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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Jason Lee on February 22, 2003, 04:48:52 PM



Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Jason Lee on February 22, 2003, 04:48:52 PM
The FooFoo Factor is my pet name for measuring how "heroic" a game's system is.  I'm primarily talking about the damage system, but rules for things like fear, pain, and knockback count as well.

Low end foofoo being gritty violence (normal people freeze or run when faced with violence, and getting shot once kills you good and dead).  High end foofoo being superheroic action movie stuff (the hero can walk through uzi fire, and survive a fall out of the 30th story by cushioning his fall with a minivan).

My question is:
What game systems, or components thereof, use some sort of adjustable sliding scale for how heroic the system is?

I realize this is sort of a general question.  I'm just interested in looking at any ground work that might have been done, or any interesting ideas anyone might have.

All I can think of is Fuzion's 'AutoFire Ratio' (Reader's Digest version: The number of bullets that actually hit you on a succesful autofire attack is equal to the number of rounds fired divided by the AutoFire Ratio of the campaign).


Title: Foo Foo factor
Post by: RobMuadib on February 22, 2003, 07:13:19 PM
Cruciel


Hey, DC Heroes of like 2nd and 3rd edition had a nice set of Foo Foo factor Dials they called "Genre Rules". The major things they set where what types of weapons caused "Killing damage" automatically, versus the player having to declare it. in the game damage could be killing or standard, where standard couldn't kill you. Other considerations where How much you could push your abilities using Hero Points. Oh, and whether or not entering killing combat caused you to lose RP rewards. (Since most DC comics had a nice 4-color view of killing.) There were a couple of other details which i forget as well.

2nd edition shadowrun had a combat damage dial which let you change how lethal damage was. Hero system has a number of switches which move the combat from comic book SH to grittier and less forgiving. These were mostly optional rules for bleeding, wound penalties, you know the stuff that makes getting in a fight no fun in the real world. There were several other rules switches in Hero system that seperated Heroic/Superheroic reality. Though, by the nature of the system it never quite got down to gritty. These switches mostly involved power level, and the types of accounting for real world concerns you had to do.

DC Heroes is what I ripped off for setting up the 'Reality Rules" in my TMW:COTEC rules. There are several dials in the system for damage capacities, the HP cost of bonus dice on rolls, the limits to the number of bonus dice, etc. Plus a few ideas inspired from Hero system as well.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: clehrich on February 23, 2003, 01:03:32 AM
I think Fantasy Hero had something like this when they talked about campaign design types (High Fantasy, etc.).  I don't now recall whether they went into concrete detail about how to shift around the FooFoo factor, apart from the number of points a given character could have, and the number of points any one power could cost.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: contracycle on February 23, 2003, 02:43:25 AM
Jovian Chronicles Silhoette system has 3 settings to control the "cinematic realism" or something to that effect.  Its a selection you make at game setup.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Ian Charvill on February 23, 2003, 10:51:03 AM
Unsurprisingly GURPS has a number of rules which allow you to alter the foo-foo factor.  Points values for characters and the various cinematic combat rules are the most obvious ports of call.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Jason Lee on February 23, 2003, 02:11:15 PM
Rob,

My original thinking was that if you wanted a single mechanic for a FooFoo factor dial it'd need to be low level - at the core of the damage/combat system.  Example:  Heal 1 Health per day equal to FooFoo Factor.

DC heroes makes me think it can all be accomplished at a high level, by simply using a well designed token system.  Scale the game down to gritty, use the tokens to invalidate things, and allow the cinematic-worth/refresh-rate of the tokens to be adjustable as the FooFoo Factor. Example:  Health 1 Health per day.  Low: 1 token heals 0 Health per day, High: 1 token heals all Health in one day.

I didn't see the Reality Rules in the TMW:COTEC posts...is this big secret work in development or did I miss it?

Barring any brillant insight I'll probably work off the token approach (if I can figure out how to work in knockback).


Contracycle,

I couldn't find too much about the Jovian Chronicles rules (don't have the book either) other than they were called the 'Reality Distortion Level' and had something to do with ammunition, armor penetration, dice rolling, script immunity, and existential angst.  Can you give me the skinny?


Chris & Ian

Thx.  I don't have any comments...but I thought you deserved your names in bold letters too.


Title: What Scattershot Does
Post by: Le Joueur on February 23, 2003, 05:11:40 PM
We've been trying to do something like this with the Epic Index (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=25102#epic) in Scattershot.  In order to simplify the overall 'rules structures,' the Critical Threshold (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=25102#critical) is hooked directly to it (the sum must be less than or equal to 10 and chosen prior to play - if not written into the supplement - thus if the Epic Index is 4, the Critical Threshold cannot be over 6).  This lets the Mechanix adapt to the 'cinematic feel' of the Genre Expectation at hand.

