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Author Topic: Tolkien-esque Storytelling RPG  (Read 13562 times)
7VII7
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Posts: 59


« Reply #30 on: August 05, 2009, 09:26:07 PM »

define fiat, no, really.
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Evan Anhorn
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« Reply #31 on: August 05, 2009, 09:28:12 PM »

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Maserati_Gran_Turismo_red2.jpg
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Noclue
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« Reply #32 on: August 05, 2009, 09:37:51 PM »

define fiat, no, really.
I don't think that discussion is likely to help Evan with his game.

The car picture was funny, by the way.
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James R.
Robert Bohl
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« Reply #33 on: August 05, 2009, 09:39:59 PM »

Evan,

I love the idea of guessing at the number the GM selected, but the game would be way more interesting (not to mention way more of a game) if the GM were bound to the decision he made early on.

You want to sneak into the orc camp. I decide that's a difficulty 4. I write this down on a piece of scrap paper, turn it over, and put it in front of the table. There's the difficulty, sitting right there, and no one knows. Now it's a fair game.

Even better, I have a bunch of tiles, say four 2s, four 3s [...] and one 8. I have resources now I have to spend secretly.

Alternatively, I can set the difficulties how I want (still putting it face down in front of everyone), but now greater difficulty means greater reward.

--

Don't use any of these specific suggestions, but it's very easy to make this more of a game, and more fun. You have a really cool idea here with the guessing of the GM's target number. I would hate to see it used on something where the fact that the GM doesn't ever have to abide by the rules, and thus, in my opinion, wasted.
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Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #34 on: August 05, 2009, 09:50:23 PM »

Evan,

I love the idea of guessing at the number the GM selected, but the game would be way more interesting (not to mention way more of a game) if the GM were bound to the decision he made early on.

You want to sneak into the orc camp. I decide that's a difficulty 4. I write this down on a piece of scrap paper, turn it over, and put it in front of the table. There's the difficulty, sitting right there, and no one knows. Now it's a fair game.

Even better, I have a bunch of tiles, say four 2s, four 3s [...] and one 8. I have resources now I have to spend secretly.

Alternatively, I can set the difficulties how I want (still putting it face down in front of everyone), but now greater difficulty means greater reward.

--

Don't use any of these specific suggestions, but it's very easy to make this more of a game, and more fun. You have a really cool idea here with the guessing of the GM's target number. I would hate to see it used on something where the fact that the GM doesn't ever have to abide by the rules, and thus, in my opinion, wasted.
I couldn't agree more and the tile resource idea is pure gold. I was thinking the GM could have a deck of playing cards 1-8 and put them face down in front of him, but the concept of making it a spendable resource...brilliant!
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James R.
brianbloodaxe
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Posts: 34


« Reply #35 on: August 05, 2009, 10:45:42 PM »

Well GM fiat isn't really inherit in the game mechanics I was describing, it is just how I tend to run games.  If the GM hasn't made up his mind yet when the player rolls the dice, it's OK if he makes a final decision on the difficulty threshold after seeing the dice.  That's way more "well, that seems like it should make it" or "wow, no, not even close!" than GM fiat.
But with the system described above having the GM look at the dice and then set a threshold is equivalent to saying, "Do I want them to succeed really well or fumble really badly?" To my mind that is the worst decision to leave to fiat.

GM fiat is taking narration and resolution away from the game mechanics and into his hands.  There's no ulterior motive to seeing dice and interpreting them.
...
And there's totally player choice, because I allow player fiat as often as I allow GM fiat.  It's basically called "resolving stuff without crunchy game mechanics" and it works well.
That is all fine and I agree that GM fiat and player fiat can make for a good game but the rules you have written are not rules for a fiat-driven game, they are tactical, character driven rules about careful use of resources.

