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Author Topic: Non-Binary Conflict Resolution  (Read 12256 times)
Josh Roby
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« on: October 27, 2005, 12:54:55 PM »

In discussing Dogs in the Vineyard, we came across a slight conceptual bump when it came to conflicts that included more than two parties all with mutally exclusive agendas.  Dogs' conflict resolution system more or less assumes binary results -- either the player gets the results he wanted, or he doesn't.  How he doesn't get his stakes, or what he gets instead, is left arbitrary and up to events in play.  In fact, how he gets his stakes is also played out via the dice-spending mechanic (which I'm not saying is bad, mind).  But the final result is still succeed/fail, whatever route you take to get there.

I don't think that Dogs is broken or deficient or anything, and in fact I don't intend for this thread to be about Dogs in specific.  What I am interested in is the possibility of conflict resolution which is not binary -- that doesn't result in a 'you win'/'you lose' determination, but presents multiple options and picks between them.  Something like "all players around the table propose a resolution, invest some of their currency in their proposal, and then (somehow) one of the proposals is selected".  Or "all players suggest a piece of the final resolution, invest currency, and then the player and/or GM shops among the suggestions for what goes into the final resolution."

Before I start throwing more concrete ideas around, writing anything down, or (god forbid) rewriting another section of FLFS, I'd be curious to see if (a) this has been done in a completed project before, and (b) if anyone has played a game using such a system.  Either way, I'd like to hear about any hang ups, boons, difficulties, and the like.  I don't want to retread old ground if it's already been churned up sufficiently.
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timfire
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2005, 01:04:13 PM »

This was discussed not too long ago: [Conflict Resolution - varable efect]
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
timfire
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2005, 01:08:13 PM »

I just realized that you participated in that discussion, Joshua, so maybe I'm confused about what you're asking. Maybe you could elaborate? Are you specifically looking for systems where multiple people have a say in what happens?
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Blankshield
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2005, 01:19:29 PM »

Primetime Adventures uses multiple binary resolutions to build a complex, non-binary resolution.  Is that the sort of thing you're looking for?

James
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2005, 01:27:18 PM »

I've written about how to adapt Dogs' resolution to everybody-has-a-goal here on my blog.

-Vincent

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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2005, 01:34:33 PM »

Tim --

I did?  I did!  That must have been percolating in the background of my brain for a bit.  That thread was asking if non-binary results would make it not conflict resolution, and if conflict resolution would be diluted if it allowed non-binary results.  I think that was satisfactorily answered in that thread -- no and no.

What I'd like to see here are examples on non-binary stakes and any known or experienced characteristics of the same.

Blankshield --

Indeed; using two binary conflicts, you get four eventual results.  Three binary conflicts, eight potential results.  That's certainly one way to attack it.  But what if you have three interested parties all acting at once, all with a different prefered result?  No doubt there are many different ways to model this, so I'm not asking for the 'right' way, only any methods that people have written and/or played.  Like Vincent just did.

Vincent --

Interesting.  When does a conflict end?  Because with multiple stakes on the table, some characters will be winning their stakes before others.  Do the others keep going, or is that conflict over?  If they keep going, does the 'winner' stay in the conflict?  Is there any way to help out someone else, rather than just blocking/reversing/taking the blow?  And lastly, have you played this?
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2005, 01:45:50 PM »

Josh,

This thread (don't miss its reference) handles a non-binary conflict resolution concept at some length, and I'm developing it into a full game in my Mere Sapnon ki Rani thread -- MSKR handles conflicts like a game of chicken, where each character may continue pursuing his goal until the risks are too great.

It hasn't seen any play yet, though.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2005, 02:04:09 PM »

Shreyas, it seems that the default assumption is that something bad is going to happen, which is not necessarily a bad assumption to make -- if nothing bad ever happened, there'd be no story.  It also appears that more than one sword can fall in a given conflict/scene -- sure, the wave broke over the side of the ship and knocked over the PC, but the fight rages on!  When is a given conflict/scene over?  When and how does the system ever resolve in favor of the PCs?
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2005, 02:39:41 PM »

The generic conceit I developed out of that situation is that you want bad things to happen to other people, and the danger of actually trying to bring this about is that it exposes you to counterattack along similar lines. So, the technique is that you define the dangers such that they block characters from acheiving their goals, or a goal is identical to "danger X befalls character Y"; in effect you are juggling multiple conflicts whose states of resolution affect each other, and you can fluidly add and remove sob-conflicts without interrupting the large-scale flow of the situation.
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John Kirk
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« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2005, 04:53:10 PM »

What I am interested in is the possibility of conflict resolution which is not binary -- that doesn't result in a 'you win'/'you lose' determination, but presents multiple options and picks between them.  Something like "all players around the table propose a resolution, invest some of their currency in their proposal, and then (somehow) one of the proposals is selected".  Or "all players suggest a piece of the final resolution, invest currency, and then the player and/or GM shops among the suggestions for what goes into the final resolution."

I haven't seen non-binary conflict resolution systems (Negotiated Contests) in any of the games I've studied.  However, non-binary Generalized Contests exist all over the place.

Any game including an initiative system that is selecting the turn order of more than two players is an example of this.  Generally, the player that goes first is considered to have the greatest share of the win, the next player is the next best winner, etc.  The stakes are all highly generalized and essentially the same from game to game, so we tend to ignore the fact that these are contests in and of themselves.  In my opinion, there is no fundamental difference between binary and non-binary contests.