It hasn't really been that intensely playtested yet.

Fang Langford


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 23, 2003, 07:00:27 PM
Hello,

I think that before this topic can really be discussed, its underlying assumption needs review.

That assumption is that a game can have a chassis or foundation of "realistic" mechanics in the first place. Given that assumption, then one might imagine a set of game mechanics that could add onto or otherwise expand the "bounds of realism," which is to say, unrealistic or Foo Foo.

But I don't think that assumption holds. I think that game design operates on a much different chassis, or specifically,  a much different range of them. And furthermore, that efforts to make a game "realistic" represent a modification of its existing chassis, not a stripping-away.

One example is the famous Hero System, especially its later versions as found in Champions 4th edition and the Fuzion crossover, Champions Millenium. These games offer excellent examples, probably the premiere published examples, of the "dials of realism vs. Foo Foo" that you're asking about. If you're not familiar with them, then I'd say, there ya go, question answered, and the topic would be done.

However, what is the chassis that the Foo Foo is built onto, in these games? It is a system of point-balance: a set of default attribute scores, a set of free points to add onto that as you see fit, and finally a further set of points which are "paid for" with disadvantage points.

What, bluntly, is realistic about that? Equally bluntly, the answer is "nothing." It's a system to ensure that characters are equipped with a certain profile of customizable abilities and disadvantages, situating them into the desired "genre" of play. The available "settings" are all pretty much the same, being fast-action modernist adventure stories, varying only in lethality and the scale of damage one might cause.

In other words, I think that making a point-blank bullet wound capable of killing a character is an addition to an existing set of agreements about "what play is about," not a fundamental feature of the game design.

And I also anticipate this post will be widely misunderstood, so I'm bracing myself for the onslaught ...

Best,
Ron


Title: Yep, I Misunderstand
Post by: Le Joueur on February 23, 2003, 08:24:23 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
[The] assumption is that a game can have a chassis or foundation of "realistic" mechanics in the first place.

Do we really need to go any farther?  No matter how carefully crafted, game mechanics are at the best weak emulation that functions under the grace of those using them.  (This is a separate discussion I've always wanted to engage a hardcore Simulationist who prefers 'realism' on; on some level, it only works that way because they 'will it to do so,' is it possible to make 'looser' rules that explicitly request this 'willful interpretation' of game mechanic results?)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Given that assumption, then one might imagine a set of game mechanics that could add onto or otherwise expand the "bounds of realism," which is to say, unrealistic or Foo Foo.

But I don't think that assumption holds. I think that game design operates on a much different chassis, or specifically, a much different range of them.

I wonder if the reverse of the assumption might be true; can a game have a chassis that the players 'restrict' to function to their satisfaction of 'realistic?'  I think that's what I attempt with Scattershot; it's a somewhat 'looser' set of rules that explicitly asks the consumer to interpret them along lines suiting their interests (including, in some cases, 'realistic').  But will that work?  Moreover, will it work if everyone playing are 'on the same page' stylistically?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
And furthermore, [those] efforts to make a game 'realistic' represent a modification of its existing chassis, not a stripping-away.

...In other words, I think that making a point-blank bullet wound capable of killing a character is an addition to an existing set of agreements about 'what play is about,' not a fundamental feature of the game design.

Here's the part I misunderstand.  I rather think that "an addition to...agreements" is pretty much a "fundamental feature."  If, as appears in this case, that "fundamental feature" is that the game will be able to 'dial in' a different "Foo Foo" level, then I think that should almost be the most central feature; an opinion apparently not similar to those held in the presented examples that I am familiar with (they seem to think a "Foo Foo" 'dial' is an extra added feature, sometimes even an afterthought).

But then this was the central design goal in Scattershot.

Fang Langford


Title: A whole bunch of System Tuner talk
Post by: RobMuadib on February 23, 2003, 08:34:07 PM
Quote from: cruciel
Rob,

My original thinking was that if you wanted a single mechanic for a FooFoo factor dial it'd need to be low level - at the core of the damage/combat system.  Example:  Heal 1 Health per day equal to FooFoo Factor.

DC heroes makes me think it can all be accomplished at a high level, by simply using a well designed token system.  Scale the game down to gritty, use the tokens to invalidate things, and allow the cinematic-worth/refresh-rate of the tokens to be adjustable as the FooFoo Factor. Example:  Health 1 Health per day.  Low: 1 token heals 0 Health per day, High: 1 token heals all Health in one day.

I didn't see the Reality Rules in the TMW:COTEC posts...is this big secret work in development or did I miss it?

