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Author Topic: The Power 19 cheat sheet?  (Read 9561 times)
David C
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Posts: 262

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« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2008, 01:03:18 AM »

Quote
"Character efficiency rewards" are rewards that are given in the form of character efficiency.

I'm afraid I still don't understand.  Nor can I find "Character Efficiency" in the Forge's provisional glossary. What constitutes a character efficiency reward? You make it sound as if experience points are not in this category.

Quote
There are other ways of rewarding players as well - I might go as far as saying that much of what is dysfunctional in rpg design comes from trying to use character efficiency rewards to do the work better suited to other ways of rewarding players.

You can't just say something like that without elaborating. =)

Unfortunately, I am only aware of the following reward types.
1. Character "advancement."  XP, Treasure, point-buy points
2. A mechanic I've heard commonly on the Forge, that I'll call, "Narrative Control Tokens" but I'm sure you have a better name. 
3. The action in itself as a reward. "I helped those people." "Wasn't that situation funny/exciting?" "That dialogue was fun."

Is there anything I should read up on, that you have in mind?  Or can you explain further?

Quote
So I'm interested in hearing about what sort of rpgs you've played, and perhaps about some games and experiences that have been particularly important to you - especially good games, especially bad games, games you feel like you understand especially well.

It's long, I'm sorry if it's "too long." http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26963.0

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soundmasterj
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« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2008, 02:08:08 AM »

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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2008, 03:01:41 AM »

Ah, I'm sorry David, I must not be expressing myself very clearly today. "Character efficiency" is not a theory term, it's just my faulty English at work - I mean character effectiveness. A character is effective when it succeeds in overcoming the obstacles the player chooses to tackle. Character effectiveness rewards are all the discretionary things you have in a given game that make a character better at doing the things he does - experience points, magic items, vis pawns, whatever it is that the given game uses in determining how powerful a character is. These rewards are historically very important, because D&D started very early providing these things as the primary motivation (and thus, reward) and gauge of success for the characters and players both. Today we get a lot of game design where the designer tries to bribe the players into acting the way they want by showering the player with character effectiveness rewards, which is often inefficient and ass-backwards: the reason that giving out character effectiveness rewards in D&D works is that the player can use that effectiveness to open up new possibilities in the game, but this is often not the case in other games. The typical example of this sort of backwards design is when players are rewarded with experience points for "good roleplaying", with the intent of encouraging players to focus on roleplaying this way. But what that sort of reward encourages is focusing on what you can do with experience points, which generally has nothing to do with being a good roleplaying and everything to do with getting more to-hit bonuses and damage per round. The end-result is an incoherent design where you're trying to bribe players to do thing A by giving them tools for doing thing B as a reward. It's like giving out football shoes as prizes for winning an  ice hockey tournament.

I like your list of reward types, those are the sort of things that games often use to reward players. There are many different categories of rewards, however - your third one is important because it's non-mechanical, I like it very much that you mention such; it's usual to ignore the non-mechanical rewards, when those are often the most important ones in a game.

In the larger context, though, reward is really a rather zen-like concept - anything that a player feels "rewarding" in playing a game can be a reward if the game is planned to consistently deliver it. Furthermore, we have different sorts of rewards that do different things. For example, the main reasons for experience points being rewarding in D&D are that a) gathering xp opens up new adventure options and tools of victory, such as new spells, and b) as a transference, the mere fact of gaining or having lots of experience points entails satisfaction. Here the first reward is just an instrumental value - the different sorts of adventures have been separated into different power levels in the first place to provide a sense of prestige, changes of pace and a more intricate fantasy world; the reward really just is there as part of how the system works. Meanwhile, the latter, psychological reward is about victory, beating the challenge - it's not instrumental for the on-going campaign, but an intrinsic value immediately realized.

