "you done it wrong" accusation. I'm harping on it because, well, I've corresponded with all of you about actual play for quite a long time now, to a great depth. I think this issue is important for you not merely in terms of Trollbabe, but in terms of Story Now as a general thing.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: David Berg on March 11, 2009, 11:15:20 AM
Dave, there was certainly a fail condition in the scenario: Mollywort marries Wirresprocket and together they agree to "adopt" Gantwood, driving him into madness to the point where he completely loses it and gets killed.

Oh, sweet.  That's actually quite thematically satisfying. 

Was that all you, or did the TB instructions help you craft that?

Ron,
All of your points make sense to me.  I think it's simply that, after a long enough play history of hit-and-miss fun with "let the GM handle everything for this segment of the narrative", I have a minor inclination to avoid that if possible, until the particular GM shows me that I'm in good hands. 

I suspect the disred result here is that I trust the game to handle this particular part of the narrative, and the game will help the GM reliably come up with cool shit like James did.  In a fair world, of course, the player just trusts that the game will work without requiring "prove it", much as with non-RPG games.  In the real world, though, I think some degree of explicit expectation-setting and procedural transparency might have helped me get out of my own way.

Like, if the rules instructed James to tell us, "This situation will wrap up in a way that, assuming you have any interest in the premise and theme involved, will be cool... even if both Trollbabes are killed!  This is hard-coded, and doesn't rely on me to be a genius!"  That would have informed me to play differently.

Whether this is mere procedural clarity or a step in an impossible fool's errand of hand-holding, I have no idea. 

I'm glad that the next edition will include more teaching text and diagrams.  I love that stuff.

Your post got cut off here:

Anyway, you guys don't have the new text, so I'm not sure how constructive I'm being in telling you this. Only, if you would, go ahead and try it next time and

Nice cliffhanger moment.  :)

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: David Berg on March 11, 2009, 11:17:46 AM
I suspect the disred result here
the DESIRED result


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: David Berg on March 11, 2009, 11:36:39 AM
Since you have the narration rights over the circumstances of most failure, it's worth considering that this is a crucial aspect of play.

This definitely caught my attention.  And it came up once or twice in our game.

However... I got plenty of chances to contribute to "where the story goes" via announcing character intentions and actions (which is what I'm used to when not GMing).  Plus, I had the creative outlet of throwing suggestions at James when some part of the setting called for fleshing out.  So, "the mechanics say I win narration rights" didn't strike me as being as big a deal as perhaps it was supposed to.  Accordingly, I might not have taken full advantage of the opportunity to make strong contributions to the story's direction, tone, theme, etc.

If I remember right, Paul and I used our failure narrations mostly to apply color to the failure, and not too much beyond that.

Not sure if there's a takeaway beyond the fact that I'm a noob to Story Now play.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 11, 2009, 01:44:38 PM
Paul, Thanks for the description, I get what you mean a bit more now.

I don't know the rules of trollbabe, but what I'm gleaming is that incapacitation has a large statistical effect - atleast on th option of further fighting. And I'm assuming on any physical/fighting conflict, there are odds of getting an incapacitation (I may very well be wrong - ignore the rest of this post if so). Ie, there are no 'just for show' fights or 'grind off a few hitpoints' fights. Did it seem like a significant choice about the trollbabes future (and the future of anyone she might have affected otherwise) at the time?


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: James_Nostack on March 11, 2009, 06:34:52 PM
Callan,

The only true effect of Incapacitation, under the rules, is that if--while you're still incapacitated--you fail some one more roll, you're seriously screwed (and possibly dead if the player chooses).

The difficulty with incapacitation, during our game, is that the rules imply that recovery shouldn't be a trivial matter.  So, my inclination was to keep Thora out of the story for, say, a day or so as she gets her act together.  This is problematic vis-a-vis two players in the same scenario, because while Thora licks her wounds, Ingrid's out there kicking ass all over the place, and it (comparatively) deprotagonizes Thora.  She's like the dude playing D&D whose character dies and he has to sit and watch for a while.

