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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Rules questions: Total Victory  (Read 9164 times)
Robert Ahrens
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Posts: 27


« on: April 25, 2006, 06:28:24 PM »

Hello!  I haven't posted on the Forge much previously, but I've recently reaquired my Sorcerer books and I'm hoping to run an &Sword game in the near-ish future.  In re-reading everything I have come to realize that there are some aspects of the Mechanics & Story Elements chapter in &Sword that I don't really understand and thought I'd ask about them here.

Please forgive me if these have been previously answered on these forums.  My search fu is weak.

(And if they have been previously answered, I'll happily accept links to answers.)

Question 1: What does "Total Victory" get me?

According to the Sorcerer rulebook, p17:

Quote
If the number of victories is equal to the winner's number of dice, that's called Total Victory.

Which seems pretty clear except that I can't really find much text discussing what Total Victory might mean in different contexts.

This is a big deal to me because I'm trying to get my head round the combat options presented in Sorcerer & Sword, which says (on p70):

Quote
Trading Victories ... [is] a great way to avoid or enjoy the effects of Total Victory!

But what does this really get me, mechanically speaking?

I can think of several possible options:

  • Total Victory functions like a "critical success" in other RPGs, increasing damage.  For instance, you might allow it to "bump up" the category of
    weapon damage done by an attack, causing Edged Weapons to do Small Handgun damage, etc.  The trouble with this approach is that it
    doesn't mean very much if your stated action wasn't an attack.
  • Total Victory means a "shutout" where you achieve, um, total victory.  So if my stated intention was "Beg for mercy" and I achieve Total Victory
    then instead of just giving my opponent a dice penalty to further attempts to kill me (per the Currency rules) I instead get the effect of
    absolutely, totally successfully begging for mercy and he can't try to kill me.  (At least for the rest of the Scene, or something.)  The problem
    with this approach is that if my stated action was an attack then my intention might well be "kill this dweeb" and that means Total Victory
    is the key to some pretty intense carnage.
  • Having written out the two cases I could think of, I now see that they could be used in an either/or way:  For non attacks TV means total
    success, whereas for attacks it means enhanced damage.  But maybe this seems kind of klunky?

Anyway.  I think you can see that I need some pointers on how to understand and interpret Total Victory in the context of the Sorcerer rules.

Question 2: Multiple Descriptors

p70 of Sorcerer & Sword says:

Quote
A character [with multiple descriptors] may often roll one of the scores first, to generate bonuses to modify the second, "real" roll.

I have pondered over this and I think it works like this:

1) Roll the lesser of the two descriptors against the greater descriptor.
2) Count any bonuses on this roll as extra dice for the greater descriptor.
3) Roll the greater descriptor, counting in the bonus dice, as well as other bonuses for roleplaying, circumstance, Ego Assertion, etc.

So my questions are:

a) Am I correct?
b) In practice, does this slow combat down?  Or am I worrying needlessly?

Thanks in advance for help with these topics, and apologies again if the answers are out there and I've missed them.

Robert.
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Plotin
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2006, 10:59:18 PM »

Hello Robert!

I am a neophyte myself, but I can indeed point you towards threads relating to combat in & Sword. Here it is:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=6448.0

In the fourth post of this thread you are going to find links two more threads on the topics of interest to you, one specifically about trading victories, but all three are enlightening.

Quote from: Robert Ahrens
I can't really find much text discussing what Total Victory might mean in different contexts.

This is of acute interest to me, too, and I would be keen on an explanation. As a total victory means that all of you're dice have to come up at higher values than your opponent's best roll, it is actually getting harder to achieve a total victory the more dice you roll. Better proficiency at something equals less of a chance for really great success? *Sound of scratching my head* I would be a happy man (OK, rather a less confused one) if anybody could explain the logic behind this and provide examples of what benefits total victories might entail above and apart from the number of successes achieved, both in combat and in other contexts.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2006, 06:55:31 AM »

Hi there,

First the bad news. Total Victory does not indicate any sort of mechanical bonus or benefit. Nor does it guarantee an instant or total defeat, necessarily. The only default requirement of Total Victory is that its narration be exactly perfect for the announced action - you nailed what you wanted to do, visually/narrationally.