Reflecting this back to your design, the thing that drew my attention in the first place was that you wanted to give out xp to the players as a reward for fulfilling a character archetype. You can see how I critique the concept above. However, I don't want to say that this is inherently a bad idea, it all depends on the larger context. There is a game that does this sort of thing really well, Runeslayers. (This one's a free pdf, and an extremely high quality product for that - one of the best values for a free game out there in many ways.) It might take some figuring out how the game should be played, but if one settles on a gamist interpretation, the reward system of the game becomes pretty interesting. The primary rewards in the game come in the form of character nature tickmarks which the GM awards to the players at the end of individual sessions. These character natures are things like "Coward" or "Lustful" or whatever, basic characterization stuff; they're chosen at random from a pool determined by the warrior cult the given player character belongs to. The trick to making this work in a gamist environment is that the player has a choice in whether he takes the risks in following his character nature in a spectacular manner - if he does, he's sure to get the tickmark and amazing cult powerz that come with it, but that might also bring him into some fatal trouble. So as you can see, it's not quite your average "play your character correctly and gain rewards" scheme - the player has to look for opportunities to demonstrate his character's "Faithfulness" or whatever, preferably in some manner that doesn't get him killed. And because the nature changes every session, the challenge refreshes each time we sit down to play.

I'd like to point you to something useful to read about rewards, because they're a really important topic in game design, especially when you get to manipulating reward cycles intentionally, which is when the designer is really cooking with fire. I'm really bad at pointing people to random threads from the past, though, and I don't remember off-hand that anybody'd written a more comprehensive treatise worth shit. Perhaps somebody else can point us to some useful general account on the topic.
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David C
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lost in the woods...


« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2008, 03:43:10 AM »

@ Sound
I wanted to progress what you were talking about. We've established that if a reward does not touch the primary goal of the game, it is not character effectiveness.  However, does that mean any reward would be a character effectiveness reward if the goal of the game was changed?  As an extension of your orc bashing example, lets say these Narrative Control Tokens can be used to establish social connections or make a convincing argument.  If the goal of the game was changed from "orc bashing" to "political intigue" are they now character effectiveness rewards?  Could we then effectively say that they are in truth, "Secondary Character Effectiveness" rewards?
If this is the case, we can change my list to.

1. Character Effectiveness Rewards
2. Secondary Character Effectiveness Rewards
3. The action is its own reward.

What other rewards are out there? Unfortunately, most discussions I've read on that topic are more video game related and pertain to reward cycles, since video games focus almost exclusively on mechanical rewards (for obvious reasons.)

Still @ Sound
I read your other replies.  I think, in essence, what you are describing is a "group combo."  This is a combination of actions that can only be performed with multiple people, that results in greater reward.  A great example of a group combo is flanking. Now, I've tried to incorporate this in the combat section of my game. However, before reading your post, I feel like I was looking at the problem through a mirror around the corner, and now I can see it with my own eyes.

Is Otherland a game that one would purchase? Or is it something else (like "the forge"?)  

You mention that you find roleplay boring, would you mind telling me what happens during an ideal game for you?

@ Eero
I believe my answer is that I want to create "believable, interesting fiction."

But could you also clarify what you mean by "that this needs to happen within the imaginative context of the game for it to be interesting"?

The part about Runeslayers is interesting. There is something I need to explain about my game, as well.  It uses experience and levels, but not in a traditional manner.  Experience is spent to advance your character, and once you've spent 100, 200, 300 etc. experience, you advance a level, giving you more options.  I also have tried to make purchasable abilities that are only useful within a social setting, or outside of combat. It might make no difference, since a player can use their "rp xp" to purchase combat abilities, but presumably, they could use it to purchase social abilities. Therefore, it might avoid the "football shoes for playing hockey" problem. 

Although, I'm not even convincing myself that that's a stimulating reward...
 
I guess I could make characters have a social "level" and a combat "level" but this seems convoluted. But this is almost what Runeslayers has done, as well, hmm....

One of my game design goals was to cut down on complexity at every opportunity, without sacrificing important functionality. This has served me well, so far. I would like to maintain this and I feel adding another "resource type" like "RP XP" would overburden the game.  As there are several resources already in place.

