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Author Topic: [Afriad] Research Conflicts  (Read 4133 times)
Ludanto
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« on: November 24, 2006, 07:14:16 AM »

Tim M Ralphs made a very clever comparison of a Research conflict to a DitV "getting hit in the head with an axe while you sleep" conflict, and I liked that, but it got me thinking.  In the example of the Monster sneaking into an unknown victim's abode, unbeknownst to the the PCs, I can see the Monster challenging with creeping, climbing, looming, etc. and the PCs challenging with thinking, pondering, intuiting, etc, and possibly "figuring out" enough clues in time to escalate to physical but what about answering?

If the PCs aren't there, and only abstractly aware of the situation, how can they block or dodge?  "Somewhere the monster sneaks into a window of somebody you don't know.  What do you do?"  Well, what do they do?  Does a narrated block or dodge not actually have to prevent or avoid anything?  Do they gain control of environmental factors, like making the window stick, or having the unaware NPC close the window at the last second, oblivious to her danger?  If so, is this kind of "external control" limited to just the Research arena?

Sorry, this is still one of my big mental blocks.

Thanks.
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Ludanto
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2006, 01:01:36 PM »

Ok, so I tried a research conflict or two.  It was kind of messy.  Well, actually the reasearch conflict with the actual research vs. a non-living opponent (the "information") went well enough.

The "I'm trying to stop a victimization even though I'm not there" conflict was less pleasant.  Mind you, the player didn't seem to grasp the rules quite as well as the other players, but I don't know how much that had to do with it.

Anyway, the monster is lurking outside of the victim's house at night.  There's an NPC squad car out front, watching the house.  The PC is at the PD getting an NPC to help him look up information on a name he has (the name of the victim).  In a nutshell, it went like this.

Monster: I sneak up on the house - Challenge
PC: I chat with the guy at the PD a bit - Answer
PC: I have him search the database - Challenge
Monster:  I peer through the window - Answer
Monster:  I mesmerize the victim through the window.  "Let me in."
PC:  The old PD computer hums and the taskbar creeps across the screen. - Answer
PC:  I'm outta dice.  I give.  The computer locks up or something.  The monster eats the guy.

I guess it got the job done, but the Answers were neither blocks nor dodges, though they used up two dice.  It just didn't feel right because the opponent could pick lint out of his navel as a Block/Dodge and at the same time, neither block nor dodge anything.  I suppose I can get used to it if that's the way it goes, but I assume that I'm missing some important understanding.

As the GM, I can manipulate the environment to distract, discourage or mislead a PC engaged in some sort of academic persuit, but is that kosher when the PC is playing "against the monster"?  Can the PC narrate "environmental difficulties" for the monster?  Locked doors, attentive victims and altruistic passers-by, and the like, or is he limited to simply "thinking really hard".  And how does that Answer the Monster's absentee Challenges?
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2006, 01:21:59 PM »

Yeah, those aren't sees at all.

If you can't come up with a see that actually counts as a see, you have to give.

Also, this isn't a problem you're having with research as an arena, at all. "I chat with the guy at the PD a bit" is escalating to talking, so already your player is out of the research arena. Or, well, would be, except that's not actually a see or a raise and so can't count for escalation. Nope, this is a problem you're having with framing conflicts when the parties in conflict aren't in the same room with one another. Different matter altogether.

You might suggest to your player that their very first see or raise, if they're serious about it, could be "I arrive."

-Vincent
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Tim M Ralphs
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« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2006, 03:27:45 PM »

Another thing to try, have challenges and answers as you're doing, but the stuff with the Monster is just colour in a concurrent scene.

So things like the computer chugging along, the task bar taking ages to fill up, that's a challenge against the players. The answer would be hitting the computer, escalating to physical and knocking that task bar up to 100%, and then the players hop in the car, challenging with the roar of the engines as it speeds away. But woah, we just escalated to physical, so now we split to the concurrent scene, so you describe the monster mesmerising the Victim, and the victim approaching the window. And now we're back to the car chase and you pull in the police pulling them over for speeding, and they escalate to fighting by attempting to ram the police car out of the way. Wammo, split scene, back to the monster, then back again.

Does that sound like it would fit better? That way the raises and sees are actually relevant to each other, but you still get the cut scenes with the Monster periodically. (I'm trying this out on Sunday.)
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Ludanto
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« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2006, 05:31:24 PM »

Vincent, that totally makes sense.  Of course that seems like it will lead to

GM: The monster sneaks up behind a victim somewhere else. (Challenge)
PC: Um.  Ok. (Give)

or

GM: The monster sneaks up behind a victim somewhere else. (Challenge)
PC: I jump out from behind a bush and yell, "Dude, look out for that monster!" (Answer - Escalate)
GM:  What?  How are you there?  You don't know anything about this guy.
PC:  Oh.  Um.  Ok. (Give)

Sorry to seem obtuse.  Barring a clever reason why the character might retroactively have been there, is that how it works?  I suppose that could easily follow up with a conflict with stakes of "Finding out about that last victim that I don't currently know about".  I guess that would keep things moving well enough, though it makes the first conflict seem almost an unnecessary speed bump.
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2006, 06:19:55 AM »

Finally!

