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Balanced stakes or what´s at stake?

Started by Mikael, March 13, 2006, 10:46:00 AM

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Once again this might be some kind of a FAQ. If so, I would be much obliged if you could point me to the appropriate threads.

A few games back, I thought I had learned something fundamentally good when we started setting balanced "if you lose/if you win" stakes, and setting those stakes so that both outcomes were interesting. Now, on another thread, it was indicated that this is actually a bad practice and, indeed, the sample in the rules is "What 's at stake is: does your
character's brother shoot the
woman?" - leaving open what actually happens if the answer is "no".

Instead of turning this around in my confused little head, I would be grateful for some expert advice on the pros and cons of the two approaches. Justified opinions are fine, too.

+ Mikael
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Heh - I asked pretty much the exact same question on the Story Games Forum, in this thread a few weeks back.

I think Brand covered most of the problems with counterstakes in Dogs when he wrote this on that thread:

1) You have to make sure your counterstakes don't force fallout. As others have said above.

2) You have to make sure your counterstakes don't force PC judgement or curtail their moral authority. If you have the stakes "I want to convince her that lesbianism is wrong" and then the GM counterstakes "And if you lose she convinces you that it's right" you're going to someplace interesting -- but not somplace that works for Dogs. (In Nine Worlds, for example, I do sometimes have stakes like that. In Dogs its death.)

3) Countersakes can have a way of killing good followup conflicts. Look at the "If I win we get to see the Steward, if I lose the Steward hightails it out of town" example. Is the Steward already out of town? Shouldn't they get a followup? If they do get a followup why bother with the counterstake? Now if you phrased it "We want to see the Steward before he leaves town" and you lose, then it's easy to see that the logical followup is something in the range of "Damnit, now we have to track him down in the wildnerness."

I don't think that counterstakes inherently force any of these problems, but IME they do make them common enough that using them is not worth the price of admission. Dogs works best with flat stakes, giving lots of freedom for fallout, moral judgement, and followup stakes.

I'd also speculate that this is because Dog's punctuated conflict resolution is not the same as PTAs single conflict scene and dispute resolution, but that's an argument for another time.