Earlier in my design, I had come up with a mechanic called "Destinies."  The way it worked was you would invest some character XP in the destiny.  You would then write a short background to the destiny (Evil Dude killed my Loved Person) how it affects your character's values (I will protect people at any cost to myself) and how you believe your destiny may be fulfilled (I avenge my Loved Person's death by killing Evil Dude.)  After your destiny *was* fulfilled, you got your XP back with interest, depending on how long it took you to fulfill your destiny and how hard it was. I wonder if I should revisit this mechanic or mechanics like it? Hmmm...
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2008, 04:06:38 AM »

I wanted to progress what you were talking about. We've established that if a reward does not touch the primary goal of the game, it is not character effectiveness.  However, does that mean any reward would be a character effectiveness reward if the goal of the game was changed?  As an extension of your orc bashing example, lets say these Narrative Control Tokens can be used to establish social connections or make a convincing argument.  If the goal of the game was changed from "orc bashing" to "political intigue" are they now character effectiveness rewards?  Could we then effectively say that they are in truth, "Secondary Character Effectiveness" rewards?

I wouldn't say this, mostly because it's not character effectiveness if the players has meta-level means of influencing the game. It's still power, certainly, but it's a somewhat different sort of power, used differently.

Narrative level control of the play environment works for some things, but it's no good when it is used to specifically get around the in-character challenges the game is supposed to be about. I see this now and then in gamist rpgs that are experimenting with new mechanics: the game actually gets actively less interesting if, instead of vanquishing the brutal savages under your feet, you can just spend some tokens and say that something else comes along to remove the risks the character was about to undertake.

One thing narrative control has been used for successfully is narrativist games where the player can use these extraordinary powers to maneuver his own or somebody else's character into situations that are relevant to their thematic issues. Because the player is not trying to get around the conflicts in the game but rather complicate and progress them, he is using his meta-level powers constructively. So it's a very different sort of effectiveness than what a character would possess: character effectiveness is for the character to succeed in resolving his problems, while meta-level narrative control is usually used to cause those problems in the first place. These powers are often opposed against each other, so it's no wonder they're controlled by separate players in the traditional set-up.

Quote
Is Otherland a game that one would purchase? Or is it something else (like "the forge"?)  

Otherkind is an unfinished rpg by Vincent Baker. It had many pretty impressive and even influential notions in it. Can't find it in the 'net off-hand right now, though.

Quote
I believe my answer is that I want to create "believable, interesting fiction."

But could you also clarify what you mean by "that this needs to happen within the imaginative context of the game for it to be interesting"?

Ah, yes, that's an interesting bit. You see, a lot of gamist game design and play has lately been suffering under a false dichotomy, the notion that a well-defined gamist rpg would by necessity be a thing of rules, procedures and unambiguously outlined goals. This notion has made it rather difficult, to say the least, to even discuss gamist play intelligibly, being that people don't often enough even realize that their play is gamist, or that gamist play could be fun and rewarding. The truth of the matter, however, is that the core successes of gamist rpg design have time and again been strongly textured, colorful and based on a strong imaginative context for anything that happens in the game. It's the vanquishing of the dragon that's the point of play, not reducing a hitpoint pool to zero.

But that was just something that you reminded me of with your discussion of power play and paying players xp to play their characters believably. People are often confused about how to get a gamist group to care about the fiction, but the solution is not to throw more mechanical rewards at them - the ideal solution is to get the group to agree and get excited over the idea of playing a roleplaying game, this roleplaying game, in the first place. If they're not interested in slaying the dragon, then all the imaginative color invested in the dragon is a waste of time. If they don't want to play a heroic archetype, then paying them to do so seems just weird.

Anyway, I think I'm leaning towards the impression that gamist play is not really what you're about here, anyway. Would you like to show me the notes for your game? The part about experience levels unlocking new character improvement options while xp is spent freely sounds very smart, I'd like to see what you've done with it. I'm pretty sure that I can be more on the point after looking at the game itself. Many of the ideas you mention in passing sound interesting, but often enough getting everything to work together is the challenge, especially if there are parts in conflict with each other in the game.
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soundmasterj
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Posts: 120

Must... resist... urge to talk GNS...


« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2008, 08:47:12 AM »

This:
Quote
However, before reading your post, I feel like I was looking at the problem through a mirror around the corner, and now I can see it with my own eyes.
This is really beautiful.
Paul said something similar:
Quote
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
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Jona
soundmasterj
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« Reply #21 on: November 04, 2008, 09:00:08 AM »

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Jona
David C
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lost in the woods...


« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2008, 11:22:12 PM »

The impression I'm getting from you guys is that I've mistaken role play or "being in character" with plot, story or "fiction."  It seems to me that "being in character" is part of the simulationist branch, while story is narrative branch. 

The argument I would make is that if players do not form some sort of "personality" that they stick to, you cannot have a cohesive story.  So lets say that you've got a Police Officer and a Doctor.  The story is about a murder that took place within the hospital.  If the Police Officer begins by being the "plucky guy who is going to clean up the town" but then changes over to a "self centered power mad man" and then into "the heroic guy who throws his body in the way of the doctor to save his life", you don't really have a coherent story. Natural character transformation aside, of course.

@ sound
The destiny (or for a more generic/accurate term) quest mechanic is some of what I've been trying to bring to the game. Right now, though, I have that same feeling of "This could be better" that I get before spending the time and effort to come up with a real break through. 

Quoting this for selfish reasons.
Quote
core successes of gamist rpg design have time and again been strongly textured, colorful and based on a strong imaginative context for anything that happens in the game. It's the vanquishing of the dragon that's the point of play, not reducing a hitpoint pool to zero.

Also, copyright being the monstrous thing it is, what happens if I copy+paste something directly out of my "copy righted book" directly onto the forge? Like, the first two paragraphs of my setting, for example. I know copyright isn't productive conversation, but this question seems relevant and there must be some common knowledge about that specific instance.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2008, 01:22:45 AM »

The argument I would make is that if players do not form some sort of "personality" that they stick to, you cannot have a cohesive story.  So lets say that you've got a Police Officer and a Doctor.  The story is about a murder that took place within the hospital.  If the Police Officer begins by being the "plucky guy who is going to clean up the town" but then changes over to a "self centered power mad man" and then into "the heroic guy who throws his body in the way of the doctor to save his life", you don't really have a coherent story. Natural character transformation aside, of course.

Absolutely, I find it excellent that you naturally grog to this; many gamers I've known have built an inborn conviction to the very opposite - I've had to explain the role of character integrity in building a story too many times to count when players have decided to damage the protagonism of their characters for petty short term gain.

I would argue, though, insofar that it's useful for this conversation, that the character created for the purpose of story does not necessarily have to be painstakingly constructed - the character can also grow naturally. In fact, I usually put very little stock to pre-game claims about how this character is "greedy" or this one is "humble"; it's all just noise until rubber hits the road and we find out the choices the player really makes for the character. These player-originating choices are such an important part of creating story together that trying to constrain them artificially before play starts by having the player describe his character and then try to stick to the description feels somewhat counterproductive. If the player was mistaken in his description and finds out during play that the character he wants to play and needs to play for this story is somebody else, then having some rules-stick punishing him for this revelation seems very problematic. Ever more problematic, in fact, when we consider that often enough the sort of natural flash of inspiration that turns a character from a cold-hearted bastard into a hero is the very core and turning point of the story! Trying to mechanize and prevent this from happening can be directly against any sort of story forming at all, as you remove the internal struggle from the supposed protagonist.

Quote
Also, copyright being the monstrous thing it is, what happens if I copy+paste something directly out of my "copy righted book" directly onto the forge? Like, the first two paragraphs of my setting, for example. I know copyright isn't productive conversation, but this question seems relevant and there must be some common knowledge about that specific instance.

Ah, for this one we actually have a simple and unambiguous answer: what happens to your copyrights if you decide to publish a part of your work here or elsewhere in the Internet? The answer is, nothing - legally it's just the same as if you'd printed the text on paper and distributed it in that manner. You still own any other rights to your text, can use it however you want and may require others not to distribute it any further (to other websites, say). You can't easily and practically take it off the Internet after publishing, not the least because this and other forums usually reserve the right to keeping the posts we make up in perpetuity, but that's a minor enough worry for anything you intented to put up in the first place.