Barring any brillant insight I'll probably work off the token approach (if I can figure out how to work in knockback).

Cruciel

Hey, dragged out the books to provide some solid info.

DC heroes Genre Types, have 5 main areas. First, is Killing Combat, which states whether stuff guns, knives, and explosives are automatically considered killing combat. Curiously, falling damage and knockback are considered killing damage in everything except the Humur genre. Next is Hero points, which limit how much you can raise your abilities in a test. either 1 col, 1/2, or unlimited. Pushing is how much you can boost your abilities, 1 AP, 2 AP, or unlimited. Recovery is how long you have to wait before you can make a Recovery check, and thus heal. it varies from 24 hours for comic book to 72 hours for gritty(generally, a successful recovery check lets you heal all of your injuries). Finally, certain powers are limited to certain genres. They also limit multi-attacks to 2 targets unless weapon has it's own AV in certain genres, i.e. machine gun or such, and they limit use of Devastating Attacks. (really high success penalty for bonus result option.)



MY REALITY RULES SYSTEM
============================================
As for my Reality Rules system, they are built into the system, and include use of Hero Points as well.


In terms of Damage & Combat, there is a base Reality Dial that provides a multiplier to your Body Condition, which is based on your Body Condition Score. (Which sets an Effects threshold level. So long as it is positive, only damage from immediate hit determines your chance of Incapacitation. Once negative, damage accumulates to determine your chance of Incapacitation. Further, while positive, there is no chance of Eventually Fatal effects from General Injury, nor Impairment from general injury, though it is still possible from Wounds. In Super-Heroic level, there is switch added that not even Wounds can't cause Eventually Fatal Effects while your body is positive. Thus, you can have totally bloodless mayhem for Superheroic realities.)


This Reality Rule provides a multiplier increasing this glorification of violence sweet spot. From none in Realistic, to 1/2 in Gritty, 1x in Action, 2x in Heroic/SuperHeroic. Which provides the opportunity for people to beat the shit out of each with no appreciable effects in more cinematic realities, or the, you could die from a punch in the head, gravity of combat in realistic realities.

Once your Body condition goes negative, then Incapacitation damage accumulates, you can suffer Eventually Fatal Injury, which becomes certain if you take enough damage, i.e. get stomped by a mob, and suffer General Impairment due to injury too, all those bumps, bruises, strains and sprains start to hurt. Plus there is the worry of Wounds proving Eventually Fatal.

As a corollary to this rule, I provide five basic Recovery Periods based on the Reality Rules Level. This determines the Recovery Time for the character to heal 1 point of damage, or 1 point of Wound/Trait damage. With some additional complications so that positive damage levels heal very quickly, in a fraction of a recovery period, and negative damage levels take progressively longer to heal, per point, the more negative the damage levels. Such that the greater the amount of damage the player takes, the greater time needed to recover, into the months for catastrophic damage under Realistic Reality.

Reality    Condition REC Period                       Wound/Trait REC Period
Realistic         47 (12 hours)         50 (24 Hours)
Gritty         44 (6 Hours)         47 (12 Hours)
Action         42 (4 Hours)         45 (8 Hours)
Heroic         39 (2 Hours)         42 (4 Hours)
Super-Heroic   33 (1/2 Hour)         39 (2 Hours)


Oh, one other Reality Rule option is the Miraculous recover rules, which states basically if you take a wound of a certain level relative to your toughness, or suffer a certain amount of total damage, then you can't be saved, that is Stabilizied, by Medical skill. Instead you have to rely on Miraculous Stabilization. Which basically sets the number of Incredible Successess you need to make on your Survival Tests before you stabilize naturally, and can start healing. I.e. It's a miracle recoveries. It varies from 5! in Realistic, to 1 in Super Heroic reality.

The other Reality Rules set the limits and uses of Hero Points, which mainly extend to being able to buy Dice Steps to favor your Rolls, a Heroic use, also called Aceing a Roll, or Deucing an Opponents roll, also called an "Ex Machina" use, by adding negative dice to his roll. Each of the different Realities has a Step Limit, and a Step Cost, with serious limits and costs in Realistic, and low costs and no limit in Superheroic realities.
There is also the option in Action-Super Heroic realities for the Flesh Wounds rule, which lets you buy Steps to reduce Damage effects against your character and stuff. So lots of ways to soften the effect of the system on characters in the more cinematic realities.


Anyway, that's probably more info than you wanted, but it should give you a clear view of how I added foo foo factoring into my rules.



Quote from: cruciel

I couldn't find too much about the Jovian Chronicles rules (don't have the book either) other than they were called the 'Reality Distortion Level' and had something to do with ammunition, armor penetration, dice rolling, script immunity, and existential angst.  Can you give me the skinny?


