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Gambled rolls still mandatory (sometimes)?

Started by Zoetrope10, May 13, 2002, 03:06:45 PM

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I see that in the latest version of The Pool, you ditched the rule about requiring a gamble on a player-requested roll. The updated rules don't make this clear, but---as I now understand them---a gamble will still be required if you ask for a roll + the GM doesn't give you any dice (like in the Damart example) + the trait you want to use doesn't have a bonus, e.g. Damart's Outcast trait.



James V. West

You don't have to gamble unless you want to, ever. There's no difference between rolls no matter who initiates them.

See">this link for some possibly helpful explanations about why on earth I've confused the rules so much!

You know what? Writing a game (that makes sense) is frickin' hard.



James, when you say, 'there's no difference between rolls no matter who initiates them' do you mean only in the context of gambling, or more generally? The current rules still differentiate between GM offered and player-requested rolls. Frex, with the former, the GM has to offer you at least one dice whereas with the latter they don't.

In the context of my original question, I appreciate that a player is now no longer obligated to gamble. But in the case of a player-requested roll, if the GM doesn't offer any dice and the player wants to use a trait with no bonus dice, they will have to gamble at least one die, if they want to roll at all---won't they?

thanks, Z

James V. West

This is why I love The Forge--people ask questions about things you didn't think of and they point out inconsistencies you didn't know were there! I love it!

So, to answer your question, it is my sincerest intention to clarify in the rules that a GM should always offer a minimum of one die for any roll, no matter who initiates it. That should effectively eliminate any un-needed jargon and glass-walling between this or that type of roll. Its all just one happy roll.

How's that?




Are you also going to eliminate the other two distinctions between GM-offered and player-requested rolls?

The first distinction is that a GM-offered roll doesn't require the player to name a trait whereas a player-requested roll does.

The second distinction is that you can only add dice to your pool with a successful GM-offered roll whereas with a successful player-requested roll you have to take a MoV.

Conceptually speaking, I like these distinctions, including the one about optional and mandatory gambles. If the GM offers a roll then, of course, they should gift the player at least one dice. OTOH, if the player requests a roll I can see that the GM might not always want to offer a gift. If the GM offers a roll then I can see that the player shouldn't necessarily have to attach a trait to it, especially if the situation being tested is more general. OTOH, if the player asks for a roll, ostensibly because they want to take charge for a bit, then, well, they should nominate a trait and how they (generally) intend using it. If the GM offers a roll then it's up to the player if they want to step up to the plate and also gamble some dice. But by making it mandatory for a player to gamble at least one dice with a player-requested roll they are (presumably) going to think carefully about when and where to ask for such rolls---hopefully at least as carefully as the GM does when deciding to offer a GM-sponsored roll. Again, if the player is successful with a GM-offered roll then they should have the choice of whether or not to replenish their pool or take a MoV. But if the player requested a roll, ostensibly to move the story their way, then what else should they be able to do apart from a MoV? [pause to catch breath...]

I also like what I've read about the effect of the distinctions, which seems to be to make a game of The Pool a bit of a roller-coaster.

I see Ron doesn't like 'em though because, as I understand it, they seem clumsy-confusing-frustrating in actual play. I suspect that much of this angst---judging by some of the posts in this forum---can be attributed to the way this part of the rules has been presented i.e. not as clearly it could've been.

I'm going to give my players a reformatted version of the rules, with the differences in roll requirements and outcomes nicely laid out in a couple of tables. It all looks pretty clear to me---hopefully my players will agree. I'll post a report as to what happened.

thanks, Z

Ron Edwards


I must say ...

"The first distinction is that a GM-offered roll doesn't require the player to name a trait whereas a player-requested roll does."

"The second distinction is that you can only add dice to your pool with a successful GM-offered roll whereas with a successful player-requested roll you have to take a MoV."

I hate both of these like poison and cannot imagine why or how they found their way into the rules at all.

I advocate that the Pool is the Pool, and the system is the system, under all circumstances of its use.



Quote from: Ron Edwards
"The first distinction is that a GM-offered roll doesn't require the player to name a trait whereas a player-requested roll does."

I've found myself in a position where I may be using The Pool for something.  So, just out of curiosity and clarity which don't you like?

a) The GM-offered roll doesn't require the player to name a trait?


b) A player MUST name a trait to request a roll?


c) Just that it should be one or the other but not both?