The practical danger of publishing your work is often cited as being that somebody else will steal it and republish it for themselves. This is a real danger in one manner: many things, such as ideas, are not actually protected by copyright, so I, for example, have a full right to get inspired by something you publish and then write something similar myself. It is, however, a completely baseless fear in another regard, and that is practice: not only is the world full of ideas, not only are artists an independent lot who want to work on their own ideas instead of stealing from others what may be freely and easily invented or found lying around, but also the fact remains that we have a thriving game design community here, and many others all over the Internet, where publishing drafts and playtest versions of games is considered a beneficial practice for the designer himself. We might all be wrong, but so far it seems that being very open with your work is only beneficial to the project: you get real feedback by having people read it, you get advance publicity for when you finally get your game done, you gain valuable contacts and so on and so forth.

People often come to public art communities with an inflated sense of care for their work, which is why I'm harping on this one point: it's far more likely that you'll make your own progress difficult by being protective of your work than that you irreparably damage your chances of publishing the work in the future as a commercial product. The latter is technically possible: for example, you might want to sell the work to some prickly guy who finds it annoying that there is an 80% finished playtest draft of it floating out there in the Internet, but the chances of this being any sort of problem (especially if you're interested in self-publishing) are rather minuscule. Certainly there is no real and observed negative impact on sales; often enough the best marketing a small press guy can do is to have a very public game design and playtest phase, which allows early adopters to fall in love with the game and start doing grassroots publicity for it. In this information age it is the least of our problems as artists that somebody might wish to steal our work - the real challenge is in getting to be noticed at all!

In other words: you certainly shouldn't worry about posting anything from you game that makes it easier to conduct this conversation. If I were in your shoes, I'd just throw the whole thing into a pdf and link to it so others could form an overall picture of it. As an example of the sort of thing people do around here all the time, my original introductory post from a couple of years ago for a project I'm still working on. It's not exactly up to date in details for the project, but when I wrote it that was pretty much the whole state of the game, with nothing held back.
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soundmasterj
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Must... resist... urge to talk GNS...


« Reply #24 on: November 05, 2008, 04:27:34 AM »

quote]core successes of gamist rpg design have time and again been strongly textured, colorful and based on a strong imaginative context for anything that happens in the game. It's the vanquishing of the dragon that's the point of play, not reducing a hitpoint pool to zero.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #25 on: November 05, 2008, 05:27:24 AM »

J - perhaps we should tone down the theory talk here, it's liable to steal focus from David's actual concerns, considering that we don't really have any true picture of the Creative Agenda his game would or should promote. It also doesn't help that you're encouraging some common misconseptions about the details of GNS theory; I don't know if this is because you're expressing your own understanding in a way I find difficult to understand, or because you have some sort of misunderstanding going on yourself. It sounds to me like you're conflating explicit game mechanics and character-based reward systems with gamist play, which is not necessarily the case; for example, TSoY, for which I'm currently writing a new edition, is a good example of a very pure-bred narrativist game with explicit mechanical efficiency currency.

(Not saying that I'm any sort of authority in this myself, understand - it's just that I disagree with what you said here about some pretty intricate issues, and we shouldn't hijack this thread for hashing that stuff out. If you want to discuss how gamist play deals with fiction, I suggest starting an Actual Play thread about it; I'll be happy to discuss my recent experiences on the matter in more detail.)

Rather, let's focus on the original and actual topic of the thread: David told us that he's worried about how his game rewards character optimization and challenge orientation in lieu of roleplaying. I think that we've established it pretty clearly that David potentially has some mechanics going at cross-purposes in this regard in his game. As I understand it, it might be most useful for us at this point to point at some methods David might wish to consider for rewarding other directions of play; I don't know that we'd be in any position to say what direction David should take his own design, but we can show him how other designers have solved similar predicaments.