So what you've done, just now, is accept the mechanical procedure for these kinds of conflict, and shift topic to aesthetic considerations. This is fine. Let's talk about aesthetic considerations.

FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: as a general rule, the PCs can be in the right place at the right time, no explanation required. If you DO require an explanation, you can construct it after the fact.

"I arrive!"
"You do? How do you even know about this kid?"
"We'll decide after. Help me think of a way."
"Cool!"

There are lots of individual aesthetic circumstances where a PC shouldn't be in the right place at the right time, but they'll take care of themselves. There's also an individual mechanical circumstance where a PC shouldn't just arrive - when the PC's lost. That should take care of itself too, given point two:

SECOND AND ALSO IMPORTANTLY: all conflicts happen in scenes. All conflicts follow from the action that comes before them.

As GM, you're obliged to make the monster's off-screen actions vulnerable to the PCs' intervention. This is just like how in Dogs you're obliged to reveal the town in play.

I think this will help: you remember how one time I said that the circumstances would be implicated by conflicts' real stakes? "What's at stake is, does the hellhound keep you from getting ol' betsy out of the trunk (if it does you stay unprepared)?"

The monster's offscreen actions are the same. "What's at stake is, does the hellhound delay you from driving to the PD (if it does, the monster gets a new victim)?"

Very, very rarely should you describe the monster's actions somewhere else. I'd expect that kind of thing to happen AT ALL in maybe one game out of ten. When it DOES happen, it will be because the aesthetics of the scene demand it - and if the aesthetics of the scene demand it, everyone at the table will be well-equipped to engage with it.

"Far away, you don't know where, the monster opens a window" isn't a raise, any more than "I chat with the intake officer" is a see.

-Vincent
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Ludanto
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2006, 01:13:35 PM »

Ok, I see.  I think I was thrown of by this:

Quote
4) Launch a conflict where no PC is present. Choose a player to roll opposition. Have her roll acuity: she's starting at research. Make your raise ("this person you don't know and haven't met is going to sleep, and she left her window open a crack...") and look at the player expectantly, "your see."

So it seems that alot of my confusion stems from, or is fixed by, "hardcore" scene-framing.  "Bam!  You're there and this is what's happening" or "Bam!  I'm there and this is what I do".  The details are filled in by the lovely GM-Player collaboration.

So the "first and most importantly" I think I'm more comfortable with now.  Thanks.

The "second and also important" part is still a bit fuzzy.

If the monster does something important, the PCs have to have a chance to intervene.  Simple enough.
All conflicts follow from the action that comes before them.  I'm not sure what you mean by that.  Either it's going over my head or it's so obvious that I assume that I'm missing something.

So, If I'm understanding you correctly, absentee monster stakes are sometimes handled by sort of metagamely tying them to indirectly related conflicts that the PC is actually there for.  Getting to the PD doesn't inherently stop the monster, but we've set up the conflict so that it's assumed that if the PC gets to the PD, he'll have whatever (lowercase) circumstances he needs to decide the victim's fate.

I may have butchered this, but I've learned something at least.
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2006, 05:40:39 PM »

So, If I'm understanding you correctly, absentee monster stakes are sometimes handled by sort of metagamely tying them to indirectly related conflicts that the PC is actually there for.  Getting to the PD doesn't inherently stop the monster, but we've set up the conflict so that it's assumed that if the PC gets to the PD, he'll have whatever (lowercase) circumstances he needs to decide the victim's fate.

I may have butchered this, but I've learned something at least.

No butchery! You've got it.

Shift your frame of reference outward, like zoom out. Zoom out all the way, to where you can see the whole game at once. The whole game consists of the conflict between the monster and the PCs. None of the conflicts in the game are indirectly related to that; they're all that exactly. The only possible reason why you'd be rolling dice about how soon they get to the PD is because the monster has an interest in the question contrary to the PCs' interests.

That interest of the monster's might have to do with victimizing someone new or coming closer still to an existing victim; that's one possibility. It might have to do with hurting the PCs instead, keeping them from an ally or some knowledge, or straightforwardly fucking them up. It might be nothing sneaky or cunning or thoughtful at all, like "they want to go to the PD? Fuck them. If they want it, it must be bad for me somehow."

