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Author Topic: [Sor, Dice] "Levelling" dice for dif power levels.  (Read 9243 times)
Andy Kitkowski
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« on: April 25, 2003, 01:16:55 PM »

Sorry- I didn't se anything discussing this in the few searches I ran here, so if it's been discussed already, a point towards relevant links would be appreciated.

So I've got another demo/intro session of my Kyuseisha (you don't need to read the background there to understand this request) Sorcerer game coming up next week, and I had a thought that I was thinking of moving on with.

OK, in this game, while the PCs start out, like any Sorcerer game, way better off than regular NPCs. However, in the course of the story, it's a given the the PCs may come up against the typical "big bads".

The big bads in this setting are like a new breed of people: People who have built their bodies and minds to a level that their potential is a lot higher than normal people: Like the protagonists in the Matrix without all the flying.

To simulate this, I was thinking of using two different die scales: Keep the attributes around the same level, but use d6s for everyone (PCs, NPCs, antagonists, etc) and use d10s for these New Types. Or d10s and d20s.

Has anyone tried anything like this?  I was thinking of going this route instead of, say, doubling the dice rolled for these New Types. And again, this is like, at most, 1-3 antagonists per mini-campaign.

Anyone try anything like this before?

Thanks. I'm in that last week crunch before another demo game, and this is when the ideas (and real work towards this thing) usually start flying.

-Andy
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2003, 01:29:37 PM »

Like the concept...the probabilities are going to screw you.  As in don't bother even rolling.  The odds of a d10 pool of any reasonable size not rolling a 7 is beyond slim.

The old Parker Brothers Dune game used a d6 dice pool for combat.  If you had a gob jabbar or other assorted cool tricks you could add 1d8 to your d6 dice pool.  That 1d8 was hefty enough to make those cool tricks vital, but not automatically domineering.

Since I assume you want superior but not automatically domineering (at which point, you wouldn't need to bother rolling).  I'd suggest adding 1, 2 maybe 3 TOPS d8s (not d10s) to the normal d6 die pool.
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szilard
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2003, 01:38:08 PM »

Why are these people treated any differently than Sorcerers using Boost?

If you really want to vary die types, one option might be to use d6s as a base, but allow 2d6s from the die pool to be traded for 1d8; 3d6 traded for 1d10; 4d6 to be traded for 1d12.


Stuart
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2003, 01:43:45 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Like the concept...the probabilities are going to screw you.  As in don't bother even rolling.  The odds of a d10 pool of any reasonable size not rolling a 7 is beyond slim.


Good point. Long day at work makes Stats Brain weak. :)

Quote from: Valamir
Since I assume you want superior but not automatically domineering (at which point, you wouldn't need to bother rolling).  I'd suggest adding 1, 2 maybe 3 TOPS d8s (not d10s) to the normal d6 die pool.


Good idea here, too, on both counts: The jump is more dynamic with d8s than d10s (d10s might just be the equivalent of The Wall - Little to no chance of success). Plus, it allows for an amount of stepping: I can create powerful antagonists with 1 of these Swap Dice (maybe replacing 1 of the d6s with d8s instead of just adding them to the roll), and then could create a Big Bad with 2-3 of thse Swap Dice...

Hmmm.

More thoughts?  I'm particularly interested in hearing if anyone's tried this out yet...

-Andy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2003, 01:50:26 PM »

Hi Andy,

I could be wrong, but this reads to me just like your sandstorm idea - you want X to happen, you want it to turn out as Y, and you want the system to set it up so you can roll it, but it turns out the way you want. Now you're casting about for ways to make the system be predictable for you as GM.

Why is there a fight scene? Because there's a conflict which the fight is expressing or providing a climax for? I don't think so! I think you want a fight scene that will make the player-characters do something you want.

You want to have the players encounter these guys. You want the guys to kick their butts with their kewlness. You want the players to get spunky about it and work to improve, or investigate the bad guys kewlness, or whatever.

Dude, you gotta let go of this whole approach! Unless one of the players gives you a Kicker that says, "My character gets his ass kicked by this kewl dude," then forget the idea of automatic butt-kicking as a means to goad them into doing whatever you want.

I swear, this is just like all the Champions GMs back in the 80s ...

