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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Thinking about Initiative  (Read 3593 times)
« on: March 05, 2004, 05:24:13 AM »

I was reminded of some stuff I was thinking about this the other week by Jesse & Ron's recent discussion of complex conflict. A few things:

1) One big problem with many rpg initiative rules, from a 'gamey' point of view, is that when you have the horde of monsters attacking the single strong PC, or the horde of PCs attacking the single strong monster, the single target gets overwhelmed before it can act. This often 'feels' wrong.

2) The Sorcerer system nips this problem in the bud: the giant demon worm will likely go first and likely get its full defense to follow; alternately, the cool, suave sorcerer facing the gang of thugs will likely get to impose his will on the situation.

3) If you think about initiative in terms of speed of action, this feature of the system will confuse you. (It did me.) However, I came up with a way of thinking about Sorcerer initiative that both made sense as an initiative system and fit with the Sorcerer rules: Initiative is the degree of force you bring to imposing your will on a situation. That is, if you're a mighty sorcerer, or a giant demon worm, your power is such that you will tend to dictate what goes on more often. It's not necessarily that you're faster, but that your power is such that if others try to take the 'quick strike' on you there's simply too much risk involved, or too much intimidation, or whatever.

4) In my view Sorcerer here is much truer to a broad range of rpg-relevant genres (fantasy, horror, comic books) than are traditional rpg systems. When the party faces down the dread necromancer in his tomb, they don't do 60 hit points because they have higher dexterity and act first. The necromancer does his thing while they're scrambling and confused, and only afterward do they have a chance to do something about it - even though Dullas the Elf is fifty times faster and had his bow ready.

5) I'd be interested in non-combat examples of the usefulness of the initiative/complex conflict rules. It occurred to me that picking a trapped lock might be a great application, for example; e.g.:

The thief is trying to get through the lock without getting poisoned. (I'm assuming here that the lock is narratively important somehow, to make it worth all this rolling, and probably that the activity is time-restricted in some interesting way.)

The lock is trying to poison the thief with the needle

Thief wins initial roll: GM decides whether to abort to defend (i.e. keep the thief from picking the lock), in which case the thief is in no jeopardy from the needle; or whether to go for it and try to poison the thief in response (in which case the thief gets full defense dice and probably picks the lock)

Lock wins initial roll: GM narrates trouble with the lock, and a likely trap; thief has option to abort to defend (losing his chance to get through the door, but defending against the poison), or keep his roll (in which case he only has one die to defend against the poison needle, but if he makes it he'll still have a chance to get through the door).

Is that a good application? Are there (other) examples?
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2004, 06:18:54 AM »

Hi Sean,

Yeah, that's pretty good example. It also connects with my often-repeated, rarely-heard point that inanimate objects are characters in Narrativist play, just as they are in stories. Well, some of them aren't; they're literally furniture. But others very definitely are.

I use the complex conflict system in Sorcerer for all kinds of venues during play. Sometimes I use it just in case a player will come up with some kind of interesting application of the differences in victories, even across scenes. It happens all the time.

Rob MacDougall

Posts: 160

« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2004, 06:50:08 AM »

My plans for Sorcerer Inc. involved rolling social combat for things like corporate boardroom intrigue. "Every scene is a combat scene," was my motto. So in a board meeting scene, everyone announces actions in free and clear: X wants to impress the CEO, Y wants to sink the EvilCorp merger, Z wants to make Y look bad...

Then we roll, and action order doesn't literally mean who speaks the first words, but just the natural flow of conversation. (Will and Cover and yes even Stamina can after all help control the flow of a meeting.) So Z goes first, and Y has to decide whether to abort her plans to defend herself, etc. The currency rules make Sorcerer combat extremely adaptable in this regard.

Point being that yes, you can do a lot with it once you learn to let go of the strict 'I go then you go' timing implied by traditional initiative systems.

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