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Author Topic: [The Mountain Witch] Reward System?  (Read 4809 times)
timfire
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« on: October 27, 2005, 07:31:47 AM »

Awhile ago, I was discussing tMW's "reward system" with Ron Edwards. It was spurred by a comment Vincent made on his blog that players get rewarded for making their characters act or at least appear honorable. I assume what Vincent thought was that acting honorable will net the player more Trust points from the other players. I disagreed with this, I don't consider Trust to be a "reward", in that I do not believe that acting honorably was a behavior I was trying to promote. I consider giving Trust to be almost purely a matter of addressing Premise, and has more to do with the giving player than the receiving player.

Anyway, Ron said (if I'm remembering this right) that tMW is interesting in this regard, in that the game either has no reward system in the sense that we usually discuss "rewards", or that players get "rewarded" for valuing/recognizing the importance of Trust in general. Is that right, Ron?

What does everyone think about this? I'm inclined to say that the game has no reward system.

Thanks!
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2005, 07:48:40 AM »

Hiya,

My call is that the game does have a reward system; however, it is not expressed by an improvement system.

Way back in the day, I and nearly everyone else used to think that character improvement was the core of any reward system. That's why Sorcerer includes the Humanity roll against current scores, for improving them.

Little did I know, then, that I might as well have only said, "A character may be rewritten to taste following the resolution of his or her Kicker, including changing scores." As it stands, the formalized improvement of one score by one point (which is what the mechanics permit) is relatively trivial compared to the existing, and crucial rewriting of the descriptors. The real reward system in Sorcerer concerns character transformation, not character improvement.

The real reward system in The Mountain Witch should be understood at two levels.

1. Within a play-event ("story"), which probably involves several sessions, Trust is a reward mechanic - gaining others' Trust makes your character more effective, both cooperatively and exploitatively (if you betray someone). However, its payoff in the larger sense is dramatic (players as helpers/betrayers) and social (players as co-authors), rather than strategic (character survival or killing the Witch).

2. From whole-play event to whole-play event, it doesn't affect the SIS at all, because playing the game again will probably not involve the same characters or even the same literal-context ("world," whatever you want to call it). However, as has been noted by many people by now, playing The Mountain Witch does have a positive impact on how people understand one another and how they play afterwards - it's a "friendship" game, cementing social bonds, even if characters stabbed one another in the back. This is the higher-order extension or consequence of the within-play features of the reward system described above.

Best,
Ron
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2005, 11:36:54 AM »

Certainly the primary reward of playing your game is the act of playing itself. That is clearly enough stated in the definition of "reward system" in the provisional glossary. Also clear in the glossary is that this fun is dependent on the individuals creative agenda. I think your, Ron's and Vincents comments on the reward system of tMW show more about your creative agendas than what the game requires. You see trust as premise - it is fun but not central. Vincent sees personal honor (the theme of Dogs in the Vinyard). Ron focuses on trust (which hits at a compelling human emotion - Sorcerer doing something similar). Trust not just in the game but outside of the game as well.

No matter what we intend as game/rules writers to be rewarding, what players actually find rewarding is going to rely on their own local game culture and what it values. The Cargo Cult idea.

A gamist (I want to win) player might find killing the witch rewarding or preparing to kill the witch (in a single session of play).

I'm wondering, do you think it is important for there to be a single reward system or is it okay for people to mentally impose their own values on to the game they play? I'm personally okay with players doing what they want. I try to provide a way to "win" the game but since I like personal freedom to try to get there by alternate routes I don't mind if the game goes off in other directions.

BTW Congratulations on you Gen Con sales!

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2005, 12:43:12 PM »

Hiya,

Chris, it might surprise you how difficult it would be to impose a Gamist agenda onto playing The Mountain Witch. You'd really have to ignore or strongly modify many existing rules, and the whole group would have to be involved in (and agree upon) the modifications.

All of which could happen, yes. But it is certainly not a case of taking a bucket and sitting on it upright, upside-down, or sideways depending on what you felt like. You'd have to rebuild the object, and to make the rebuilt thing work, everyone else would have to recognize and approve of the fact that it's no longer the bucket it was.

Best,
Ron
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2005, 01:12:52 PM »

I can see that. The only possible gamist goal of tMW is killing the witch which is sort of pointless since it would mean ignoring the journey there. Since all the players would have to agree to major changes an agressive player in the fold would lead to some pretty dysfunctional play.

The only thing rewarding about dysfunctional play is for people who like drama (of the real life kind - not the game variety).

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2005, 03:38:02 PM »

Tim,

I just wrote about the reward system of The Mountain Witch on my weblog a few days ago (in the context of talking about the reward system for my own new game.)

I found it super-interesting to see how you basically decoupled the reward system from resolution or any of the mechanics of play. Play itself feeds into the reward system, but only through the the judgment of other players.

It's - well, there's not a lot like it. It's pretty interesting and works exceptionally well.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
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