Anyway, go ahead and make your kewl guys. Give them plenty of dice. Then breathe deeply and remember that Sorcerer combat is deliberately uncertain, and that the game is built to make the GM get rocked just as much as the players do in a more traditional game.

Your fun is going to be in presenting these kewl guys and having a great fight scene that's about something. How it turns out is how it turns out! The system will do wonderfully for you in this regard. Quit trying to re-tweak it so it behaves like Shadowrun.

Best,
Ron
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2003, 02:16:14 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I could be wrong...


You're wrong. :)

Seriously, good feedback here, Ron. It really exercised my brain and got me into looking at the conflict between what the characters make happen and what I want to happen. The sandstorm in the other thread was really not in line with N gaming.

But here, with this option, I'm actually looking for a way to boost the baddies... but without the "so they can get their asses kicked" clause at the end.

Just a note: In the more successful game I ran at a con, I had only two fights:

1) A one-on-one fight between a powerful NPC and a martial arts-style character. In my head (Simulationist planning), I figured the NPC was powerful enough (at least +3 dice in each stat over the PC) to beat the PC, knock him out, take him hostage, etc. Later, I had that NPC scheduled to be involved with the latter half of the adventure. Again, maybe it's a cross here between "thinking ahead" and "simulationism".

HOWEVER! Instead, the PC (through boosting actions with descriptions, luck of the dice, etc) ended up killing the NPC. Rather quickly, too. I let the dice lie where they lie (lay?), and went with it. Changed significant portions of what I was planning on doing. That "N Juice"(?) really fed into that particular player, as he went on to use that encounter to build on his character throughout the rest of the adventure. Total N play here (as I see it).

2) End of the adventure, a small ground war looms in the distance (which 2 of the PCs are involved with), while the other 2 PCs face off with a Big Bad (again, like +4 to all his stats). Again, I went in (with open dice rolls) thinking that the bad army would be routed and annihilated, while the PCs (I imagined all 4 to gang up on the BB) killed the Big Bad.

HOWEVER! Instead, the elements of the bad army that I rolled for (again, openly, in front of the players) ended up succeeding far more than I had planned (again, I think I may having been planning in "S" mode, but the actual game, and the incredible fun we had, were all from ditching that for "N" gaming). It was a standstill.

The same with the 2 PCs vs the Big Bad- they faced off, and no one could find an advantage. IIRC, the BB ended up wounding one of the PCs, and instead of getting killed (as planned, to end the adventure), and because of the PC actions and descriptions, he fled with half the army. Again, the players used this to build on their characters ("we must find him later", that sort of thing. Even though it was only a one-shot), and I think everyone probably was even more satisfied with the results. They saw my dice, they saw the dangers, they got into their characters to solve the problems, and in the end knew I didn't fudge anything to make things happen the way they did.  As I see it (and again, I'm still getting into N gaming, as I've been on the S side of things for soooooo long, so please do correct me if I'm misinterpreting), that's N gaming.

So in other words, viva la uncertainty (ala N-gaming). It's what made that game such a memorable experience for everyone and boosted me to work at finishing this project.

In this game, how a fight turns out will be how it turns out.  Open dice, etc. I'm going for gritty here, where the PCs have a real chance of dying if they're not careful: no bennies, no "S" escape pods to save folks and keep the adventure Running as Planned, but rather let the dice fall where they may. Maybe if I was going for light and heroic, like a supers game, then I'd work more with the S side of things (good always triumphs, etc), but I think that the Narrative elements really have a place in the background of my game: The characters know that they may have to sacrifice it all if they want to make things better. They never know when they may have to make that sacrifice, and so on.

So, while keeping in mind all of the above, I'd still like a way that I can have some of the rare NPCs have a clear advantage on the PCs- But without doubling/boosting all their stats all the time, or raising them to impossible heights (like the god-beasts of Charnel Gods, with 40+ Stamina and the like). The +3, +4 route... well, it worked fine, actually. Although it didn't go as planned for my adventure (S), they were still able to overcome.

Now I'm looking to make that a little steeper.  I could go for +3 to +5 dice above the characters, but then that starts becoming a lot of dice to play with.  I'm looking for another solution.

An edge that the PCs can't have... Yet still let the dice fall where they may. If they beat the NPC, cool, the plot continues. If 2 of the PCs die horribly and the third runs away, then cool, the plot continues.

