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[the Puddle] Crimson Skies Pulp Action

Started by Matt Wilson, December 19, 2003, 11:38:10 AM

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Matt Wilson

I officially dig any game that requires very little preparation from anyone. Enter the Puddle, which we opted for last night in the absence of one player and presence of a new player.

For those not in the know, as I was not until last night, the Puddle is a variant of the Pool that you can find from the main Pool site.

John GM'ed, and it was Jon L, Mark and me. I was Portland West, the ace pilot, Jon L was Dr. Gyro, and Mark was the mystical Domino Chaos.

Traits in this game are a breeze, especially when thinking along the lines of spiritual attributes. That traits have no values attached to them made me feel right at home, and I clearly need to mention the game in the PTA text. My guy had traits like "pearl handled colt," "Loyal to his pals," "ladies man," and "criminal record." It's the abstract ones that I think are the most fun to try and apply. It makes for better story fuel.

For example, in trying to get someone over the radio to delay an enemy's departure, I applied Portland's "criminal record" trait by saying, "Come on, Raj, who looked out for your frail ass when we were stuck in that Turkish prison?" Probably wouldn't have thought of it otherwise.

I think this is my favorite Pool variant so far. Like PTA, it gives players a clear opportunity to succeed when they really want to, at the expense of probably failing later on. It sorta struck me as "waiting for your protagonism to recharge." Made for a nice series of trade-offs. And for me, in games like this, failure is fun. Basically the dice decide who entertains whom with the narrative.

John Harper

This game was indeed lots of fun. I enjoy running a game with no prep-time at all, and the Puddle sure fits the bill. In the space of 15 minutes we had our setting figured out (Crimson Skies + Doctor Strange Magic) and the characters made.

I modified the standard Puddle dice outcomes a little bit and everyone seemed to like it. Each player gets 6 dice for their starting Pool. When it's time for a conflict (called for by a player or the GM) you decide how many of your Pool dice you want to roll. If you have a trait that applies to the conflict, the GM gives you a free die to roll.

We used Fudge dice (+,0,-) for the die pools. Roll your dice and check your outcome:

If you roll one +, you succeed. GM narrates the outcome. You lose all dice that you rolled.
If you roll two or more +, you succeed, and you get to narrate the outcome. You lose all dice that you rolled.

If you rolled no +, and no -, it's a draw. You keep your dice and the GM narrates how the status quo is maintained.

If you rolled no +, and one -, you fail. GM narrates the outcome. You gain one die for your pool.
If you rolled no +, and two or more -, you fail. You narrate the outcome. You gain one die for your pool.

It's a neat little self-regulating system. Like the Anti-Pool, when you really want to succeed at something you can throw a lot of dice at it, but your Pool will be diminished for your next roll. You can then call for conflicts and fail in order to grow your Pool back up. It's the most elegant and transparent system I've seen for reflecting the "how much do you want it?" kind of mechanic. The new Marvel Universe RPG tries to achieve this and fails miserably (IMO). The Puddle (and the Pool and Anti-Pool) kicks its lilly-white ass.

The session itself was cliche pulp adventure, and we had a blast. Domino Chaos, Dr. Gyro, and Portland West retrieved the Book of Shadows from the nefarious Sky Pirate, Sierra Roy -- only to discover that several key pages were missing. We had a free-for-all battle atop a burning zeppelin, an excursion into the mystical foundations of the Empire State Building, and a showdown on a moving train outside Cairo. We laughed and joked our way through the whole thing and generally had a rip-roaring good time.

The Puddle has now officially replaced Over The Edge as my preferred no-prep, anything goes, one-shot system. The next time I run it I want to try giving the GM his own Pool and see how that goes.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!

Mike Holmes

Yaaay! A playtest that finally confirms what I'd hoped (OK, not Anti-Pool, but close). Now if only someonw would do a verification test??? :-)

I'm interested in your change in the dice, John. Was it just for ease of reading, or did you have another motive. There's a distinct effect on the curve, but not neccessarily a bad one.

