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Author Topic: Examples of Skilled Play in Conflict Resolution  (Read 4579 times)
Sean
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« on: January 08, 2005, 09:31:54 PM »

Hi all -

I am definitely enjoying reading this game. I also groove on the gradual working in of dice to the narration of conflicts, and of course on the wonderful Escalation mechanics. (Vincent, I'm another one who thought the escalation was universally one way until I read the threads here clarifying that point.)

I'm curious as to whether there are any 'tricks' people have perceived to playing one's 'hand' of dice well in a conflict. Is there any reason to Reverse the Blow right away, or to save one's best dice for down the line, or anything like that? I suppose skillfully narrating one's traits and relationships into it is the main thing, which is one reason I like the system so much, but I was wondering if there was any particularly dice-driven stuff to keep in mind alongside that.

I think if I were to play this I might enjoy doing it with the dice rolls blind (only the player who rolls them sees what they get, including the GM), so you don't know what other people have. That may be in the rules - I didn't catch it but I'm still reading it through for the first few times. That would increase the suspense and maybe make decisions of whether to escalate more dramatic for the player who was deciding. Any thoughts on that?

P.S. One other bit. If you were doing a fantasy variant you could let guns = magic, have characters take a magic trait ("fire magic", "illusionist", "odd bits I've picked up in ancient scrolls", "I have fey blood in my veins" etc.) or two if so desired, and throw in that extra d4 for all conflicts with magic or magic items in them. For a setting: Quaesitors in the Covenant, anyone? For this one I think I'd want to tweak the Ars Magica setting so that Christianity, the Code of Hermes, and Bonisagus' codification of magic were much more tightly intertwined; then the demonic influence rules in DitV and the idea of magical transgression being linked to the social order and to metaphysical evil could hang together better. Well, it's not perfect, but you could do something with it.
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2005, 03:05:31 AM »

Quote from: Sean
I think if I were to play this I might enjoy doing it with the dice rolls blind (only the player who rolls them sees what they get, including the GM), so you don't know what other people have. That may be in the rules - I didn't catch it but I'm still reading it through for the first few times. That would increase the suspense and maybe make decisions of whether to escalate more dramatic for the player who was deciding. Any thoughts on that?

I think this would have a big impact on the game. Not seeing your opponents dice might lead to unnecessary Escalations by the guy in the lead. There's more of a sense of urgency to invoke Traits and Relationships if you can see your opponent's dice. I think you will find that you have much longer conflicts if you play with the dice being obscured from your opponent, because both parties will desperately try to invoke each extra die possible, and escalate to no end. That's how I see it at least, but I haven't tried it, and don't intend to either.

Your fantasy ideas are solid though, and could definitely be turned into a full setting for Dogs.

Regards,

Yokiboy
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Sean
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2005, 03:47:32 PM »

Thanks for the thoughts, Yokiboy. Reading over the examples it does seem like some of the 'skill' involves assessing the possibilities of your dice relative to the other people's, though I think too much focus on that might be unhealthy. But if that's important to the game (Vincent's text suggests it is at one point) then blind dice would actually decrease the skill element and that would be an argument against doing it. Just food for thought at this point from my end, until I get a chance to play.
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Piers
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Posts: 72


« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2005, 08:47:08 PM »

Quote
Reading over the examples it does seem like some of the 'skill' involves assessing the possibilities of your dice relative to the other people's, though I think too much focus on that might be unhealthy. But if that's important to the game (Vincent's text suggests it is at one point) then blind dice would actually decrease the skill element and that would be an argument against doing it.


Being able to see the other person's dice gives you an idea of how likely you it is that you are or aren't going to win, if not an exact idea--which becomes really important when deciding if you are going to give or not.  If you have no idea how close you are to finishing the other person, deciding to whether or not to take fallout becomes an act of nerves.  Playing 'blind' would really change the feel of the back and forth.  

And remember you are playing half-blind already--while you can see the dice on the table, you don't know how many more traits they have to call on, or whether they will be significantly more or less threatening if and when they escalate.  In fact escalation is all about playing blind if you think about it.