Ron Edwards

OK, I'll run it down.

Every fucking roll in the game should work like this.

1) Somebody calls for the roll.

2) GM assigns 1-3 dice

3) Player chooses a relevant trait (cue input from everyone else) and adds the appropriate number of dice

4) Player decides whether to gamble and adds dice if he or she does

5) Roll - success or failure

6) Decisions: (a) success - get a new die for the Pool OR take an MoV; (b) failure - lose all gambled dice

7) Whoever narrates, narrate the outcome

That's it. Every damn roll works just like this. I see no room for if's, and's, or but's. I see no reason for any shred of change under any circumstances.

I truly see no reason why #3 seems to cause the trouble it does. If a trait applies, use it. If it doesn't, then don't. It really is that simple.


P.S. All profanity in this post is present to indicate my passion on the subject, and is not directed toward anyone in a pejorative sense. Jesse's question is a good one; I am not swearing at him.

James V. West


Yep, there are some weird rules additions in some of the versions of the game. But in the end Ron's breakdown sums up the core of the system--everything esle is just me feeling my way through it and then trimming all that shite off again.

I swear I'm working on getting the (final?) re-write finished. If at all possible I'll avoid confusing you folks any more than absolutely necessary.

On a side note, the writing of TQB has had its share of these fumbles. I find myself feeling like there aren't enough rules, than I add some. Then I realize they suck. Word to the wise: trust your first instincts, apply some common sense, then go with it.

Or, in the words of Neil Gaimen, "Finish it. Cringe later."

Andrew Martin

Quote from: Ron Edwards
6) Decisions: (a) success - get a new die for the Pool OR take an MoV; (b) failure - lose all gambled dice

Sorry to be picky, but is that one new die for the Pool as Ron writes, or two new dice for the Pool as James has written in a earlier thread? IIRC, James had written that he prefers two dice.
Andrew Martin


Hey Ron

I don’t understand your passion for this issue. I’m guessing when James originally distinguished between the different kinds of rolls he did so for what he thought were more or less good reasons, and not upon a whim.

For instance, with a successful player-requested roll, I don’t know for sure why a player could only get a MoV instead of, as an alternative, being able to add dice to their pool. But I could guess why (as outlined in my earlier post)---the player requested the roll, indicating their desire to engage in a bit of narrative stance so why the fuck (so to speak) would you give them the option of replenishing their pool?

I agree the system is the system. But I think I like the different ‘feel’ the distinctions appear to convey.


Christopher Kubasik

Hi Zeotrope,

Speaking for Ron (which I shouldn't do, but I haven't talked to him in a while and I miss the guy), I think the passion he's referring to is about this dice mechanic yes, but also mechanics in general, and The Pool in particular.

To be really honest, I grapsed The Pool concepts right off the bat reading James' rules on a web page months ago and was very excited.  But when I read Ron's summaries of his two Questing Beast sessions I thought, "and now I could play it without ever looking at the rules again."  Because he stripped everything out that was extranious and made the parts that made The Pool amazing shine brightest.  (In fact, I forgot all about the extra dohinkies in The Pool.  I thought those were the mechanics.)


As for your specific point of whether a player can try getting more dice  if he takes an action...  Why not?  It'll move the story forward -- for good or ill.  I always thought that was the point -- players needing to bump up their pools will make more story happen...  Which is the point of the game.

But this one issue misses the larger issue: one of the joys of The Pool is it's lack of "gaminess" (Not that Gamism is bad!").  But The Pool isn't.

Moreover, it's a got a kick-ass, fun-inducing, extremely simply, ready to apply, let's make up story mechanic tha can be used again and agian in all situations.  Why muck it up?


Thus, if James is being forthright in his summary of his writing process ("I find myself feeling like there aren't enough rules, than I add some.") then I think Ron's impassioned reply might be translated along the lines of, "Stop IT!"

Of course, it's James' game, and if he thinks he needs more rules, that's... Fine... I guess...  But as even he's just acknowledged, he probably doesn't.

I understand the impulse, though.  When I was working on a similiar kind of design at Mayfair, I kept bumping into one big problem: I could sell the whole damn thing on one piece of paper.  Who the hell would buy that?

Well, the answer is (though I didn't think of it at the time): the kind of people who want that piece of paper.  