Cruciel

I happen to have that game too, though I don't remember reading that section before, must have been because the print is SO SMALL in that book, sheesh.

Anyway, their Reality Distortion levels are quite extensive, allowing tweaks to several elements.

First, There are Die result tweaks, which determine how many extra sixes you can count for spectacular results. In gritty, it is just 1, in normal, 1 per extra 6, and in cinematic, it is +1 for a 5 or 6 on the die. these only apply to "Lead characters" extras and supporting cast, use least advantageous rule.

In the armor degradation rules, they set it up so you lose more or less armor when you take damage, less in gritty, more in cinematic, so everything is more likely to blow up, after being hit.

Another element they cover is the book-keeping/logistics requirements. In gritty, players have to worry about oxygen and fuel, and mass and spaceflight operations stuff, In normal, they only really need to worry about Fuel and ammo, and in cinematic, they only worry about that stuff if it's in the plot.

Then there is the Script Immunity rules, which gives villians and lead characters a dice pool that they can roll from to get successes. With these success they can make "Ex Machina" uses against their opponents, so they just don't end up getting shot or something.

Then there are the WOO rules, Weapon Out of Ordnance:) Which is a little system to determine if you are out of ammo, using a die roll instead of book-keeping. As long as your WOO check is successful, you can keep shooting, if it fails your out, or the weapon Jammed.

Finally, the existenstial angst rules let you switch around some Psy points to your stats or combat skills after the villian kills your girlfriend, your teach, and kicks your dog.:)

Anyway, that should give you an idea of some ways to integrate stuff. Oh yeah, in terms of Knockback. Both Gurps and Hero, and I believe fusion, use a Switch, either using a Knockdown rule, or a Knockback rule. By the way, Fuzion is probably the first rules system to explicity define the idea of Switches and Dials to tune a game system to a particular genre/reality.  Though they are present in dribs and drabs in many systems.

HTH


Title: Re: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Thierry Michel on February 24, 2003, 02:00:23 AM
Quote from: cruciel
My question is:
What game systems, or components thereof, use some sort of adjustable sliding scale for how heroic the system is?


Godlike. Character's powers ("talents") are fueled by their Will , increasing it turns a gritty game (the default) into more traditional comic-book adventures. (allegedly, since I only play in the default setting)


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Marco on February 24, 2003, 06:44:10 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
What, bluntly, is realistic about that? Equally bluntly, the answer is "nothing."
Best,
Ron


My first thought: It's realistic in how it (chargen) relates to character-mortality resolution handling. Most RPG'ers I know have a working definition of reality-in-terms-of-lethality. Although those *do* vary from person to person there's a damn solid base-line concering a point-blank shot to the face in an assumed 'real-world'.

I might be one of the misunderstanding: how is "what play is about" in terms of lethality not a fundamental part of game design? Or did you mean that *specifically* in terms of tool-kit systems (in which case I think I see it)?

-Marco


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 24, 2003, 07:46:18 AM
Hi there,

Fang wrote,

Quote
I wonder if the reverse of the assumption might be true; can a game have a chassis that the players 'restrict' to function to their satisfaction of 'realistic?' I think that's what I attempt with Scattershot; it's a somewhat 'looser' set of rules that explicitly asks the consumer to interpret them along lines suiting their interests (including, in some cases, 'realistic'). But will that work?


'Zactly what I'm talking about. I think that's a very good way to approach the issue.

Hi Marco, my response is directly related to Fang's point. For a game like JAGS - or for a game like Sorcerer! - a great deal of that decision is made by the author, not by the group (unlike Scattershot). Which is a good thing, right? I mean, if it's a decision that floats a very well-stated boat? Which I think is the case for both our games, in different ways.

Guns are pretty lethal in Sorcerer, for those who don't know. It has a pretty low Foo Foo ratio. However, guns are much, much more logistically clear in JAGS as well as being dangerous. Marco, correct me if I'm misrepresenting the game. I'm using these two games as low Foo Foo examples with different "grains."

Anyway, I'm agreeing with you in that the game design itself may legitimately "set" things in terms of realism, and I emphatically agree that in many cases, a good design along these lines is a real draw for people who've endured many poorer designs.

My claim - which I think isn't too, too awful - is that the decision made by (say) a group sitting down to play customizable-Scattershot is exactly the same kind of decision that was made by (say) an author who was finalizing the rules for his game design like, say, JAGS or Sorcerer. Both are necessary and powerful decisions for play, and both represent valid means of getting these decisions made.

