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Author Topic: [Trollbabe] How versatile is it?  (Read 9372 times)
Bailywolf
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« on: July 08, 2004, 06:54:21 AM »

From what I have heard about Trollbabe’s mechanics and metagame system, It strikes me as something I might want to get in on… but the whole ‘Troll+babe’ thing leaves me a bit cold (even if I enjoy the heck out of the comic).

Is this hardwired into the game’s mechanics, or can they be easily ported over to other settings or types of characters?

Also, Ron’s recent comment about basing some of the game’s concepts on his observation of ‘girlfriend gamers’ makes me think this might be the perfect game to entice my wife (a very rare gamer) further into the gaming fold.

How easy if Trollbabe for semi- to non-gamers to digest and play?

Thanks

-Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2004, 08:04:47 AM »

Hi there,

You are raising two extremely different issues, and I suggest that they aren't as compatible as one might think.

1. Trollbabe for people who don't role-play, who might like to, but who might be suspicious of gamer culture/interactions. They might even have tried to play, then discovered that everyone's enthusiasm about "oh boy! we get to turn to crit-hit table 4!" wasn't at all interesting.

(This outlook is very often mistaken for a combat/no-combat preference dichotomy, which it emphatically is not. Combat is merely the arena of imagined activity during which, in most games, the real mis-match is occurring.)

I suggest that Trollbabe is emphatically written precisely for these people, and that any of its features which a gamer might consider "advanced gaming" (e.g. narration rights) are actually normal and typical human creative features which most RPG texts have stripped out or ignored.

The challenge in playing Trollbabe is not "role-playing in this weird and funny way" but rather in de-gamerizing oneself, to keep from screwing up the experience for oneself and others.

2. Trollbabe for people who don't flash on the appeal of the trollbabe imagery and setting. You know something? This is gonna hurt ...

Gamer power-fantasy characters are actually intensely off-putting to most people. Vampire-werewolf hybrids ... effete but deadly goth romantic killers like Vicious in Cowboy Bebop ... power-armored cyber-pilots with flashing grins ... equipment which snaps together in any way at all ... a bandolier of spells which can do this, and do this, and do this too ...

... just lose it. All that flash and all that motion is essentially ADD fetishism, by most people's standards. You know how the eighteenth kick-maneuver in a Jet Li film is just as cool as the first one? Not to most people. By then, they're bored. They are normal, we are weird.

(Note: this is often mistaken for some kind of non-gamer distaste for violence and sexuality, or for cartoonism. That is not the case; most people like violence, sexuality, and cartoonism. What they don't usually like is fetishism.)

Trollbabe's different. It's not about options, and it's not about flash. In fact, it's kind of grimly and arrogantly underground. Underground is different from pop. To be into pop stuff, you're a fan; to be into underground stuff, you're a fellow ideologue.

So my claim, BW, is that your confusion/mismatch the trollbabe idea/imagery is a totally separate issue from a non-gamer or semi-gamer's potential confusion with role-playing per se.

I suggest that if you want to play Trollbabe with your wife, that the only thing that will permit it to work is if you leave your gamer-tweak over-the-top "let's do it this way" habits aside. Trollbabe, only with half-vampire hybrids? Trollbabe, only set in the far future where everyone has a nanotech implant? Trollbabe, only with eighteen styles of kung fu to choose from?

Nope. Just Trollbabe. It'll only work if she flashes on the underground side of it. She likes the cover? Likes the illustrations where the trollbabe tells the troll, don't eat these sheep? Comes up with a trollbabe's hairstyle in 1.2 seconds? That's the basis for the game, and it's there for a reason. It's stripped down, straightforward, and based exactly on what I've observed literally hundreds of semi-gamers to want to do.

Trust the game, man. More than any other game or proto-game I've written, every feature and detail is there for a reason and integrated with all the others.

Best,
Ron
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2004, 08:32:20 AM »

Er... I should have been more clear.

I was asking two, entirely separate questions (the second one popped into my head after I had written the first).

I think the entirely unmodified Trollbabe package would be perfect for my wife and where she is coming from- what you say above is pretty much spot on which my gaming experiences with her thus far.  Groovy- I think you've made a sale on this point alone.

The first question was one based entirely on my personal preferences, and didn't relate to the second at all- is the "Troll" and the "Babe" integral and inseparable from everything that makes the game work?  "Trollbabes" are neither human nor troll, and become points of interface/conflict/action between the two worlds... is it this half-breed status which is important, or the actual 'troll' and 'babe' which you need?

