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Author Topic: Gaming designs without initiative order?  (Read 14812 times)
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #45 on: December 19, 2008, 11:11:13 AM »

Yeah. You see, here's initiative again with actions determined by order of speed and the like. I think you might simply be aiming at a Free and Clear system as presented by the Marshall Burns, that's a bit of what your example renders except that you added an "awareness" condition to the action-changing in order to avoid pure metagaming. Of course if you really play Gamist Free and Clear, you might find yourself in curious situations like:

A: I run and duck under the rock

B: OK then, the sorcerer shoots his fireball at the rock's base.

A: sh**. No, OK, I run around.

B: In this case, he will shoot death darts at you.

A: That won't do... Let me try...

Etc.

<snip>
.. it's the opportunity for you to take the action at whatever of its course and to change it regardless of your initiative order (your turn).

Yes, it's somewhat like the Free and Clear stage, but the awareness fights even pure gamist motives. The "curious situations" you mentioned come up only if the characters either broadcast their intentions instantaneously, or you're playing with metagame in effect. You see, your example is a snippet out of context. On the first line, why is A trying to run under the rock? On the second line, how did B's character know to shoot at the base of the rock?

The three categories I mentioned earlier were intended for the beginning of combat, but groups 2 and 3 work equally well during combat and players will move between them with respect to a given CHANGE in SITUATION. The groups prevent players from endlessly going back in time. Regardless of a player's wishes, that player's character may only react to a change that the character is aware of.

I suspect it's still not clear how this could function in actual play, so let me demonstrate by rewriting your "curious situation" with two possible outcomes (though infinite are possible). For the system I'm proposing to work, your example requires some context: let's assume A wanted to jump behind a rock because B's character is giving him the big hairy eyeball and preparing a Magic Missile spell for his face. (If A wanted to jump behind the rock for a different reason,  this would obviously play out differently.)

Quote
A: I want to run and duck under the rock. <note the declaration of intention first, not action>

DM: B, make the Spot check.

B: Got it! In that case, I'll prepare a fireball to shoot at the rock's base instead. That'll hurt him despite the rock's cover.

A: sh**. No, OK, I run around.

DM: A, hold on. Roll a check to see if you can tell that B has changed spells to adapt to your move.

A: I failed! D'oh!

DM: Ouch, too bad. You duck behind the rock, only discovering that the spell was in fact a fireball when you happen to notice your corpse lying below your ethereal spirit form.

And, an alternative outcome.

Quote
A: I want to run and duck under the rock.

DM: B, make the Spot check.

B: Missed it! Oy!

DM: B, you prepare your Magic Missile spell, when suddenly A darts behind a nearby rock. You try and twist your hand to nail him, but it's too late. The missile bounces harmlessly off the rock.

B: I think this would be a good opportunity to exit stage left. I'm ducking back into the door. <group 3 here .. wanted to act first. If he had wanted to see what player A would have done, he should have waited to declare his action.>

A: Oh! I throw a dagger as he's leaving.

DM: Roll a speed check followed by a Dexterity check. Let's see if you first catch him leaving, and then are able to throw the dagger fast enough.

B: Oh, can bring up a shield?

DM: Too late I'm afraid, you've turned around and so can't make the spot check.

Despite all this, I'm STILL not convinced the system is feasible, as I'm worried there's a loophole in there that would allow the game to, again, degrade under the scrutiny of gamists. Oh well.. will have to test it when I get a chance. In any case, I hope this clarifies.



Dan Blain
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Marshall Burns
Member

Posts: 485


« Reply #46 on: December 19, 2008, 01:17:27 PM »

Of course if you really play Gamist Free and Clear, you might find yourself in curious situations like:

A: I run and duck under the rock

B: OK then, the sorcerer shoots his fireball at the rock's base.

A: sh**. No, OK, I run around.

B: In this case, he will shoot death darts at you.

A: That won't do... Let me try...

Etc.