As to tactics:  

First and foremost, you want to Turn the Blow as often as possible.  Without turning the blow, resolution would more or less come directly down to who has the higher total on their dice.  With Turning there is the possibility that the person with the lower total but more high dice will win out.  (The obvious corolary to this is that you have to avoid them Turning you as much as possible.)   Remember, turning dice are a See and a Raise.

Second:  When not turning the blow, match the Raise exactly if you can rather than exceeding it (because you don't have dice that match exactly).  Any Block or Dodge, or Take the Blow that exceeds the raise wastes those points.  Most of the time this won't make any difference, but if things are very close it might.

Third: If you really want to win, be ready to take fallout early and often.  If you hold back on taking fallout you always have the option of giving before the going gets tough--seeing what the other side has and then deciding that the stakes aren't worth it.  But if you want to win, what you need to do is use your small dice to eat up their bigger dice, taking bunches of fallout until they run out of big raises and are forced to feed you smaller ones which you can turn.  

Four: Raise smart--always seven and above until you just can't manage it (can't be turned with a d6, unlikely to be turned with d8 and d10--push a bit higher if you are worried), and never make a raise they can turn unless you have no choice.  But do this with your medium numbers (3s, 4s, 5s) and save dice showing 6+ for turning until you don't have another choice.  When you do Turn don't use another big die with your high Turning die--any raise higher than 11 is an attempt to cause fallout rather than an attempt to win the contest.

Five: Use the Fallout mechanics to your advantage with follow-on conflicts.  The obvious alternative to the approach above is coming in with big raises and forcing your opponent to take massive fallout--this usually doesn't win you the conflict unless you would anyway, but it can be an advantage.  If you declare a conflict that they care about, make them take fallout and then give before you take any, you can immediately roll that fallout over into a follow-on that matters.  Go ahead, face down that Sorceror in a "Go home and become a god-fearing farmer" contest, then give and shoot him down.  

All of which is the give-me-victory-or-give-me-death approach, but part of the beauty of the system is the way in which your sees and raises speak for the characters intentions and feelings just as much as escalation does.

While we are here, I have a system question for Vincent if he is reading:

What happens with Turning the Blow and multiple characters in a conflict?

Example: Brother Jesop, is facing down Brother Clarence and Brother Malachi in the barn.  The order is Brother C, Brother J, Brother M.

Brother Clarence raises: "He levels his shotgun at Jesop and lets him have it with both barrels."

Brother J Turns: "I run in front of Malachi, drawing Jesop's fire onto him"
And then raises: "and then swing at his kneecap with my hatchet as he stands gaping at shooting his friend."

In other words: is it alright to use a Turn die from one person's raise against other people in the conflict?  I assume so, depending on narration.

However, what if things get more complicated: Before Jesop gets to the kneecaping, Sister Hepzibah rears up from behind the haystack and comes at him with a pitchfork.  The order is Bro M, Sis H, Bro J, Bro C.

Raise: "In comes the pitchfork"

Bro J Turns again somehow: "I step out the way and let crazy Sister H go running past right at Brother Malachi"

So now, somehow, Brother Jesop has two Turn dice at the same time:  Can he use both of them?  Together?  What if this goes on?  Theoretically it is possible to get more turn dice than you can actually use in Raises during a multi-person contest.

Piers









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Harlequin
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Posts: 284


« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2005, 10:18:17 AM »

As a note, since we play sitting around the room well-separated in comfy chairs, no table, we're mostly playing 'blind' as-is.  At most, you can see how many dice of what sizes your opponent has left, and even then that's obscured and we've been tacitly 'not noticing' that for the most part.

And it has worked well.  Removes some of the calculation element, and reduces things down to a more raw narrative level.  Far from being a problem, I would recommend it.

I can't yet, however, address the 'dice tactics' question.  My gut as a math geek says that the 'best' strategy is to save a really high single die result, if you've got one, for mid-to-late in the conflict (when the Raises are low enough to Turn), while Taking once with mid- and low-rolling dice fairly early, before any Escalation takes place.

- Eric
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2005, 03:32:41 PM »

I, on the other hand, always call out my highest dice whenever I think anybody's forgotten about them. I think that everybody knowing how the dice lie contributes a lot to the pacing.