Thanks,

-Ben
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2004, 08:56:54 AM »

Hi Ben,

The halfbreed status is pretty much the "kick" that assures that player characters will become involved in much drama, whether they want to be or not, but I think the female role also does a lot for the game as well.  

I've noted that players(both male and female) play female characters differently than male characters.  First, the characters tend to be more social, and second, folks tend to avoid the masochistic "tough it out" gamer thing as much.  I think for guys it might help disengage the male ego a bit, but I really need to watch it more often to really call it.

Chris
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2004, 10:21:53 AM »

Hiya,

Here's where I'm coming from with the troll & babe thing(s).

1. The half-and-half status is actually the least important thing. People who want to adapt it to Dhampyr or whatever type stuff, because it's about "trapped between two worlds," are way off the mark. The only purpose the half-and-half status serves is to make the protagonist relevant and interesting to everyone she meets in some way.

Key concept: the target role-player wants his or her character to matter to NPCs. The halfiness is only a bit-part in this concept.

2. The troll stuff is about a few different things. One of them is strength. The trollbabe is not "just a stripling" who can only dream about physical or magic effectiveness. She kicks ass, case closed. This is 100% antithetical to the typical RPG situation in which the non/semi-gamer is told, "One of these days, your character could be really powerful!" as if that were good news.

(Note that power is relative. White Wolf heads, pay attention next time your girlfriend picks a bunch of powers for her vampire or mage-ess, then watch her face fall when you-as-GM introduce the really tough NPCs who will be her mentors, tormentors, and so on. Yeah. Losing points = you.)

Another aspect of the troll stuff is alienation - the sense of being different. This is why trollbabes aren't a race. They aren't even a "breed." In fact, they aren't defined in the game-world at all! All they are is a "look and feel," and specifically a non-compromising one. A trollbabe cannot disguise herself. She cannot put herself aside. She cannot objectify herself into someone else's category, no matter how much they do.

And hence it's not alienation after all - it's identity, and since the game doesn't tell you what being a trollbabe "is," it's your identity to own. In other words, in Trollbabe (and unlike every RPG your non/semi gamer friend has probably encountered) you really do get to play your character.

3. The babe stuff is a big deal. Female, everyone, trollbabes are female. They have tits, and those tits sag and bounce, off to the sides like real ones do (see illos in book). They also have haunches and abdomens that slope down into female crotches. Trollbabes are females that cannot be marginalized as such; the game is asking, very bluntly, "And what would you do with being female, if you weren't being marginalized?"

That's the underground thing, as opposed to the pop thing. Imagine that you're reading an underground comic - and here's this trollbabe in the first panel, walking along. Whoa! You know that by the end of the first page, you will discover whether the author & artist "gets" femaleness or not. You know that the character will either be a stupid caricature, a clever caricature, a jerk-off fantasy, or (shock) an actual female character of whatever depth, but with verve.

If the creator got it right, then you will be hooked like a snake just to see what the character does next, when faced with adversity or opportunity.

Guys: this is why your girlfriends and wives keep picking up your comics and your RPG books, and leafing through the illustrations. And it's why nearly all the time, they groan and put it aside. Or why sometimes, vastly to your confusion, they like someone like Faye in Cowboy Bebop ("Why not Julia?" you ask, puzzled and clueless; I'll just let you suffer).

Trollbabe allows the player, male or female, to "get it" if he or she can. I've seen it happen a dozen times, easily - 3/4 of the way through character creation, the player is twitching with eagerness, and before I'm done with three sentences into the first scene, he or she is blazing away because there is no question about what this trollbabe is going to do next. It's a wave-front of gratification at finally being able to see it done (i.e. to do it) right.

Best,
Ron
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Bailywolf
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Posts: 729


« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2004, 10:50:58 AM »

Thanks, that is pretty much exaclty what I wanted to know.

So the answer to my topical question- "how versatile is it?"- would be "not very, but this is exaclty as intended."

I can deal with that.

If Sarah likes the looks of it (I pointed her to the website and comics) I'll order up a copy soonest.

-Ben
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b_bankhead
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Posts: 259


« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2004, 11:12:23 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards


2. Trollbabe for people who don't flash on the appeal of the trollbabe imagery and setting. You know something? This is gonna hurt ...

