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Author Topic: Rocks fall, everybody (who bid their HP) dies  (Read 23398 times)
Callan S.
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« on: June 23, 2006, 08:02:59 PM »

It's been awhile since I posted my last design idea.  Some of the insistant responces that turned up with that threw me for a curve ball...like the insistance that a mechanic should not force the game world to always have a chance of various resources, like poisonous frogs "They can be hunted to extinction, you know!".

Anyway, here's the next idea, sort of streamlined version of the previous and again puts a kink in causality (this design is to support gamist play). It's rather simplistic: Players have various resources, like HP or fatigue points or any point that sounds interesting.

Okay, when the players want to do something, they, in secret to the GM but open to all other players, bid their resources. However many they want or none, if that's what they wish. The other players note their bid. Then the player says what they want to do and the GM makes a big old fiat descision about what resource costs that involved.

The thing is, only resources that are bid, can be effected by the GM's decision. For example, only if you stake all your HP or your PC's life or some less dramatic resouce like fatigue points, can the GM's call remove that resource. That is, and here's the gamble, if the GM's call actually involves the removal of any such resource. If you know your game world well, that's how you have a chance of bidding resources without actually losing them. After the GM's call has been applied (to any resources actually bid), he gets told what the player bid so he can be in on the same fun the other players had in knowing.

Why would you bid any resources to begin with? Respect. And it's deadly dull otherwise - no matter how much you pretend you were the awesome katana wielder, it's obvious you didn't bid any resources the whole time.

I really like this design, in the way it gets rid of the poisonous idea that the GM should be 'fair'. 'Fair' usually turns out to be a political push me pull you and the most important part of the game is to pay attention to those politics. This paragraph is more a rant, btw.

It also screws with causality...if the cavern collapses, shouldn't all the players HP go? Or shouldn't they run out of oxygen. Lets see...did they bid those resources? No? Okay, no, that didn't lose those. I can think of some creative reasons as to why, but I predict there will be many who would get disgruntled at having to waste their creativity to patch over an obvious causal 'flaw' in the system.

Now, Ironically I have a problem. Most often you'll see posts asking 'what attributes should I have?'. While here, I can't be stuffed making up attributes. I really feel no interest in having them, they're pretty damn dull normally (oh, higher numbers are better...wow, difficult to figure that out tactically!). Putting enough effort into them to create interesting interelations between them seems to be a distraction from the prime mechanics from above. Yet I need resources so as to enable bidding. I guess I could just have a bunch of resources (the most interesting ones, of course!) with numbers attached, for each character. It sounds simplistic, but perhaps I should wait to see if that's an actual issue in playtest, instead of getting wound up in advance.

On a side note, you might like to note the parralel between this and dogs in the vineyard, where the player, not causality, decides when the PC's important resources (like life!) are on the line. Very different reasons between the two for deciding when it happens, but exactly the same sort of player empowerment.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2006, 08:39:20 PM »

So if you had, like, social standing and HPs ... and you decided to bid a whole bunch of HPs on an attempted seduction ... then you risk getting yourself in for some really rough trade, but there is no risk of losing social standing?

I think I sort of like that, but I'd like to see some examples of winning and losing strategy.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2006, 07:50:14 AM »

It is an interesting idea, although I see some areas were potential problems might arise:

1.The "respect" thing. Actually, I don't quite see it working. If I wanted to be the best katana wielder out there, and if that was my prime priority - I wouldn't bid anything, screw respect. Why risk anything, if I can just get what I want in a more cost-effective way? I have some (absolutely random) thoughts connected with this:

-bidding resources could be the only way to gain some kind of points that actually bring you closer to some more important goal (e.g. accumulating enough of them triggers endgame, or resolves "quest").

-bidding resources gives you "experience".

-bidding one kind of resource allows regaining another kind, proportionally to the bid.

2.With such a system it could be possible to always bid a resource that logically can't be called by GM in a given situational context (provided there actually is a reason to bid anything). This means too many resource pools won't work here, and they probably should be arranged in such a way that most problematic situations to be expected in the game could possibly result in a loss of any of them. Tony's social standing vs. physical health case seems to work well here. I think that using resources representing some spiritual qualities or virtues could work fine (e.g. GM decides if potential fallout connected with dealing with the situation will be reflected in a loss of Conviction, Valor, Faith or anything).

