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Author Topic: [Misery Bubblegum] New mechanic  (Read 4074 times)
TonyLB
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« on: August 05, 2005, 07:48:06 AM »

This builds (somewhat) on the previous Misery Bubblegum post.  Been a while, hasn't it?  Well, I've been thinking.

What the system needs to achieve:
  • Character traits are not simply "good" or "bad," they are multifaceted (helping and hindering) by mechanic.
  • Player A (playing Character A) has oversight over how Character A evolves, but only within the realm of the choices offered by Players B, C and D.
  • Player A does, however, mostly choose who to give the power to influence who their character becomes.
  • Conflict resolution, not task
  • There must be multiple, tactically and dramatically important steps, for each player in the resolution of a single conflict

So here's the new thinking:
  • Each player has their own color dice, six sided.  You'll need twelve (in this rules-version).
  • Players have pools of dice:  Desires, Excuses (or Justifications) and Roles.  They start the game with four dice in each, but that's going to fluctuate wildly.
  • Dice are only rerolled when the system tells you to reroll them (see below).  But if somebody bumps the table and everything gets moved, that's probably not a big deal either.
  • When someone declares a Conflict then they start in the Lead position.
  • Conflicts are resolved in... well, essentially Tricks, but I need a better name.  Suggestions are welcome.
  • A trick starts with the Lead player putting forward a die from one of their pools, along with some narration.
  • Other players (who want to stay in the Conflict) must also play dice.  The Leader decides (each Trick) whether this goes clockwise or widdershins.
  • High die wins the trick.  In the case of a tie, a new trick is played right then.  Winner of the new trick wins all the dice.  Multiple ties can (as in the card-game War) make the outcome of one trick a matter of massive importance.  Winner takes all the dice and puts them aside in their little pile o' victory.
  • Whoever won the trick leads off the next trick.  If they want they may pass the lead clockwise.
  • When everybody still involved passes the lead, whoever won the most dice in tricks wins the conflict.
  • The person who won the conflict takes all the dice in everyone's tricks, and distributes them willy-nilly.  The only restriction is that they cannot take any of these dice (even their own) back to their own pools.  But you can put all Joe's dice back into his Excuses, or put Joes dice in Rachel's Role, or whatever.

So that's conflict resolution... but what does winning a conflict net you?
  • If you give Joe back N+1 of his own dice then you may (without consulting Joe) raise a Trait of Joes, currently at N to N+1.  If you have contributed more "points" to that Trait than anyone else then you now "own" the trait.
  • If you give Joe back N of his own dice then you may (with Joe's permission) lower a Trait of Joes, currently at N, to N-1.  Ownership may change, as above.
  • If you give Joe back N+1 of his own dice then you may (with Joe's permission) raise a Trait of your character, owned by Joe, from N to N+1.  Ownership doesn't change (as a player may never own traits on their own character).
  • If you give Joe back N of his own dice then you may (without consulting Joe) lower a Trait of your character, owned by Joe, from N to N-1.  Ownership may change.
  • If you give Joe back N+1 of his own dice, and Joe's character only has N Traits then you may open another trait at level 1.
  • No matter how many dice you give back, you may only choose to affect one Trait on a given character in a given Conflict.

And those are traits... so who should care?  Why do they matter?
  • Before playing their die, the Lead player each turn may access any number of Traits.
  • Any Trait may be accessed by one of two people:  The player of the character, or the owner of the Trait.  In either case, they must give a die (or dice) of the color of the player of the character to the other side of the "equation."  These dice must total at least the value of hte Trait.  So if Joe's character (red dice) has "Hotheaded 6", owned by Steve (blue dice), then Joe may give Steve a red six to use Hotheaded.  Or Steve may give Joe a red four and a red three to use Hotheaded.  Nobody can do anything with it by trading blue or purple dice, and Rachel can't use it at all (no matter what dice she has).
  • These dice go from one pool to the same type of pool:  If they started out on Joe's Excuses pool then they go to Steve's Excuses pool.  They are rerolled as they pass.
  • What the  trait does depends on what pool the die was given from.
  • If a die from the Excuse pool is spent, the spending player chooses dice of the same color in any Trick pile.  Those dice may total up to (but not more than) the value of the Trait.  Those dice are sent to the GM.
  • If a die from the Role pool is spent, the spending player chooses dice of a different color in their Trick pile.  Those dice may total up to (but not more than) the value of the Trait.  Those dice are sent to the GM.
  • If a die from the Desire pool is spent, the spending player chooses dice of the same color from anybody's Pools.  Those dice may total up to (but not more than) the value of the Trait.  Those dice are immediately rerolled, and remain in the pools they started in.