If you want this to be a game held together by a GMs opinion of what is most dramatic and most Tolkeny, then fine do that. You have a good enough handle on it that I'm sure it would be great but you should drop all the stats and dice pools because they will not help you reach that goal. At best they will distract your players from the drama, at worst the dice will irrefutably contradict the story the GM and players are trying to tell. In place of the dice and stats you need to write up rules and guidelines for how you want to run this game. When do you decide PCs should succeed at something heroic? How do you ensure that all the players are participating? And most importantly, because this is where groups will have the most trouble when trying to play your game: How do you ensure that the players are excited by events when they know that they can't really mess up too bad or lose a fight and die because ultimately they know that the GM will make the story work? I find that games run (well) on GM fiat have great stories but rubbish drama, how can you fix that?

If on the other hand you want this to be a tactical game with dice pools and damage carrying over you need to tighten up the mechanics and remove the GM fiat.

Please don't get me wrong, I like what you are doing here. I just think that you are trying to achieve two contradictory goals with one game.

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Luke
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« Reply #36 on: August 06, 2009, 06:40:27 AM »

Evan,
Don't attribute false qualities to my words. I never said anything about "true indie." I'm talking about basic, basic, basic roleplaying game design here. Elements that are part of every game, traditional or otherwise.

You're being defensive and you're misinterpreting terms in order to build a huffy little moat around your outmoded ideas. To wit, the definition of GM Fiat is not "any decision that the GM makes." GM Fiat involves decisions by the GM that break, ignore or obviate textual rules. These decisions are made in service of the GM's story -- not the story being created collectively by all players' interactions with the game.

A game is a system in which participants make meaningful decisions, receive feedback and derive a consistent outcome. There are always meta decisions made by players as they play a game. The most basic meta decision is the assent to play the game by the rules. But assuming or allowing a player to make a meta decision that invalidates the system, invalidates all of the other participants' decisions. Why play if one player can just say, "No, it happens like this" over all of the other players. Oh really? Then why don't you just tell me how it turns out? I'll listen and sip my lemonade.

You posted here looking for feedback on a game idea. It's not a bad game idea. It needs to be tightened up. In the course of getting feedback, you seem to be saying that you don't care much about criticism or challenges to your assumptions. Well, Dragonsfoot may be a bunch of "that's great!" softies, but this community is built on constructive criticism and the challenge of ideas. If you continue to participate here, then expect this cycle to continue.

And to return to my criticism -- if your game about Tolkien's fiction requires GM fiat in order to recreate Frodo's miraculous survival in Balin's tomb, then the game is broken. This is a crucial and exciting moment in the stories that can be recreated in a game situation without putting all of the power in one player's hand and expecting him to sort out the details and make it interesting.

Personally, if I'm going to put all that power into one person's hand -- if I'm going to rely on one person to make the fight at Balin's tomb exciting -- it's going to be Tolkien. He's a better storyteller than any GM. Why shouldn't I simply reread the work?

You can and should make a mechanic that allows the GM to increase the threat level -- tossing in or recycling dangerous foes, for example -- and a resource that the players can manipulate in order to get the better of the situation -- Frodo revealing his shirt. In the context of the game, Frodo's player might never have even HAD a mithril shirt up to that point, but perhaps by spending hero points at that moment to save his butt, the player invests Frodo with a new quality and reveals something special about the character. Can you see the difference between my example and yours? I'm relying on all interactions with the system -- GM: Orc Chieftain! Boo! Spear! Agh!; Frodo Player: Argh! Spend Points! Save my butt! I have a mithril shirt to protect me! -- to create interesting moments that ultimately woven together into a story.

Since the game is about exploration, perhaps exploring your character and revealing new elements about your character is just as vital and mechanical as exploring new settings.

-Luke
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Evan Anhorn
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Posts: 59


« Reply #37 on: August 06, 2009, 10:03:53 AM »

Difficulty values being a GM resource is definitely a cool idea, Robert, and something I've been thinking about since I read your post this morning.  I would love to integrate it.  I do have one slight hang-up, though...

If the GM gave himself a finite number of difficulties (for a single setting), would it become more difficult for the GM to direct the play later in that setting?  For instance, what if he accidentally made it way too hard, or way too easy?  The heroes in Tolkien stories rarely flat-out fail; they usually get to push onward.  What if a setting had too many difficult numbers, and the players' dice just can't make it happen.  I don't want to put the GM in a situation where he has to fudge everything so they can advance to the next stage.

