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Author Topic: Games with Gamist Resolution?  (Read 1912 times)
David C

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...

« on: December 02, 2008, 08:08:12 PM »

I received this private message from chance.thirteen the other day, and I asked him if we could move it this discussion to the forum itself. 


Sorry to message out of the blue, but I am looking for an example RPG that has a gamist touch to handling conflicts (be they combat, or defeating a security setup, or a political manuever) and I would like there to be a sense of choices, with risks matched by pays offs. And i really haven't seen many game systems that do this, without just reverting to some very abstracted resolution that is basically a mini game, (like matching dice sets).

Any recommendations?

My own experience with different games is fairly limited, and is no match to the collective knowledge of the Forge, so I can't really recommend any games that do what you're asking for.  However, I can recommend some techniques to apply to any game, to better gleam the results you're looking for (a choice between risk and reward). The first technique is where you explicitly state, as the GM, the rewards and risks of any action, BEFORE the player chooses to do the action. This doesn't mean you tell them there is a sleeping guard they might awaken, but just that "If you fail, it'll be very noisy."

The second technique would be presenting the players choices in their tasks. So if you're running a spy fiction game, you might present them with the option of kidnapping very important person X, to interrogate them.  Alternatively, they can snoop around the facilities to hopefully find some clue.  The situations, risks and rewards are different, and it's up to the players to make that choice. For gamism to really work in an environment where the penalties for failure are death, you really have to take the kid gloves off and your players have to be willing to start new characters.  Either that, or you develop penalties that are still severe, but not deadly.  If you don't, the "threat" is artificial and your players will figure that out and always choose high reward situations, since the risk is not present. This is a common mistake I see in D&D games that attempt to present a "challenge."

Before I finish, I want to make sure that Gamism is really what you want?  Gamism implies competition and very real risks and rewards. The point of playing is more about "Being the best" than it is about "Telling a story" or "Experiencing a world."  In true gamist context, there's no such thing as 'power gaming', because you're trying to have every tool available for beating your friends or the GM controlled opposition...

I just thought of a game that might do what you want really well. It's called Paranoia by West End Games/Mongoose.  I haven't actually been able to play it, but from what my friends have described to me, it sounds right.  Would other people recommend it?


...but enjoying the scenery.

Posts: 95

« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2008, 04:31:39 PM »

I wouldn't recommend Paranoia for this.  I've played Paranoia a couple of times, and I've found that since the game world is so bent towards the players having a messy death, that I got the most fun out of embracing the absurdity and futility of the world, and the only way my character managed to achieve his goals was by accident and luck.

I, on the other hand, haven't played Dogs in the Vinyard, but it seems that the escalation of conflict rules there are what you're looking for.  Confrontation can start as verbal, and one character can push it to physical violence, and someone else pushes it to Gun Violence, and the stakes of the conflict are there on the table, and a character can back down if the stakes have gotten too high.

David Artman

Posts: 570

Designer & Producer

« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2008, 08:22:56 AM »

It needs work, but my own ASCII @HACK (soon to be revised due to playtesting) is straight-up Gamist, as only one player can actually win:

I agree that Paranoia works well, if your players buy into the "last man standing" motivation and push to be the one (and only one) that resolves the Mission and wins the love of The Computer (or, at least, is last one killed by it). Paranoia is often played for laughs, because of its writing, but it could be quite horrifying and dark, if treated seriously.

Any sort of survival horror game, run with any sort of simulation system, would give a similar Gamist kick. I'd just run 100pt + 25pt Disads Hero System and start the party in media res, already on the run (skips all the bullshit "what's going on?" fake RP while the horror is revealed and, yep, it's a run or die game GO!).

Whatever you play, it should be about the players competing, more so than even their characters (though it's hard to do the former without the latter--backstabbing Rogues notwithstanding).

I can't see Dogs in the Vineyard being done Gamist--MAYBE if the Point of Play revolves around "which Dog's view of the Book of Life is really true?" Dealing with a town could become less about "curing" the town (or cutting off the branch) and more about which Dog is "right" and the one to dispense justice and redemption. But that would be kinda hard to do more than once, I think--again, it's about players gaining social cred and kudoes, and how many times can you do that pushing what one would presume is your "real" beliefs about Sin, etc?

Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages

Posts: 210

« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2008, 09:10:25 AM »

For my own personal use, competition is not my goal. Perhaps gamist isn't the best term, but due to my focus on a procedural/atomic mechanical resolution even to relatively non-mechanical elements of play I am often told my design goals are gamist.

I would prefer that my players enjoy using the game mechanics, and that the mechanics offer choices that will reflect their end goals, moderated by your skill system and specific situation.

An example would be a build your results type system, where margin of success after a roll is used to purchase the details of the action resolution.

EG a streetwise roll might use it's margin of success to purchase elemenets like active or passive information seeking which makes tracing or identifying your interest more or less difficult, making it speedier, cost less money, result in building a network, or even result in an "unexpected turn" like finding out something unrelated but important, or getting a chance to see an old friend or foe, or whatever might be entertaining to the player initiating the action.

Beyond just gaining or not gaining a result, I am interested in the tradeoffs, and making these choices interesting, evocative, and with strong enough gains to justify the risks, limitations or costs associated with them.

Another area of interest would be tradeoffs offered by the contsting party, be it in game or meta game, top make conflicts more than just I rolled more than you.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2008, 09:28:46 AM »

Right. As often occurred in many early discussions at the Forge, this isn't about Gamism at all.

Chance.thirteen, whoever is telling you that you're talking about Gamist design is full of shit. Especially because you're concentrating on atomic and procedural steps, what's called Techniques in the Big Model. Techniques are not individually distinguished by Creative Agenda, although in combination they may facilitate a given Agenda better than the others.

David, I understand that Chance.thirteen used "Gamist" in his message to you, but all that's done is create a mutant hedgehog of a thread topic. I can guarantee you a bunch of well-meaning folks (who should know better) are even now drafting a careful explanation of Gamist play to add, and that's the last thing that Chance.thirteen needs.

Finally, this thread isn't about any actual play, and as far as I can tell it's about a game in design.

In fact, I'll go one step further as moderator. This thread must now be closed; no one post to it again, please.

Chance.thirteen, I'm doing that because I want this website actually to help you with any questions you have. But they are your questions, so you start the thread. You have a game in design, or perhaps pieces of several, right? Take your question without jargon into First Thoughts if the game hasn't been playtested or Playtested if it has, and start a thread there. People will help.

If you'd like, I can split your post into a thread-starter of its own, which I think will do the job. Let me know by private message whether Playtesting or First Thoughts is the right forum for it.

Best, Ron
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