For example, let's take The Shadow of Yesterday, because it's in many ways a familiar sort of game, while completely repudiating the sort of challenge-oriented character optimization David fears. (It's also easily available for reference, which is a plus.) TSoY has experience points and kewl powerz aplenty for player characters to pursue. How does it encourage roleplaying and consistent characterization instead of opportunistic nihilism on the part of the characters?

The answer in this case lies in reward agnosticism: because the players set their own experience scheme in the game, character advancement in the game is actually just as trivial as the player wants it to be. Furthermore, once the player has determined a set of xp rewards via the Key mechanic, he can at any point gain a major xp reward for doing the opposite of the scheme; in other words, there is never a pressure on the player to act in a certain way just because it allows a reward - acting in any way at all gains some reward. Going forward, the role of experience points in the game is different from traditional in that it is actually completely trivial to optimize character success, and you can actually make your character the best possible in just one or two sessions of concerned play; after the character becomes a Grand Master, though, he soon leaves play in a dramatic manner. What all of this boils down to is that xp in TSoY is not a tool of winning - it's a tool of character development: players gain xp and use it, not to make their character stronger, but to make him deeper, to reflect the experiences of the character and his changing, shifting identity. When this growth process ends and the player doesn't have anything better to do with xp than pumping up skills, the character is soon removed from play for being the legend he is.

You can easily see how, although the tool of reward in TSoY, experience points, is the same as in D&D, the system environment changes the meaning of this traditional reward currency into a completely different thing. When xp is not hunted to win the game with it, but to enable the player to mold his character, there is no longer a need to focus single-mindedly on winning at any cost; it is quite viable to play TSoY in such a manner that different players gain vastly differing amounts of xp during the campaign. Characters can also reside in different power levels in the game without a problem, as they are not used as tools for defeating challenges, but as protagonists in a story.

There are many other games that have different mechanical incentives for story-crafting - is this sort of direction useful for us to pursue, David?
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dindenver
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« Reply #26 on: November 05, 2008, 11:26:50 AM »

Dave,
  Here is a link to Otherkind:
http://web.archive.org/web/20040707171558/www.septemberquestion.org/lumpley/pdfs/otherkind.pdf

  When Vincent updated his site, he neglected to carry this forward.

  I guess to me, it depends on your definition of Story. If its, a bunch of stuff that  happened, then every RPG fulfills the need to make a story. Whether you like the story it tells or not is a matter of taste though, right?
  But, if you like your story with a beginning, middle and end, then the mechanics need to support that.
  I think that might be the touchstone on all this confusion, story. What does it mean to you and what kinds of stories do you want to tell with your design?

  This can be done mechanically with Narrative Control Tokens or other narration control tools. This can be done organically with a vibrant setting. Or it can be done systematically with all of the elements of the system pointed at this goal (like the only traits available are those that help tell the type of story you want the players to tell). There is no wrong answer, but the tools should match your goal or you get incoherence. Does that make sense?
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David C
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« Reply #27 on: November 05, 2008, 03:17:26 PM »

I'm going to go ahead and move the entire Destiny mechanic to a new topic. http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26973.0

Eero, that's very interesting about TSOY. I can see how every element of the game supports the play you are trying to get across, and I think if I had found TSOY or Solar System awhile ago, I might be contentedly playing them. (Probably not, I've always been a fiddler. I'd probably be altering them to handle space ship battles or some other nonsense)

Quote
  I guess to me, it depends on your definition of Story. If its, a bunch of stuff that  happened, then every RPG fulfills the need to make a story. Whether you like the story it tells or not is a matter of taste though, right?
  But, if you like your story with a beginning, middle and end, then the mechanics need to support that.
  I think that might be the touchstone on all this confusion, story. What does it mean to you and what kinds of stories do you want to tell with your design?

Ok, well first let me talk briefly what I enjoy in a game.  I enjoy finding out what's happening and mostly *why*?  Usually, this involves a lot of shared narrative control, and sometimes includes advancing a personal agenda. But then, I like to do gritty, task resolution, tactical combat, where the GM has almost all narrative control. Let me give an actual play example.