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2005, 08:08:54 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
I, on the other hand, always call out my highest dice whenever I think anybody's forgotten about them. I think that everybody knowing how the dice lie contributes a lot to the pacing.


I think it also helps people make good, dramatic decisions. There's no reason. Seriously, no reason, to keep it secret. All it does is deprive the game of a level of strategy, drama, and cooperation.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Harlequin
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Posts: 284


« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2005, 09:39:39 AM »

Honestly for our style it's not that there's a reason to keep it secret; it's that making it public would detract from play, by adding more verbiage of numbers where right now it's almost purely interaction.

However, I would still support that in a group with math-geeks or the like (which ours has, me being one of them), the element of calculation permitted by public dice numbers would not be healthy for Dogs play.  If it were, say, a game about science, or something, where the feel of calculation were appropriate... then I'd agree.  But this is Dogs; it's about trust and faith, not calculation and certainties.  When I make a late Raise of thirteen, but I don't know anyone else's numbers, I'm putting my faith in those dice.  So on the thematic level, I'd support blind dice here as well.

Sounds like the lesson is that this is a preference issue which Vincent was correct to not address in the text.  You'll play it how you read it, and learn to like it that way.

- Eric
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2005, 09:49:41 AM »

Quote from: Harlequin
Honestly for our style it's not that there's a reason to keep it secret; it's that making it public would detract from play, by adding more verbiage of numbers where right now it's almost purely interaction.


That's a fair point to make. You can, of course, not look. And if you look, don't discuss. I think keeping them secret is another matter: it makes things more complex, makes you actively think and wonder what's over there behind my card.

Vincent and I discussed this early in the development of the game and came to realize that hiding the dice didn't gain you anything. I agree that not letting them rule the discussion of conflict is important, though.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Harlequin
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Posts: 284


« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2005, 10:02:25 AM »

'Not looking' is a GNS trap, though.  If the dice are right there, and you could look, and you could gain (Gamist) advantage, then your GNS spectrum is automatically affected.  Even if you don't look, you had to consider it; you had to make the conscious decision that your Nar priorities are better served by sacrificing the Gam edge involved.  Which requires both a strong degree of awareness of your Creative Agenda, and an expenditure of willpower and attention which could both have been spent on something else.

If I decide that looking at the dice won't suit the experience, I'll ask to have them kept secret.  I don't want to spend my Dogs time wrestling with Gamist temptations, I want to spend it kicking butt and calling Names. (Grin).

Not that I disagree with your other points, but "You could just not look" - or its equivalent - are trapped arguments which undermine the CA, and I prefer to catch those lest they propagate.

- Eric
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2005, 12:55:07 PM »

Quote from: Harlequin
'Not looking' is a GNS trap, though.


Well, I see what you're saying, but what Gamist advantage can be gained, really? If I'm playing my Narrativist style and you're playing Gamist, aren't both of our agendas aided by not having our dice covered?

For instance, I have an idea that I'll probably try out for the first time at Dreamation in a couple of weeks: I want to see if I can have my character accumulate fallout as a method of winning conflicts. This is because it's a type of character I want to try out, a Frank Miller 'hero' kind of guy. By the end of the character's lifetime, I will be very, very disappointed if I have all my fingers, ears, eyes, and illusions intact. The only way I can play that character is by knowing what will get me beat up while not giving the conflict.

Similarly, if I want to play a clean-cut good guy, I need to know how to play my dice in order to play the part I want to play.

What Gamist advantage are you going to get, given the rules as they stand? We'll root out the sin and injustice either way, and we all get to play who we want to play.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Harlequin
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Posts: 284


« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2005, 01:30:41 PM »

Hmm.  I'm not sure I entirely follow you, there.  Indeed I think it's linked to the original question of this thread.

The Frank Miller character I understand.  That's a good example of making the mechanics serve your vision, and I can see where it would be easier with 'open' dice than the other way.  (Not impossible with blind dice, though, just less calculated.)  Cool.

The rest I don't understand, though.

How would a 'clean-cut good guy' select Raise and See dice differently than, say, a ruthless doctrinarian?  

