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Author Topic: d4 traits and Fallout  (Read 5958 times)
Ben Lehman
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« on: February 24, 2004, 09:55:39 PM »

More issues--

In fallout, you are given a choice from a list of options.  This is Cool and Good, and needs to stay around.  However, given that d4 traits only increase character effectiveness (also Cool and Good), including the addition of d4 traits on the fallout table raises some serious potential problems, as in I don't believe that most players will ever select any other option.

Let me give an example with the 8+ table:
Reduce one of your stats (lose effectiveness)
Take a new trait at 1d4 (gain effectiveness)
Take a new relationship at 1d4 (gain effectiveness)
Add one to an existing d4 trait (gain effectiveness)
Change the dice of an existing d6+ trait or relationship to d4 (lose effectiveness)

Now, why would any player ever choose option 1 or 5 (except out of a drive to prove that he is hard-core sim and thus unconcerned with system)?  Given that the only drive to choose 1 or 5 is social pressure, it is likely that players will strive to find justification to increase their effectiveness with fallout, and thus we might as well eliminate the reduced effectiveness options altogether and call things as they are.

I submit that this constitutes a major problem in the fallout rules.  As per my normal criticism, I don't have a solution to propose, although ideally all fallout options will be of roughly equal advantage or disadvantage to a player's effectiveness.

yrs--
--Ben
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2004, 06:40:35 AM »

It's because you choose what's appropriate coming out of the conflict.  In play, you don't see people choosing one and casting about for justification, you see them look at the list and something jumps out at them as just the thing.  If nobody ever chooses to reduce a Stat, that's okay with me - but it needs to be there as an option just in case.

I've seen players choose to change a Relationship to d4s with their eyes lit up, just because of the nonmechanical content of the conflict.  I haven't seen anybody reduce a Stat yet - but my sense is that it's more likely in a long-running game than in the single sessions I've seen to date, because of the way the "experience Fallout" works.  We'll find out I guess.

If nothing else justifies it, NPCs use the same list, and I do love to reduce NPCs' Heart!

-Vincent
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bluegargantua
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2004, 06:54:39 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
More issues--

Let me give an example with the 8+ table:
Reduce one of your stats (lose effectiveness)
Take a new trait at 1d4 (gain effectiveness)
Take a new relationship at 1d4 (gain effectiveness)
Add one to an existing d4 trait (gain effectiveness)
Change the dice of an existing d6+ trait or relationship to d4 (lose effectiveness)

Now, why would any player ever choose option 1 or 5 (except out of a drive to prove that he is hard-core sim and thus unconcerned with system)?  


  Because d4's are teh suck.

  Your average die pool in any contest will be built on a solid base of d6's (from your Stats) and most relevant Traits will sit on d6's as well.  When contesting the GM, remember that there will also be a few d10's in there from Demonic Influence.

  So, first off, the average roll on a single d6 is 3, the average roll on a single d4 is 2, so probability favors you getting higher results on every single die roll.

  But it's when you put 2 dice together that things get really interesting.  For d6s, this means an average of 7 compared to an Average Raise of 5 for d4s.

  Which means that when you push forward a d4 Raise, it's much more likley that I'll be able to See with just one of my d6's (I push forward a 5-6) so I'll get to immediately use it in the next Raise (which conserves my dice pool).  Further, when I push forward a d6 Raise, it's much more likely that you'll need 3 or more Dice to beat it and that generates more fallout for you.

  And this is only on d6's.  With the d10's from demonic influence or big Traits or guns in play, you could really be sucking down the Fallout Dice and while you might roll a few 1's on them, the highest dice are more likely to result in serious injury or death.

  I suppose the only thing, from my perspective, that's kinda wonky is that (as it currently stands) the only way to get better is to lose contests (and then not so badly so as to suck up too much Fallout).  I can see where it's coming from, but I can also see a situation where a character wins a lot and never really gets any better while a loser gets lucky on Fallout and adds a lot of stuff to his sheet.  I'm a bit more iffy on that than getting a bunch of d4's.

Tom
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The Three Stooges ran better black ops.

Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2004, 09:45:53 PM »

Quote from: bluegargantua

  Because d4's are teh suck.

  Your average die pool in any contest will be built on a solid base of d6's (from your Stats) and most relevant Traits will sit on d6's as well.  When contesting the GM, remember that there will also be a few d10's in there from Demonic Influence.

  So, first off, the average roll on a single d6 is 3, the average roll on a single d4 is 2, so probability favors you getting higher results on every single die roll.

  But it's when you put 2 dice together that things get really interesting.  For d6s, this means an average of 7 compared to an Average Raise of 5 for d4s.


BL>  Yes, and all this is meaningless because you are *never forced to use your d4s*  Adding d4s to a dice pool is never bad, it just has a higher chance of not being good.