What happens if the character doesn't have a trait, and the player doesn't risk a die? Or is the minimum gamble one? What if he runs out?

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John Harper

Hey Mike.

I changed the dice for ease of reading, yes. Also, I have a load of Fudge dice and I like to use them whenever I can. I ran zero statistics to see what effect the change had. If you can shed some light, please do.

If a character doesn't have a trait, and he doesn't risk a die, then he has no dice to roll. If you don't roll, you fail, and the GM narrates. You don't get a die in this case. To rebuild your pool when it hits zero, you need to call for conflict rolls using a trait (thus getting a free die) and then fail. I actually like this consequence. It means that characters have to stumble every now and then, in their areas of competence. That is, in a way that actually matters to the character. Your mercenary can't call for a bunch of pointless "library research" rolls just to rebuild his pool. He has to slip up during the gunfight.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!


Quote from: FengThe next time I run it I want to try giving the GM his own Pool and see how that goes.

How would that work? I'm really curious because this system sounds really cool and light-weight, and perhaps well suited to a game that was being discussed on the design board called "Great Ork Gods" that I'm interested in putting my own spin on.
Chris Geisel

John Harper

Giving the GM a pool to roll would essentially make all of the people involved "players" with similar authority, rules-wise. The only difference would be that the GM would take on many roles while the other players had a single role each.

The GM would take a turn, just like everyone else, and would roll her pool for conflicts when any of her characters were acting. Since the GM has more characters to deal with I would probably give her a slightly larger pool. Say, 10 dice to the other players' six.

I've heard about people running a "no-GM" Pool game, which is not *quite* what I'm after. I'd like to hear from anyone who has done that, though. Maybe doing away with a GM entirely is the way to go.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!


Hi Matt, it's great to hear from someone that has actually played The Puddle and got a kick out of it.

Fudge dice. Got to love those funky little fudge dice. I bought a whole bunch over the net a while ago to play with The Puddle. They work great insofar as any 'minus' dice you roll always get handed back to the GM which is more intuitive than handing back 1's and 2's.

I did initally toy around with using the dice roll results as an indication of success/failure like you have done. In practice though I found that players would occasionally roll a 'success' but want to narrate a failure of some sort because they thought it would make for a better story. As a result I ditched the whole idea of dice rolls indicating success or failure and instead chose to use dice rolls solely as a means of determining who gets to Guide an Event. When I did this I found that players would on occasion gamble bigtime in the hope of Guiding an Event that would create complications, failures, or serious plot twists as a means of advancing the story. This was exactly what I hoped to see.

Using success/failure coupled with Mike's 'anti-pool' twist gives players more opportunity to Guide Events than they would in the normal Puddle rules. The introduction of success/failure tied to the dice roll result also means that players will 'succeed' far more than they 'fail'  because of the dice probabilities involved (see below).

Dice   Neutral      GM-s       GM-f      PL-s      PL-f
1       33.33%    33.33%     33.33%        0%         0%
2       11.11%    44.44%     22.22%    11.11%     11.11%
3        3.70%    44.44%     11.11%    25.93%     14.81%
4        1.23%    39.51%      4.94%    40.74%     13.58%
5        0.41%    32.92%      2.06%    53.91%     10.70%
6        0.14%    26.34%      0.82%    64.88%      7.82%
7        0.05%    20.48%      0.32%    73.66%      5.49%
8        0.02%    15.61%      0.12%    80.49%      3.76%

If rolling just 2 dice there is a 56% chance of success a 33% chance of failure and an 11% chance of a neutral outcome. With 3 dice there is a 70% chance of success a 26% chance of failure and a 4% chance of a neutral outcome.

As far as running a "no-GM" game you may find that the more you play The Pool the more the players will start to 'get it' as it were. The role of one person actually being the GM in the conventional sense will become less obvious once the players start to realise that they are all collaborating together to create a story rather than just play roles in a story of the GM's making.