The obvious solution was to frame scenes for Ingrid over a longer time period - so Thora's recovery takes place a scene later (as happened in play) just that the next scene is days later.  Nobody's deprotagnized or even notices the problem.  Easy enough, but it was late after a hard day's work and it slipped my mind.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 11, 2009, 07:02:03 PM
James,

The interplay of rules is subtler than that, although I recognize that there's no way to explain it to someone who doesn't know the rules, including not even what a Series of rolls is.

Incapacitation is narrated either by GM or player, depending on who wins that final roll (and whether it goes to possible incapacitation and that final roll is player's choice in the first place, as you know). Let's stick with player narration for purposes of my point.

I'm playing the trollbabe. She gets incapacitated. How is precisely and only up to me. That means that if I narrate terrible wounds which will factor into later narration, and most immediately require a long time to recover to preserve even a hint of in-story plausibility, then it was my choice to do so. You, as GM, cannot possibly be deprotagonizing my character by according with the constraints which I, given 100% freedom about it, chose to impose.

If I want my trollbabe kickin' and rarin' to go as soon as possible in the story (and even, although I think it's another boogeyman, perhaps concerned not to "lose time" relative to another trollbabe), then all I have to do is narrate injury and incapacitation in ways which do not require much in-story time to recover from.

Paul and Dave, I don't know whether you were under the impression that narrating injury and incapacitation had to follow the same in-story content usually associated with those terms in role-playing games - and with the associated mechanics that impose considerable recovery time. In the case that that wasn't clear, then I'll state it here: they don't.

This is another rules-update issue, in two ways. First, various injury rules are now different, most significantly that Injured is a single status that isn't changed by being injured again, and also that recovery is much simpler and doesn't require "going back up the ladder". (That'll make a big difference to you, Paul, because you can get it all back with just one scene). Second, I've now integrated these rules with the narration issues from the Series itself, as I briefly touched on in the first part of this post.

Best, Ron
edited to remove redundant sign-off


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 11, 2009, 07:53:11 PM
Ah, Ron, that clears up a lot of things. Thank you for taking the time to discuss this with us in such great detail!

I just wanted to add:

You know how you said that the whole "player narrates failure" part is important?

Well, two things.

One, as I understood the rules (note: I have not read the book), once I was incapacitated and/or injured twice and rolling two different Action Types, failure meant that the GM narrated, unless I was prepared to narrate a death or other final fate for my character.

This may be due to a misunderstanding of the rules on my part. But it certainly caused part of the problem. It sounds like you're addressing it in the new text (and, possibly, the old text as well).

Two, and this is more of an observation I find interesting:

There is a distinctly different headspace, at least for me, for "narrating failure". In one such "headspace", I am a creative author, coming up with some interesting twist in the story that comes about from a character's failure. I'm used to exercising this as a GM, and also as a player in some games of my own design. In another headspace, there is a feeling of far less freedom.

In this game, I felt a strong identification with my character--partially because something about the Trollbabe setup draws me to "play myself" rather than create a totally separate persona, as some other games do. From that headspace, failure is painful and unpleasant--that's what identifying with the character means. When Thora failed her roll to find Gantwood before the humans did, it was instantly "obvious" to me, from that stance, that she would be captured by them. I don't know why or how, but there was no feeling of "hmmm, how could this turn out?" It was just immediately there, irrevocable and inescapable. There was no detailed thought process--that outcome was instantly in my mind, and with no room for reconsideration.

In that headspace, I want to advocate for my character, as a "character player" and not as an author. It's almost as though failure instantly brings to mind the worst possible fear I would have for the character.

Has anyone else experienced this sort of thing? Am I even making sense?

In any case, I wonder whether, as Dave hints, there is a different skillset necessary to play a game like Trollbabe...

Curious.


Paul



Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 12, 2009, 03:28:59 AM
Hi Paul,

Couple of things - also, the timing is rough for me right now, so this post may not be as tuned as it should be.

1. Narrating incapacitation is more graded than how you described it. An injured trollbabe who fails the next roll in the Series fails her Goal, full stop. But now the question is who narrates it? Default = the GM. But if you want, you can push for one more roll, to win narration, and that's the one that results either in your narration or the GM's narration with your death-option veto.