I hope that makes more sense.  And I appreciate everyone's comments, esp Ron's for keeping things on track.

-Andy
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2003, 02:34:37 PM »

Hmmmm...

Upon further thought, I'm wondering if I shouldn't just rephrase my question to be, "How do you create more powerful NPCs, yet still stay in that range of 'balance' where there's still a chance for success, and still a chance for defeat?".

Sure, boosting the attributes usually does the trick.

One thing I may have left out for my example:

In traditional Sorcerer games, all characters have the opportunity to bind more than one demon. Big Bads, if there are any, would probably have not only higher stats, but also more (and more tightly bound) powerful demons.

In this game, I'm assuming that all players only have one. Imagine that all players can only bind with a single Parasite demon. So, "give them another demon" wouldn't work.

As I see it, the traditional way of making a Big Bad big and bad is to give them more demons, and higher stats.

How about other ways? And to continue that thought, how about ways involving dice tricks (different polyhedrals, etc)? :)
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jburneko
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2003, 02:48:35 PM »

Edited Note: I cross posted this with your other two replies to Ron's initial reply.  I don't know how relevant this is to what you're saying.

Andy,

I want to reinforce what Ron said by sharing some thinking I had, sadly, only recently.  When talking about Premise and Theme Ron has often thrown in this little phrase attached to Theme.  It reads, "partially constructed by the audience."  That's always struck me as VERY VERY WRONG.  If Theme has to be constructed by the audience then in my mind, until recently, the author has failed.  

You see, I've always enjoyed (and still do) stories that feel like metaphorical persuasive essays about a character's ethics, morals and philosophies.  I like stories that present a character with a clearly definied life-philosophy and then drags that character through a series of wringers that put that philosophy to the test and thus by the end the AUTHOR has clear affirmed or denied their "faith" in the validity of the initial clearly defined life-philosophy through the choices the protagonist makes and the state of their well being by the end of the story.

Therefore, story elements must be constructed to have HIGHLY specific effects upon the audience.  That is, if a character is meant to be "lovable" and there is a single audience member out their who fails to feel "love" for this character then the author has failed in communicating his "point."

If you extrapolate this thinking to RPGs you will quickly see where the frustrations come in.  Originally, my thinking was, okay it's the PCs job to convey whatever emotions they want their characters to evoke and it's up to the GM to convey what emotions he wants his NPCs to evoke.

The Sorcerer rule book clearly states that it's a BIG  No, No to ever dictate what a PC feels.  Until recently I  thought I've never tried to do this simply because, I've never used the phrase, "You feel..." directlly at a player.  But I had a sudden realization that all I did was hide this behavior by changing a player directed command into an NPC adjective.

I recently compared my NPC descriptions to those presented in the example scenarios provided in Sorcerer's Soul.  All of Ron's NPCs are described in terms of facts.  "This character is sociopathic."  "This character is old." "This character speaks in a commanding voice." and so forth.  MY NPC notes all contain emotional adjectives, "This character is *frighteningly* insane."  "This character is *lovably* naive" and so forth.

Thus when the Players would fail to feel *a form of love* for my naive character I would get frustrated.  You see, I didn't think I was dictating what the characters were feeling because I never said what, type, form, or reaction this *loveability* had to take within the character.  I had deluded myself into believing that I wasn't dictating the PC's feelings because I believed that *lovability* isn't something the PCs voluntarily choose to feel but rather an intrisic property that the NPC possesses and communicates.

Thus when my Players would fail to feel *lovable* towards my "naive" NPC, I would sulk and feel bad because clearly I had failed to communicate, and properly portray the NPC.  Sadly, it never occured to me that perhaps I had pefectly communicated NPCs naivete but that naivete simply doesn't invoke *lovability* in the PCs.

I think this is the trap you are falling into.  You want to convey highly specific feelings about things to your players.  You want your sandstorm to invoke feelings of "fear and terror."  You want your "big bads" to invoke a feeling of "awe and hatred."  You can't do that.  You can't do that especially in Sorcerer.  All you can do is make your sandstorm "large and rapid" and your big bads, "tall, proud and powerful."

Communicate facts, not feelings.  What the PCs feel is up to them.

Hope I'm not off base.

