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Messages - Meserach

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Freebooting Venus / Awarding treasure
« on: October 30, 2015, 04:32:51 PM »
As GM, should I be looking to award players treasure at any particular time or at any particular rate, outside of the rules for obtaining treasure from an estate or mercantile enterprise?

Freebooting Venus / Chooisng belongings
« on: October 30, 2015, 03:03:35 PM »
Running through chargen with my first player, Alexander. He asks: when he chooses two belongings, can he choose the same one twice, like two weapons, or two spell tablets?

AW:Dark Age / Re: Denied right
« on: September 04, 2014, 09:17:10 PM »
Here's the thing with this for me, at the moment (pending actual experience with a playtest, whereupon I may well change my mind): I'm reading "hold it against you" seriously. That is, if a players picking that option against me, the MC, then I'm taking it to mean they're actually upset at me about what I'm doing in denying their character their right. And since the person I'm playing with is my friend, at the very least that's going to make me think seriously about whether I really want to do it. Sometimes I still might: sometimes it's worth upsetting someone temporarily if you think something's that important. But a lot of the time, if it matters that much that someone's going to choose that option, I'm going to reconsider.

On the other hand, if the player isn't really that upset, than they can freely choose one of the other responses.

I suspect that if you're picking the hold it against you option, but you;re not /really/ going to hold it against them, you should pick something else?

AW:Dark Age / Re: Using the maps
« on: September 02, 2014, 10:22:52 PM »
Ahah! I thought there might be a trick to it. Thanks muchly, Borogove!

AW:Dark Age / Using the maps
« on: September 02, 2014, 06:26:47 PM »
I'm intrigued by the tessellated random polygons thing you've used as a map on the Stronghold sheet, Vincent. Are those all custom drawn or do you have a program that generates them? Is there a reason they all have a single pixel dot in each polygon? When you actually draw a map out, what's it tend to look like? You go over lines to form larger shapes to suggest the outlines of buildings, walls and so on, I take it?

If people have example maps their group drew during playtesting I'd love to see them.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Denied right
« on: September 02, 2014, 01:39:37 PM »
Huh! There's a thing.

Still good though!

AW:Dark Age / Re: Denied right
« on: September 02, 2014, 12:46:39 PM »
I suspect this rule is going to be a sticking point for a lot of people :).

I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but just to be sure: if the player selects "declares his go or gods are angry", that's not something the MC has to take account of in like, a cosmic way, right? Like, it doesn't mean the god or gods actually are angry and thus more likely to say, descend from the sky on steps of fire and smite the unbeliever, or any such? It's just something that a person is saying which only has effect in the fiction insofar as people are inclined to put stock in the pronouncements of said person vis-a-vis gods and their anger?

First answer:

It was on the hard moves list at one point, but I removed it because it wasn't benefiting the fiction. There's a trap hidden inside of "hard move: give someone a Condition," one that takes the story away from the PCs in a not-good way.

Social stigma doesn't just appear. It's the product of specific people being shitty to one another. So, at the very least, the hard move should be "An NPC gives a Condition to a PC." Otherwise, you, as the MC, are reaching into the fiction and dealing out stigma as a player. If we're to uphold the "to do it, do it" principle, then it's important that every Condition stem from a specific character doing/saying a specific thing.

But giving NPCs that power to attach stigma and social value statements to PCs is serious business! And since we're here to be fans of the PCs, and our NPCs are to be treated like stolen cars... having that social power planted in the hands of anyone you choose is going to lead to a situation where the players are navigating your social rules, rather than you reacting to their social power. That's an observation that came out of playtesting. It made the game less Monsterhearts, more Vampire: the Masquerade.

So, the solution: NPCs can spend their Strings to place Conditions. This means that only characters who have emotional leverage over PCs can fuck up their social standing. This keeps the "NPC giving a Condition to a PC" interaction grounded in a PC and their relationships, rather than grounded in an MC's characters and choices.

Joe, that makes a degree of sense, so thank you.

However I do still have a quibble. The text seems to vacillate somewhat between:

1) the view you've just expressed, that Conditions are all forms of "stigma and social value statements" with their origin in the social behaviour and opinions of others,
2) the view that Conditions can also be other things that aren't necessarily anything to do with social factors. For example, conditions from the book like drained, terrified, wounded, disoirented and so on.