So, tactically:
  • Players get into a conflict.  They look over their dice.
  • If they have a lot of small dice, they pick someone they "trust" (heh) and give them a high desire die (like, say, a five) to reroll multiple small dice off of a high Trait.  If they don't have a high Trait (or don't want to use it) they get the same effect by either (a) using their influence over someone else, by way of the dice of theirs that they're holding, to use that characters Traits or (b) give people more influence over them, by using (and paying for) multiple traits.
  • Players run tricks, sluffing small dice onto their opponents and keeping their high dice.
  • When they have the lead, they use their Roles to remove their small dice from their opponents trick pool, reducing their opponent's chance of victory at the cost of opening themselves up for later repercussions from the GM.
  • When one side or another is faced with certain defeat, they get to decide whether to leave distribution in the hands of the winner, or to justify their loss with their Excuses, to send the winners's low dice off to the GM as vengeance.

Sorry 'bout all that.  I know it's a lot to digest.  So, now my problems:

I don't like what Excuses are doing.  I have this notion that they're like... urgh... Say you hate your brother.  I mean, really want him dead.  Princes of Amber type hate.  That empowers you to ignore little niceties like "What did he ever do to you, anyway?" or "But he's my husband now!  Please spare him!"  You just blow by those like they didn't exist.  Because you hate him so much.

At the same time, that hatred is what's holding you back.  It's why you constantly fail on things like "Smile, for once!" and "Give me one logical reason to back you on this."  But those failures don't bother you so much.  Because you know that those things aren't important... you blow by them like they didn't exist.  Because you hate him so much.

I just can't figure out how to make Excuses actually do that, dice-wise.

Also, I'm not sure how the GM should be bringing those many dice he's accumulating back into the mix.  I mean, he can just spend them on obstacles and such, but I get the feeling that there should be a special thing he can do, befitting his special role.  I don't know what, though... something about the way that he'll have to be igniting adversity between two players by introducing NPCs that they have different (and opposing) stakes toward.

Maybe the GM makes a pot that the winner can claim... that can go directly into their character pools.  And that gives some added incentive (above and beyond the "screw with other players" thing, which also works) for fighting hard on a conflict.  Does that sound workable?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2005, 08:18:39 AM »

Whoops... swap what Excuse-Traits and Role-Traits do.  Confusion on my part.

Role-Traits hurt your opponents chances, but send your dice to the GM.  Excuse-Traits hurt your own chances, but send other people's dice to the GM.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2005, 05:53:47 PM »

I'm amused that players never just get to roll dice -- that it always requires some tactical effort to roll them, and in conflicts the dice move but don't roll. (Uh, I think). To make this matter, it's probably important to keep the number of dice low, because the more dice, the more they will cover a spread of different values, alleviating the need to reroll: Even 12 per player may be too much.

I'm confused that Roles, Excuses, and Desires do these different mechanical things that don't intuitively follow from their names (uh, at least for me). This has frankly been the thing that keeps tripping me up, even as you dramatically change what these these three are called and what they do mechanically. Either the value names need to go and leave unashamedly abstract Funny Dice Tricks, or they really need to correlate in an intuitively obvious way.

I'm unsure about the GM role. This mechanic seems intended to be a tight system of incentives (like Capes, only miserific), and having dice pour in and out of the hands of a player with special -- and so far poorly defined -- powers and responsibilities creates an aesthetically unpleasing asymmetry, if not a potential breakpoint in the whole economy. Instead of a "GM pile," I'd rather see a "discard pile" that no one could use, but which players could pay dice into for special purposes (thereby draining the economy) and buy dice back with special sacrifices/investments (thereby restoring the economy).

Half-assed thing off the top of my head which addresses these problems:

Character A has X dice in his "Hate" pool and a level-Y Trait that defines a relationship with Character B. For every die of his Hate that A discards, he can make B discard one too ("an eye for an eye makes the world blind"), up to a maximum of Y. A's Hate can't do anything to Character C, though, because A doesn't have a relationship Trait to C -- so, strategically, C (and D, and E) can sit there happily while A drags himself and B down into the abyss.

Character B has X dice in her "Love" pool and a level-Y relationship Trait with C. For every die of Love that B discards, C can recover two dice from the discard pile (a net +1 increase to the economy), up to a maximum of Y.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2005, 07:18:09 PM »

Yeah... I agree that the abstraction vs. intuitive is wrapping my brain around the axle too.  For reference, here's what I would like the stats to do:
  • Excuses are the resources a player has to hold their character back.  Because committing fully to a goal makes you more likely to be hurt, these are also (in many senses) the resources a player has to defend his character from "damage".  Vis-a-vis other people, this ability thwarts opponents (even friendly ones of the "doing this for your own good" variety) really well.
  • Desires, conversely, are the resources a player has to goad their character beyond sane limits.  Which, of course, is also their ability to get absolutely shafted.  Vis-a-vis other people, this ability screws your allies really well, and occasionally rewards your opponents big-time.
  • Roles are the resources a player has to directly hold back or goad other characters, with all the attendant complications (as listed above).  Because this is based upon the traits ("reputations"?) that other players have made up and supported for your character, or that you (in turn) have made up for other characters, it's all about how being perceived as something can be both empowering and limiting.  So if you've got a "Little miss brainy know-it-all" trait then you can use Role dice to take charge (because you're so smart) and other people can use Role dice against you to make it impossible for you to get a date (because you're a geek).