But you shouldn't be rolling the dice at all if it doesn't have implications for the monster vs the PCs.

Making sense?

-Vincent
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Ludanto
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2006, 06:33:37 PM »

OK!

I'm not saying it will be easy for me, but at least I think I know how to approach it.  Thanks.  Now I've just got to find a live group to sic this on...
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Dick Page
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2006, 10:51:25 AM »

I think this has been helpful for my nagging question about Afraid, which is in regard to the nature of information.

It seems to me that to some degree Afraid is a mystery game, in that the PCs are "uncovering" the monster. But it is also a conflict game in that the PCs are trying to stop the monster and vice versa. So I was concerned about making meaningful conflicts between the PCs and the monster without giving away what's going on. That Vincent expects explicit "the monster is about to victimize somebody" stakes to be rare is comforting.

Quote
I think this will help: you remember how one time I said that the circumstances would be implicated by conflicts' real stakes? "What's at stake is, does the hellhound keep you from getting ol' betsy out of the trunk (if it does you stay unprepared)?"

The monster's offscreen actions are the same. "What's at stake is, does the hellhound delay you from driving to the PD (if it does, the monster gets a new victim)?"

Yes, that helped.

Hey, so does this mean that the monster's dice come into play in every conflict? Including all of those bond/victimization dice? Nice.
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Tim M Ralphs
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« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2006, 03:25:21 AM »

I don't think the Monster's bond dice can come into play with every conflict, because then the players don't have a chance. I think that they are only relevant if the Monster is the actual opposition in that conflict, rather than just having an interest in the way the stakes pan out.  There was a suggestion that Monster's Victimisation dice be tied to a lair, so the Monster only got the 10d10 while it was in the lair. (Otherwise, as was rightly pointed out, it's trivial for the Monster to hunt down and kill the Players until reflection fallout evens the odds.)

Something to watch out for is that implicit stakes are going to be unstated, but that they should be obvious. If I lost a conflict to avoid getting stuck in traffic thinking that all that was at stake was the circumstance Lost and then out of no-where the GM told me that the Monster had victimised someone, I'd be ticked off. Whereas if I knew the Victim was stuck in the Monster's lair and I went and got stuck in traffic I'd be cool with Victimisation taking place. I think that 'what can be considered obvious' is just something that you work out with your group as you go along.

With regards to the flow of information, this is totally a mystery game, but that shouldn't mean you are hanging onto information. A few choice tit bits and clues will drive play toward conflict, and Monster/Victims are rich and complicated tapestries of clues and facts to reveal. In my most recent game the players managed to reduce a catatonic four dice victim to a three dice victim, meaning she regained consciousness. They asked her where she had come from and she gave them the address of the Monster's lair, because I couldn't see any reason why she shouldn't. But the players don't know who the Monster is yet, so we now have one character heading into the Monster's lair just to check things out, and he's taking the Victim with him. I expect the scenes in the lair to be pretty intense, and I wouldn't be suprised if the Victim ends up back as a prisoner of the Monster.

So yeah, whilst keeping the full story hidden is important, I'd say that the GM's responsibilities to 'drive play toward conflict' and 'escalate, escalate, escalate' are unchanged from Dogs, and the flow of info is an excellent way to do both of these things.

Atleast, that's my take on the issue so far.
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...the Mystery leads to Adversity and only Sacrifice brings Resolution...
Dick Page
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« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2006, 07:42:40 PM »

Something to watch out for is that implicit stakes are going to be unstated, but that they should be obvious. If I lost a conflict to avoid getting stuck in traffic thinking that all that was at stake was the circumstance Lost and then out of no-where the GM told me that the Monster had victimised someone, I'd be ticked off. Whereas if I knew the Victim was stuck in the Monster's lair and I went and got stuck in traffic I'd be cool with Victimisation taking place. I think that 'what can be considered obvious' is just something that you work out with your group as you go along.

Ok. I think I'd like some guidelines, perhaps in the final book, as to what game mechanics can be staked. Circumstances, for one, and also levels of victimization, but can I stake a player's trait? What can be staked implicitly, what can be staked secretly, and what must be openly staked? What has to be agreed to by both sides? For that matter, what mechanics can the GM change without the knowledge of the players? This could all be obvious in play, but I'm still a little unsure at this point.
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Ludanto
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« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2006, 08:56:10 PM »

I'm no authority, but I'm pretty sure that there are no secrets when it comes to Stakes.  That breaks things.  The same sort of goes for mechanical changes.  Anything the PCs want to do that might go against the monster's interests the monster will oppose.  Anything that the monster does that the players don't want they should get a chance to prevent.
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