I think that the Foo Foo vs. Realness is kind of a Step Two decision, not a Step One decision, in terms of deciding "what we shall play," regardless of whether the decision is made by an author pre-publication or made by the players post-publication, pre-play. Maybe that One vs. Two is too abstract in this discussion, and I'm now wondering whether I've derailed the thread by introducing that level of abstraction.

Best,
Ron


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Jason Lee on February 24, 2003, 09:45:56 AM
Ron, here cometh the onslaught.

I was actually hoping to dodge the whole realistic/unrealistic debate.  I really don't care too much whether gritty is realistic or not.  In play, it's just about feel and tone.  Mechanically, it's mostly just about the lethality of injury and the potency of fear and pain.  Don't worry about derailing this thread, it's a boat.

In my mind, the Foo Foo factor is one of the details that really lock a game into a genre.  In my opinion the 'realism settings' and 'metaphysical assumptions' are two biggies that prevent a game system from making the jump from Generic (genre light) to Universal (genre flexible).  I'm not saying I'm try to make a Universal game, so please don't throw little wooden shoes at me.  I'm just looking at the possibility making the heroic-ness of a game customizable, real simple like.

The traditional approach (in actual play and most game texts I'm familiar with) to setting the Foo Foo factor has just been to adjust character point totals and pick and choose which rules to use.

The point total approach is unappealing to me.  You may find yourself wanting to keep the same characters, but move them back and forth between different level's of Foo Foo.  Maybe you cycle GMs and the current GM has a different Foo Foo preference.  Maybe your characters live inside the television, and when the channel changes from Hill Street Blues to Astroboy the Foo Foo factor changes with it.

Rules hack & slash + rules mods (use bleeding damage? think up rules for suffocation? etc), means keeping track of a bunch of little rules.  Which I'm OK with doing, it just doesn't seem very elegant to me and it's kind of cumbersome to keep track of.

A few dials like in Rob's most helpful post (Jason's Forge posts, featuring the new bold letter rewards system ;) ), or a single index like Fang mentions for Scattershot seems, a lot easier to manage.  (The whole mass of Scattershot threads are printed, and waiting on my coffee table for me to get to them).

I'm completely missing the Step One / Step Two thing.  I don't see the distinction between deciding which rules to use in Step One and deciding which rules to use in Step Two.  Maybe the difference between deciding on a 'genre' and deciding how to interpret the 'genre' you've selected?  If that's the case, then that just leads down the 'what's a genre and where does it end debate?'.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 24, 2003, 10:10:42 AM
Hi there,

Tell ya what, let's bag the whole One/Two point; it was very abstract. I think the only solid thing I can contribute goes like this:

1) Many games exist that permit play's "grittiness/Foo Foo" dial to be spun as the group/GM desires. The Hero System is probably the king but there are lots more.

2) All of the ones that I'm familiar with utilize a point-allocation character creation system, and a lot of the dial-spinning involves how many points can be spent on what aspects of the characters (e.g. bullet-proof defenses, degree of permitted severity of attacks, etc).

3) If you're looking for a method that is not based on point-allocation, then I think you're entering some great and fascinating unknown territory, which will probably be worthwhile to everyone. Fang has ventured there by using points, but not limiting points, for instance.

That's about it, I guess. Make sure and send insights from the journey.

Best,
Ron


Title: Foo foo in WEG Star Wars 1st ed
Post by: b_bankhead on February 24, 2003, 11:26:54 AM
The 'foo-foo' level of the 1st editions star wars game was spectacularly high.  There was actually a statistically measureable probability of surviving the detonation of an entire planet!  We calculated that some tens of millions of surviving souls were left floating around in space after the planet Alderaan was shot out from beneath their feet by the Death Star....

  But the neat thing about the game was that the foo-foo level was easily modified because all the damage was routed through a single multipliter chart. Modify that one chart and the game could be made extremely deadly or as sanitized as a GI Joe battlefield by changing a handful of numbers.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Fletcher on February 24, 2003, 02:40:02 PM
I'm wondering if you can also have a high Foo Foo game that does not tweak the damage rules, but rather the chance of being hit/targeted. With this type of Foo Foo the PCs will be less likely to die because the nobodies around them will be getting killed instead. They donít have more hit points, but rather a better relationship with lady luck. The result is a game with the same mortality rate with different rules for luck. Is this another take on Foo Foo, or am I missing your point?


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 24, 2003, 02:44:11 PM
Hi Fletcher,

The NPC system in Hong Kong Action Theater does this. The thugs might be able to run faster, shoot better, and generally have "higher DEX" than the portly, aged crime boss who's Behind It All, but the portly crime boss is much harder to hit. The difficulty of hitting a character is directly proportional to his or her "plot importance," absolutely regardless of the character's in-game physical abilities.