There's two things to stop this.  One is clear-cut Effect (what results from applying the mechanics to specific situations?) and Effectiveness (what determines my character's ability to influence Effect?) rules -- for instance, making "I duck under the rock" have actual mechanical impact that can't be short-circuited simply by choosing a maneuver that would somehow bypass it.  I duck under the rock, you shoot the base of the rock with Magic Missile?  Okay, let's roll dice to see how that turns out -- maybe in my favor, maybe in yours.

The second thing is that it doesn't go anywhere.  In theory, the players could just go around and around like that for days, trying to trap eachother in a bad situation so they can say "GOTCHA!"  It's like playing Around the World in baseball -- throwing the ball from base to base, in hopes of tricking a player into getting off base to run for the next one so that you can throw him out.  But nobody falls for it, it's a non-game, and people stop trying to do it once they realize this.
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #47 on: December 19, 2008, 01:40:08 PM »

I'm not sure your highlighting really helps to sort the question, Paul, because it explains furthermore why one should be the main stage player as the others would be reactive to him. This is exactly the feel I want to avoid. Yet... There are two very interesting points in your reference to Initiative's basic meaning.One is that it shows how Order of Speech and Order of Action is actually one same thing. In a social game (or contract or whatever), the first to speak is the first to determine the others into either being passive either tagging him along. Second, it sparks for me the notion of determining Initiative in order to find out who's leading the action, aka one single character or opponent. This turns the Initiative in a contest for action leading instead of a list or count of all the people involved. I'm definitely not aiming at this for this system, but it is a good idea to be keeping aside somewhere. I like the way it explains the T&T opposition system too. It gives it a narrative twist, and a good one.

Dan. I mean. Didn't you get at a new Initiative system there? It's like "I will pretend to ignore that because I'm not a metagame player but in case I am, I'll have to roll some dice". Reminds me of John Rawls. And of course you have to invite Speed, Perception, etc in order to sort the issues. Because if you roll, it seems difficult to escape the "who rolls 1st?" question. If a perception roll can change the development of the action, then the question of who gets the chance to roll it becomes an essential one. Sounds to me as a correction of Free & Clear that empties it of its logics. Yes, Free & Clear (I was just reading your answer Marshall) implies some kind of... Realizing that there's no gotchas! instead of rolling to involve gotchas! again because you then thwart your system yourself, or so it seems. I wonder if actually, what I call the Abstract system (like T&T) isn't Free & Clear undercover...

But I also want to add that Not Having Initiative isn't some kind of freak mandatory feature I've sold to some producer and can't escape from however lame it gets the game, this is my independant game and I can turn around if it suits best. What I'm telling right now since a few messages is that I've sort of abandoned the idea because it gets the game in a direction that isn't consistant with its other aspects, either turning it into too much a cooperative play (and when I will tell you I'm planning an Arena play extension, you'll understand why I have to discard the whole idea of cooperation) either because it would have me redefine the whole design around and I don't want the game to revolve about initiative. There are possible paths and we've defined these a lot: the Free & Clear (either Burns or Dan system), the Secrecy, the Abstraction (T&T) and the twisting of an admitted Initiative (Usagi Yojimbo, or MTG). Yet I'm very happy to leave the question open for it brings along quite a lot of good ideas and striking notions. Plus I'm still not fixed upon which idea or which combination of ideas would render the best gameplay sensation. To be honest, I've ordered Usagi Yojimbo and I will delve in the attic to get my old T&T copy asap (if it's not lost, one never knows with my attic). I'll kick that fresh again after these few researches.
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Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #48 on: December 19, 2008, 02:10:27 PM »

It sounds like you're winding down the thread, so here's my last thoughts on the subject.

You basically hit on the nose, in your first paragraph, what I was getting to. Since we are only simulating simultaneous actions, not actually performing them, we must resign ourselves to the fact that someone's got to explain what he wants to do first and allow everyone else a chance to modify their actions (unless you go into written down plans). The reason for setting up initiative the way I did is because it answers the question of who is the best choice for that main stage player. I claim it's the player who already knows what he wants to do, and is in the best position to do it (i.e. due to character speed). This, and other methods of initiative, do not ultimately resolve the issue of peoples' stated intentions colouring the actions of others, but I think they're fair enough approximations.

