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Author Topic: Eureka Moment: Combat & Bonus Dice for Description  (Read 6080 times)
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« on: March 08, 2003, 02:52:16 PM »

I had the chance to play The Questing Beast two Sundays ago with Mr. James West himself, and it was a blast. The reason I'm bringing it up here is because I had something of an epiphany afterwards about Sorcerer combat.

That seems odd, so let me explain: playing TQB gave me insight into Sorcerer and something that has long been a stumbling block for me (and from what I've read, many others) about its combat system: in Sorcerer combat you describe your action to get bonus dice, before you ever know if the action is successful or not, or if you can even perform the action (you may have to abort it to defend!).

This is bothersome, as in a fashion it goes directly against the old-school "my guy does what I say" grain -- but what I think is more of a strain for most people is that it doesn't seem logical that you should still get bonus dice for describing an action that may not even take place!

In the TQB game I played in, midway through the session we decided it would rock even more if we knew all the stakes ahead of time: normally, you declare what your intent to narrate will be if you succeed, and if you fail, you must narrate something counter that desire.

For Sunday's session, we decided that we would declare both what we intended to narrate if we gained a MoV and what to narrate if we rolled a MoD. This way, we were aware of the nastiness we would have to inflict upon our character's desires should we fail. It added good tension to the resolution and the rolling for me.

After the game had ended, and as I was falling asleep, I realized, "Hey, this is Sorcerer!" It woke me up for a bit.

This enlightened me to Sorcerer combat right there: your declaration before rolling in Sorcerer and grabbing up those bonus dice with it is a declaration of what you intend to narrate if you succeed. You get bonus dice for narrative intent, not conflict success.

The bonus dice you get in Sorcerer for cool descriptions are like the Guide's dice in TQB: he can grant you 1-3 extra dice to roll depending on how much he likes where you're going with things.

In Sorcerer, adding bonuses from previous victories and other items ups the stakes for you: you are, in effect, saying "I want to do this" and using the system to get the right to do that...you roll because you might fail and NOT get to do that.

Ultimately, even though they look like they do, the amount of dice you get have nothing to do with the character's actual skills or the fact of your character's prior success -- it's all thematic. You narrated before and get a better chance to narrate because of it: the system rewards narration.

So, this is cool: I can totally play Sorcerer without being bugged by this anymore, just by recalling that my intended narration is what scores me the bonus dice, not the coolness of the attempt itself.

I'm posting this in the hopes that it puts the lightbulb on for someone else who isn't quite grokking bonus dice being added to an action coming from declaration before the roll and prior to success: it's completely relevatory for me.

BTW, I mention the part above about declaring a MoD intent only because I don't think I would have made the connection betwen the mechanic-concepts of TQB and Sorcerer had we not done that. I'm not suggesting that Sorcerer use a "if I fail" concept (because it actually already has one explicitly defined in the existing system).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2003, 06:52:25 PM »

Hi Raven!

And this is one of several reasons why I'm always pumping The Pool and The Questing Beast. The ROC games strip out everything except the one, single thing that matters for Narrativist play - how important the current conflict is to you, as a person, and to the other members of the group, as people.

You might have picked up from various ROC threads and Actual Play threads that I am not at all sympathetic to the "conch" method of playing The Pool/TQB. That method would be using the dice strictly as a way to determine who narrates without reference to success or failure of the stated intent. I much prefer the dice to play some role (sometimes a big role) in generalized outcomes, such that they operate as springboards rather than "turns to talk." See my recent discussion of Fortune in RPG Theory ...

This is also why I think Hero Wars is one of the best games out there, because its system is not interpretable in any other fashion, and why The Riddle of Steel sneaks up and "Narrativizes" play, because one must decide how one's Spiritual Attributes are being activated - and that takes a statement of intent and context prior to the roll. (Notice that Sim-preferring people instantly reject Hero Wars outright and instantly abandon the SA system in TROS - they know "the enemy" when they see it.)

Wanna see something really scary? Wait for it ...

... apply everything you said to demonic rituals in Sorcerer play, as well as to combat.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2003, 10:20:13 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I much prefer the dice to play some role (sometimes a big role) in generalized outcomes, such that they operate as springboards rather than "turns to talk."

I am completely with you there, as this has long been one of my personal "big deals" in gaming. Orx is based around my extreme homage to this: using the dice as the story-makers where you play the role they dictate, and I say as much in the text.

Obviously that's a stretch way beyond what you're referring to above, which is about using the dice as direction-indicators rather than skill-level indicators. Nathan (Pag) may remember my long spiel on the RPG-Create mailing list about using dice in this manner from a couple years back (and the flak I got for it from some folks there).

Quote
... apply everything you said to demonic rituals in Sorcerer play, as well as to combat.

I realized that as I was writing the post! I never mentioned it as the combat thing always bothered me the most, even more so when JoT pointed it out in his play review and "what he'd do" to fix the situation.
Quote from: Jonathan Tweet
I'd have players declare basic intentions and then, when their turns come up, I'd let them describe their actions in detail for bonuses. That change...would keep you from wasting time detailing actions that you wind up aborting later, and would let players riff off the circumstances current when they act...

That statement was a big poke in the eye for me when I read it, because it defined exactly what bothered me about combat and bonuses in general...yet I thought there was something about the "obvious solution" that didn't work. So the criticism made sense intellectually, at least until I had the epiphany above about intended narration.

Ron, you sneaky bastard! <grin>
(someone should tell JoT)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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James V. West
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« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2003, 06:04:23 PM »

I'm glad we played TQB that way. That change made it's way into the rules that will see print soon.

Aslo, I'm one step closer to actually getting a small group together for Sorcerer. Still a long way off from actual play, but one step closer. I'll remember this thread when I finally run the game.
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