Everyone over that? Just about to type "so what good is it" or similar? Don't do that. Instead, keep reading.

The good news is that Total Victory does have a concrete effect through an indirect mechanism. You'll have to stick with me here - it takes experience with the system to understand this fully.

a) Sorcerer conflicts very often turn into complex, interesting situations, via play, in a way that's hard to describe. Particularly in a complex conflict with tons of people doing tons of stuff - two rounds into it, a dozen actions have been attempted, some have been aborted, some have succeeded to minor effect, some to major ... all at breakneck speed. But the important thing is this: the bonus dice mechanic lends itself to people narrating detail into this situation. Handy objects, features of the environment, spatial positioning of characters near to or far from one another ...

b) ... and all those details become meat for Total Victory narration. You blocked his arm as he swung the crowbar, and rolled Total Victory? Ha! Take the crowbar away. See? No automatic mechanical benefit, but the situational mechanical benefit (i.e. the weapon) has just shifted places.

And that's an easy, rather boring example. Given those dozen actions that I just talked about above, imagine that none of them so far had yielded Total Victory. For those of you who've really played the game without butchering the resolution mechanics, think of all the incredible details and relative positions and even reversals of loyalty that have occurred by now in this conflict. And now, the next roll for some action (offense, defense, whatever) does turn up with Total Victory. That's an immense amount of change that whoever narrates can have on the SIS, for just that one action.

c) This takes on gruesome, even horrifying effect when you consider the victory-trading rules in Sorcerer & Sword. I cannot emphasize enough that people who aren't sure about the basic mechanics should not trouble their heads with these. But for those who have, making use of Total Victory is what gets your hero onto the high ground, or behind one of the two opponents who thought they'd boxed him in, or into the prince's bed in a surprise move. With the victory-trading rules, the player can bank and time such actions instead of waiting for a lucky roll.

And to finish up this point, let's take a really easy situation, with bog-standard basic Sorcerer and a single roll - you convince Bobby to take your side. You win. Well, the GM plays Bobby to not take your side, but he gets those dice he lost by (your victories) as penalties. OK, so how does Total Victory play into this?

1) The GM may well use the Total Victory as a signal to say "screw it" and have Bobby just plain take your side. He doesn't have to, and he could have done that without the Total Victory, but it can act as a useful signal to remind the GM of this choice. That can be more significant during play that one might imagine without having played.

2) The Total Victory can, as I described, permit whoever's narrating to spin the success into some interesting usage of the current situation. Bobby coughs up a name or otherwise makes some kind of social tactical error that makes this current victory into a new opportunity as well.

Better?

Let's move onto and past the problems created when people bring other role-playing assumptions into Sorcerer. This whole business about "Total Victory is a critical, so why is it harder if you have more dice" is bogosity. Throw all that crit-hit thinking into the kittybox.

Instead, think of Total Victory as a little gimme that anyone can get once in a while ... and furthermore, that tends to benefit the underdog with only one or two dice. See? It's the reverse of the whole "I'm better so I get more crits" thinking. It means the guy with a weenie single die actually can bust out the situational advantage for the next move a little more often. It's a built-in desperation or luck mechanic.

(And the Sorc & Sword reverses this trend back more toward the traditional approach, on purpose. But as I say, that's for the ahead-of-class applications.)

How's that, guys? Better?

Best, Ron
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Plotin
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Posts: 27


« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2006, 08:04:17 AM »

Thanks Ron, I think I got it, but let’s see if I have got it right:

So a Total Victory does not grant any immediate mechanical benefit, number-wise. But it does grant a benefit that is either, even though not quantifiable, worthwhile in itself, like Bobby blurting out some additional, unasked-for information, or one that can easily be exploited for bonus dice later on, like taking away the crowbar or slipping behind your enemies.