And yes, it seems you don't need anything but resource pools for a mechanic like that.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2006, 04:00:33 PM »

Hi Tony,

Yes, if you bid HP, then that's the only thing your risking.

In terms of winning and losing strategy, that's question caught me by surprise for a moment. The best way I can describe it now is that this aren't the rules for a game, but the rules for deliniating the parameters of a game. Like if you were doing a polevault, these rules would be the ones that empower the player/vaulter to set the height of the stick. No real winning or losing strategies possible there, except in balancing off personal expectation of performance and desire for respect.


Hi Filip,

Quote
1.The "respect" thing. Actually, I don't quite see it working. If I wanted to be the best katana wielder out there, and if that was my prime priority - I wouldn't bid anything, screw respect. Why risk anything, if I can just get what I want in a more cost-effective way? I have some (absolutely random) thoughts connected with this:
I suspect were going to see the divide between our prefered agenda's here. Forgive me a counter question, but why play with others in the first place, when you could stay at home by yourself and imagine your katana wielder in all his glory?

In my mind one thing you play with others for, is what they can contribute. What do you aim for - the group appreciation of your character and really supporting him in the dream?

Quote
-bidding resources could be the only way to gain some kind of points that actually bring you closer to some more important goal (e.g. accumulating enough of them triggers endgame, or resolves "quest").

-bidding resources gives you "experience".

-bidding one kind of resource allows regaining another kind, proportionally to the bid.
See, I'm afraid of these, because they suggest the act isn't the end desired, but just a means to an end (like gathering experience to get to top level or collecting resources). Particularly the first, where it makes it sound like the endgame or quest is what's actually important about the game. If I may paraphrase an old saying, it's like treating the baby as a means to get to the bathwater.

Quote
2.With such a system it could be possible to always bid a resource that logically can't be called by GM in a given situational context (provided there actually is a reason to bid anything). This means too many resource pools won't work here, and they probably should be arranged in such a way that most problematic situations to be expected in the game could possibly result in a loss of any of them. Tony's social standing vs. physical health case seems to work well here.
Oddly I thought the opposite when I read Tony's example "Aww my gawd! They could just pick stuff that would never come up, like bidding thier horses training level during a seduction!". But then I realised that the other players can/will realise that as well and go "Dude, horse training was never going to be at risk - your not impressing anyone bidding that!". But bringing this up does help pad out the game, because I think it needs some "This is the author talking to you" explanation in the game text.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2006, 05:29:29 PM »

In terms of winning and losing strategy, that's question caught me by surprise for a moment. The best way I can describe it now is that this aren't the rules for a game, but the rules for deliniating the parameters of a game. Like if you were doing a polevault, these rules would be the ones that empower the player/vaulter to set the height of the stick. No real winning or losing strategies possible there, except in balancing off personal expectation of performance and desire for respect.

Okay.  I hope I don't have to establish my "street-cred" as a person who takes gambling and stepping up to challenge seriously.  Now, that having been said:  There's got to be a strategy to it.  The risk has to be in service of some possible reward.

Someone who risks their life on even a one in a million chance of saving the world is a hero.  Someone who plays a round of russian roulette just to show that they're willing to take that risk is an idiot.  Does your system require people to be idiots in that manner?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2006, 08:32:01 PM »

Yes, I've gotten straight to the end without any means leading to it (which is probably required).

What were Edmund Hilary's words about why he climbed Everest? "Because it was there". I dunno, was he an idiot? I take your point on the russian roulette. What I need to incorporate is the distinction between Hilary and roulette. And I'm not actually sure what that is!! Although yeah, if you think he was an idiot, I guess I will question your gambling and step on up seriousness "have you climbed Everest!?" :)

Perhaps it's simply rarity. Qualties proven only, at that point, to be in him. I mean, all the simulationist like to dream of their alpha males/females. But with gamism, at least at an intellectual test, it's actually the capacity to be an alpha at something. No made up fantasy shit, you couldn't have won it unless your to some degree, shit hot (or, poisonously, the GM let you to make sure you had fun *shuddddder!*)

But in terms of actual game currency? Well, what can I do - if using this mechanic earns something, then that something seems to be the point of using the mechanic. If they have to earn something to get to use this mechanic, well that delays the use of the mechanic (an extreme example is the shy narrativist who does four hours of play then one moral question right at the end of play).