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In a recent campaign, we were playing the villains. for a change of pace. We were trying to get some evil artifact out of the keep of a local town. At one point, we met a young lady who we began manipulating for our own goals.  I basically narrated to the GM, "I'm telling these two vampire spawn (who were kind of cohorts at the time) to break into this girls house and drain the parents and sibling, but to leave the girl alone. Then, I'm going to wait a moment until I'm sure they've had time to do their dirty work, but not too long, because they might still be hungry, and then I'm going to kill the vampire spawn and "save the girl." We then did a couple rolls (Did I wait too long, did the vampires follow my orders? But then we went from l conflict resolution into task resolution as I killed the the spawn.)

Like the other players, we were advancing personal agendas (my character began caring for the young lady) while progressing the larger plot (getting this evil artifact.) As an important part of this story, my character went under some transformation. He went from being self centered and power hungry, to caring (however crudely) for this girl. Another important part was the eventual twists the story took.  (We sort of failed doing things discreetly and the city burned down) The betrayals and actions of other players (The wizard we were working for grabbed the artifact and left in a hurry, leaving us to the fate of the local law.  Meanwhile, one of the other players had created a fake artifact and replaced the real one with it.)  All of these things together was what made the "Story" for me. 

One thing I should mention is, while I prefer a multiple story arc, game.  So while I like my story to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, I like there to be multiple stories within the same game.  An example is, in my previous play, while we ultimately were at odds with the wizard, and ultimately dealt with him, we meanwhile angered some good organization that antagonized us.  So we concluded the one story, but meanwhile, another has begun.

Now, I could focus narrowly on my game and turn it into a purely gamist game.  I feel this is what they did with 4th Edition D&D, and this is probably why I don't like playing it at all, but many other people enjoy it immensely.  I think what is right for me, is to make a game that has gritty, tactical battle, but outside of the scope of battle, there is a whole world of possibilities. I'd rather fail trying to do the latter, then succeed at making a purely gamist game.

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  This can be done mechanically with Narrative Control Tokens or other narration control tools. This can be done organically with a vibrant setting. Or it can be done systematically with all of the elements of the system pointed at this goal (like the only traits available are those that help tell the type of story you want the players to tell). There is no wrong answer, but the tools should match your goal or you get incoherence. Does that make sense?

Maybe I am making some kind of elementary mistake, but wouldn't it be best to strive for all three? Lets look at otherkind for a moment.  It mechanically deals with narration control. (If you get a 4 5 or 6 on the narration dice, you narrate), it has a vibrant setting (numina and iron), and systematically (you can only be a numinous creature, you can't be a human.  You only track how many people you kill, not how many berries you have to eat.) 

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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #28 on: November 05, 2008, 03:31:28 PM »

That part about crunchy tactical combat and resonating world is interesting, and perhaps useful to us. How do you visualize the flow of influence between the combat part and the rest of the game? If you imagine the combat system as a big black box that is taking input from the rest of the game, what sort of input is it? When does the rest of the system turn on the combat machine, and why? What sort of output does the combat box bring out for the rest of the system to deal with, and how does that output affect further events?

What I'm getting at here is that combat has been used inventively in many roles in different games, and there is no reason why you couldn't have it play a role in yours, especially if you can figure out the role it plays in your game. For example, in Call of Cthulhu played in a gamist manner combat is a failure endstate of sorts, as it's only engaged when the players make mistakes. In 4th ed. D&D combat is a prepared encounter the players are railroaded to, and is pretty much the point of play, as the most interesting part of the game. In Ars Magica combat is an evolutionary remainder with little role except to convince people that it's a "complete rpg". Don't just create combat rules - make a point of understanding when and how and why combat is segued into in your game, and how combat affects the rest of play. Thinking of this might help you figure out how you should handle the whole character strength issue, as combat is so tied up with that.
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David C
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« Reply #29 on: November 06, 2008, 12:32:22 AM »

Now, we get to the root of the problem that I had in the first place, without me realizing what my problem was.  (I've learned so much in the past few days, wow!) I'm going to answer the questions, but I feel I'm "missing something."  Like, there's something I know needs to be there to make it all work, but I'm not sure what it is.