This is fine.  It's a clever design decision and lumpley is happy with it, and if he's happy with it then I'm happy with it.  I just think that the full ramifications of the fact that d4s in no way hurt you has yet to be realized in the text, in this place and one other (the character build options, if you're curious.  Another post about that at some later date.

yrs--
--Ben
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2004, 07:34:34 AM »

Adding d4s to your dice pool forces you to make harder decisions.  If you want easy decisions, win or lose, don't have d4 Traits.  If you want hard decisions, win or lose, do have d4 Traits.

Before you write about character creation, Ben, look past how d4s affect character effectiveness to how d4s affect player behavior!

-Vincent
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2004, 04:42:28 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Adding d4s to your dice pool forces you to make harder decisions.  If you want easy decisions, win or lose, don't have d4 Traits.  If you want hard decisions, win or lose, do have d4 Traits.

Before you write about character creation, Ben, look past how d4s affect character effectiveness to how d4s affect player behavior!


BL>  How do d4s, in your experience, effect player behavior?

yrs--
--Ben
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2004, 10:21:40 AM »

It's like Tom says, d4s are teh suck.  You want them because they help you win, but when they're on the table with their numbers showing, you see at once that they help you win at a cost.

The first hard question in Dogs' resolution is:

Is this worth Taking the Blow for?

It's not as simple as "is this worth taking Fallout for?" (we all know that it always is).  Taking the Blow also means that your opponent is setting the terms of the conflict.  The mechanical significance is that your opponent is going to drive the conflict toward circumstances where he or she gets to roll more dice, and toward follow-up conflicts that are in his or her favor.  

Here's an example.  What's at stake is: does the would-be assassin escape?  I'm the would-be assassin, I've failed to assassinate you, and we're both in your room in the middle of the night.  I raise you: I jump out the window.

If you Take the Blow, then indeed I've jumped out the window.  I haven't escaped because I haven't won the conflict, but I'm choosing the ground, and if I have a horse waiting below, that will be more dice on my side and a better chance I'll win.  If I lose anyway, you can bet that I'll launch a follow-up conflict where being outside is to my advantage.  (Like, do I manage to signal my co-conspirators that I've failed?)

So you have to choose whether to use your high dice to See me, keeping me in your room, but at cost to your future Raises, or to use your low dice, saving your high dice to kick my butt when you Raise but letting me choose the ground.

Here's an example from the game we played this weekend:

Meg's the GM.  Carrie's character is trying to exorcise the demon from a possessed person.  They've been going back and forth, and Carrie outdices Meg substantially.  It's the demon's Raise and Meg's down to her last two dice, but they're high - Carrie has won the conflict for sure but will have to Take this Blow first.

Meg has the demon kill its host.

And we're all like, dude.  Fierce.

Carrie's character can't Block or Dodge, she has to Take the Blow, and that means that the possessed person dies just as the demon's forced out.  (The poor npc isn't a for sure goner - it's very reasonable for Carrie to launch a follow-up conflict where what's at stake is: can I save this person's life?  But the demon has forced her to do that, now, and maybe she can but a big ol' maybe she can't.)

Not only d4s but any dice you roll low on create these dilemmas.  It's just that d4s, you tend to roll low on.

Is rolling 8d6+2d4 worse than rolling 8d6 in any way?  No.  But consider these three cases:

a) You can win on the strength of the 8d6 alone, and leave the 2d4 unused, without ever Taking a Blow.  You've outclassed me.

b) You can't win, even with the 2d4, no matter how many Blows you Take.  I've outclassed you.

c) You can win, if you maybe use the 2d4 and maybe Take a Blow or three, depending on who's more cunning and/or bold and how the conflict escalates.  (That's the second hard question: is this worth Escalating for?)

Case c is obviously the only one where the d4s matter.  Fortunately, it's by far the most common.  Rolling 8d6+2d4 means you're more likely to win on my terms, and that's a fun but not easy decision to make.

All of which sets the stage for:
Quote
BL> How do d4s, in your experience, effect player behavior?
They make the players think harder and make more difficult decisions.

J, you've played the game as much as anybody but me.  How do the d4s treat you?

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2004, 12:26:07 PM »

I take lots of d4s because then I can take fallout. Remember, I'm the guy who's calling for missing ears and eyes.

So far, my feeling about d4s in conflict is, it gives me a tiny leg up. I probably won't run out of dice first if I have a lot of them, so I have a better chance of winning the conflict. But boy, can I take it on the chin in the process. Remember the fallout I took last weeked? 6 frickin' d4 fallout. That was during character creation, so I really wanted to push for some stuff that would help my wishy-washy character concept gain some definition.

Now that I thin about it, rolling, what, 20 dice or something, I got 6 1s. That was some bad luck. Fortunately, I wanted to "lose" that conflict, so it didn't really damage my long-term goal.

To answer the top of the thread, I reduced my "I can't help hearing the Voice of God all the time" Trait by one die. That means it will have less of an effect on future events, which was the character's goal in character creation.