I dunno. Why do players defend certain goals on the table in capes? Isn't it stupid to do that? Couldn't you withdraw and don a poker face, so no one knows the PC's soft points? Or if they do find them, don't react at all and deny them any responce?

Do players of capes give in and defend a cause in capes for the points, or because they 'just have to'? Kind of stupidly? Perhaps rather than an incentive, the points are more like a balm for having gone through what you just hadda do - and now a bit of payback, since you can constructively harrass the other players PC's with them.

I'm not assuming my assessment is correct. But I'd considered some sort of scene framing points, which could be used along similar lines to constructively harass other players. Thought it might give the wrong message though ('do X to get your dream scene').
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Bill Masek
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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2006, 09:20:18 PM »

Callen,

You have the beginnings of an interesting rules set.  Let me ask you a question:

Assume that I am a player in this game.  I wish to climb Mount Everest.  What will the in-game ramifications be if, after I tell the GM "I climb Mount Everest" I secretly bid 0 life instead of 10 life?  Will I succeed either way?  If so, then why risk the ten life?

Perhaps the GM could secretly assign a threshold.  If the players bid at least X resource A they succeed, otherwise they fail.  If they bid at least X+Y resource A or at least Z resource B then all of the resource bid is lost.  If you allow the GM to make Y negative then you would give him or her the power to force players to loose currency in order to succeed.

So if you wish to climb Mount Everest and bid 0 life, nothing will happen.  If you bid all your life you will make it to the top, but you won't survive the trip down.

Best,
        Bill
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2006, 06:28:16 AM »

Callan:  Climbing Everest is about exploration and self-realization, which doesn't intersect very much with social gaming.  If Edmund Hillary had been saying "I wanted to climb Mt. Everest so the boys in the pub would think I'm cool!" then yes, without reservation, I would label him an idiot.

I've got a clearer example though:  Olympic Women's Snowboard Cross.  To quote the Wikipedia: 
Quote
The event took place in Bardonecchia on February 17. The final race will be remembered for the fall of American Lindsey Jacobellis on the penultimate jump. Jacobellis had a commanding lead in the snowboard cross final but attempted a show-boating trick on the penultimate jump, lost her balance and went crashing to the ground only to see Switzerland's Tanja Frieden sneak past her and take the gold medal.

Jacobellis risked (and, it turns out, lost) her lead for nothing.  There are no style points in snowboard cross.  In the context of the game itself there is no possible reward for the risk she took.  Even if she had pulled off her show-boating trick and won the race anyway, that would have been a gratuitously stupid thing to do.

It strikes me that you are creating the same situation:  You are offering the context of a game mechanic, and then asking people to take risks that have no possible reward within the context of that mechanic.  I would not respect a person who took such a risk.  I'd think they were either (a) stupid or (b) ignoring the game (and thereby disrespecting their fellow players) or (c) both.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2006, 10:29:20 AM »

Quote
I suspect were going to see the divide between our prefered agenda's here. Forgive me a counter question, but why play with others in the first place, when you could stay at home by yourself and imagine your katana wielder in all his glory?

There is probably a divide - still, you state that this mechanic supports gamist play. In its current form I can see it supporting gamist play revolving around getting respect for being over-risky. It won't support any other kind of gamist play. E.g. it won't support gamist play revolving around getting social appreciation for doing the most effective thing.

As for your counter question - there is always different quality in solo play than in group play. Staying at home and imagining this and that means that I work on the content provided by myself. It doesn't give any opportunity to work with outside-provided content. I consider it to be enormous difference in quality, but I don't see, how it relates to player choosing to win with no risk. So...

Quote
In my mind one thing you play with others for, is what they can contribute. What do you aim for - the group appreciation of your character and really supporting him in the dream?

Keep in mind, that group appreciation can arise from different sources. I have a feeling that appreciation arising from purpose-less risking is not very common.

Quote
See, I'm afraid of these, because they suggest the act isn't the end desired, but just a means to an end (...)

