Cool stat + moves

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Cool stat + moves
« on: May 06, 2011, 12:09:05 AM »
Could you talk about that some Johnstone?

I'm having trouble see it as different from the Heavy stat and moves. I know it's different, more about stealth and level-headedness than toughness or combat.

I probably just need to think about it a little more.

AW doesn't having good options for being sneaky as a default and I've having trouble imagining the basic moves tied to it.

Re: Cool stat + moves
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2011, 07:32:55 AM »

Short answer: use heavy when you actively challenge a threat; use cool when you're avoiding, dodging, sidestepping, or passively resisting a threat.

Long answer:
When I wrote up my version of the moves, the wording was pretty instinctual. When you wrote up your version of the heavy moves, it kinda seemed to me like you included all of acting under fire there, so I've been thinking about what I like about "avoid interference" and "show your strength."

Originally, I was thinking that "avoid interference" would be a situation where there's this threat hanging over you and you're trying to do something while avoiding it. Basically, this is what "act under fire" makes me think of.

This led naturally to stealth (or came out of me wanting stealth rules maybe): You sneak into a place, you're trying to avoid being detected. And willpower: When somebody ties you to a chair and say, beats on you or drugs you, you're trying to avoid giving them useful information. And then avoiding interference could cover dodging bullets or actual fire when you're escaping a burning building.

For heavy, it's got the violence move, and I wanted the "recover" move, partly so characters could go down and it would actually look serious to the player: all but one of your harm boxes checked off, you're stunned and deaf from the explosion, you're totally fucked... okay, roll to recover: box cars! Shrug off a box or two, get up and move! It's cinematic, at the very least, and might be able to simulate the actual confusion and memory loss of real violence.

And the generic move was "show your strength" because that covers both those moves, and I liked the wording better than anything else I could think of.

So, after considering it a bit, I'd suggest that heavy should cover moves you make where you're actually challenging someone or something, especially in situations where precision and level-headedness aren't essential; as opposed to cool where level-headedness and timing are essential to avoiding trouble. I guess with heavy, you fight back, meet trouble head-on and tough your way through it, overcoming it with physicality, skill, and determination, and with cool, you're basically dodging a bullet, sidestepping it or just letting it wash over you and not affect you.

I can discuss the principles of stealth stuff too, if you like. Characters in AW don't have an absolute right to stealth, it's a privilege, which is something that unfortunately didn't crystallize in my mind until after my stealth moves went into the game.



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Re: Cool stat + moves
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2011, 06:00:31 PM »

The distinction between passive and active isn't in the moves I wrote up. I'll make a quick rewrite to reflect that then.

And yeah, discuss the principles of stealth too.

I'm probably going to try to run something this weekend so I'm trying to get the basic moves together for that.

Re: Cool stat + moves
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2011, 01:12:17 PM »
Stealth raises two issues for me, I guess.

The purpose of stealth is to get what you want and avoid inter-personal conflict. The more a game (or gamer) is concerned with interpersonal conflict, the less important stealth is going to be.

Let's take the movie Heat for example. There's an over-arching conflict between cops and criminals, sure, but that's at the scene level, it's not an inter-personal apprehend/escape conflict until they meet each other, and stealth is what keeps them from meeting each other.

Take the first bank heist, after Pacino is onto DeNiro's crew. DeNiro's task here is to break into the bank (a precious metals repository) without drawing attention. That goes fine, except Pacino's already on him as a consequence of the previous heist, so it doesn't really matter. Pacino's also using stealth though: his task is to stay hidden and observe long enough that they steal something, at which point an inter-personal conflict can begin. However, this task fails, and once DeNiro gets suspicious, it's all over, since Pacino wants them on a theft charge, not B&E.

Then there's the last bank heist, which is basically the same situation. When DeNiro's crew get the plans, hook up the electronics, rob the bank, and keep word from leaking out, it's all task-based. Yeah, they go aggro on people in the bank, but there's no competing interests here like there is in most conflict resolution systems. The question there is: how violent do they have to be in order to rob this bank?

And just like the first heist, the cops are sneaking up into position. Sure, they didn't get the tip until almost too late, but they got it, which defeats the stealth and allows the cops to initiate a conflict. They're using stealth to get into a better position when they initiate the conflict, and that fails when Kilmer sees one of them and starts shooting. At which point we get the awesome shootout scene.

Basically, stealth is a way to get what you want without an inter-personal conflict, which is what the criminals are doing, or a way to postpone a conflict until you have a better position, which is what the cops are doing. In both cases, when that stealth fails, it fails completely, and characters are now able to initiate inter-personal conflicts based on their current positions.

So deciding when that stealth fails is pretty key here. In the first heist, the stealth fails at a point where initiating a conflict isn't worth it for Pacino. In the second, they're already coming out of the bank, so Pacino just wants to get a better position, so until the criminals notice, his crew sneaks up. The longer it takes to notice, the easier it will be to apprehend them—in fact, if the criminals don't notice until they are handcuffed in the back of a wagon, there's no inter-personal conflict!

