Help me understand the logic behind advancement?

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Tavis

  • 24
Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« on: August 17, 2010, 10:15:21 PM »
Background:
My tastes as a gamer are strongly in favor of having what I think about achieving as a player be as similar as possible to what my characters are trying to achieve. As a result I'm unhappy with systems in which (for example) I'm expected to make moves that put my character in a dramatic dilemma to satisfy my player-desire for an interesting story, because this conflicts with my character-desire to stay out of trouble and be fat and happy.

Overall I'm very excited by Apocalypse World because it seems beautifully arranged to give my characters ways to act according to their desires that cut to the heart of generating interesting story.

However, something said about advancement rules in Tony's D&D hack subforum makes me think it might be a place where player desire and character desire don't match up:

There was some attempts to "game" the rules when players found that they had to hit certain stats to level up.  A lot of requests to Parley and Defy Danger just to gain levels.  After I laid down the law ("stop that.  no, seriously, you can't parley with everyone you meet just to get points") it seemed to clear up.

My feeling is that I want my character to parley only when it makes sense for them given the information they have about the world. They don't know that someone highlighted the associated stat, or that their Hx with the PC they're parleying with is at +4, but it seems like these are things I'm going to be wanting to think about when I choose moves in the game because I have a player-desire to advance.

Why is advancement the way it is? Or, put another way, what would I be missing out on if I swapped it out for some kind of hack where characters advanced on the basis of achieving things they're aware of in-game?  

Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2010, 10:38:00 PM »
Vx has written about it a few times, as has other people:
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=220.0
http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=218.0

I don't really have any other insight into it, though.

Highlight, though, is all about what the other players want to see your character do. Whether or not you do it, well... 's up to you.

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Tavis

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Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2010, 11:12:18 PM »
Thanks for the links!

What I get from there are:

a) some other suggestions that thinking about what one would want to do to advance (or to satisfy other players' desire to see my PC do something they're interested in) can pull in a different direction to thinking about what the character would want to do:

quote author=Margolotte link=topic=218.msg1675#msg1675 date=1280113218]
So far in our games, it's been more about incenting sides of the PCs we want to see, rather than figuring what the advantages might be. So I'm likely to say "Amanual, I wanna see your cool" when I'm curious what it looks like when Amanual acts under fire, regardless of what her strengths may be. This leads to some sessions when there's much less marking up than others. Sometimes players will check that and go for the highlighted stat instead of something they might have defaulted to, which is always fun to see.
[/quote]

b) some authorial intent about why advancement is the way it is:

3: Why tie it to die rolls and not time passed or fronts weathered or goals accomplished or any of the other things it could plausibly be tied to? 

3. Because it's linked to character action but not character success, it's concrete, quick-paced and reliable over time but not 100% predictable, it's convenient, and it's easy to explain and remember.

Those are awesome design principles! But because I have a personal hangup about this issue, I feel like I want to try to think of another way to do advancement that doesn't introduce a player-priority that's different from the character-priority.

- Linked to character action but not success: This seems wise; my character wants to succeed, but as a player I want them to fail in interesting ways; tying it to action reconciles this potential disconnect because I & my character both want to do cool stuff.

- Incentivizing players to show the aspects of their PC others are interested in: I support this goal, but (tracing the parameters of my particular hangup) find doing it through advancement problematic; will think more on how & why.


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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2010, 12:42:11 AM »
My advice is: play the game as-is at least once before you start trying to fix it. You'll find that highlighted stats don't work the way you're afraid they do.

You're reading about the playtesting of a game in development, with its own unique strengths and hangups. Don't base your understanding of Apocalypse World on it.

-Vincent

Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2010, 01:11:38 AM »
Tavis,

I think you are making some assumptions that aren't necessarily true. Consider a different perspective on advancement as-is before scrapping it for something else:

Firstly, why wouldn't your character know how much Hx he has with other characters? The Hx rating is an abstract statement about how well your character knows somebody else, and thus can assist them, or interfere with them. Your character is the one who knows the other person, he should know how well he knows them. It's not absolute, of course, but that's where the die roll comes in.

Secondly, why wouldn't your character know which stats are highlighted?

Let me unpack that one. I'll use D&D as an example because I know that you know.