Jesse
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2003, 03:34:15 PM »

At the risk of drifting this, Jessie, I think your former understanding of theme/premise is 100% in line with Egri.  His book as I read it was very much "Author must convince the audience of the truth of this premise".

What Ron did to this definition to tweak it for Narrativist RPGs is establish the idea that the entire play group is the author.  Which is where the shared construction comes in.  So you weren't far off the mark.
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greyorm
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2003, 05:43:05 PM »

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski
Later, I had that NPC scheduled to be involved with the latter half of the adventure...
...Changed significant portions of what I was planning on doing...
...instead of getting killed (as planned, to end the adventure)...
Although it didn't go as planned for my adventure...

dude...Dude...DUDE!
Listen to what you're saying...no wonder you're getting all twisted up on this. "What you planned on doing"..."what you had scheduled"...that is NOT NOT NOT Narrativism. That is Illusionism, or maybe even an attempt to explain how you're trying to do the Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.

Here's the deal: YOU are the GM. YOU are not writing the story. YOU have no plan. Period. YOU have backstory. That's all you have. That's all you get. Let go and let the game play out as it will, as the players guide it.

forget Forget FORGET about all those scenes you plan for the future. The future does not exist. Kick and pinch yourself when you find yourself thinking, "Yeah, and when they get here, he does this and this, and these two confront each other, and this guy is laughing in his laboratory, and I'm going to love this scene." If necessary, write these RPG campaign-daydreams all down as fiction to get them out of your head.

Quote
Maybe if I was going for light and heroic, like a supers game, then I'd work more with the S side of things (good always triumphs, etc)

This has nothing to do with GNS. Narrative games can easily have clauses such as "good always triumphs" or "the bad guy always seems to die but really escapes" and can even be light and humorous. This is not the difference between Narrativism and Simulationism. This, however, is also a seperate topic.

Quote
Yet still let the dice fall where they may. If they beat the NPC, cool, the plot continues. If 2 of the PCs die horribly and the third runs away, then cool, the plot continues.

If you don't care which way the plot goes, that is, whether or not the bad guys are trumped or not, then the odds of winning shouldn't matter, especially considering there is already enough danger inherent in the Sorcerer combat system to make any battle go to anyone.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2003, 06:12:04 PM »

Quote from: jburneko
Hope I'm not off base.


Hmmm... I don't think this fits here. It's probably my lack of background explanation that's causing a problem here...

Quote
I think this is the trap you are falling into... Communicate facts, not feelings.  What the PCs feel is up to them.


Hmmm. Yeah, I totally understand what you're saying here, and how you thought I might be doing this.

In that sandstorm example (sorry to bring the other thread here), that's a "stage setter"- Like the interaction with The Mariner and the greedy thief at teh beginning of Waterworld, or the action scene at the beginning of Blade 2- We KNOW that the character will survive.  But the scene is there just to draw attention to the background world.

I throw (or I should say "threw", as I'm rethinking how to go about that in the future) that scene out there to do nothing more than to underline the setting. It takes up about as much time, overall, as me sitting there and lecturing the players about the background, and it's more poignant.  Yeah, Narratively, it may be garbage- I make them do it, I have them survive regardless of "the dice" (which I only use for that one encounter to determine how well they weather the event).  I don't really do much more than that, or use any language to try to make them feel something. However, in most cases the players begin to react to it themselves ("I draw my knees up to my chest and huddle in a ball" or "I anxiously await the sound of the storm breaking", etc).

With this other situation, the one at hand, Big Bads: They're a major part of the background of the game. They're like, well, other sorcerers in a Sorcerer game, villains in an Urge game, Fell Weapon-wielding antagonists or Bygones/Nameless Ones/Ancients from Charnel Gods.

Sure, you can /run/ a game without using any of the above antagonists- The players can constantly direct themselves to not go against the antagonists and the like. But the GM wouldn't really be doing justice to the setting if they didn't at least bring them into the picture, y'know? Like, the Sorcerer PCs all decide to cover their abilities and not antagonize other sorcerers (NPCs)... but most of us would go ahead and, without railroading the characters, without disrupting the characters goals, nevertheless introduce enemy sorcerers into the game to see how the characters' goals change: Sorcerer PCs want to be left alone, but antagonistic sorcerers discover their presence and view them as a threat. Thus an NPC sorcerer is introduced. In a Narrativist game, if I'm understanding this correctly, the GM needn't push any further than that, I'm sure the players will act/react to these situations to drive the story themselves.