2. I really don't know if I'm going to be able to convince you of this point. But I am claiming that narrating "from the heart," based on strong character identification, is exactly the right thing to do in Trollbabe - for you as player when she fails (and also for the GM as your ally when she succeeds, which is not the point here). When you felt that her being captured was just right, then that's your narration, period.

I'm saying that what you're calling authoring isn't authoring! It's ... I dunno what, ceasing to play and story-conferencing. It's going "H'mmm, what plot event shall I put in now?" It's pure poison for Trollbabe. What you're calling character-identification play, that's the authoring.

My point to James is that this frees him totally as the GM. He can't de-protagonize the character by running with the immediately-logical consequences of whatever you narrated. (This applies to all player-narrated loss narrations.) That relates to the larger point of not thinking ahead to future scenes when framing a current one - ever, ever, ever.

My point to you is that this frees you totally as the player. Always narrate right from the heart and in the moment. I think you may have read my post above that you should narrate your trollbabe's failures strategically to minimize failure. I was saying the opposite: narrate exactly how you think and feel it happens next, in that moment. If it's harsh, then that's OK, because that cannot "ruin the story."

Most specifically, it cannot delay or distract or deviate from the march of the Stakes from the initial conditions to one of the end-conditions. The GM merely keeps that march going, no matter what. I don't mean to instruct you in your reading, but it may be helpful to review my post about the Stakes earlier in the thread, now that this post's content is up.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 12, 2009, 02:54:16 PM
Heya Paul,
When Thora failed her roll to find Gantwood before the humans did, it was instantly "obvious" to me, from that stance, that she would be captured by them. I don't know why or how, but there was no feeling of "hmmm, how could this turn out?" It was just immediately there, irrevocable and inescapable. There was no detailed thought process--that outcome was instantly in my mind, and with no room for reconsideration.
Did it feel like you were just following a rule in doing that?

I'm wondering if it just felt like a moment of rule following? And thus didn't feel like a moment of important story in the making. Just asking in case I'm not way off?


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 12, 2009, 04:55:43 PM
Ah, great!

In that case, Ron, we're totally on the same page.

The problem, as I see it, was either a misinterpretation of the rules or simply a stroke of bad luck, or both. The way I had understood it at the time was that the combo of being incapacitated and rolling two Action Types at once meant you went straight to the very last box on the page.


Callan,

That should answer your question as well: it's what Ron said. "Playing from the heart".

Trying to narrate something less "bad" for my character would have felt more like "rule following", and been less satisfying, less visceral. The way I did it, it felt very natural, not like a rule moment. It was all, "Oh, boy! This could go bad for my character!" (And, this fear of HOW it go really bad) Turning into: "And, a failure... that means the worst has materialized, oh no!"



Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 12, 2009, 06:10:05 PM
Eh, I was way off. But I'm still really curious. I mean, by playing from the heart, you did co-author following events even if you felt deprotagonised. The trollbabe being unable to effect them is because of how you played the injury from the heart. You can see the ongoing effect playing from the heart had on the narrative (even though it wasn't planned of course)? Or am I asking annoying questions?


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: David Berg on March 12, 2009, 07:44:52 PM
Note: this post is meant as data, not an argument.

Wirresprocket seemed like a dick.  Gantwood seemed sympathetic.  Neither Thora nor Ingrid stood to lose much that they valued by simply trying to "save the day".  It was kind of the obvious right thing to do: help Gantwood, try to patch things up between humans and trolls (at least to the extent of clearing up misunderstandings), and maybe smack down Wirresprocket if he proved himself evil enough.

Without any meaningful moral judgments to make, I was most interested in, "What happens when our intentions ram into the rest of the fiction, as mediated by the resolution system?"  Do we save Gantwood or not?  And, more importantly (for me), what does that look like?  What color is imparted to the proceedings?

As for strongly identifying with my character, I love gettin' my actor stance on, but there was no emotional investment there.  So my choice was either to just describe what I thought would logically happen or what Ingrid would logically do (which seemed less fun), or to story-conference every decision (mostly in my head) and come up with "what would be a cool addition to the story" (which seemed more fun).  I chose the latter, liked it, and stuck with it.