An Arena-play expansion, eh? Sounds pretty wild X-)


Dan Blain
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Marshall Burns
Member

Posts: 485


« Reply #49 on: December 19, 2008, 02:14:37 PM »

the Free & Clear (either Burns or Dan system)

Just wanna point out real quick, in the interest of citing sources, that I first came across that structure in Ron Edwards' Sorcerer, and that Ron coined the term.
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Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #50 on: December 19, 2008, 04:29:22 PM »

Didn't quite get what you meant in first place. Yes, this is an option then. Still feels a bit strange to me, only because it sort of disallows hit & run tactics, or should I say maximizes them at the very contrary but it turns the practical effect of the movement, its resolution phase in the prior order of actions. I dunno if I'm very clear... It's just that it is a good practical solution but its feel is a bit odd to me. That would mean that, if I want to slash you on the run and I'm able to, my hit would actually take place on the next round because you would start close enough to me at its start. Did I get your meaning?
Your kinda thinking too far ahead and muddling yourself. Even in real life you'd have to run over, and then whilst running, slash me. That's two events, not one. Here you use one turn to run/move, and on the next turn (if you've moved to the right spot), I'm within your reach*. It's muddled  because your thinking of the prior move action as something to do with the slashing. It isn't - like in real life, it's just running (with scissors...err, I mean a knife! Wink ).

Or do you want to be able to make an attack every turn? There shouldn't be any turns where you just move/run/manouver? Genuinely asking you that, cause it'd be a valid design goal (but you hadn't stated as yet).

* Just to be clear, by reach I don't mean like D&D where it's one square, I mean several squares out from the character. That reach indicates the characters movement and action capacity.
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #51 on: December 19, 2008, 05:20:53 PM »

I'm not bored at all, Dan, it's just that I feel I won't be able to answer much more than what I did so far until I've done some research and playtesting... But, who knows, someone might come up with something and open new tracks meanwhile, I dunno. Yup, I've got what you were developping, it's an Initiative system, right, but you use a kind of awareness-readiness instead of good old "roll plus Speed" systems. It's a nice change and it sure explains better why someone has the main part and others be taggin' along (it has issues and troubles, though, loopholes did you say, but nevertheless is worth trying).

Thanks Marshall, so the term's Ron-coined, acknowledged.

Well, yes, Callan, pretty much. I didn't realize it but I'd really like to make an attack every turn. Or else... Let's say, if I don't, it's not a turn. And yes, I was muddling myself, mainly because I didn't take into enough account my implicit view of the action. Do you remember the message in which I was heading for this equation: Every move is an attack, every attack is a move (move close and bash, flee as fast as you can, etc). Sorry for being launching such a topic with implicit ideas, but they won't reveal so much if I dont' rub them somewhat with other people...
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Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #52 on: December 19, 2008, 06:46:55 PM »

Well, flee as fast as you can seems missplaced as an example of an attack *friendly laugh*, but okay.

Well, then for your goal I'd say reach was effectively infinite for all characters. Either everyone can reach anyone, or your ruled as not being part of the fight for being too far away (this is basically the same as T&T's system, actually). You can still have a grid, but measure the distance between figures and convert it into a modifier (or have set sphere's of influence around each figure, like a short, medium and everything beyond range, each with a set modifier to the attack). That takes into account moving, but ensures it doesn't deny you an attack.
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #53 on: December 19, 2008, 08:34:41 PM »

Quote
because it would have me redefine the whole design around and I don't want the game to revolve about initiative.

I dunno, it seems to me that functionally speaking, initiative systems are the most important feature of a combat system, and that everything else flows from initiative determination in one form or another.  For example, your initiative structure will frame what "an action" is, whether a wound is fatal or merely potentially so, or the implications of encumbrance and the like.  Actually resolving attacks is, relatively speaking, quite uninteresting, not least becuase the relevant decisions were all made at character creation and you are merely seeing them play out.   All of which means that IMO desiging the mechanic "around" intitiative is indeed the correct thing to do, as it will almost entirely control how such combats come out and how they "feel".

