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Author Topic: [Trollbabe] Acting towards goals after losing a conflict  (Read 4971 times)
beingfrank
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« on: February 19, 2006, 12:10:03 AM »

Today I went through the rules and did character creations for two players I'm running Trollbabe for.  The first session will be in a fortnight, but we all wanted to make sure we understood the rules before we kicked off a full session of play.

A few issues emerged but on in particular is bugging me, and I'm not sure if I'm being unnecessarily grumpy.

One player raised the issue of not being able to restart a conflict in a scene once lost.  They were looking at getting around not being able to attack someone again after a conflict is lost by picking goals like "kill my foe within 10 seconds" and if that is lost, ask for another conflict with the goal of "kill my foe within 60 seconds."

Another player looked at the rules on relationships and announced that they were going to take relationships with only animals and mentors, and rather than taking a relationship with say, a wolf pack, they'd instead take individual relationships with all 12 members of the wolf pack, in order to get 12 re-rolls from the wolf pack, rather than just one.

The latter doesn't bother me so much, because I suspect that if we find that it gets boring to have all these wolves as individual NPCs, the problem will fade away.  And otherwise it leads to a PC with important relationships with a complex social grouping, which is good.

But the former is irritating me.  I've told the player that even if it isn't technically against the rules it may go against my personal 'don't be a dick' rule, but should I be getting so annoyed?  Could this attitude actually lead to fun play?

I don't know whether I'm unhappy about the attitude because I think the player might be nitpicking because they would prefer to play a game they already know rather than learn a new one, or I'm objecting to something that is really unhelpful to the game.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2006, 02:08:31 AM »

Seems like being a dick, alright. Those ideas make about as much sense as claiming that somebody should give you real money in Monopoly because the rules don't specify Monopoly money. If you're playing with humans, I think they know very well what a "goal" is. If necessary, you could remind them about the necessity to be honest about your goals; games like Trollbabe assume that players really do set goals they think they want, instead of trying to sneak on their actual objectives via technicalities. Lying about your goal is pretty close to cheating, I think. A simple method of finding out a frivolous goal is to ask yourself whether there's any conseivable reason for wanting to beat a foe in, say, 10 seconds. If there's not, you should renegotiate the goal with the player.

Remember that you can't force somebody to like a game or play it, so perhaps you should just tell the guys to stop being dicks, or if that's not possible, play D&D instead. Not everybody has what it takes to play a game like a civilized being.

I'd like to clarify the "no repeat" thing a bit, to make sure we're on the same page: the "no repeat conflict" rule does not mean that  a Trollbabe cannot attack a foe another time after getting beaten. Remember that the rerolls already can be narrated as going down and getting up. Also, nothing stops a player from declaring another attack after the conflict, assuming the trollbabe is still in position to do it (and not subdued or thrown into a river or something). The conflict rule just means that she will get soundly beaten again, without the need for new conflict. The conflict was about whether she could win, so as long as the conditions are unchanged, she will lose just like the first time. You should encourage your players to change the conditions of the fight before trying again; for instance, waiting for the night and attacking in the dark may work where in daylight the foe proved the better.

That being said, a couple of points on how to balance any ordinary degree of inconsistency in the issues you raised:

Goals: even if you let a repeat conflict slide once in a while it's not the end of the world, because the player is risking his resources twice anyway. He is not getting any undue mechanical benefit from it, the only consequence is that the game bogs down and everybody gets less gaming done during the evening. The rule is about dramatic sense and quality time, not about any particular mechanical balance.

Relationships: a good rule of thumb is that each relationship causes complications and relationship scenes separately, so if you have twelve wolves as your relationships, then you'll spend most of your time negotiating wolvy marriage problems between your friends or saving individual wolves from hunters or the like. Twelve relationships means twelve times the personal upkeep time, which is plenty reason to take only a relationship to the pack as whole. Conversely, if a player really wants those twelve wolves, you should allow it; he's saying that this is the only thing he's interested in, essentially, and you as the GM should craft your story around the travails of the pack from then on. Strange, but we're here to serve, aren't we?
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beingfrank
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2006, 03:59:40 AM »

Thanks very much, that was pretty much how I understood it.