I agree though that difficulties should be basically set in stone.  Although I said earlier that difficulties should shift around a bit, I was thinking more +/- 1 point, not a significant change at all (and certainly not to take the narrative AWAY from player control, but to bring it more TOWARDS player control, while still remaining the group's idea of fun; appropriate levels of challenge, risk, reward and victory).  The biggest issue, one of the very most important things I am after, is that I want to describe difficulty values through narrative.  I want mechanics and random number generators to be working behind the scene, but the part the players mostly interact with is words and choices.

I agree with Noclue though, difficulty as a spendable resource looks like it would be great.

But with the system described above having the GM look at the dice and then set a threshold is equivalent to saying, "Do I want them to succeed really well or fumble really badly?" To my mind that is the worst decision to leave to fiat.

I see what you mean, most GM's would want to avoid their players failing "really badly" because of an ad-hoc decision the GM makes.

Mind you, on the other side of things, I never envisioned multiple successes to be that powerful in this game, and any amount of success is at least a partial success.  Multiple successes are (likely) never necessary, they just allow the player a chance to play the story the way they want (with it backfiring now and then, thanks to fumbling).  Take the troll from earlier - if they got one success, the troll would return earlier.  Would I have brought it back and had it kill every last character?  No, the players knew that, but they wanted to scare it off for the rest of the battle because they knew their characters would be concerned about it.

Managing resources to beat obstacles is a meaningful player decision, so we already have that in this game.  But are reaching for extra successes a meaningful player decision, if they are ultimately fluff decisions?  I suspect yes, but I'd love to hear more input.  In John Wick's "Roleplaying in the Emerald Empire", which I quoted earlier, you could make your rolls more difficult in order to add "meaningless", fluffy extras to your success, and it worked OK.  Robin Laws does similar things in some of his games.

But in short, I get what you're saying, and what Robert was saying as well, and I agree too much ad-hoc interpretation of dice can be perilous when the risk/reward is so extreme.  I still think ad-hoc interpretation of dice in other games is generally fine.  Fun fact, it's actually something I picked up from Frank Mentzer, talking to him after a session of AD&D he ran for us.  Now that I think of it, you guys would have probably hated that session - the only person to ever roll a die was Frank (and he admitted later that he just rolled them and looked at them to get his answer), and the rest of us (some 6 or 7 players) just talked our way through the adventure (and had a lot of fun doing so!).  In fact, in the first 30 seconds of the game, he had arbitrarily killed the entire party by just telling us a dragon wiped us out!

Please don't get me wrong, I like what you are doing here. I just think that you are trying to achieve two contradictory goals with one game.

Nice, no I think you are right.  Your paragraph above the quoted line is rather illuminating, actually.  I never intended this game engine to be fuelled by GM fiat.  As a GM in other roleplaying games, I just tend to enjoy GM fiat (as a way of involving the players directly in narration).  I just wanted to keep it an option in this game because it works in others.

But the point of these boards is to tighten and focus your game in a single direction, and you are absolutely right.  There's a crossroads here, where unregulated narration can decide pacing and flow of the game, or resource management can decide it.  In a way, I really want the great stories that pure verbal narration can assure.  This is the kind of game where everyone KNOWS the main character isn't going to be killed by the big, bad guy, and it would break the story if it did (halfway through the novel).  At the same time, I want the mechanical choices and decisions to remain unsullied, and I want players to have the fear that their character COULD be killed by the big, bad guy.  Those are just examples of narrative control versus drama, risk and reward.

Luke, I wasn't trying to sound defensive, I think this is just a case of internet getting in the way of intonation?  I suspect we have different definitions (which is why I said early on that I didn't know what you meant by game balance and broken).  I see at least the word "broken" defined in your recent post, now.  I suspect we have different views on GM fiat too, which is fine.  I've seen it put to use in involving players more directly in the narration.  I've seen it used to deny players access to narration (by obviating the rules by which they normally have access to the narrative).  I don't argue that the second method is acceptable at the table, and whether the first method is acceptable really depends on your group.