I'm at the point, though, that the abstract mechanics and their interactions are becoming more familiar to me (mentally) than the real-world phenomena.  Not a good sign.  So does anyone without that particular mental block have thoughts on how to make dice do the things listed above?
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2005, 06:46:03 PM »

It hurts my head. I think you're loading too much detail and weight onto dice-trading, honestly. Have you considered diversifying away from dice? This seems like the sort of thing that cards and coins do better. I recognize the production issues there, but I don't think I could track dice by number, color, value, and allocation; strategize bidding; plot the ruin of my fellow players; AND think about advancing my own position - all while retaining any kind of investment in the fiction.

And I say that as someone who's about as non-immersive as they come, normally.

I like what you're trying to do, but it really feels mechanically overloaded to me at this point.
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Simon Marks
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2005, 06:53:54 AM »

I'm going to say that, without an example of play, I can't get my head around what you are saying.

An example of a single conflict would do...
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Stefan / 1of3
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« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2005, 09:32:43 AM »

So, first of all, I can understand the rules. That wasn't the case with the last version I read (the one with the three attributes and arrows between them).

Still I agree, that the way you treat the dice seems somewhat unnatural. Normally, when you use a die, you roll it. That isn't the case here, instead they are stored somewhere and rolling them is only a minor occurence.

Therefore I'd suggest that dice do not have values, while they are in any pool, but are rolled, when they are used. For example if you give a die to another player to activate a trait, you roll it. If it is higher or lower than a number related to the traits level, it works. Otherwise you have to try again.

Contests might be a bit more complicated, but something like DitV could do it: Take a certain number of dice from a pool. Roll them. Look at your opponents result and start bidding.


I would try to answer your questions, but the role of the GM is somewhat obscure. What does he do? How does he use dice?

As a side note, I think it would be cool, if the GM had three pools corresponding to the players' pools. So there could be an Establishment pool corresponding to the Role pools.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2005, 09:41:54 AM »

....the way you treat the dice seems somewhat unnatural...

Unnatural, but cool.

Quote
As a side note, I think it would be cool, if the GM had three pools corresponding to the players' pools. So there could be an Establishment pool corresponding to the Role pools.

Ooh!  Now that's a thought. People have talked about resource-limited GMs (as opposed to GM-as-God or we-are-all-GMs), but this would be a neat way to have a GM with a role that is at once clearly defined and yet different from the other participants.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2005, 11:20:31 AM »

Ooh... Establishment to complement Roles.  People who expect things of you ("Parents"?) to complement Excuses.  Objects of yearning to complement Desires.  Interesting.  A mechanic that actually gives meaningful representation for the gorgeous girl a year ahead of you who will never, ever know that you exist, but who occupies your thoughts 24/7.

That's definitely something I'm going to have to think about after GenCon, when my brain cells are returned to general-purpose operation.  I'll get back to you in a few days!
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Mikael
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2005, 09:15:16 PM »

Two minor questions:

  • If you give Joe back N+1 of his own dice then you may (without consulting Joe) raise a Trait of Joes, currently at N to N+1.  If you have contributed more "points" to that Trait than anyone else then you now "own" the trait.
The last sentence did not make sense until I read the next point, which dealt with lowering a trait value. So, this means that you will only gain ownership of a trait if you put in more points than anyone ever? At once or accumulated? Sounds like some painful bookkeeping. How about "If you raise a trait, you get ownership," or what am I missing?

Quote
[li]If you give Joe back N+1 of his own dice then you may (with Joe's permission) raise a Trait of your character, owned by Joe, from N to N+1.  Ownership doesn't change (as a player may never own traits on their own character).[/li]
[li]If you give Joe back N of his own dice then you may (without consulting Joe) lower a Trait of your character, owned by Joe, from N to N-1.  Ownership may change.[/li]

First point says you may never own your own traits, second seems to contradict this.

Overall, the goals that you are trying to achieve seem really interesting, at least based on what you explained in the previous threads, but this presentation is perhaps not the most approachable. It is hard to get a feeling of the actual dynamics at the table. IŽll echo the others in saying that a small example of play would do a world of good to this discussion - unless, of course, the thread is aimed at the advanced-level designers only, which is so not me.

Cheers,
+ Mikael
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