I'm not sure that the goal of being without initiative determination - unless you are willing to resort wholly to GM direction - is realistic, but it is entirely valid to attempt to design something other than the way the default approach to initiative works and therefore feels.
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #54 on: December 20, 2008, 05:40:23 AM »

Well, flee as fast as you can seems missplaced as an example of an attack *friendly laugh*, but okay.

Err. Right. As I'm reading you, I really think that the key is in the abstraction or abstraction level, not only for movement but for the whole action system. The basic level of abstraction such as you implicitly find in T&T, is "Here" or "Away", extra increments are always handy and possible with the same system "Touch", "Close", "Short", "Medium", "Long" and "Away". It's just an extension of the same logic. That would end with something like that:

With C at Medium range headstart.
A: Moving Short.
B: Moving Long.
C: Moving Short.
That would leave A & C at Close and B at Medium. B distance actions would be taken into account, but not brawl actions whether both A and C could use brawl actions. Yet, I haven't sorted order of speech here. I have to choose between Secrecy (no order) and Free & Clear. I could have the order of speech depend upon the actions, or the speed, or alertness, but I'm then all tangled up again in the same troubles.

The funny part, contracycle, is that this discussion has taken me into re-thinking a lot of my system without really providing me with an easy solution for initiative. That shows, of course, that initiative is essential to a system but I'm actually derivating it from its other aspects. Rather than trying to build an initiative-less system, I would say now that I would be content with that feel alone. Someone talked about a "World of statues" feeling. This is exactly what I want to avoid, but I'm not so serious about the game being philosophically or politically without initiative. As far as I went in here, I'd say that I came to the conclusion that if you speak out an action, whether this action actually takes place or not yet, you are defining what an action is, you are doing this action. And I realized that an Order of Speech is somewhat an Initiative in itself. That's why I went to a three-possibilities conclusion: Free and Clear, Secrecy or Initiative. It's not a matter of gaming anymore here, it's almost a matter of social organisation.
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #55 on: January 19, 2009, 08:30:51 AM »

OK guys, sorry to delve this old thread back but I felt you would like to know, if only to payback your helpful participation, how I eventually solved the question for my game concept. Remember I was aiming at a system lite design and at a Gamist RPG.

Well, many of you will be disappointed, but I took Initiative back into the system, albeit a few corrections. Here's how it goes:

One single non-opposite one-die roll determines who is the Caller. The Caller will get both to declare his actions and to resolve them first, including whatever movement he planned. The Caller then chooses a character who will get to act second. So, the second tags the Caller. The second then chooses who will declare and act third, and so on until all actions are resolved. A new single non-opposite die roll is rolled if there is a reason for the action to continue and the whole sequence starts again. Please note that "character" encompasses both PCs and NPCs, creatures, whatever and that thus, the GM takes an active part in the tagging.

OK this is pretty basic Initiative system, but there's a twist and here it is: There are Abilities allowing to become the Caller (sneak types), Abilities enabling to choose who will tag along instead of the Caller (leader types) and Instant and Interrupt Abilities that can be played during another character's action turn (instinct types) regardless of Initiative order, resolved last to first. Moreover, there are Situations in which the Caller is automatically determined, whitout any die roll, story-determined.

It's Gaming, but it's full Fortune at the beginning with a Social notion inside which much haggling is more than welcome (tagging). And it's more like Casino Gaming than traditional RPG with stat-based system (there are no stats in my game btw) and it's teamwork induced by the system.

Here are my credits: Magic The Gathering for the Instants and the Interrupts resolved last to first, the Tagging idea from this thread, Situation-determined Init elements from Grimm (Fantasy Flight), everything else by myself.