Maybe my describing them as "Big Bads" was a mistake- it makes them sound like bosses in a console RPG meant to be toppled. I was looking for some specific word that I hadn't decided on yet.  I could have just as easily called them Ancients or Musouhei or Antagonists or, probably better, Powerful NPC Sorcerers.

So, if I go back to calling them Sorcerers, let's look at the question again:

In the Sorcerer RPG book (which I'm hunting for now, can't find it- must've left it at work), IIRC, there are examples of powerful Sorcerers that can be used as antagonists (or at least introduced as such). The powerful one had stats that were rather high, around 3-4 "points" higher in each attribute than the PCs- Their bound demons had relavitely high stats, too.

Looking at Charnel Gods, there are also great examples of Antagonistic Powerful NPC Sorcerers:

Ancients: Which are powerful individuals (demons). Vaguely human. They have stats that total around 4-6 points higher than the PCs, if you look only at their total attributes.

Nameless Ones: These are ultra-powerful creatures (demons). Their stats each range from 6 points higher than the PCs, up to 40+ points higher than the PCs.

Now, for the Sorcerers that I want to run, I'm looking for something a little more powerful than (or even the same level as) the Ancients, but far less than the above Nameless Ones.

I also wanted to make things a little more interesting. Instead of rolling a fistfull of dice for such a powerful NPCs actions, I was thinking maybe using a differernt level of dice might work- Y'know, to simulate the idea that the Sorcerers in this new world of mine are a "New Type" of person. That's the core idea I'm looking at.

Your points are well taken, though. I'm not going to "scare the players"- They can do so themselves.  But I also want to set a power level for these kinds of antagonists in the game. In Charnel Gods, the GM doesn't have to try to "make" the players feel that the Nameless Ones are scary and unapproachable- But the GM has to start _somewhere_. He's gotta write some stats down (in this case, the "nigh unreasonable" 40s and 50s in the stats of the Nameless Ones) to form a starting point in case the PCs were to take one on (and in making such numbers, the GM is inherently allowing the Nameless Ones to be beatable, if the PCs come up with something good: Otherwise Scott would have written, "Nameless Ones can kill anything without rolling dice, and the need not roll dice for damage, Stamina, etc either").

So I'm trying to come up with a starting point for these Sorcerers. Now, the easy route, again, is to just say, "OK, I'm going to introduce a new Sorcerer NPC, a powerful hermit, with... em... 18 points to spread around instead of the player's 10.  I'll make it so that he has three bound demons as well". The rest of the story from there comes from how the PCs (and players) act and react to that character. I was thinking that I might want to do something else.

Admittedly, the jump from all d6s to all d10s was a bad one and I would have figured that out really quickly had I been thinking clearly (Loooong work day), or had my dice on me (which is why people may have thought I was just trying to make a Clearly Unbeatable Enemy or something). I'm digging Ralph's ideas on this front, though, and may end up developing something there. I was hoping someone else experimented or playtested this kind of thing so they could give me some pointers or share their experiences.

Again, thanks everyone!  Sorry I kept having to define and redefine what I was going for here. I've got a very roundabout way of thinking/writing that sometimes gets in the way or gets annoying. :)

-Andy
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Bankuei
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2003, 08:28:00 PM »

Hi Andy,

I think what you're really asking(and correct me if I'm wrong here...) is:

How do I make some badass antagonists that will really put shit on the line?

Obviously the antagonists in a traditional story oppose and earn some ire of the protagonists, but really they are judged in how much the audience hates them.  That is, a good antagonist is hated by the audience, just as much(if not more than) the protagonists.

So, the point is to give the players a demonstration of why they should hate, dislike, or fear these antagonists.  Notice that this doesn't have to be the player characters who get all this knowledge, but the players...

Consider this:  Antagonists usually either have equal or greater capabilities than the protagonists, and/or are willing to go farther, sacrifice more, and play dirtier.

