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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 60 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Decay RPG - The Seesaw of Power!  (Read 2896 times)

Posts: 43

Sentient Games - Living Breathing Thinking Games

« on: April 10, 2007, 04:44:37 AM »


This thread is an extention of the discussion we were having here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=23611.0) about the pro's and con's of Experience (power) Levels.

This thread is meant to be a discussion on the idea of the 'seesaw' of power, summed up here by Callan S:

At first PC's react to the GM's depiction of the world. They are going to raise the skills they need to live and get on with things, of course.

After leveling to a certain extent, the characters now have so much power that instead of PC's reacting to the world, the world reacts to the PC's power. This also includes funky demon mutants being created because of the players skill choices.

Basically I'm seeing a see-saw where at first players react to the GM's game world but over time that changes to the GM('s game world) reacting to the players characters.

What we're talking about is sort of a balance of power. In other words, the transition of control over the story from the GM to the players.

Here are some questions I'm interested in hearing everyone's opinion on:

1) First, is the Power Seesaw a good thing, or does it promote a 'contest' where both parties (GM and Players) are constantly trying to gain or keep control?

2) Does the Power Seesaw rely on statistical advancement (ie, high skill scores) or is it based off of how GM presents the story and how that story plays out?

3) Should the Power Seesaw's transition happen quickly and often, or gradually and less often?

4) What are some other issues we haven't thought about regarding the Power Seesaw?

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Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite

« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2007, 07:20:14 AM »

Hi Zack,

It seems to me that the response to your questions hinges on what you, the designer, want to set up for the play experience for the players.  For example:

1) Whether it's a good thing, like any other design element, depends on how it's executed and what its goal is.  If you don't want there to be a contest, surely you can make the transition inevitable or even desirable. Especially since you said in that old thread that GM duties might rotate, which means no permanently vested interest in either side.  But a contest could be fun, too, depending on how it's structured Smiley

2) That depends on how you design it.  You can set a power level for different elements of the world and have players take more control as their power level rises, naturally, because they'll be able to overcome those elements now.   D&D kind of does this.  It also has a Leadership feat that requires a certain level and that grants your character followers, which is part of this transition.  So you can either build it into specific mechanical elements, or you can leave it up to the GM to decide.

3) The speed of the transition, like the speed of leveling or the pace of adventures or whatnot, is a matter of preference. Do you expect people to play your game for 40+ sessions?  If so, a slow transition might be good.  Do you want shorter games or think that the meat of the game really lies beyond the transition?  Then it should happen faster.  Is the transition itself fun, or mostly what you get out of it?  That'll have an impact on whether people will enjoy the transitional phase more or the phase afterwards.

Callan S.

Posts: 3588

« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2007, 08:10:34 PM »

Hi Zack,

In regards to #2, the way I see it, if characters start at a lower level of power, the GM will prepare a gameworld that starts at that level too. The statistics intertwine with the game world, because typically a GM isn't going to give an goblin 500attack power where human average is 10.

There's kind of a flow on effect here : Lets say the players choose the power level of low and the average skill level is 10 for that. This means the GM, in making up the world puts mutant hell balrogs - wait, this is low level, it doesn't fit. Instead he puts in goblins. But then relative to the players choice, he can't go and make them 500 attack power. He then makes rivals for the goblins - but it wouldn't make sense if they had 500 attack power, so he scales them down. And he was going to make them mutant hell balrogs, but again that doesn't fit.

You can see the statistics have a flow on effect in generating the world, and of course whats in the world effects how the story turns out.

In regards to #3, the seesaw is a feedback loop. Say the PC is a warrior slave - he chooses  to up his sword skill in responce to the game world. Latter on his sword skill is so good he wades through all the goblins - he is now powerful enough to decide which communites he wants to save and which will be left to die. This will leave a big mark on the gameworld.

But he would never have increased the skill if not for the gameworld. But the game world would not have changed if he did not have the skill. See how it's a bit of a feedback loop? In fact its hard to say anyones in control of whats going on.

Long way of saying it, but as long as the feedback loop occurs, in my opinion it doesn't matter how fast it happens.

BUT I will say, if the GM tries to rig the player to up certain skills, this loop gets destroyed. That is an issue, rather than time.

Philosopher Gamer

Posts: 17

« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2007, 09:43:09 AM »

So here' s an example of see-saw effect, that I more or less stole from lumpley's board

GM: The big dragon breathes it's firey breath! (the GM has added this to the story of the game he does not have to roll for it, he just has to say it and it happens).
Low level player: I stab it with my wooden sword! (this is an attempt to add something to the game's fiction, the player must prove that it happens by rolling some dice) Darn! rolled a 6! It doesn't work. (because the roll failed, it doesn't happen)
High level player: I cast Mincturating Missle on the dragon.(again, this is an attempt to add something to the game's fiction).  I rolled 197! Take that! (in this case he was successful).

The GM is a player with 100% in every possible in game ability, he is not required to roll to affect the game's fiction (though, out of politeness he sometimes does when his decisions affect the players), he is only required to speak and what he says, happens.  As the other players level up and their character's skills increase, it becomes more and more likely that they will get to affect the game's fiction.  They still roll, because they may fail, but their chance of success has changed from say, 50% that they affect the story in a certain domain (like combat) to 99% that they affect the story in many domains (combat, diplomacy, crafting).  So eventually you have the equivalent of everyone being a GM, and they all get to have an impact on the story.  The imbalance is so that the GM's story (which he worked hard on) is somewhat predictable.  The GM knows that the players can only change it so much, so he can predict sort of how it's going to turn out and respond accordingly.

The game's system sets up those probabilities of affecting the story.  The players decide what those probabilities mean, and from that arises this feedback of interaction, where the impact of a certain story change causes the other players to make different changes to the story.  This also means that dysfunction can arise with, for instance the GM or a high level character marginalizing or removing the contributions of a lower power character.  A good system forsees possible dysfunction and makes rules to prevent it.  A poor system just says "we can't possibly forsee everything that might go wrong, so we're just going to allow one of the players to change any rule they want to allow for it." Which is essentially a way of saying "we don't trust our own rules."
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