The player was concerned about the dice 'forcing' their character to act in ways they didn't like.  They were uncomfortable with the idea that if a conflict was lost where the goal was say 'kill my enemy', the rules of the game prevented the character from immediately attacking again.   I think we've sorted it out now, with further discussion of how conflicts go and the results of them.

It also included this exchange:

Player: "But what if the outcome of the conflict means my character does something that I don't like?"
Me: "That's your responsibility to define during fair and clear."
Player:  "I don't want to take responsibility for that."
Me:  "Tough."

So looks like it could be fun.  Though I think that one was also cleared up by the discussion that followed about setting Goals.  I'll have to check with the player before we play again.

Oh, another question, any advice on dealing with players who are uncomfortable with the idea that putting stuff on the table in the game means that it could go against the PC?  It came up in regard to the example conflict about whether someone was watching the PC.  The players are still in simulating task resolution mode, and got all concerned with the idea that this meant that the game world was one that essentially punished PC cautiousness.  They seemed to feel that establishing that the PC kept an eye out for followers meant that the cautious people ended up being constantly stalked by foes, and the completely careless and oblivious person never runs into trouble.  I've explained that it's not modelling the world, but the story, and that they should be putting things on the table about the characters because they want them to be points of drama rather than uncontentious.  And I've got everyone's agreement to give it a go and see how it works in play.  But are there better ways to dealing with this concern?
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Calithena
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aka Sean


« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2006, 05:34:37 AM »

Quote
got all concerned with the idea that this meant that the game world was one that essentially punished PC cautiousness.


My view is that this is a huge feature, not a bug. It's highly annoying to me that in many traditional games my supposedly bold, forthright barbarian (e.g.) has to behave like a traumatized war veteran, borderline paranoid psychotic to survive. Trollbabe lets heroes behave like heroes, which can include sneaking and skulking if that's how that particular scene needs to play out, but lets you forget about that when you don't want to play it out that way.

These guys you're playing with have obviously played a lot of games which require local, highly reactive and highly focused tactical thinking for success. They do need to lose that mindset to have fun with Trollbabe, I think.

In Trollbabe, being cautious and skulking means that you want to find trouble along the road. The cautiousness is _asking for a conflict_. Being bold and forthright means you're ready to get on to the next thing, and that you don't really need a conflict right now: the GM might introduce the possibility of one, but that's part of the dialogue of play.

Your assessment of the 'get twelve die rolls' move seems right; the game will miliitate against just using that as a boring resource, because it's a good design. But you do need to put a kibosh on repeated conflicts with different time windows - that is cheating. What you're conflicting over is supposed to _settle_ an important point in the story. If, say, they're executing the mayor's daughter by midnight, and you want to stop them, then if you lose the conflict where you try to get back across the swamp to town in time, she's dead, period. If you want to declare a follow-up where you kill all the guys you might have killed anyway to save her, that can be another conflict, but now it's changed: it's a revenge killing rather than saving the mayor's daughter.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2006, 05:45:34 AM »

Glad to hear it's going well.

Oh, another question, any advice on dealing with players who are uncomfortable with the idea that putting stuff on the table in the game means that it could go against the PC?  It came up in regard to the example conflict about whether someone was watching the PC.  The players are still in simulating task resolution mode, and got all concerned with the idea that this meant that the game world was one that essentially punished PC cautiousness.  They seemed to feel that establishing that the PC kept an eye out for followers meant that the cautious people ended up being constantly stalked by foes, and the completely careless and oblivious person never runs into trouble.  I've explained that it's not modelling the world, but the story, and that they should be putting things on the table about the characters because they want them to be points of drama rather than uncontentious.  And I've got everyone's agreement to give it a go and see how it works in play.  But are there better ways to dealing with this concern?