This is all my interpretation and experience, of course. I'm also interested in different perspectives.

Anyway, most recent games of the "indie" and "Forge-diaspora" and "story games" varieties are primarily concerned with inter-personal conflict. They usually want to get to the point after stealth does or doesn't work. Take Vincent's other big hit: you can't do real stealth in Dogs in the Vineyard. If you added stealth rules to Dogs, you'd be rolling dice to see whether you had to use all the other Dogs rules or not. You can't escalate with stealth, because there's no conflict to escalate.

Now, AW uses task resolution, sure, but all the moves are designed to drive towards inter-personal conflict, so stealth gets bundled up with all the other acting under fire stuff. General rules are on page 192, more specific ones on page 270. The game is more concerned with what happens after the stealth fails, and assumes you are too, so it's not a custom move and doesn't get its own section in the game or anything.

Which is entirely understandable. Stealth, and by extension, resistance (the stuff that goes under cool in my write-up of Bulwark stats), shuts somebody down, and leads to one side not doing anything. Like, I want what you have, so I use stealth in order to take it and you can't do anything. Or you try to beat a confession out of me and I resist, so nothing happens plot-wise. Personally, I like stealth, espionage, and surveillance stuff, so I'd like to see more of that in games, but making that whole dynamic into something that is fun in a game isn't always easy.

Re: Cool stat + moves
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2011, 03:02:23 PM »
Second issue is maybe more specific to AW, since it pertains to defining exactly what the different moves cover. Because of the stealth stuff on pages 192 and 270, there's not much room for adding stealth to AW through character moves.

Let's say I add a stealthy character move like this one:

Stealthy: when you move, silent, unseen, roll+cool. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1:
-- you infiltrate a secure location
-- you get close to someone or something
-- you go undetected
On a miss, none of these and you've been caught out, vulnerable, by hostile foes.

This may or may not be much of an awesome special move. It might simply be a case where you spend one of your choices on something that the MC lets everybody do. Which is very similar to the phenomena where you spend a choice on something and then the GM takes it away.

John Harper wrote a post about when one of his players assembled a gang in the fiction, as opposed to by taking an improvement, and John let him use the Pack Alpha move when he bossed them around, pretty much like an MC custom move. Now, I'm against that, partly because, unlike the rules for angel kits and workspaces, Pack Alpha is explicitly a Chopper move. Every character starts with 3 special things, and if somebody gets one for free, it removes meaning from the choice to take it instead of something else in the first place—although it's not as bad as the Savvyhead who starts the game watching his workshop get blown up, since you're not taking away anything somebody has in game. I'm not against the character getting a gang—that's fictional, not mechanical. He went out and assembled a gang, rock on, but my interpretation of Pack Alpha is that it comes with the Chopper, not with the gang.

Here's a better example: What if I take Eye on the Door so I can roll+cool to escape, and then the MC basically uses that move for acting under fire when anybody wants to escape? (The wording's pretty similar). Well, then I just wasted one of my choices. I could have taken something else instead and had some other way to be awesome and get some spotlight time and differentiate my character. I'm not losing my stuff, and yet I kinda am.

If the MC consistently lets anybody roll+cool to escape from anything, the move means nothing. If the MC sometimes says "no, you can't get out of this one," then you can point to your move, name your escape route, and roll, and the MC can't say no. If escaping is far more granular than just one roll usually, then taking the move is just as awesome as something like Lost or Things Speak. But it all depends on the MC, because that line isn't particularly well-defined in the game—although the existence of character moves allowing escape should be enough to avoid the situation where taking the move means nothing.

Acting under fire doesn't actually say anything about escaping, but it does cover stealth, so that Stealthy move above is more likely to become useless than Eye of the Door is. One solution, if you're sticking with the basic AW rules, might be to change tactics, and make a stealth move that does something different than the basic moves do, like this maybe:

Stealthy: when you take steps to conceal your activities, roll+cool. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 2. Spend your hold 1-for-1 to take action and remain undetected, as much as is possible. If you reveal yourself, lose any remaining hold. On a miss, somebody's on to you.

If you're re-writing the game (as in Bulwark), you can do other things. You can keep it like AW. You can make Stealthy a separate stat with new basic moves. You can require a special move for characters to be stealthy—no move, no sneaking past people. Or you can set up two different levels, so you can sort-of sneak around without the move, and sneak around really well if you do have the move.

With the stat set-up we've been discussing, you can just roll your stat dice to sneak around, but if you have evade+2, then there's the bonus, so you do it better.

Another option would be to have a generic shitty move, with a special move where the results are better, without using different numbers. For example, if you don't have one of the special Stealthy moves above, you have to use this one:

When you do something dangerous, roll+cool. On a hit, you do it, but on a 10+, choose 1, on a 7-9, choose 2:
-- you get hosed for it now
-- you get hosed for it later
-- somebody close to you gets hosed instead

So, some stuff to think about.