In the first case, which is what you are looking at trying to achieve(more dice, more stats!=More hitpoints, more orcs!), is best served by Demonstration.  Demonstration means you allow the antagonists to demonstrate what they can do, preferably NOT on a player character.  Some excellent examples:

-Star Trek's Red Shirts "Zzzap!"  "Holy shit Spock! Did you see what it just did?!?"  "Fascinating"
-The Horror Movie"What the hell could put a man's head through steel plate, yet not leave a single drop of blood?"
-The Comic Book "Yikes! If he can punch buildings in half, he'd make spider-paste out of me!"

This can happen to an NPC, an object, or evidence can be left behind about the antagonist's capability.  This can serve as a Bang unto itself if the capability is sufficiently scary.  

In a D&D game, I gave a villian the Midas touch, which none of the players knew about until someone summoned a hawk which he promptly rolled a critical on.  1 gold hawk later, everyone is doing their damndest to stay the hell away from the man with gold cooties.  I hadn't planned on the hawk, but it certainly scared the crap out of the players enough to have its effect.

The second sort of thing is often used by suspense thriller movies, but works just as well in games.  What do the players do when they come home to find their elderly mother having dinner with "one of their old college buddies" who happens to be an antagonist?  

Notice that in both of these cases the antagonist doesn't have to actually harm the player character, but simply demonstrates that it is well within his or her ability to put you down.  

Unlike most rpgs, where the players have an idea of what they're facing("Oh, it's only a Large Dragon, we can take that on!" or "What?!? I'm not ready to face DemoGorgon!"), Sorcerer is a variable setting, the Big Bads of the setting are not established.  Like a movie, you are required to explain and show how and why something is a Big Bad, or just a badass in general.

Also, specific to Sorcerer, you can also mess with player's minds when they find out the "sorcerers" they've been chasing are really Demons with the Spawn ability, and then later get to meet the sorcerer behind them all....Yick.

Chris
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2003, 08:52:04 PM »

Quote from: greyorm

Listen to what you're saying...no wonder you're getting all twisted up on this. "What you planned on doing"..."what you had scheduled"...that is NOT NOT NOT Narrativism.


Yeah, I know now that I'll definitely have to review the GNS model before I open my mouth on it again. :)

What I imagine for casual sessions using this game is closer to the N, I think: Player-directed/motivated adventures, running adventures through kickers, relationship maps, etc.

Just remember that in the above adventure, I was showing my paradigm shift from a... hmmm... pre-thought out series of encounters (traditional adventuring), to new encounters based on what the characters did through actions, dice, their kickers, etc.

And to be honest, I was "playing it wrong" at first: What happened was that I had a sort of "traditional adventure" loosely planned out based on the characters' kickers (we designed characters together, and I threw out some examples of kickers, so I had a good idea of what may be chosen for kickers), with events floating out there that may or may not have come into play so I wasn't flat-footed in front of strangers. And during play (this might be the magic of the Sorcerer game), I/we began to "play it right", by letting the characters guide the adventure and what they wanted to do, making all the die rolls open, etc.

Another thing is that it was a one-shot convention adventure.  I wanted to show off the system and style of play. If it was a casual game with my regular game group, I'd probably have no "and this happens, then this happens" style adventure maps drawn, although I'd probably, out of habit, prepare by imagining what would happen if the characters acted in different ways (just planning ahead, y'know? Come up with a few NPCs, locations, motivations, etc). But... I'll just say this: I'm not comfortable at a convention game going up to a group of 4 people who have never met before, hand them characters, and say "Go!" Instead, I'd probably at least look at their kickers and start up some events that they can react to to at least get them started. After my experience at that con, above, I can be a lot more loose with the adventure planning... but I'll still have some idea of starter events (relating to the kickers) in case people at the con aren't used to that style of play and don't react well at the start.

Anyway, all this discussion is, again, probably best delegated to an "Andy doesn't get Narrativist Play!" thread rather than this one. :)

Again, what I was trying to get at was the question of, "Is there a middle ground to be found between sorcerers with a total of 15 in stats (Charnel Gods: Ancient), and a total of 120 in stats (Charnel Gods: Nameless One), by perhaps using different kinds of dice?" I'll leave the "why" out of the question for now: Let's put that off to the side for now. If everyone promises to leave out "why", I promise to read the GNS essays again before I open my mouth on the subject. :)

In fact, it might be better for me to split the original core of what I was doing away from the "why" and post a new topic, and leave this one for dead- I kinda messed up, and I'd hate to have everyone run through all my 5 posts, above, just to get at what the heck my "real" question is.