What exactly is the end desired here? I'm not sure whether I understand it completely.

Quote
Oddly I thought the opposite when I read Tony's example "Aww my gawd! They could just pick stuff that would never come up, like bidding thier horses training level during a seduction!". But then I realised that the other players can/will realise that as well and go "Dude, horse training was never going to be at risk - your not impressing anyone bidding that!". But bringing this up does help pad out the game, because I think it needs some "This is the author talking to you" explanation in the game text.

Well, if I were there, I would rather go "Cool, man, you bid your horse training on seduction attempt! If by any chance GM chooses horse training instead of charm now, you are going to get caught in flagranti by the Baron, you will try to run by jumping out the window whistling for your mount, but the horse won't be there when you need it! And as a result, your trust with horses is going to diminish a bit for some time." Consequently, I see the mechanic as a potential spring-board for generating interesting situations.

Now, if you had, say, 3 resource pools that could be logically called by the GM in just about any situation, there would always be some actual risk involved. E.g. you never know if your GM decides that the potential consequence of your failure is connected with the loss of courage, faith or love. Kind of like rock-paper-scissors, but with completely different feel. There is much potential here, I think.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2006, 02:04:26 AM »

Ok, this is getting a little weird so lets see if I can pin down what might be an issue.

It sounds to me, like I'm being asked something similar to 'If there's no incentive built into chess to play again (like XP or ultimate quest points), why would I ever play another game of it?'. My mechanic essentially works in issolation - which is to say, each time you use it, it's like starting up a new game of chess. A game session might have multiple uses of the mechanic, but that'd be like sitting down and having a chess session where you play five games - those games still aren't connected even though your having a chess session.

I think perhaps it's been assumed each use of the mechanic would be like a stepping stone - like if you sat down and played chess five times in a row in the expectation all the games are cumulative steps that lead to something else.

How I envision it is that you have one session containing one long play out of imaginative space - with many uses of this mechanic within that - each a game that can be won, just like each game of chess can. How much you won is rated against how little of the bid resources you lost. Pay careful note that it's tested by resources BID, not resources owned.

That's why this thread is getting weird, because I'm being either being told it's stupid to play chess/boardgames/sports, or people are assuming this mechanic is part of a greater structure 'and why would anyone use such a damn risky mechanic while making their way up that structure?'. If that is the question, I would agree 'Yes, if it were part of a greater structure then yeah, it'd be all risk for no reward/furthing yourself in the greater structure. But there is no greater structure - the only thing that can be won is already right here, right now'

Some people might see it as possible to win just with narration - thus they'll see a larger structure (with ways of winning) and think 'why would I use this mechanic inside of that structure, when it'll just hinder me with no greater reward'. They have a point, in their own case.

However, in my case I find narrative winning flacid and impotent. It has no balls.Thus, while I appreciate the construction of the shared imaginative space for all the creative danger it can produce, I see no structure in it. That's why I see alot of value in using a mechanic like mine, because I don't see any other structure I can win at. I need to introduce a solid structure - other people might not be able to understand that need, because they already see one there amongst the narration.

Like in Erick Wujcik's article, where with total narration he disarms traps while because of the narration it seems like his hitpoints are on the line. For me, there just aren't clearly on the line enough, so such disarming is rather ho-hum and flacid. I need a mechanic which demands he puts his money on the table, so to speak, if he really wants to be taking on a risk. Other people would look at that and go 'But what does he get for putting his money down? Nothing? Then why do it?'. I have a few cheeky responces for that, but I've written enough already. :)




Hi Bill,

What do you imagine the social responce from your peers would be if you bid zero HP for climbing mount everest?
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2006, 10:22:06 AM »

Callan,

In chess, there is a measure of success: you win. Chess is a player vs. player game.

In D&D, there is a measure of success: you level up and become more powerful. Players can compare their character's level to the levels of other PCs in the party. Furthermore, the level-up grants new powers that make the player better able to overcome larger and more impressive obstacles. It's a classic "treadmill" Gamist reward system.

Unless I'm reading it wrong, your mechanic provides no tangible benefit for winning.