I do apologize again and again for taking back Initiative into the design but all what's been said here has been very, very helpful. Thanks again.
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Marshall Burns
Member

Posts: 485


« Reply #56 on: January 20, 2009, 10:42:31 AM »

Hey Patrice,
You NEVER, EVER have to apologize for going with what works rather than what somebody else things would be cool.  It's been said that one of the core skills a game designer must develop is the ability to ignore people when necessary, and it's mostly true.

I'm glad that you've hit on something that you like, and I'm glad that this thread helped you get there.  Even if you didn't use any of my input, it was still part of the process of getting to your solution.  That's what this place is all about, man!

-Marshall
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Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #57 on: January 20, 2009, 10:34:01 PM »

If you know this already, I apologize .. but it's always possible it might help. Way back when I started playing Magic, learning this made the game infinitely easier for me, because I'm much better with things I can visualize than dry rules. Regarding the "resolve last to first" of Magic the Gathering, it all functions as a stack. Just how it sounds, it's like a stack of cards so each next card played goes on top of the stack. Then each card is drawn from the top of the stack, one-by-one, and resolved as it's drawn.

Even though myself and friends are pretty advanced players, for the stickier resolution-order situations we have to go back to this model and take it step-by-step.
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Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #58 on: January 21, 2009, 08:53:14 AM »

Thanks a lot, Marshall. You're quite right to say that ignoring is one of the many designer's feats. I was maybe a bit too much polite here. Hehe. Thanks for your answer anyway. As a matter of fact, I don't know yet if that works as cool as I imagine. I'll have to give a try in playtest and we'll see!

Sure, Dan, that's the way it works. Last to first and step by step. It's pretty easy for a beginning character's game, but gets stickier as the character has access to more options. I even considered the idea of using cards, actual cards, but I discarded that, if I might say so.
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #59 on: January 25, 2009, 07:29:50 PM »

Wow, that systems pretty cool! It's completely not my way of doing it, but it seems pretty interesting.

I had a bit of a brainwave when reading it.

It's going back a little bit to my love of gotchas, but it works like this:

You do all that taggy business like you have, but everything has interrupt potential (it's mainly to stop ability bloat, there is one way to do actions only).

Does the person who goes first actually get an advantage? Now obviously he gets to set the tone of events, but in terms of actually achieving what he wants, it seems like he could be doing pretty bad.

So what if he gets an extra action at the start?!
The reason I like this so much is that the first actions in this kind of chain are sort-of the weakest; because everyone gets to interrupt them. But they are also powerful because the ability to tag means more when you are disadvantaging the person you are tagging more.

But the idea is that the free first action, literally seizing the initiative, should put enough momentum into events to make people want to respond, so not mind if they are picked. Indeed the logic of the strategy encourages rapid exchanges, because you want to get your opponents action out the way as fast as possible so you or your allies can come in with a counter-counter!


But focusing on the actual system you brought, it sounds like quite an improvement on initiative cards, but with total tagging choice, how do you stop teams taking all their turns in a row, and this kind of possibly annoying result:

"1: I unlock and open the door, tag 2.
2: I lob the grenade in, tag 3
3: I close and lock the door, tag enemy 1
enemy 1: I just have to run away!"

Basically if people use actions that provide natural thresholds, then by acting in a team they can act without giving the other team a chance to respond. Admittedly a lot of instant style abilities would solve this, but I'd rather not use them, because of the way that defining actions in this way naturally fills out the volume of the rules.
Now I know that's taking rules efficiency a little strongly, as one of my favourite game sees no problems in distinguishing instant and non-interrupting versions of essentially the same ability, and what I have described sounds an awful lot like the tactics of a well practised swat team, so this is obviously a preference and not a universal criticism!

In general I'm definitely not against initiative in the sense of ordered actions, as you have observed that that is inevitable to keep track of whose saying what, but I want to make sure it doesn't stand in the way of the wonderful simultaneous interacting actions that can go on in real life, and that it interferes as little as possible with creativity. Your new system seems like it can do that, provided the interrupt action pallet steps up to the challenge.
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