This is only my opinion, but I think that that particular paragraph is in no way essential to the play experience, at least as a literal principle. (It's more of a Donjon-like idea, it seems to me.) What I mean is that the principle of freely defining your conflicts overrides that particular idea, and if players do not want to run conflicts about noticing foes in the shadows, then there's no danger of finding such. Whether the trollbabe is cautious or not is not necessarily a matter of a conflict; you can just narrate your trollbabe being carefree or cautious, and that has little to do with the conflict system.

Thus, the way I'd handle this would be to simply not care about it unless a) the GM wanted a surprise attack, or b) a player wanted to intentionally challenge for one. In the first case the GM would simply narrate the surprise, and the player could retroactively demand for conflict. In the latter you'd go by the book. In neither case is a player punished for being cautious.

Also, one way to look at it is that the simple fact of being cautious for no reason is "punishment" for being cautious, because the carefree attitude is thus proved right. You could say that finding enemies is a reward for being cautious, because being cautious for no reason is foolish. But in the end this is a minor rule at best.

What I'm much more worried about is that your players seem overly concerned with personal prestige and control. If there's trust and common purpose on the play group, they should be quite willing to be on the receiving end now and then. Not everything can go the way one guy wants in any game. I hope you all learn to laugh at your characters, rather than the players, if you know what I mean.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2006, 06:21:46 AM »

Wow. Everything Eero and Sean said is complete and correct. Thanks, guys.

Best,
Ron
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beingfrank
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2006, 11:55:06 AM »

Yeah, thanks heaps, guys, that's very reassuring.

My players basically approached the game in quite a skeptical and paranoid fashion, with a fair amount of 'oooh, that's going to suck' and 'I'll hate that, it'll ruin the entire point of roleplaying for me' and other nonsense.  But 3 hours later, after finishing reading the rules as a group, making characters and running through a couple of trial conflicts in order to get our heads around the system, they were much more positive, and talking about the sorts of things they were looking forward to.

Oh, and Ron, the phrase 'chew toy' of a victorious opponent after failing a final roll while incapacitated, is extremely popular, and looks like becoming part of our regular gaming jargon.
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Alan
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2006, 02:20:04 PM »

Did anyone mention that you can only get 1 relationship per conflict?  For each conflict where the wolves are present, the player can take a relationship with one wolf, with one group of wolves, or with the whole pack -- but in any case each one only counts as a single reroll.

Also, isn't there a limit to the size of the group one gets based on Scale?
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2006, 02:42:44 PM »

This whole discussion makes me all fired up for playing Trollbabe again.  Hurrah!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2006, 09:36:39 PM »

Hiya,

Alan's right about the wolf relationships. If you want twelve individual relationships, you'll have to build them individually through twelve conflicts, one wolf per conflict. And if you want a relationship with a group, then the game's Scale must have jumped to that level through actual play.

Best,
Ron
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beingfrank
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2006, 12:17:18 AM »

Alan's right about the wolf relationships. If you want twelve individual relationships, you'll have to build them individually through twelve conflicts, one wolf per conflict. And if you want a relationship with a group, then the game's Scale must have jumped to that level through actual play.

Yup, I spelt out both of those.  The player is unfussed by the idea of having to build relationships individually with a conflict for each wolf.  Her past play in other games has shown a complete willingness to do that sort of individual building of resources, even when it's tedious for the other players.

I think it was mostly a reaction to the realisation that re-rolls are an important resource, so the players immediately seized on ways to get as many as possible.  I think in play they'll soon realise that they can get different relationships as easily as they can get many relationships with similar creatures.

They don't seem sure what to make of Scale just yet.  They seem to still be thinking about whether it's best to increase the Scale as quickly as possible, or keep it at a low level for a while.  Which I find amusing because I think of it in terms of story arcs and they're all about defending their character's capability first, and only thinking about story when they feel like they're secure enough to not be screwed over.

With luck, we'll be playing our first session this coming Friday.
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