Up until now I was befuddled by Total Victories and just ignored them, but if I have now understood this mechanic correctly, well, this really rocks. Especially with Sorcerer & Sword, where I always asked myself about victory trading “so what’s the deal?”. But now – cool, I see how it allows for incredible feats, strokes of luck, winning in the face of adversity and major badassity! Simple but highly effective; hat off to you, Ron.

But once you get past the initially confusing critical-success number crunching thing, this is a highly dramatic mechanic in other contexts, too, even without victory trading. It allows for a sudden lucky break, especially when you are the underdog and already down on your knees. Your enemy is triumphing, thinking you already defeated – a little luck and you can still turn the tables on him! That’s drama!

I want to go and play right away, milking Total Victory for all it’s worth; but before I do so: Are there any guidelines as to who can narrate the effects of the Total Victory? I just leafed through the rules but was unable to find anything. Can the victor do some kind of monologue of victory as in “The Pool”? Or should he just be allowed suggestions? Or is it entirely up to the GM? Or are there no guidelines at all, this being a question of a given group’s preferences?

And another question on victory trading: Are only PCs allowed to do this, or any character with Lore or even any character at all.
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The_Tim
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Armchair Game Theorist


« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2006, 08:39:59 AM »

Ron, your description of conflict in Sorcerer has me thinking.  It seems like in addition to the explicitly laid out currency there is also the idea of facts (ala Donjon) playing a role.  Essentially tossing facts that get accepted into the situation gets you dice.  I've seen this in my own play.  A clear example is the first time I ran Sorcerer with some folks with a lot of WoD background.  During a fight scene one of them asked "Are there any chairs in reach?"  I asked why and he answered "Because it would be awesome to grab one and smack the demon in the back with one WWF style, except with it being a real chair and all it'll bring a fuck load of pain instead of just making him stagger around."  Awesome.  Dice plus established facts about how people were arranged and what was in arms reach, tied to the giving out of those dice.

With that in mind it seems like Total Victory is a good way to shuffle around those facts, to transform the landscape as it were.  As the situation gets more and more defined through rolls I've noticed that one has to go for strategy instead of defining, and being able to rearrange those elements means controlling what sort of things can be advantageous in the situation.  I can't really remember a good use of Total Victory, which implies to me I haven't been using them well.  Which makes sense given that until now I hadn't thought of how they fit into the system in explicit terms.
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Robert Ahrens
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Posts: 27


« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2006, 09:45:29 AM »

How's that, guys? Better?

Yeah, that really is better.  Thanks a lot.

I kind of suspected that Total Victory didn't function like a "Critical" but I was having a hard time seeing what it did do.  That's much clearer now.  It's also clear that I should run my first Sorcerer game without the Trading Victories rule and see how Total Victory works in play for my group before I start getting fancy with it.

(As a parenthetical aside, I think part of my difficulty in grasping Sorcerer comes not from the fact that it's unlike, say, Vampire or 7th Sea, but rather from how unlike Dogs In The Vineyard or TSoY it is.  Those games seem to have very singular resolution mechanics where precisely what is at stake is predetermined and is definitively resolved to one of two binary outcomes, whereas Sorcerer seems to have a lot more nuance for stuff that comes up in narration mid conflict to have a real impact, and for partial victories setting up interesting contexts and conditions for future struggle.)

Finally, as to my second question above (about multiple descriptors) thanks to Plotin for the links.  I read them and I think I understand how they work now.

Cheers,

R.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2006, 02:24:55 PM »

Hi guys!

Tim - "Yes!!"

Quote
Dice plus established facts about how people were arranged and what was in arms reach, tied to the giving out of those dice.

That's it exactly, and what you said represents my explicit desire for how dice and talking should interact in Sorcerer play, all the way from the beginning.