In summary, I want my dude to be a mass of scar by the time God's done with him, and that's how I see the Dogs winding up on the whole if they survive. It's usually very clear which Fallout option you take. "I was embarrassed by Brother Filbert? I'll take 1d4 in 'I think Brother Filbert's a little shit.'" or "I got shot in my right hand? I'll reduce my 'I shoot real good' by 1d10'." Since it comes up all the time, it's not like you have to sweat it about getting reductions all the time; all sorts of stuff will come up, and it will add texture.

You know what I like about this? It ignores the Muchkin arguments that a player will keep dumping dice into "I never miss with my twin Gattling guns" because, you know what? I don't want to play with those people anyway.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2004, 12:14:41 AM »

Quote from: nikola
I take lots of d4s because then I can take fallout. Remember, I'm the guy who's calling for missing ears and eyes.


BL> Right.

Quote

To answer the top of the thread, I reduced my "I can't help hearing the Voice of God all the time" Trait by one die. That means it will have less of an effect on future events, which was the character's goal in character creation.


BL>  And you were aware that, mechanically speaking, you could get the same effect, in terms of using system to address theme, by taking a "I don't like to hear the voice of God all the time" d4 trait and simply *not throwing* one of your d10s in conflicts?

Quote

"I got shot in my right hand? I'll reduce my 'I shoot real good' by 1d10'."


BL>  Why not take "I have a maimed right hand 1d4?"  Which, I reckon, allows you to make a more powerful statement about how you have been crippled (further fallout).

Quote

You know what I like about this? It ignores the Muchkin arguments that a player will keep dumping dice into "I never miss with my twin Gattling guns" because, you know what? I don't want to play with those people anyway.


BL>  See, I do.  Or, rather, I play with people who dump all their dice into "I constantly lose faith in my mission as a dog 7d4," or some such trait.
  By which I mean that they are playing a in a narrativist style, and using their mathematical sophistication in systems analysis to enhance their ability to address premises.

Perhaps this needs a spin-off thread in RPG theory.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  (even neglecting d4s, the character generation options are *still* wildly tilted towards "complicated society."  More on that in a bit.)
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2004, 08:41:43 AM »

Quote
And you were aware that, mechanically speaking, you could get the same effect, in terms of using system to address theme, by taking a "I don't like to hear the voice of God all the time" d4 trait and simply *not throwing* one of your d10s in conflicts?


Well, it might have been "I can suppress hearing the Voice of God 1d4", but those are contradictory traits. It's not that he doesn't like it; God tells him the best thing to do, all the time. It just makes it hard to order a cup of tea without telling the waitress how she's gonna die.

So the issue here is that, yeah, I could gain greater effectiveness by adding dice in carefully chosen traits, and good for me, but I'm changing the structure of the character to do that. It's legit, but you're limiting the kinds of characters you can play.

Quote
Why not take "I have a maimed right hand 1d4?" Which, I reckon, allows you to make a more powerful statement about how you have been crippled (further fallout).


Yeah, that's a better idea, you're right. It's a good thing it was a hypothetical situation.

I'm inclined to agree with you; I think that fallout might have to be in the form of a new Trait; saying "I hate demons...MORE! 5d6" doesn't have the same dramatic effect as saying "I'm afraid of demons that look like children 1d4"

Diggity dig, that's good.

Quote
See, I do. Or, rather, I play with people who dump all their dice into "I constantly lose faith in my mission as a dog 7d4," or some such trait.
By which I mean that they are playing a in a narrativist style, and using their mathematical sophistication in systems analysis to enhance their ability to address premises.


That makes for a pretty flat character. It seems like a big frickin' waste.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2004, 06:23:56 PM »

Quote from: nikola

Quote from: Ben Lehman
See, I do. Or, rather, I play with people who dump all their dice into "I constantly lose faith in my mission as a dog 7d4," or some such trait.
By which I mean that they are playing a in a narrativist style, and using their mathematical sophistication in systems analysis to enhance their ability to address premises.


That makes for a pretty flat character. It seems like a big frickin' waste.


BL>  Well, yes...  It was a simplistic example for space purposes.  You could also picture that as "seven different very interesting and thematic traits all at 1d4."

I have been thinking about this and, ultimately, if the designer realizes that people will take the extra d4 most of the time, and is okay, with that, there's not too much more that I can say.

I had an idea, which is that Fallout might be more interesting if the d4 options were *paired* with the loss of effectiveness options:

Reduce one non-d4 trait one die and add one die to a d4 trait
or
Reduce one non-d4 trait one die and add a new trait at 1d4
or
Reduce all dice in one non d4 trait to d4s and add one to it
or
Reduce all dice in one non d4 trait to d4s and add one to another d4 trait
or
Reduce all dice in one non d4 trait to d4s and add a new trait at 1d4

Submitted for consideration.

yrs--
--Ben
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