Your comments make sense under interpretation 1), but they don't so much for 2).

Oftentimes it seems as I MC the game that I ought to just be able to dole out Conditions to PCs or NPCs just as a result of their actions and their fictional consequences, without regard to any particular moves or string expenditures.

But there isn't an explicit MC hard move that lets me do this. The closest approach is that I can "take a String on someone" if the fictional circumstances demand it, and then immediately turn and spend that that String to give out a Condition. But this seems a bit roundabout and not appropriate for all circumstances where you might want to give a condition out.

Is there a reason why Conditions seem to be restricted in this way?

My big concern with basic moves not helping to resolve situations is that players are going to avoid using them, since they don't help them get what they want, and instead just lead to further problems, or create mechanical tags (Conditions, Strings, Harm) which MIGHT help resolve a problem in the future but whose connection to such a resolution is fuzzy and unsure.

That is not an experience I've had in play, nor one I've had reported to me by playtesters. Have players been avoiding them in your game? If this issue is surfacing in your game, let me know and we can workshop it.

It hasn't directly happened yet, because we played the game just last night and only just stumbled across the examples I've told you about where we noticed the problem profoundly. In the ensuing discussion, several players have expressed to me their future intention to avoid using these moves to try and achieve things, and instead to try some combination of: avoidance of direct confrontation, pressuring important NPCs for fictional leverage, using skin moves.

History: At one point "hold steady" suffered from this kind of avoidance, because the 10 up result was simply "you keep your cool." It was effectively the same thing as Act Under Fire's 10+ result of "you do it," which I've come to believe is the worst piece of moves design in all of Apocalypse World. Because it's a 10+ result where nothing new is gained. The 10 up results in Monsterhearts all give you benefits (with the exception of run away, I just realized).

Hmm. I both agree in a sense and disagree. Yes, a standard 10+ on act under fire doesn't give you anything new. But players can't actually AVOID it, even though they have no incentive to pursue it, because a) it is sometimes a direct, mechanical consequence of other moves, B) the MC is meant to call for it when it occurs, C) it occurs so often, when you do basically anything dramatic, contested or tense, that to avoid it would meant having to avoid almost all actions.

By contrast, in MH, it is pretty easy to just avoid lashing out physically: you're never forced to by the mechanics, and there are other ways to achieve almost of all its actual effects.

The benefits of turn someone on and shut someone down are different types of leverage. The impact of that leverage is amorphous, which is raising alarm bells for you. Yeah? Thing is: amorphous social power isn't something to scoff at, especially when we're talking about teenagers. It's ammunition for the single scariest thing about teenagers: they can make someone's life a living hell, and they're willing to do it the moment the gains outweigh the losses.

Well, it isn't the amorphousness that bothers me so much as the uncertainty of its efficaciousness. That string might make all the difference to an important roll... or it might end up being spent on offering an XP which is turned down, thereby signifying very little. That condition could be something you use multiple times in important rolls.... or it might be something the character removes before you can even exploit it.

Apocalypse World (and Dungeon World, and other hacks) present this same situation. These games don't have an initiative order, and so when two people want to take different actions, you have to ask yourself, "Who gets to act first?"

Yes, I agree... but the way the basic moves in AW means that however the initiative order shakes out, I still feel both characters get a good chance to influence the outcome. (For example, in AW you have the option to roll to interfere with the other PCs move!) With MH's basic moves, it feels like the MC-decided initiative order is a lot more critical to the outcome.

Joe, first up, I want to really thank you for your honest and illuminating responses. I can clearly see the philosophy behind your design decisions and I think what you are saying makes sense given that philosophy. So, that's all good.

So, that said! For me, I feel like this quasi-dichotomy you've set up between AW (where basic moves resolve problems) and MH (where basic moves don;t resolve problems but instead provoke new ones) is kinda false?

For me, the whole beauty of AW's set of basic moves is that they both resolve situations AND provoke problems which lead to fresh situations. Interestingly, the moves I enjoy most in MH also do this; but they are nearly all not basic moves (exceptions: "run away" always, and "turn someone on" on a 7-9) but are instead skin moves.