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How do you visualize the flow of influence between the combat part and the rest of the game?
I think combat's primary purpose is to "correct" a mistake, or resolve a plot point.  For example, a combat might be entered because a player fails to convince (a "mistake) the mad wizard to give him back the blacksmith's daughter. (a plot point) In other words, it gives "motion" to the story. At other times, it is entered in unfortunate circumstances, almost as a punishment. (You insulted that group of orcs, and now you have to fight them before you can get further along.) Kind of like a tar pit...

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If you imagine the combat system as a big black box that is taking input from the rest of the game, what sort of input is it?
Hmm, I'm not sure how to answer this question, I'll give it a shot, though.  The input it takes is what the story is delivering.  If the characters are traveling through orc country, and one of them decides to blow a horn, a bunch of orcs might attack.  If a mad wizard has kidnapped the blacksmith's daughter, you might fight him and his magical contraptions.

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When does the rest of the system turn on the combat machine, and why?
In addition to what I've already mentioned, I think the combat machine gets turned on because it brings on the dramatic and atmosphere.  This room is dangerous... explore further and you'll encounter something grisly. This mad wizard is going to be a tough opponent to bring down.  Your cult member disguise was just blown in the middle of a dark ritual. You decide to try and steal that flaming sword from the shopkeep... It should be a natural evolution of the story, and there should definitely be story reasons NOT to go into combat some of the time.

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What sort of output does the combat box bring out for the rest of the system to deal with, and how does that output affect further events?
In some cases, the output would be further motion of the story.  (Now that we've dealt with the mad wizard, we can reunite the blacksmith with his daughter) In other cases, it would allow you to escape a "very big mistake" (Fighting your way out of the cult's hideout). In some cases, you've merely dealt with an obstacle getting to the guy you really want to kill.

In cases where combat is not desired, the output is change in reputation or ability to progress down a certain path. For example, lets say the party decides to kill the blacksmith and just take their "reward."  Well, now they can't progress towards saving his daughter, because only he knew where their tower was.  Not only that, but they've gained a reputation as murderers.

I think I'm getting an understanding of how the reward system needs to work. So, basically, I want to encourage players to do two things. 1) Contribute to narration and story development.  2) Address problems in non traditional manners

My first thing I'm going to change is how social encounters are explained. In the explanation, I'm going to emphasis conflict resolution. Also, I think I'm going to change how success is defined.  Players are going to declare "I'm going to intimidate this person, in order that I can do THIS."  They then roll, and if they succeed by 5 or more, they then gain the ability to narrate as well as succeed.  (Notice that they never narrate a failure... what to do?) Beyond this, I was thinking of a way of making a player be able to narrate no matter the result, provided they expend a resource.  So before they roll, they could choose to expend a resource to guarantee narration. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that I have a resource for that.  What do you feel about having an XP purchased resource that replenishes periodically?

Oh, before I move on, let me explain the context of "Social Encounters" for you.  Social Encounters are where *something* is at stake, but not the character's life (except in the case where he's thrown in jail or something.) Basically, as soon as their life is at stake, it becomes combat.

The second thing I'm going to do is change how rewards are given.  Primarily, combat encounters will now reward a set amount of XP *or* treasure. The only time combat encounters will reward both XP and treasure is if it is a story milestone.  The mad wizard's minions don't have treasure on them, they grant xp, though. The butler, while formidable, wasn't a learning experience, however he did have a gold pocket watch. The mad wizard, though, he was both challenging AND his robes were full of stuff! My only reservation about this is, while clear what the intentions are, it will break verisimilitude for some players (the butler didn't give ANY xp?)

In addition, social encounters are going to have rewards as well.  I think 1 xp per conflict resolution might be appropriate, with about 10 xp granted at a milestone (100 xp to level, remember). I might also decide to give Influence at social encounter milestones, as well. If I decide to use that mechanic (I'm leaning towards it more and more.)  I think if I use influence, it could also be saved up to get a "big favor." Like maybe the mayor gives you a house for all your services... (10 influence...)
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