What if the GM presents the encounter and tells the players what the reward payoff is as a betting ratio:

GM: "There are two muscular orcs with huge bone clubs blocking your path. This encounter pays 1.5 to 1."
Player: "I bid 10 hit points!" He pushes 10 tokens into the middle of the table.
*dice are rolled and stuff*
GM: Okay, you slay the orcs. You get back 15 hit points.
Player: "I have 40 now. I level up!"

Or something like that. Hit points could drive level, rather than the other way around.
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Bill Masek
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« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2006, 10:25:20 AM »

Quote
What do you imagine the social responce from your peers would be if you bid zero HP for climbing mount everest?

Callen,

If I could climb Mount Everest without risking HP, and no other reward was given for the risk, then my friends would call me a fool if risked HP to do it.


As this is a gamist game it has a goal.  Based on everything that you have written in this thread it seems that the goal of this game is to retain resources.

In this game, you (basically) have one strategic decision to make for each event.  You can risk resources or not risk resources.  If you risk resources, then there is a chance you will loose them.  If you do not risk resources then you will not loose them.

Thus the pure dominance strategy becomes to never risk any resources.

I believe that this is what people have been trying to tell you.


Now if there were a payoff like narrative control or better yet some actual win condition which could be approached by risking these resources, then the Nash Equilibrium would shift and risking resources would become not only a viable strategy but a necessary one.

If you need help brainstorming such a mechanic I'd be happy to help.

Best,
        Bill
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Telarus, KSC
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« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2006, 06:19:38 PM »

Why not do away with the possibility of bidding zero resource completely? If the minimum bid is one "token" (think the Ante in poker), then the defensive strategy of not risking resources turns into a slow entropic death. In this case, you'd have to risk resources just to offset that loss by betting that eventually you'll win, and if you judge the odds/situation correctly, and place a sizable wager, then you have the opportunity to not only re-fill that slowly draining resource pool, but double, or more the size of it.

Some ideas:
  • At the begining of each scene, after Scene Framing, the GM calls for bids....minimum one. Players choose which pool from which to bid.
  • Gm then uses this pool to then bid against the players:
    "You stumble upon 3 orcs savagely tearing apart the farmer's house (Picks up three tokens, and adds three more from his "ORC" pool). What do you do?
  • Player one: "I rush the first one, drawing my sword, and going for a lunge to the eye." GM: "That's a pretty risky maneuver, that'll cost you at minimum one more token, which pool do you want to wager on?" Player: "I bid one HP, and one Courage" (*or whatever*) //Enter resolution mechanic// "Sweet! 3 successes, *narrates cool lunge, and bloodsplatter, the other 2 Orcs suprisingly drawing their own weapons*" GM: "Ok, first success buys back your bid, the other two earn you one token each, which pools do you want to drop these 4 in?" Player: "*Character* glances at the other orcs weapons, and hopes his companions are right behind him. Considering I'm taking on 2-to-1 odds here until the rest of my party shows up, I'll drop them all in HP (*Adds 4 tokens to HP pool*), I think I'll need them!"

Namaste,
Joshua
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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2006, 07:25:01 PM »

Callan,

In chess, there is a measure of success: you win. Chess is a player vs. player game.

In D&D, there is a measure of success: you level up and become more powerful. Players can compare their character's level to the levels of other PCs in the party. Furthermore, the level-up grants new powers that make the player better able to overcome larger and more impressive obstacles. It's a classic "treadmill" Gamist reward system.

Unless I'm reading it wrong, your mechanic provides no tangible benefit for winning.
Your reading it wrong. Explain where you find a difference in chess and my mechanic that means that while chess has a win condition, my mechanic does not (which will help me with the games instructions). I'd prefer if you did so without comparisons to D&D like 'well, if you can't win like you do in D&D, you can't win, period'.

BTW, comparing levels in D&D is player Vs player activity. It just doesn't look like it, because most people associate player Vs player with mean spiritedness and bitchyness. You will have trouble identifying when there is and isn't a win condition, if you can't identify where player Vs player is occuring.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2006, 07:46:15 PM »

Other people would look at that and go 'But what does he get for putting his money down? Nothing? Then why do it?'. I have a few cheeky responces for that, but I've written enough already. :)

I'd like to hear those cheeky responses, if they have any nuggets of substance in them.  That's exactly the question I've been asking, so I'm interested in what your answer would be.
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