Plotin - Ha! You asked about narration, you cunning little potato-bug, you. The rule for narration in Sorcerer is, there is no one authority. Anyone can narrate anything. You can narrate a GM-driven character's action. The GM can narrate your action. It's left totally, totally up for grabs, on purpose. Simply put, the group always narrates, with any one person seizing the rubber stamp power as everyone else sees fit. Functionally, that often means some person just speaks up at any given moment and that's that.

(Which is another pain in the ass about con/demo play. Everyone looks at me like obedient dummies to find out "what happens." And since I'm trying to make sure they at least know how to read the dice, all too often I just take on that role.)

Now, remember, Sorcerer is pre-Pool. When I wrote it, my whole line of thinking was to avoid "the GM always narrates" and went no further than that. I didn't take that mind-set into the wild new realms The Pool opened up for everyone. You can see that both Jared and I already had one foot each in that realm, him a little farther than me with InSpectres and me with Elfs, but the very idea of saying, "Now you hold the rubber stamp," didn't really exist yet for role-playing. It took James V. West to do that.

Robert,

Quote
Sorcerer seems to have a lot more nuance for stuff that comes up in narration mid conflict to have a real impact, and for partial victories setting up interesting contexts and conditions for future struggle

Yup! I'm glad this thread helped out with your questions.

Best, Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2006, 03:48:52 PM »

Damnit Ron. Now your criticism of my attempt here finally makes complete sense.

I had been dismissing the first line of your response in that thread because I could not understand its context in relation to the rest of your response. The rest made sense, if I accepted that that things like "he's gained the high-ground" or "I want to throw him through a wall" could have an impact "if I wanted to because I wanted to, story-wise" -- though not "because this stuff actually matters mechanically".

So, it confused me that you opened your argument with the importance of color-stuff and froo-froo narrative-y junk that had no real effect on the dice. Frex, "So I throw him over a pile of boxes. Big deal. Ok, maybe I can negotiate with the GM that he's trapped back there and maybe I can't." Now I read your explanation here and realize I CAN throw him over a box and trap him there, and it matters from a functional, mechanical perspective, not just as an element of Color ("it would be cool to see") in the story.

Honestly, I think need to play a couple games of Sorcerer with you, or at least WATCH some successful play in action, so I can see how the damn thing really runs.

So...how is DePaul's physics program?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2006, 04:00:16 PM »

<crossposting with Greyorm>

Just wanted to say that I appreciate this thread. It's always a treat to have Ron discuss the Sorcerer design, because apparently I'm just so dumb that I can never figure out anything about it without him explaining it. Afterwards, of course, it makes perfect sense. If I ever get the man suckered to Finland, I'm going to do my best to get him to demonstrate how he runs the game for real.

Like, that conception of total victory is practically identical with what The Mountain Witch does with it's "double victories", which I thought was pretty innovative (like, you distribute "success" before even having the conflict) and necessarily something you'd figure out post-Pool. I couldn't for the death of me realize that just by reading the book (even if that's exactly how it HAS to work, when you think about it). Reading this forum stuff is weird combination of disbelief and perspective - on the one hand it's difficult to believe that this is what Ron really intented and not just a polished reinterpretation, on the other it makes a weird kind of historical sense; this is how art history progresses, in small steps and bounds and backsteps. We often overestimate the progress of the last decade in some regards and underestimate it in others.

Thinking about it, the symmetry with TMW in this regard is striking. I probably should have realized this a year ago when I finally grogged how Sorcerer resolves conflicts instead of just tasks. This interpretation of total victory is, of course, a direct analogue with the relationship double victories in TMW have with the actual conflict resolution system. You resolve a conflict, you get to modify the stakes afterwards. It all makes sense. And the victory trading rules make sense, too. That's some elegant resource manipulation there!