Oh yes, and one of the other neat Foo Foos in that game is that explosions do no damage to the main characters. At all.

Best,
Ron

P.S. At the outset of the thread, I was thinking that Foo Foo was going to be a relatively not-useful term (due to its possible associations with "realism" which definitely is problematic), but you know? I'm thinkin' that it's bucking for Forge Jargon status, big-time.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 24, 2003, 02:49:34 PM
Actually, that's a pretty standard response, Fletcher. In many games you just bump up the power level of characters vis a vis their opponents, and that does the trick. Dodge scores. Etc.

The Riddle of Steel (TROS), does an interesting thing in that it gives the player extra dice to survive combat as long as he's addressing some issue that he cares about. This means that normally the character is pretty realistically vulnerable, but becomes "hard to hit" when he's fighting for something he cares about. Reinforces dramatic situations.

All one would have to do to make TROS really "high foo-foo" would be to allow Spiritual Attributes to go higher than they do, and to have more given out.

Mike


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Walt Freitag on February 24, 2003, 04:17:19 PM
I think it's a mistake to limit this concept only to adverse consequences of combat. How about adverse consequences in general?

If I'm imprisoned, will I be able to escape? If I'm framed, will I be able to clear my name? If I'm cursed, will I be able to lift the curse? If I pass through a dimensional portal, will I be able to find my way back? If my true love leaves me, will I be able to convince her to return to me? If I've lost the heavyweight title, will I be able to win it back? If I drop the floppy disk containing the only known copy of the plague cure formula into a lava pool, will I be able to find another copy? If I'm disgraced at court, will I be able to return to favor? If my pop sound has gone out of style, will I be able to return to the charts? If an orc takes away the One Ring, will I be able to get it back?

I don't see any fundamental difference between those questions and, "If I take a bullet, will I be able to recover?" Yet usually only the latter is expected to be addressed by an RPG's core system. And I gotta wonder why.

I think the real question at hand for combat "foo-foo" is, "Can I die in a meaningless shooting?" (High foo-foo answer is "no" or "almost certainly not;" low foo-foo answer is "yes" or "yes, if you're unlucky.") And that's a question of outcome expectations. Cause and effect rules are invariably poor at establishing answers to questions of outcome expectations, though when combat is concerned that's not readily apparent for some reason.

- Walt


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Bankuei on February 24, 2003, 07:56:40 PM
If we go with Walt's idea of Foo-Foo factor(the triple "F"?) being more than simply damage  and combat, would it make sense to define it as rules or mechanics that favor protagonists and antagonists over other characters?  (or, likewise, give other characters less of a chance?)

Chris


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Ian Charvill on February 25, 2003, 04:48:54 AM
Seventh Sea has at least three kinds of foo-foo.  The first rates characters as brutes, henchmen or Heroes/Villains.  This affects how easy a character is to put down, brutes go down like nine-pins, Villains take quite a bit of effort.  Additionally, player character mortality (as opposed to being knocked-out) doesn't exist within the domain of the fortune mechanic - PCs only die as the result of a player-initiated drama mechanic (actually, Brutes only die or not in combat as a result of player choice - players can always opt to just knock them out).

Secondly players have a store of drama dice that can be used to affect the outcome of a roll - they boost rolls, effectively.  This goes to Walt's question about non-combat foo-foos.  They get used in combat, sure, but they can also be used to pick locks, persuade magistrates or woo women.

Thirdly, there is an optional rule: Karma dice.  These exist as a pool for the entire player group, and cannot be used to affect a player's own character.  They affectively allow a player to make a fiat "you succeed" for another character (or a "you fail" for a villain).  Again these can be used in or out of combat.  I like these a lot in terms of ensuring player character protagonism, but I wouldn't recommend them to any GMs who care much for their own plots or NPCs.


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: erithromycin on February 25, 2003, 07:14:05 AM
Chris,

I think you're onto something. While there has been a lot of discussion about the Foo Foo Factor in relation to combat [to the extent that 3F seems to have be an actual mathematical entity with relevance to damage scaling and mechanics], I think suggesting that 3F is some measure of the gap between protagonists, antagonists, and, um, mooks, is a good one.

What I've been wondering about is fear, to be honest. I mean, you've got to wonder where the FFF Dial is when the heroes don't run away, and the monsters don't run away either.

Perhaps we could link the Foo Foo Factor to the, um, deadliness of the rest of the world? Though that's a little combat specific, which I, personally, am eager to avoid.

What I'm trying to say is that when 3F is high for a particular character they've got no reason to back down from a fight, no reason to be afraid of a bullet, and they're unlikely to be cut down without it meaning something. When 3F is low, they'll run if confronted, perish if attacked, and are effectively disposable to the action.