---------------------------------

Since I've hit a tangent here anyway, I wanted to bring up something. Help me work through this, folks, this will help me understand the Sorcerer style of play a little better:

Quote
Here's the deal: YOU are the GM. YOU are not writing the story. YOU have no plan. Period. YOU have backstory. That's all you have. That's all you get. Let go and let the game play out as it will, as the players guide it.

So I am to come up with no events, NPCs, storyline/timetable of background events (that the PCs may or may not even use), nor am I supposed to introduce any elements into the game that relate to the kickers, but rather have the PCs come up with all of these themselves?  To be honest, this sounds a little more like Universalis or Ergo than what I understand Sorcerer to be. I thought Narrativism was more like being a birthmother to the ideas in the characters' kickers- Help them come out in play, inthe directions that PCs want to go, by building story elements, introducing NPCs, and the like. How does this idea in this last sentence differ from Narrativism? (again, I wouldn't answer this too seriously, as I'm actually gonna spend some time reading through those essays so I don't waste everyone's time with endless questions like these)...

Quote
If you don't care which way the plot goes, that is, whether or not the bad guys are trumped or not, then the odds of winning shouldn't matter, especially considering there is already enough danger inherent in the Sorcerer combat system to make any battle go to anyone.


That's the thing, though: How come there are stats for the Nameless Ones in Charnel Gods, rather than a blurb saying "any interaction with them will utterly destroy you", or if there is enough danger inherent, why not bring the Nameless Ones, Ancients, and all the NPCs down to a stat level comperable to the players? How can I accept "the odds of winning shouldn't matter", when I see how the odds are pitched in the mini-supplements that list sample NPCs (like Schism's gang members and Charnel Gods' Critters, Ancients and Nameless Ones), seeing clearly that they would have an impact on the characters' kickers, actions, thoughts and deeds? In other words, what's so wrong about wanting to introduce a character in a PC's kicker story as "powerful", and then go on to try to construct stats for that character that represent power in that setting?
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2003, 09:25:51 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
I think what you're really asking(and correct me if I'm wrong here...) is:

How do I make some badass antagonists that will really put shit on the line?


Thanks for the ideas, Chris- Good stuff, all.

But I think I have the background/demonstration part covered. I'm looking for a perhaps unique way to make a badass antagonist through twinking the dice rules to reflect that demonstration.

Say I'm playing Charnel Gods (and sorry to make Scott's work an example over and over again- What I'm working on is similar to it, cross-bred with Clinton's URGE). Say around the seventh adventure session, my buddies and I are sitting around. We've been using kickers, relationship maps, and player background all this time to move the game along. Now, the players get together and decide (maybe by natural conclusion of one or more of their kickers) that they want to make the world better, and in doing so have to take on a Nameless One.

That's where I imagine I'd step in. I'd create a nameless one, and bring him into the adventure at some point (then I'd step down). The characters, through the player's decisions and actions, say, decide to hunt it down. They choose to spend a fortune in time and money raising an army to combat this terror. They then ride off into the Carrion Fields, follwed by the army, to rid the world of this unholy menace.

To use Chris' "Demonstration"... hmmm.... Maybe the Nameless One in question is in the middle of, say, chasing and eating a herd of elephants (sorry, can't think of a good example). I demonstrate the Nameless One's power through simple description: Its size, its physique, its attitude towards the herd, its movements, etc. The PCs decide that it may be foolhardy, but they've come all this way, and thus decide to attack it.

Now what?

Imagine that I'm Scott, coming in over a year ago, asking you all how I should go about writing up the stats for the Nameless Ones for the background section of my new supplement. I, as Scott, need to describe these Nameless Dudes so you all have an idea of what they are and what they can do:

"They are the single most powerful beings on the planet. They can easily slaughter a group of unprepared folks. Anyone who doesn't run away is either stupid or determined. Yet... yet... they can still be defeated. It's hard, almost impossible, but I still want to leave the possibility that maybe one of them can be toppled".

Someone might say (or however it happened so that Scott came to that decision): "Hey, why don't you make their stats like 40 or something? Ridiculously high, but still not in the realm of total impossibility."