Perhaps after extended play, building up things that Ingrid cared about, a scenario that threatened those would offer me "just play my character and go with my gut" options that I'd find meaningful.  For a one-shot, though, I didn't find that traction, and opted for the source of fun I've found at con games of PtA.  Maybe if I played "story-conferencing" style more often, I'd get sick of it, but right now I'm still lovin' it.

I feel like there are a million questions I could ask Ron about "what should have gone differently?", but most are pretty idle curiosity, so I'll at least wait.  James, have we gotten to the points you wanted to make in this thread, or have we tangented you to death?  I'm perfectly content to shut up for a while and hear your other thoughts on our game...


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 12, 2009, 09:07:57 PM
Just a quick reply to Callan:

I'm sorry, but I cannot understand at all what you are asking.

If it helps: I don't think I ever said that I felt deprotagonized. If I did, call me out on it, but I don't remember saying so (or feeling that way during the game).

If that doesn't answer your question, please ask again!


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 12, 2009, 10:28:16 PM
Sorry Paul, I don't know why I added that word to the conversation! Replace 'deprotagonised' with 'feelings of helplessness' in what I said. What do you think?


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Paul T on March 13, 2009, 09:09:51 AM
Sorry, Callan, but that still doesn't help a whole lot. Are you asking "are you aware that, by narrating failure, you're contributing significantly to the story"?

If that's the question, then the answer is "yes". The problem, however, was two-fold:

1. Knowing how poor the odds were for my Trollbabe both I and the GM (James) felt some reluctance to engage the conflict mechanics at all. It felt in places that James was "going soft" on my character, which, while not the end of the world, was not optimal either. It's more fun to be able to push and push and see what happens, you know?

2. There was some confusion, perhaps, about the rules. In any case, my understanding was that after the first conflict, my failures would be narrated by the GM--at least most of the time.

I feel that the amount of ink spilled over this issue is really blowing it out of proportion, however. While it was present, it was just one incidental detail within a far larger play context.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Alan on March 13, 2009, 10:17:53 AM
When I've played the game, I really enjoy losing conflicts. I sometimes declare conflicts for my character and aim them at my weakest area just to get into more complications. Their a great way to acquire relationships too. I recall that even when I was Injured, it would take a failed reroll or two to get to the point where I risked having the GM narrate failure, so it always felt safe.

When I GMed the game, I see the same thing -- the game system makes Trollbabes very resilient and always gives the player the choice whether to risk giving up their narration rights on failure. I don't fear hitting the players hard because I've never seen that take them out of play.

I wonder if the way you interpreted the rules on series and rerolls might have been part of your reticence about conflicts.





Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 13, 2009, 01:41:45 PM
Callan, I don't know if you're annoying Paul, but you're annoying me. You are apparently angling toward some kind of comment on the game experience, related to your ongoing investigation of "rules" and "fun," that you're not stating outright and isn't forthcoming. Furthermore, you don't know the game, and probably don't know that Trollbabe is the first RPG ever in which not one instant of play is played without an explicit rule in action. I think you're in the wrong forest barking up the wrong tree.

But what I think isn't authoritative. I don't claim to be right about either your goal or the possible results. What I'm asking is for you to spit out what you're driving at, instead of this Socrates trip of leading questions.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 13, 2009, 03:30:52 PM
I don't know, my intuition itched. Is that something everyone else spits out? Paul, your right - I was way off once and seem to be off again as soon as I read your last post, so two strikes and I'm out. Thanks for working on it with me.


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 16, 2009, 07:35:15 AM
Yes, Callan, that is exactly what everyone else spits out. When your intuition itches, you say so, and if possible, about what. Plus with the acknowledgment that it may not be itching accurately.

Why? Because it tells everyone that you have introduced priorities of your own, and raises the possibility that they may or may not coincide with the initial purpose of the thread.

Please run a search on "antennae" in my posts and you'll see what I mean.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World
Post by: Callan S. on March 16, 2009, 02:23:37 PM
I don't understand, Ron, but I'm pretty sure talking about it here rather than in PM does not serve James' purpose for the thread any more so. I think PM'ing on the matter would be better, and keeping in mind that at the root of either of our posts, is constructive good will for people.