Note that I exclude Escalate and Call, here, and I'm not talking about how he'd narrate the Raises and so on, nor about the cases when he selects his dice based on a narration idea that had struck him.  Those could clearly be different, fine, and I'd contend that those differences would be equally easy to portray with 'blind' dice as with 'open.'  

But how would you make the mechanical process of selecting which dice to use for Raises show characterization? And would it matter whether or not you could see the other guy's dice?  (Note that these are not rhetorical questions, I'm interested in the answer.  Making mechanics serve other ends - such as characterization - is something I delight in, so if Dogs contains that on this raw-mechanical level, I'd love to have it pointed out.)

As for the Gamism, the thing is that I'm not looking to play Gamist.  It's not the only style I enjoy.  I just have this deep-seated competitive streak in my nature.  So when playing Nar - deliberately and consciously, and reveling in it - I prefer to have temptation placed as far from me as possible.  Not only will I personally have more fun if my GNS is on-message, the group as a whole will be more coherent.  

I would contend that I'm far from alone in this; that placing an opportunity to gain an advantage (being more likely to win the conflict than not), whether perceived or otherwise, in front of your average player will bias his play.  Most people just won't realize that they might benefit by suppressing that level of detail.

Whereas the thing I like about playing Dogs "blind" is that I don't know.  This lets me disconnect the Gamist instinct, and stay focused on characterization and visualization.  It... changes the shape of the shared imaginary space.

(A local... LARP/PBEM hybrid (?)... called Sovereign used this to excellent effect, showing the outlines of the rules - more of X will increase your chances when doing Y - but concealing the actual numbers.  They found that play improved, because gaming the PBEM was not the point, the point was the emergent intrigue.  Other examples exist as well, Cell Gamma being perhaps an extreme case.)

You say you don't see a reason not to have the dice open.  I see one, from here.  No reason why we aren't both right, unless we maintain that the other viewpoint isn't valid.

So I think we're just clarifying the ground around my earlier contention.  Groups have the option to have the bones of the mechanic (the actual die numbers) tucked away more, or out in the open more.  If having access to the bones lets you make the skeleton dance better, cool.  If having access to the bones makes it harder for you to enjoy the skin, that's cool too.

Makes sense to me.

- Eric
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Sean
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« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2005, 07:12:57 PM »

Just for the record, the text does not leave this unaddressed. Vincent says clearly to leave the dice on the table where everyone can see them.

I of course agree that from a narrative-building point of view leaving them in the open is best. It appears from this discussion so far that this is also best from a strategy point of view. If there were interesting gains of either type to be had by 'playing blind', then that technique would maybe be an interesting variant for that purpose. Right now the only thing I'm seeing as potentially coming out of playing blind is a feeling of suspense and uncertainty, which does have a kind of value. Of course, not knowing the traits etc. of your opponents, or the interesting ways they're going to bring them into play (the really important thing), provides that too, so I'm not sure that's much of an argument.

It seems that a big part of skill in these mechanics is bringing in your traits, and maybe features of the environment as equipment, to get dice during the conflict.

Any other thoughts on the original post title's topic, that of what skilled use of the Dogs mechanics looks like?
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Tim Alexander
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Posts: 304


« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2005, 06:44:28 AM »

Hey Folks,

FWIW I think leaving the dice open is pretty important, for exactly reasons of pacing and the narrative. With the limited play experience I have I can already see that it's pretty simple to see how a conflict is going to go. This leaves the player (or GM) with a lot more flexibility in determining the flow of the conflict. It gets the question of escalation, which is pretty core to the game, right out in the open. You're not thinking, "Will I have to escalate to beat him?" you're instead thinking, "Do I want to escalate, because I can't beat him." It let's you determine all sorts of things about the narrative. It's one of the things I really like about the game in fact. In a lot of games with shared narration the power ends up in a single player's hand at a given moment. Dogs in contrast forces the give and take in any conflict. It's a really powerful tool.

As for the idea of gamism, the dicing in Dogs just isn't complex enough IMO, to create much in the way of step on up. There are few situations where the way the dice have fallen doesn't pretty clearly dictate a proper strategy, and that situation is death for real gamism. I'd actually say that hidden dice provides for much more gamism since you could in theory present traps and pitfalls for your opponent in terms of how you play your dice.

Yours,

-Tim
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