To modify these systems into Negotiated Contest systems, all you have to do is introduce the requisite negotiation.  You could, for example, go around the table and have each player state his goals.  Then, the players could negotiate amongst themselves as to the effects for each player if he should win or lose the contest.  Then, roll (or bid, or whatever) to determine the winner.  A "degree of success" value could be determined as the amount the biggest winner has over the biggest loser.
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John Kirk

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TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2005, 06:25:32 PM »

Capes lets you have any number of sides on a given conflict, although the default is binary resolution.  N-cornered adversity comes up less often, I think, because people often have a hard time coming to grips with what it means.  You don't have a clear "If I'm working toward my enemy's defeat I must also be working toward my victory" structure.  Folks jump to that structure even when it's not accurate ... in games and in life (unfortunately).
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Trevis Martin
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« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2005, 09:27:01 PM »

I think the resolution for Pretender (from the No Press RPG Anthology) and its parent game Otherkind might qualify as a non binary system.  You decide several factors about the conflict depending on where you put the dice that are rolled.

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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2005, 03:13:32 AM »

To modify these systems into Negotiated Contest systems, all you have to do is introduce the requisite negotiation.  You could, for example, go around the table and have each player state his goals.  Then, the players could negotiate amongst themselves as to the effects for each player if he should win or lose the contest.  Then, roll (or bid, or whatever) to determine the winner.  A "degree of success" value could be determined as the amount the biggest winner has over the biggest loser.

This sounds an awful lot like the "free and clear" stage of Sorcerer conflict resolution. Everybody at the table saying, and changing what they're attempting, not know when things are going to happen. Once everyone is set, the dice are rolled and essentially dictate "Consider this action and its success/failure before you consider this action and its success/failure." If you look at the scene as a whole as what's being resolved, rather than just a single character's action, that is.

Joshua, it seems to me that you're asking more about conflict res. w/ multiple-player input, rather than just "non-binary" which, to me, just means saying more than just "you succeed" or "you fail." Is that right? 'Cause if it's just "non-binary" and multiple outcomes generated by the same person are legit, I could talk about the FVLMINATA influence system.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2005, 10:15:41 AM »

Shreyas --

So do players propose possible outcomes, and then work towards their preferred outcome(s) while preventing the undesired outcome(s)?

John --

Thank you for pointing out initiative.  With task and (most) conflict resolution as binary and generic damage rolls as scalars, I'm not sure what initiative would be termed as -- a weighted order, perhaps?  Adding negotiation to that ordered result could be interesting.  I think it would have to be pretty structured to enforce the winner's (leader's?) dominance.   I can see a resolution mechanic where players contribute in order, able to add details and elaborations but unable to contradict statements made before them, or some such.

Tony --

So if there are three sides to a conflict, and then one side 'wins out' what happens to the two other sides?  Are they completely negated, or can the winner of the conflict allow them some weight in the ensuing resolution narration?  Or would you only enter into a non-binary conflict if you specifically did not want the other two results to play out?  If blocking the other results was not a priority to you, it would be simpler to start a new conflict (especially since the other players' resources are already tied up in the original conflict).

I'm sure human nature plays a part in all this -- a simple me-or-them scheme is lots easier to grok than a multiple-agenda brouhaha.  It's kind of the same as focusing fire on one enemy at a time in dungeoncrawling.  So half the challenge in designing something non-binary would be presenting it in terms that the players can easily wrap their brains around.  I think Shreyas' system might have that advantage.

Trevis --

Otherkind is sort of what I'm thinking of, but it still has that Motion die which is pretty success/fail towards your "Goal".  The other dice certainly add some elaboration, much like Dogs dice elaborate the means by which the conflict's stakes are pursued, but there's still a single stated goal and the character will gain it or lose it.  What happens if we take out the Motion die, or replace it with a couple dice representing parts of player objectives?

Tell me about FVLMINATA, Michael!  How it works and how it plays, if possible.

Quote
Joshua, it seems to me that you're asking more about conflict res. w/ multiple-player input, rather than just "non-binary"

Not especially.  The players at the table seem to me to be the most accessible source of alternate resolutions or pieces of that resolution.  Those same contributions could come from charts and tables (critical hit tables, anyone?), printed on cards, or hell, stamped on the faces of a die.  The advantage of player-suggested elements is that they will (tend to) be relevant to the situation at hand, whereas the critical hit table occasionally has you get a headshot on the guy whose head wasn't visible.

What I'm after is a more complex system than "I get what I want" versus "I don't get what I want."  Dogs' system produces "What will you do to get what you want?" questions, which is great.  If I wanted, say, a game of courtly intrigue with many different operators with many different agendas, where the question is "What will the conflict of our clashing agendas produce?" I'd need to configure the system differently.  It occurs to me that this may not be conflict resolution at all, though.  After all, a conflict is constituted out of (a) what a character desires and (b) what prevents the fulfillment of that desire.  As such, it may be that it is profoundly grounded in that first half, "what I want".
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2005, 10:32:00 AM »

Quote
I haven't seen non-binary conflict resolution systems (Negotiated Contests) in any of the games I've studied.  However, non-binary Generalized Contests exist all over the place.
Hmm. Depends on what Non-binary means. I'ts not, itself, binary. Take Hero Quest for example, it can definitely be used as Conflict Resolution (that's how I use it), and in addition to the binary pass-fail it produces a mechanical result, and the precise effects of the outcome are gradated by level of victory: Marginal, Minor, Major, and Complete (with mirroring levels of defeat for he loser). So winning a contest where the goal is to leap onto and catch somebody the levels may produce the following example results determined by the narrator:
Marginal - well, you're on him, but he's still moving, and sorta dragging you along.
Minor - got him. He's stopped, but not down.
Major - he's down and all but wrapped up.
Complete - as he looks up at you in disbelief, you both realize that he'll never make the mistake of trying to run from you again.

So is that non-binary enough?

Mike
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