Gamer power-fantasy characters are actually intensely off-putting to most people. Vampire-werewolf hybrids ... effete but deadly goth romantic killers like Vicious in Cowboy Bebop ... power-armored cyber-pilots with flashing grins ... equipment which snaps together in any way at all ... a bandolier of spells which can do this, and do this, and do this too ...

... just lose it. All that flash and all that motion is essentially ADD fetishism, by most people's standards. You know how the eighteenth kick-maneuver in a Jet Li film is just as cool as the first one? Not to most people. By then, they're bored. They are normal, we are weird.

(Note: this is often mistaken for some kind of non-gamer distaste for violence and sexuality, or for cartoonism. That is not the case; most people like violence, sexuality, and cartoonism. What they don't usually like is fetishism.)


You'll have to forgive Ron here, he's a big fan of these sword and jockstrap type settings, after all he's a Gloranthaphile, and author of one of the best  meditations on using this type of thing in an RPG ever written "Sorcerer and Sword".
But this sort of thing never really got a lot of traction with either me or  about 95% of the American public.  ( And I liked the Runequest system but never had any interest in Glorantha and 95% of my use of the BRP system was with Call of Cthulhu) Sure 'Lord of the Rings' made gigabucks but it hasn't spawned any great interest in the public in the field as a whole or any discernable Hollywood imitators (the closest to it is the present spurt of films like 'Troy' and 'Alexander' all played as straight historical dramas.) The same can be said of 'Harry Potter'  (whose fantasy traditions owe more to Peter Pan and Doctor Doolittle than Conan) One picture every two years based on one book series is enought to saturate this subgenre.

The sad fact is that Ron's carefully chosen illustrations are more likely to get it dismissed out of hand as another D&D than something 'underground'.  As far as  snagging gamer girlfriends I'll put Anne Rice against Robert Howard any day. ....as the sex ratio at any VtM Larp will prove....

And speaking of which I'm involved in a vampire oriented Trollbabe game on the indie netgaming channel run by Paganini. (We all seem to be calling it somethign different, I call it Nightbabe you can see the character sheet here:  http://www.geocities.com/b_bankhead/AmandaTrevaineNightbabe.jpg
 cut and paste in your browser to make the url work)
 
And I'm happy to report its eminiently adaptable to the purpose. We seem to be doing the whole creature of the night thang without  the hundred of pages of rules and setting Vampire the Masquerade seems to need.

Its not perfect, there are some things on the character sheet that don't seem to actually do anything (like equipment or specialties) but Rons gift for producing these protean games come through. This game isn't for every purpse but like Inspectres or MLWM or Scarlet Wake, it's structure works in lots of settings.

Once I get more Trollbabe under my belt I'm going to run it, I'm going to either start with a Gamma World type setting I call "Mutiebabe', or a series of  antholgy games using Trollbabe to play Helloby on the yahoo chat domain, and following that a completely new Trollbabe based system for Lovecraftian gaming 'Cthulhubabe.(My meditations on 'Hellbabe can be seen here:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10327&highlight=hellbabe   )

Wanny REEEELy bring the KIDSs into  rpgs Ron? Bring out a 'Harry Potter' game, Trollbabe is the ONLY system I've seen I would even CONSIDER for the purpose....
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2004, 11:48:39 AM »

Quote from: Bailywolf
So the answer to my topical question- "how versatile is it?"- would be "not very, but this is exaclty as intended."

I can deal with that.


Hmmmm. I dunno.  As long as you sort of stick to the main ideas behind the game, and stick to "XYZ-Babes/Folks" that allow for the 5 "Reroll Effects" (that is, ability to cast a spell/power on the fly), and then set the characters as half human and half Something Else, where the PCs interact with both human society and the Something Else Society, it should all be good.

Actually, I'm not into the whole Babe thing either, and not into trolls or the scandanavian bits. The game I intend to run with it is basically based off of my favorite fantasy setting, Planescape (which was just dying for a system like Trollbabe).

Basically, this mod I'm calling "Tiefling!".  Tieflings, in the Planescape world, are always described as "Half Human and Half... Something Else."  They're the offspring of humans and denziens of the Outer Planes.  So, they have weird inherent powers.