Now, going back to me and my project, what I'm asking for is ideas, perhaps involving new dice, for the background description of this type of creature/character that will appear in the world, and which I will write into the "background" (and yeah, I'm sorry for being repetitive):

"The sorcerers in this world don't 'bind with demons' but rather 'are attuned to their bodies'. All the PCs and most of the sorcerous NPCs are the same kind of folk: People of martial prowess who are attuned to themselves, and this attunement allows them to do marvelous things (boost abilities, basically- Think URGE here)."

"Now, in the background of this world, there are a New Type of people who can attune to their bodies and surroundings like no one else is capable of, not even other sorcerers. Evolutionary freaks, the next step, or whatever they are, they exist in this world. If this were a normal game of Sorcerer, they'd be like a crossbreed of Human and Sorcerer (imagine that: a type of creature that can summon and bind demons much easier, but with their own flaws). These New Types will, from time to time, depending on the direction of the game, appear in the game as powerful NPC adversaries (at least they'll be written as possibilities into the background notes of the game setting), or aloof neutrals, or perhaps this is even a state that the PCs may be able to one day attain."

"Now I need some rules or something, or some way, to write up the stats or actions of these New Type folk".

Does that help show what I'm getting at at all? Maybe it helps to understand that whatever I cope up with will be written into the setting as a major element to use. I'm not coming up with this stuff to spring on my characters in their adventure, but rather writing a setting with them in the background to give other GMs and players ideas of directions to go in their own "Kyuseisha" games...
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2003, 09:29:40 AM »

Hi Andy,

Through no fault of your own, and probably through some of mine, this thread has turned into a set of very good individual posts that unfortunately don't add up to a topic discussion.

At the moment, here's only general principle I want you to consider: Narrativist play (or more in focus, playing Sorcerer) does not rely on GM improvisation in the sense of InSpectres or Universalis. You are 100% right about that. People often get a little wild-eyed when they try to explain non-Sim/Sit GMing, and to swing a little too broadly, to the extent that it sounds like the GM is just a catching-sieve for all sorts of crazy improv.

Nope - you're right, Sorcerer is much more normal. GM makes NPCs, tons of back-story, plays NPCs much like (if not exactly like) PCs, and so on. All that gets left out is scene-control railroading, whether from framing, from IIEE manipulation, from fudging, or from stacking the deck against the player-characters.

That said, let's see if I can help you with the general question: we're looking at the antagonists. Adversity is the goal (not outcome, just adversity). Sooo ...?

1. A few dice superiority can be significant. Not a guarantee, but significant. Most people with a couple of Sorcerer games behind them know that the main advantage comes from going first, not from hitting harder.

2. Superior numbers are extremely significant. Even 5:4 or 4:3 odds are potentially devastating.

3. Tactics - and everyone's willingness to abide by them - are hugely important. In Sorcerer, this is expressed by having allies in a fight announce actions that are complementary (i.e. receive bonus dice from one to the other) in either order. That way, whoever turns out to go first is helping the other.

Another important part of #3 is the demon abilities and their astounding combinatorial power. This is all Champions-thinking; when I wrote these abilities, everyone I knew played or at least understood Champions. After White Wolf, though, it seems as though that shared understanding went "poof" across most of gamer culture. So I suggest really sitting down with the main book and working up a ton of great demon abilities, not initially from the book, but using the book once you have the image in your mind.

4. Personality/theme issues are hugely important. Just hitting is one thing - this is much like any typical RPG in which you "go" on "your turn" and everyone just goes duuuhhhhh until it's their turn. But Sorcerer bonus dice are another thing entirely: rivalries, love, sudden onsets of parental feeling (especially toward a younger person who'd not your child), anything that has to do with Humanity in that particular game ... all of them net role-playing dice and that vague bonus about "the story" too.

Hey, does all of that sound like The Riddle of Steel combat? The answer is yes. The two games use very different IIEE and to-hit methods, but their underlying principles of the decisions made through play, and their consequences for the characters, are identical.

A GM who relies on #1 alone is kind of boring and isn't really providing much adversity. #2 is OK, but sorta boring too. But a GM who starts making use of #3 for the NPCs is cooking with gas, and this will teach players to start considering where their characters "dive out of the way" to, and rolling to their feet simultaneously with the knife-throw, and all that stuff. And when the players kick in with #4, now we have role-playing.

Best,
Ron
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