My big concern with basic moves not helping to resolve situations is that players are going to avoid using them, since they don't help them get what they want, and instead just lead to further problems, or create mechanical tags (Conditions, Strings, Harm) which MIGHT help resolve a problem in the future but whose connection to such a resolution is fuzzy and unsure.

It also seems like this philosophy places a lot more weight on the MC as arbiter of events. Take your discussion of the bottle grabbing example. I'm seeing a lot of decision points for the MC (whose actions happen in what order? is this tense or scary, for whom, and as such, who has to hold steady?) and very few decision points for the players - they just state what they're trying to do and then wait for MC calls.

I'm aware the principle is only "sometimes, disclaim decision making", but I think this specific area is something that I personally would rather disclaim decision making on very often, and so if it comes up with frequency, then there's a disconnect between what the game provides for and what I want it to do.

And that's not a problem in your design necessarily, since you are saying, if I'm reading you right, that that's an intentional effect! But it does mean, as you suggested, that I want to play the game (as written) less.

Shutting someone down is about hurting their feelings, insulting them, trying to get them to bow to you socially. It is fundamentally not about preventing them from doing something, but about shaming them. Sorry if there was confusion over that.

So, Abrielle is going to do a hex. Ping is trying to talk her out of it.

At this point, as the MC, you should ask Abrielle, "Are you even listening to Ping, or are you just chanting fervently in tongues?" If Abrielle isn't listening to Ping, then Ping's only recourse is in spending a String. This is a perfect time to ask, "So Ping, Abrielle doesn't even pause to listen to your pleas. How does this make you feel?"

But let's say Abrielle holds off for a moment, and Ping has her attention. Ping has a rock, and is threatening Abrielle. Don't reach for the moves! Reach for the provocative questions, and then build upon the answers. "Abrielle, do you think she'd actually throw the rock? Are you scared?" You aren't ready for a move yet.

If Ping wants to shame Abrielle, then reach for shutting someone down.
If Ping wants to use emotional leverage over Abrielle, tell her to spend a String.

If neither of those things happen, I don't think there's a move here. "Abrielle, do you continue with the hex?" If she does, then ask, "Ping, she's chanting again. Do you actually throw the rock?"

If both Abrielle and Ping continue with their course of action, then their rolls are both really obvious: Abrielle is rolling hex-casting, and Ping is rolling lashing out physically. It's up to you as an MC to determine who rolls first (and thus what happens first). And that's just about narrative sensibilities and how you imagine the situation in your head.

In Short: Ping threatening Abrielle doesn't trigger a roll. Or if it does (like shutting someone down), that roll won't tell you how Abrielle responds. That's Abrielle's player's job.

(Side-Note: If Abrielle were an NPC, Ping would be rolling to manipulate an NPC. Since Abrielle is a PC, she is fundamentally in control of her own responses. So roleplay it out until a move is triggered.)

Okay so I think I understand this. This is close to how I initially thought the move worked, before I encountered (I think valid!) objections from the other players that it made "Shut someone down" kinda fictionally toothless.

The way I read this, it seems like the only way to make "shut someone down" actually influence a PCs behaviour (assuming the PC doesn't just decide to change their behaviour based directly on the narration and any associated provocative questioning) is if you use Shut them down to obtain a string on them, and then immediately spend that string to either offer them XP to do what you want, or force them to hold steady in order to do something you don't want. Right?

I'm going to again to draw analogy to AW. In AW you can manipulate PCs as well as NPCs - but when you manipulate a PC, you get choices (offer them XP and/or make them act under fire) which are equivalent to things that you can only get by spending strings in MH.

So, I can see how that works out and it kind of makes sense. But the effect of it, I think, is to make manipulating PCs a lot harder to do in MH than in AW. Like, to get the equivalent of a 10+ roll on "manipulate a PC" from AW, I have to get TWO strings on the person I want to manipulate (from whatever preliminary combination of other moves, either just now or earlier, each of which has probably exposed me to the possibility of failure) and spend them both: and then if the person goes ahead and does it anyway (by passing up the XP and successfully holding steady), I have lost my strings to no real benefit, right? So that's significantly higher cost toward manipulating PCs in MH versus AW.

Maybe that is intentional? I don't know. But I think it is an interesting difference between the systems.