Anyway, the mod is simple: The character sheet remains completely unchanged save for crossing out "Trollbabe" and writing in "Tiefling!".  And instead of a map of the Trollbabe worth, just pull out the map from the Planescape boxed set.  "You wander into a town at the edge of Gehenna", etc. And in the course of the game, you'd travel to planes with people, and planes of Demons/Devils/Archons/whatever, so you have that action going on.  Plus, they have all these mystical inherent powers that can be activated at any time (the rerolls), and most of them have limited magic anyway (Magic score). And all of them are rather charismatic.

Now, mind you, this mod is only for geeks who know a little about Planescape and/or aren't afraid to learn. I wouldn't run it with a fantasy/RPG newbie.

But, to be honest, I probably would rework it so that the fantasy world contains "magical wisps" or "anthropomorphic elemental forces" instead of trolls (but again, living creatures that can be encountered), and the Trollbabes themselves would all be a little like "D&D 3e Sorcerers". Boom- Trollbabe with a slightly different setting but preserving the mechanic and background.

Hell, I think that with a little reworking, a game like Trollbabe would make a great superhero game. "A remembered spell" could be "a remembered power" or "power used in a new way" or something.
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Paganini
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2004, 06:43:23 PM »

So, coming in late here, but, don't listen to the game's designer. He's biased in its favor. ;)

Seriously, Trollbabe is very versatile in terms of color, not so versatile in terms of meaning. Basically, Trollbabe will work well as long as your protagonists are beings that other people will try to manipulate. I honestly really don't like Trollbabes. I've played the game with trollbabes. Two of the times were multi-session campaigns, the other time was a one-shot. I really enjoy my current Vampire game and and the old Demi-gods game a lot more. For a lot of people, there's a whole "cheesyness" factor associated with the trollbabes that has nothing at all to do with the way the game playes mechanically. So, if the people you're gonna play with are bothred by the cheesyness factor, you can change the trappings of the game, without changing the meaning.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2004, 07:07:46 PM »

Fucking heathens.

Best,
Ron

(hee! I love not being "general moderator" in this forum)
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Bankuei
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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2004, 08:54:41 PM »

Hi,

I think y'all are missing the point.  The half-breed issue serves to ensure drama within the setting of Trollbabe.  It simplifies the usual splat issues you have with Clans, Orders, Tribes, or whatever from being 1 out of 7 to 12, to simply being caught between 2 groups.

In actuality, if you're going to play TB in a different setting, the half-breed issue becomes moot.  Likewise with other people's concerns with your character.

A few months ago, I ran a Streetfighter game using Trollbabe, and it worked just fine.  Everyone involved knew the genre expectations, and so, we already knew what were the sources of conflict(rivalries, bullying, teenage romance).  There was no need to further inject reason to start the drama.

Trollbabe, due to the fact that it neither has a strong established "genre", nor heavy on the background setting, uses the halfbreed issue as the most concise set-up for conflict and why these particular characters KEEP getting caught up in it, aside from personal nosiness and pluck.

Chris
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xiombarg
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2004, 09:11:52 PM »

Heathens, indeed. I have to agree with all the heathens so far on this thread.

Despite Ron's claims, Trollbabe works excellently in any setting where the PCs, as Ron says, matter to the NPCs, for whatver reasons (which can be the halfbreed thing, but doesn't have to be). It's notable you can have all the elements Ron mentions -- strength, alienation, identity, and "babe stuff"-- without Trollbabes. Those themes are all classic. It's the same reason you can play Sorcerer where the "demons" are actually robots, so long as you get the themes right.

So, yes, you can de-couple the Trollbabes from the system, but only if you're careful what you replace them with.
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2004, 11:13:07 PM »

Quote
A few months ago, I ran a Streetfighter game using Trollbabe, and it worked just fine.  Everyone involved knew the genre expectations, and so, we already knew what were the sources of conflict(rivalries, bullying, teenage romance).


Interesting!  Did you keep the five Reroll Conditions the same?  And what did you replace with Magic?  "Martial Art Technique"?
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b_bankhead
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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2004, 12:07:09 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Fucking heathens.

Best,
Ron



How about this idea Ron: Trollbabe Heresies: New World's for New Babes.  Essentially an online Compendium of new settingsusign the Trollbabe mechanics. Who knows, it might even turn into a PDF....
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2004, 03:40:40 AM »

I've been watching old Angel episodes on disk, so maybe I've got Angel on the brain, but I think an Angel-style game would be excellently served by Trollbabe.

Angel is a Trollbabe.
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