I'm now wondering if 3F can mean Foo Foo Factor and Fear, Fatality, Focus. I think I'm on the verge of digressing, so I'll stop.

- drew


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Walt Freitag on February 25, 2003, 11:38:58 AM
Rather than saying that mooks and protagonists have some particular relationship or gap between them (resistance to damage, accuracy of shooting, fearlessness, likelihood of benefiting from luck or coincidence, or whatever), I prefer to imagine the distinction as mooks and protagonists having a different relationship with "fate" -- that is to say, with the metagame. Two of the three mechanisms that Ian cites for Seventh Sea are obviously metagame, and I think the other (damage resistance and immunity from mortal surprises) makes the most sense interpreted as purely metagame as well.

This is something I've said before in Fang's Genre Expectations discussion: that reliably meeting outcome expectations requires metagame causality; in-game-world causality won't do it.

Which raises serious questions about the generality of the "absence of the metagame" as characteristic of (especially) high-concept Simulationist play, where outcome expectations can become a major motivator in play.

Metagame causality doesn't necessarily require overt metagame mechanisms; it can also be achieved via contract with the GM. In the vast majority of games it's completely within a GM's power to reliably assure that if a character jumps through a dimensional gateway, he able to find his way back home, or that if an orc gets hold of the Ring of Power, the protagonists will be able to get it back again. (That's not to suggest that all GMs actually exercise such power.) Again, it seems a little out of kilter that the conventions of (especially) Simulationist play require that it be beyond the GM's power to assure that if a player-character enters a combat, he will survive. Yet that's the way it's usually, at least in theory, supposed to work.

Overt metagame mechanics are a more attractive option for discussion, for a variety of reasons -- but there, the same comparison can be made in reverse. If there's a mechanism that a player can use to guarantee that a character will survive a fight (that is, maintain an element of the status quo) unless the player wants the option for the character to die (that is, experience a dramatic change or resolution), it should also be usable to make sure that when Indiana Jones loses the Ark he can get it back (maintain the status quo) unless the player wants the loss to be permanent (a possible dramatic change or resolution). An in-game-world causal rule that just allows the Ark to be designated as un-take-away-able is clearly a poor substitute, just as "this character will survive because he's invulnerable to damage" is a poor substutute for "this character will survive because the player (or GM) has a measure of control over his fate."

Hence, Drew, I'd suggest that the effect of the FFF dial should be to give some metagame agency (most likely the player) increased control over the effects of the character's fear, rather than making the fear itself go away.

The same turn of the dial could work against the protagonist too, when the genre expectations suggest it. For example, in some high-FFF situations a villain should be able to knock a protagonist unconscious at will (by drugs or a blow to the head) as long as it's by surprise.

- Walt


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: erithromycin on February 25, 2003, 02:33:00 PM
Walt, I think I was confusing myself by applying the 3F dial to characters, and not the game, though, looking at it, I'm not so sure that that approach is a bad thing. I also think I'm missing something, because the first time I read what you've written I replaced 'metagame' with 'system'.

Until now, I'd been reading the Foo Foo Factor as having some relationship as to how likely a character was to remain intact, and having read what you've just written I'm now thinking about it as having the character remain unaffected by what's going on around them, and I'm not sure that that's what's being discussed.

You mentioned control over the effects of things, fear being the obvious example, and I'm not sure how that dovetails with the idea that, when the Foo Foo Factor is high, characters can walk through hails of bullets.

Perhaps I'm just struggling with the idea that the control you're talking about is expressed [in the examples we're discussing, anyway] when the gun is fired. If the Foo Foo Factor is low, then the gun being fired is significant, and if it's high, it isn't? At a basic survival level? Does that make sense?

Let me restate my assumptions:

Initially, I thought the Foo Foo Factor was a measure of how likely a character was to survive something.

What Walt said has led me to consider that it's a measure of the character remaining intact.

Does that distinction make sense? I suppose you could call it the difference between someone walking into a gunfight knowing that they're bulletproof, and someone walking into a gunfight knowing that they've got story immunity.

Are these different things? Or is this gap what Ron was talking about when he mentioned 3F as a candidate for inclusion in the Grand Unified Theory?

Help! Anyone! Please!

- drew


Title: The FooFoo Factor
Post by: Jason Lee on February 25, 2003, 05:49:35 PM
Quote from: erithromycin
Initially, I thought the Foo Foo Factor was a measure of how likely a character was to survive something.

What Walt said has led me to consider that it's a measure of the character remaining intact.

Does that distinction make sense? I suppose you could call it the difference between someone walking into a gunfight knowing that they're bulletproof, and someone walking into a gunfight knowing that they've got story immunity.