No need to tell me, by the way: if I actually played the game for any real length of time, these Sorcerer analytics wouldn't come as such lightning bolts. Believe me, I know that by now. I can do the same kind of analytics about Dust Devils myself, and be just as confusing for people who haven't played it much :D
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jburneko
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2006, 04:10:05 PM »

I was accepted to DePaul and didn't go.  :(

Anyway, this whole discussion confirms in my mind a creeping suspicion I've had for a long while about what the text *really* means when it says "role-playing bonuses."  Playing Capes and Dogs in the Vineyard, I find myself constantly running into this narrative wall.  It's obviously a self-constructed wall.  I know that I could announce any action I wanted but some actions don't seem to flow.  I *could* shoot the guy but given what's happening, snatching up a crowbar and braining him feels better.

When I tell Sorcerer neophites that you get role-playing bonuses they sometimes get this draining look on their face because they think it means that they have to come up with a string adjectives and adverbs with every little thing they want to do.  This never felt right.  This discussion confirms to me that this is one of those concepts that 'what a gamer thinks' and 'what everyone else thinks' are two different things.  It has now gelled that 'role-playing bonuses' refers to the inclusion of narrative facts that impact the logistics of the situation.

This is good.  This goes in Sorcerer Unbound.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2006, 05:49:08 PM »

Right. If I could speak to my 1996-self who wrote that stuff about role-playing bonuses in what would become Chapter 1, I'd say, "What you think is 'role-playing' isn't what they think it is. They'll think they're supposed to deliver some kind of flowery descriptive paragraph in order to buy a die. Say it another way."

And Eero - sometimes what I write here is retrospective interpretation ... but not this time. I wrote Sorcerer precisely to generate what I had built, with others, in 10 years of playing Champions and developing our way of saying what "I roll to hit him means." When I realized that it was not the Champs rules we were playing, but something of our own, that was one of the steps of finally deciding to write my own game.

Jesse,

Quote
It has now gelled that 'role-playing bonuses' refers to the inclusion of narrative facts that impact the logistics of the situation.

Almost, but not quite. Inclusion of such narrative facts is one way to get that bonus, or rather, it's a subset of the general principle. The general principle is this: whatever makes the people at the table, including yourself as GM, grunt and feel more into it. Luke Crane got a bonus die for a physical gesture of bringing a shotgun to bear on a target, a couple of weeks ago. It felt good that he did that, and I've trained myself to reach out and grab a die when I feel that.

When you say "facts that impact the logistics," that's actually the same thing - because it's not the specific facts that matter, it's the impact, and the only way to know that's happening is to experience it viscerally in SIS-terms, and to be sensitive to others experiencing it in your presence.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2006, 05:55:43 PM »

Oh yes! Robert, regarding your parenthetic aside, make sure to check out the recent thread [Sorcerer] Questions about stakes. It's pretty crucial reading in general.

Best, Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2006, 06:05:28 PM »

When you say "facts that impact the logistics," that's actually the same thing - because it's not the specific facts that matter, it's the impact, and the only way to know that's happening is to experience it viscerally in SIS-terms, and to be sensitive to others experiencing it in your presence.

Oh, yes, I'm totally on board with this.  It's almost disturbing and horrorfying how the most 'profound' thing that has ever come out of The Forge is, 'the other players matter.'

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2006, 07:09:37 PM »

System Does Matter = the Lumpley Principle: "system is the means by which we agree what happens fictionally"

See also my definition of System in my big essay as "time in the SIS," i.e., what happens fictionally, expressed in procedural terms - how we as people interact.

If this means that much of what we called role-playing, historically, has failed to utilize systems despite the endless charts and descriptive numerical values, or despite the fru-fru emphasis on method acting, then so be it. Perhaps that means we shouldn't be asking if, for instance, Universalis is role-playing. Instead, we should be asking why, in practice, so much AD&D, Rifts, GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, Champions, Vampire, et al., et fucking al., wasn't.

Best, Ron

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