There's a werewolf on the prowl. You're hiding in a safe place (the car), but you want to run to a different safe place where your friends are (the park outhouse). The MC says, "Okay, but the werewolf is literally standing five feet away from your car. You can see its hulking frame basked in moonlight. Its paws are matted with blood. If you want to drum up the courage to leave this car, you're going to have to hold steady."

Car Guy makes his roll. A 7! He chooses to gain the Condition terrified, but ask the MC a question. "I'm going to try to make it to the outhouse. What should I do if it catches me?" The MC thinks a moment and says, "You should probably play dead. He'd move on to more interesting sport." Pause. "So, you're terrified and shaking, but you manage to open the car door, silently. You can see your friends waving. Now what?"


In Short: Holding steady determines whether or not you hold steady. It doesn't determine any other stuff.

Is this a scary or tense situation? Roll to see whether you can keep your shit together. If yes, then proceed as planned.

So hey, I am not sure these statements all make sense together.

It seems like in the example you have provided, rolling a hit on 2hold steady" has indeed determined something fictional beyond whether or not Car Guy keeps hi cool - namely, we have decided whether Car Guy manages to leave the car at all or not. Like, had Car Guy rolled a miss on hold steady, I'd have been within my rights as MC to pick a hard move which meant that Car Guy doesn't leave the car, right?

(This is a separate issue to the subsequent choice to run away or not. What I am interested in is simply the answer to "does Car Guy leave the car?")

Joe, I am going to need to read over that all carefully and process it, but I just wanted to thank you now for the detailed response.

Hi Joe,

I've been playing Monsterhearts over IRC with a group of six players, and we have hit a major mechanical problem with the basic moves.

Here's the deal: the basic moves don't explicitly state whether you achieve your fictional intention when you roll a hit.

Take "lash out physically". In our game, one character (Ophelia) lashed out physically in an attempt to drag another PC (Abrielle) into the woods. She scored a 10 up and picked "they need to hold steady before they can retaliate". As it happened, Abrielle successfully held steady, so they still got to retaliate (she hexed Ophelia in response). But what the move's text doesn't tell us is: did Abrielle get dragged to the woods or not?

As we initially played it, Abrielle didn't get dragged there. Had she failed to hold steady I would definitely have ruled that she did; but instead, it seemed like she held steady and retaliated, and as such all Ophelia succeeded in doing was roughing her up a bit (i.e. causing harm). But! That kind of sucks for Ophelia, because she got a 10 up hit but didn't achieve anything that she wanted; just some harm!

Compare "seize by force" in AW, the closest equivalent move from the parent game. There, it's way more explicit depending on your choices as to whether you successfully seize the thing definitively, or whether you only kinda do. You do harm as well, but it's a side issue, the key question is "do you seize the thing by force successfully or not?".

After talking about it and reading some of the play examples (most notably the bottle example from the end of the book), we've concluded that the intent of the lash out physically move is that on a hit, you successfully manage to do what you were aiming to do with your violence - in this case, drag a person around, or in the example's case, get hold of the bottle. But that isn't clear from the wording of the move.

We have an even bigger problem of this nature with shut someone down. Simply put: while the mechanical effects of shut someone down are explicit (conditions or strings get changed around, possibly on both sides), what's the in-fiction effect of a successful shut down? What does it imply about what the shut down character can and cannot do, or must do, in-fiction, immediately after having been shut down?

For example, Abrielle was attempting to hex another player, Ping. Ping tried to talk her out of it by shutting her down (she threatens her by saying "You don't want to do this" with a rock in her hand), and succeeds on the roll. So can Abrielle still go through with the hexing, or not? Does she, in some sense, have to react in-fiction to the shut down? Does she now need to hold steady to hex Ping? Or in order to actually modify Abrielle's behaviour, is the only way for Ping to spend a string to force her to hold steady? If that is the case, what's the actual point of shutting someone down, in fictional terms?

I also feel like "hold steady" is missing a "you do it" clause, equivalent to how "act under fire" works in AW. If I keep my cool, that's great, but do I achieve my intention or not? More to the point, if I DON'T opt to keep my cool on a 7-9, does that mean I don't succeed at whatever I was tying to do?

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