You can't please everybody all the time (Re: GNS essay), so you might as well do the thing you're trying to do as well as you can, with each piece involved balanced and in propper proportion to every other piece.

I'd offer that it's just as difficult to commit to something simple as it is to committ to something complex -- though for very different reasons.

In the RPG community, complex is often percieved to have more value, becuase a complex means more bang for the buck: you'll be chewing on those rules a while, and that means your $35 investment will last longer.  (By complex I simply mean anything from AD&D3 to Shadowrun to Hero to Gurps, TRoS -- in short, anything meaty enough in rules to keep you busy a while learning it without being so complex you declare it too complex and mock the game's players for being number crunchers.)

(Remember, the consuming, understanding, mastering and teaching of rules is a big chunk of what the hobby is based on.  It's not my passion, though, and one of the reasons I wandered away.)

Compare this to games like Sorcerer or The Pool (and there are others), with rules that almost dissolve when you read them.  The work in these games is not in the rules consumption but in the play.  What do you build with the rules.  (Go is another perfection example of simple rules, complex play.)


It's been interesting to read some of the Actual Play comments above dealing with HeroWars, Whispering Vault, TRoS and Sorcerer.  During the summations, people talking about their desire to improve their game from what they've learned and it's all about scene framing, relationship maps, premise and narrativist goals -- which has nothing to do with using the rules better, but everything to do wiht elements of art and craft that stand outside the rules.  

This is a big turn in how gaming sessions used to be reviewd, because before there'd be a) complaints about how the rules "get in the way" (but had to be accepted); b) efforts to tweak the rules to get the sessions to be more fun; c) discuss vague ideas about "characterization" or making "better" adventures (story maps instead of geographical maps, finding the right genre and so on).  

Now there's a whole new vocabulary and set of tools in place to gauge improvement of building more engaging sessions -- and again, it has nothing to do with tweaking the rules.


So, agian, I empathize with James' position -- because we've all got this idea that these "games" are best when there's enough "gaminess" to keep the gamist in us engaged. But if you look at the Actual Play posts above you'll discover new desirs are being engaged.

The Pool, I believe, helped crack that portion of our heads open real wide (just reading the damned thing does that, becuase it busts so many assumptions.)  

I, along with Ron, (fuck or no fuck) believes that uniqueness should be preserved.  Keep it simple.  Let the focus and energy be put toward the tale.



If someone wants to add more gizmos and wheels, let them house rule it.  But don't panic about not having enough rules.  Let it be what it should be.  You're an artist, right?  Do you add more lines cause you think there aren't enough there yet?  Of course not.  Same with the rules.

And, again, check out Ron's summaries of TQB in Actual Play.  You might find some inspiration there.

Take care.  Keep going on a great engine for a great time,

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

James V. West

To answer Andrew's question, you get 2 dice for a successful roll instead of just one. It works better that way.


Thanks so much for the post. A little injection of clarity is often just what I need.

I think I certainly fall into the trap of feeling like I need to give more "bang for the buck" (even though there aren't any bucks involved here, are there?). I know I'm guilty of picking up books in the gaming store and checking them for great art, thickness, all that cool stuff to look at. Even charts and tables are sometimes cool to look at. But in the end if you can't play it, why pay for it?

Yeah, I'm an artist, but the truth is I sometimes DO add more lines cause I don't think there are enough. And then I look at it and say "Damn...didn't need that one.". But as time goes by I learn to trust that ole gut instinct more and more.

The Pool will remain simple. This recent discussion has prompted me to go forward with stripping it down and re-writing it--should have it done soon.

Christopher Kubasik

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield



I plead no contest on the issue of gamism.

I didn't understand what you said here however:

QuoteAs for your specific point of whether a player can try getting more dice if he takes an action... Why not? It'll move the story forward -- for good or ill. I always thought that was the point -- players needing to bump up their pools will make more story happen... Which is the point of the game.

How will a player opting to add dice to their pool make the story move forward? When the player does so, rather than taking an MoV and moving the story along, they're abrogating control of the game back to the GM. The GM may as well have been narrating the game all along---the player-requested roll (intrinsically) did nothing to move the game on.

As currently written, a successful player-requested roll only gives the player an MoV, which is exactly the point of a player requested roll---isn't it?


PS: I read your articles about Fifth Business, a while back, and thoroughly enoyed them.