There are, of course, meta-rules on interaction beyond the written rules of the game.  If the players and the GM put their heads together and ignore the rules for a moment for a noble cause (to twist the story in an interesting way, perhaps), then they are all still playing the game.  We are now just talking about some unwritten club rules that (let's assume) everyone understands and accepts, that engender good play and run parallel to the mechanical determination the written rules of the game offer.

And to be perfectly fair, a lot of the details I put in my Balin's tomb fight example were just me stretching to fit the canon.  In a real game, I wouldn't have just arbitrarily thrown an orc chieftain in to show Frodo's chain shirt off - I would wait for it to come out naturally in a later conflict.  I just wanted to match the text, and wasn't particularly cautious or mindful in my quickly cobbled together example.  Not that a sudden appearance of an orc chieftain was unacceptable GM behaviour, mind you.  It's just that he appeared in a very "oh really?" sort of way, which I could have scripted and integrated with the scene a lot better (and with less of an ulterior motive - again, I was just trying to quickly match the text).

You can and should make a mechanic that allows the GM to increase the threat level -- tossing in or recycling dangerous foes, for example -- and a resource that the players can manipulate in order to get the better of the situation -- Frodo revealing his shirt. In the context of the game, Frodo's player might never have even HAD a mithril shirt up to that point, but perhaps by spending hero points at that moment to save his butt, the player invests Frodo with a new quality and reveals something special about the character. Can you see the difference between my example and yours? I'm relying on all interactions with the system -- GM: Orc Chieftain! Boo! Spear! Agh!; Frodo Player: Argh! Spend Points! Save my butt! I have a mithril shirt to protect me! -- to create interesting moments that ultimately woven together into a story.

Since the game is about exploration, perhaps exploring your character and revealing new elements about your character is just as vital and mechanical as exploring new settings.

Nice, I like this.

I know you think I should do away with combat mechanics, but I still feel that an obstacle that players spend resources to overcome, and an obstacle that players spend resources AND can randomly cause resource damage, should be two different options the adventure has.  It keeps things tense, I think.
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #38 on: August 06, 2009, 10:26:20 AM »

Evan, I'm very glad you're reconsidering.

If you don't want horrible failures to be frequent, or easily possible, construct the system such that they aren't and it isn't. Or, steal from Luke and have as an up-front part of the conflict system that the GM is free to take a failure and turn it into success with dire consequences or special conditions.
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Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
7VII7
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #39 on: August 06, 2009, 10:44:30 AM »

I repeat my earlier statment, define fiat, I can't help anybody IF I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #40 on: August 06, 2009, 10:45:54 AM »

It would certainly help me if you screamed your response in all caps, too.
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Game:
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Shows:
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
7VII7
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #41 on: August 06, 2009, 10:49:44 AM »

Well excuse me for getting pissed off when I ask a simple and valid question that probbably has a simple answer that would take mere moments to answer and somebody decides to try and be funny by posting a link that has absolutely nothing to do with the question.
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Evan Anhorn
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Posts: 59


« Reply #42 on: August 06, 2009, 10:53:58 AM »

GM fiat is taking narration and resolution away from the game mechanics and into his hands.

That's the definition I gave a few posts before yours.  Everyone has their different definitions though.

Sorry if I rankled some feathers 7VII7, I was just being coy. Sad
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7VII7
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Posts: 59


« Reply #43 on: August 06, 2009, 11:01:04 AM »

Ok, that's all I wanted, thank you. Now I haven't been paying that much attention to this thread so I don't know if it's been suggested before or not but purpose you should implement a mechanic such that failure isn't so much actually failure but things not going the way you want them to. I dunno, does that make any sense at all?
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brianbloodaxe
Member

Posts: 34


« Reply #44 on: August 06, 2009, 11:21:55 AM »

Now I haven't been paying that much attention to this thread...

Really?

Perhaps then you should read the thread before demanding that we answer your question just incase, you know, someonew already had answerd it.

I get enough of that sort of attitude from my son and he's five.
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