Are these different things? Or is this gap what Ron was talking about when he mentioned 3F as a candidate for inclusion in the Grand Unified Theory?


Well, the way I was using it was super abstract:  general larger-than-life-ness of the character, setting, or plot (ideally variable between individual elements thereof).  Which, as Ron pointed out, has the potential to be interpreted as the 'realism' of the system - something we'd best avoid.  It also doesn't necessarily have to be about protagonization either - a character can be the center of the story without being able to dodge bullets.

The rules of any game system will create a certain 'feel' out of the events and actions in the story.  Just an example:  If Chtulhu is pants wetting scary (reinforced by fear checks and the fact he could breath on you to kill you), you'll have a bunch of running for your life in the game - low end Foo Foo.  If Chtulhu is just another slimy ick to blast away (reinforced with the bottomless pocket full of shotgun shells from Army of Darkness and the fact that Ash fears no ick), you'll get highly cinematic action - high end Foo Foo.

A lot of the Foo Foo Factor stuff that's been brought up before Walt's post is lethality of damage, strength of the characters, potency of kewl powerz, and chance to hit.  Maybe because I'm thinking about action scenes (mostly combat), and maybe because that's pretty much the most common differences between game systems.

Walt brings up a real spiffy point about all the out of combat cause/effect relationships.  I was going to bring up that most of that stuff often falls outside the system, but he mentions that in his next post.

There's that Immersion (as a term) quality clouding us up a little.  In that it's about 'feel', and one man's Foo Foo Factor 5 is another man's Foo Foo Factor 7.  Plus, Cthulhu could be scary and you could never run out of ammo (though this is going into the incoherent feel realm, for me anyway).  

I don't think anyone'd disagree that conveying the correct feel through your game system makes for better design.  You obviously cannot make all of the 'feel' elements adjustable, else you'd have a different game once you're done adjusting.  However, you may well want the Foo Foo Factor adjustable without GM fiat.

I'm really grooving on the Hero Points/Drama Dice/SA's approach to a Foo Foo Factor dial.  I've got an example of what I was thinking (without attached system).  Nothing special, just your standard player control mechanic.  This is assuming things like radiation poisoning and suffocation are just some form of damage.  The broad coverage of the tokens should give you room to scale down damage, reduce hit chance, succeed on fear rolls, or a make a variety of other adjustments appropriate to the character (in the event that you want two villains to be equally Foo Foo, but you'd rather one be impossible to hit and the other be immune to damage).

Player Control Mechanic:
Three colors of tokens: red, blue, and green
Dump the tokens in a bag, draw randomly
Red: + 1 to roll, - 1 to penalty, restore/soak 1 Health/Fatigue/Mana
Blue: + 5 to roll, - 5 to penalty, restore/soak half Health/Fatigue/Mana
Green: auto-succeed roll, invalidate penalty, restore/soak all Health/Fatigue/Mana


The Foo Foo Factor part (this has zero playtesting, but seems like it'd be a nice analog dial):
Just adjust dump more blue or green into the bag before a token refresh when you want to up the Foo Foo Factor.  If you want to dial it down, just dump in more red or blue.  You could attach a token dump to character, plot, setting, or player mood reasons.  For example:  Up the Foo Foo during situations of extreme importance to the characters, during moments you want to be more heroic, when switching to a more Foo Foo setting, or when the players are cranky and you think a stupendous victory will lighten their mood.

What was really bugging me before is I couldn't think of how to work things like knockback and ammunition into this.  My idea thus far is at the beggining of a conflict each player has to toss out a token for their 'impact level' and 'resource management'.  This could be extended to 'plot relevance' and 'script immunity', but I haven't really thought how you would do that mechanically.

Red:
The character's attacks deal knockdown.
Normal ammo rules.
The character has only the items he wrote down.

Blue:
The character's attacks deal knockback.
The character does not run out of ammo clips, but still has to reload.
The character has whatever items seem appropriate.

Green:
The character's attacks deal knockback and cause explosions (waves of energy, or whatever).
No ammo rules.
The character has bottomless pockets full of whatever items he needs.


Hell, you could even adjust the mix in the bag as an alternative experience point system.  The higher the 'level' of the group or the closer you get to the story's climax the more blue or green you dump into the bag.  Though, I think you'd want to skip the 'impact level' and 'resource management' bit to actually use it as an experience system.

The real bummer about the token approach is your Foo Foo can run out, and be dialed back down.  Something I'm not too keen on if you want to link the Foo Foo Factor to a setting.  It also means you cannot go any less Foo Foo than having zero tokens.  But damn, is it a simple solution.