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Author Topic: Is Trollbabe balanced?  (Read 3591 times)
Henri
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Posts: 88


« on: November 08, 2004, 07:41:47 PM »

Last night I finally did my first run of Trollbabe.  It was very much an improv thing, thrown together at the last minute, and we didn't want to play all night, so I played pretty fast and loose with the system.  It was a light piece of fluff, but it had a happy ending and everyone definately enjoyed the game and felt good about it at the end.  I was also pleased that the folks playing Magic in the same room seemed somewhat intrigued, so hopefully I can get some more Trollbabe gaming going soon.  

There was one issue though that I discussed briefly with one of the players after the game, which is balance.  We got the impression that being min-maxed is a good thing.  One of the characters had a number of 2, meaning she was really powerful both magically and socially.  I don't think she failed a single roll during the game (since she never got in any physical combat).  

Now, I understand that Trollbabe is a Narativist game, and so perhaps Ron consideres balance to be irrelevant to this sort of game (or maybe I'm wrong and it is more balanced than I think).  But I feel like balance is relevant to any CA.  Certainly being woefully ineffective is going to be deprotagonizing under any circumstance and CA.  Fortunately that isn't possible with Trollbabe, but it still seems like taking a number of 2 or 9 is the way to go.  

So my first main questionis, is Trollbabe balanced?  My second main question is: If it's not balanced, I'd be interested in how Ron or others defend this design decision.  If it is balanced and I'm just not seeing why, please enlighten me.  

As a related side note, just how limitting is that snap-shot thing supposed to be?  The rules say
Quote
One consideration regarding added Action Types is that magic, expressed as an Action Type, is not a snap-shot process.  Therefore adding it to an existing Social or Fighting conflict requires non-emergency circumstances.  Snap-shot magic does exist in Trollbabe play, but only through the re-roll mechanics.  

The example that happened last night was this.  Helga is walking down a forest path.  Suddenly, a large male troll comes charging down the path directly at her, carrying a small blonde pig-tailed human girl on his back, piggy-back style.  The troll is making no effort to harm Helga, and in fact looks like he is going to just run right by her without so much as a hello.  So I don't declare a conflict, since the troll isn't initiating anything.  Helga, however, is having none of this, and Rebecca, the player, declares a conflict, saying that Helga is going to try to stop the troll, by summoning up some wind magic.  Since Helga is declaring the Action type, this has nothing to do with additional action types.  But it is clearly an emergency situation that she is responding to in an instant.  So do the no snap-shot magic rules apply here?

The other thing is that I have a habbit of immediately thinking about tweaking rules systems as soon as I start to play with them.  This isn't a criticism exactly.  It isn't that I don't like the rules.  Its just that thinking critically about a system is part of my way of having fun with it.  The most obvious tweak would be to say that Social is defined oppositely, as whichever is worse.  So if your number is 7, you roll a 7-10 to succeed on a social roll.  This would be a strong incentive against min-maxing, which was my main worry.  Of course, you then lose the feature that while Trollbabes kick ass, they are very social creatures and their social attribute is always their highest.  But it still means that at worst, your social is your second best attribute.  And if you take a 5 or a 6, you still get a pretty good social.  Another would be to ditch the whole number thing and say that you have three attributes and you get 19 points to divide between them, much like in sorcerer, and always use a roll-under system.  I find switching between roll-under and roll-over kind of confusing anyway, especially since one character might be rolling under for social conflicts, while another is rolling over for social conflicts.  If you did this, you might want to add in the rule that a Trollbabe's social skill can be no lower than 6, thus assuring that there are no anti-social Trollbabes.
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-Henri
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2004, 08:29:59 PM »

Hey Henri:

I'd say it's pretty balanced. You either succeed or you narrate. Which is more desirable for you as a player?

There's no reason to assume that character success is the most important thing in any given situation.

Hope that helps.

-Matt
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2004, 08:41:45 PM »

Also, as I recall, Henri, your Social rules tweak is being put in the game's revision by Ron.

I protested mightly, and maintain my protest, for various reasons. The main one is then it's most beneficial to have a number of 5, which is boring like a Hole Hawg.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Alan
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2004, 03:18:35 AM »

Hi Henri,

For recent discussions about the new Social scores rules and also the use of magic see these posts:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12557&
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10416&

About "balance" - what Matt said.  The joy of failing is getting to narrate.  This can be pretty important in guiding the game.  If you keep playing, you'll find your players hoping to fail, even choosing conflict types for their weakest score.  

"Balance" has quotes because it can mean many different things in roleplaying.  In Trollbabe, there's no concept of balanced challenge (as appears in DnD3e), for example, yet the game works fine.  On the other hand, the rules about scene requesting, conflict declaration, pacing, and narration ensure that everyone has input into play - which is another sort of balance, I suppose.  (As an aside, be wary of being too loose with the rules, or you might indeed lose this balance - or just lose the creative tension that they add to the game.)
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Henri
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Posts: 88


« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2004, 06:19:59 AM »

Thanks for the replies.  I'll have to go back and read those threads to get more of the context of the discussion.
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-Henri
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2004, 06:20:50 AM »

Hello,

The threads Alan linked to are absolutely crucial. The rules-change for Social is now "official" (for those who care about such things); Clinton's concern about middling characters tends not to show up in play - people now choose high or low number characters because they want to play less-Social ones.

My comments on "balance" may be found in my 2000 article "GNS and other matters of role-playing theory," as well as in the much newer Forge Glossary, both available in the Articles section.

To add to Alan's and Matt's points, the role of Scale in the game serves to eliminate most people's concerns which they call "balance." How effective one's character is, in terms of how much of the game-world they have an impact on, is handled by Scale. However, this game mechanic is only observed over several sessions of play, which is the main reason why Trollbabe reaches its full potential when played over a longer period, through many adventures.

Best,
Ron
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Henri
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2004, 08:40:31 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The rules-change for Social is now "official" (for those who care about such things);

Cool.  Is there any "official" list of rules changes on the Trollbabe website, or should I just putter through the Adept Press forum for them?
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-Henri
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2004, 09:15:31 AM »

Hi Henri,

Check out Doyce Testerman's Trollbabe Wiki page.

Oh, hey Doyce! The link on your front page says "Sorcerer" where it should say "Trollbabe."

Best,
Ron
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Henri
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2004, 09:20:47 AM »

Nice.  As usual, Doyce continues to kick ass.
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-Henri
Doyce
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« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2004, 12:05:38 PM »

Thanks for the kind words, and thanks also (Ron) for the tip about my front page links.

Glad to be of service.
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--
Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
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