You say you want player motivations and character motivations to align. Cool. But advancement and achieving your goals aren't necessarily the same thing. They are in OD&D: you become a better adventurer as you find more treasure. Does this really make sense in the fiction? If I get luckily and find an unguarded chest of gold, why should I get better at fighting monsters?

(Note: You can sub in anything else for getting treasure: getting vengeance on enemies, building a better society, getting the girl, finding a safe way home, etc. The only time your character's goal is exactly the same as advancement in a game is when your goal is to advance the way the game allows you to advance.)

When a stat is highlighted, that means your character will grow and benefit from that experience. It has nothing to do with success at other goals. If your Charisma is highlighted, you will gain experience from holding parleys, regardless of whatever other benefits you might get. The game won't break if your character knows this.

So, if you are raiding dungeons, your main goal is to get rich, or at least recover wonders from the old world. So yeah, you could take the easy route, use all your wits to bypass traps and monsters, seize the treasure and get out. Your reward for that is treasure, as it should be. But unlike D&D, if you want to become a better adventurer in Apocalypse World, you have to take risks.

Is it strange that you would mark experience for certain stats but not others? Maybe. Or maybe these are the things your character thinks he should be doing in order to become more knowledgeable and skilled. If his sharp is marked, he is thinking that he needs to keep an eye out more, watch people more closely, so he can get more info on what's up. He's not thinking about how he should beat people up to get better because his hard isn't highlighted.

You character can still parley only when it makes sense to achieve other goals, like bypassing monsters or trading information, but what about holding a parley when he thinks it will help him becomes a better bargainer, or when he thinks it will help him understand and deal with people better in general?

Anyway, that's another way of looking at it. You really can swap it out for a system that characters are aware of, without swapping it out.

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Tavis

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Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2010, 08:53:37 AM »
Johnstone, my personal hangup is not about "does advancement make sense in the fiction" - a primary pleasure of RPGs for me is the process of making unexpected sense out of nonsense - but "do the criteria for advancement cause me to think about things that feel intrusively different from thinking about what my character wants to do next."

Thinking about the example of D&D makes me realize that although most of the time I don't get this disconnect, I do when the player-knowledge that I'm only 100 XP away from leveling up causes me to want to take more risks than my character normally would. I'm fine with that because a) it happens infrequently and b) the rest of the time I've internalized a way of making sense of the overlap between player & character motivations that comes naturally to me.

Vincent, you're quite right that my issues here are ones of how things feel to me & I won't really know that until I've played with it for a while, and Johnstone, your suggestions for how to think of what advancement means to characters may well help me internalize it when I do. Thanks!

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Orion

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Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 09:01:01 AM »
Tavis,

It sounds to me like you're beginning with a fixed idea of what your character wants, and then looking at highlighted stats as something that interferes with pursuing it. That makes sense if you assume that your character is, well, 100% yours and shaped only by your input.

AW doesn't work that way--other players actually get to help shape your character.  You see it in the Hx rules, which allow other players to declare things about you, and to a lesser extent in the manipulation move (how many RPGs let you mechanically compel the behavior of other PCs?).  I'd suggest looking at highlighted stats, not as a *distraction* from what your character wants, but as a *clue* to what your character wants. 


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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 09:09:25 AM »
I disagree! I recommend that you play your character with integrity to herself and trust that the highlighted stats thing is going to work out.

I mean, you can play it Orion's way if that's what comes naturally to you, but the game doesn't demand it or prefer it that way.

Let your highlighted stats influence your character and her decisions exactly as much as they do, in the ways that they naturally do, however you happen to think about them at the moment, without trying anything, and see what happens. It'll go fine.

Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 09:09:39 AM »
Highlight, though, is all about what the other players want to see your character do. Whether or not you do it, well... 's up to you.

I find that highlight isn't always "what I want to see that character do" but sometimes it's:

What I want to see the MC do when that character succeeds or fails for a particular stat.

This is why I don't think highlighting negative stats is such a "dick move" as others have suggested. I might highlight your stat not to see you fail, but to see how the MC reacts to your failure and what hard moves the MC makes. I want to see that when my character fails just as much.

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Orion

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Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2010, 04:21:57 PM »
Vincent,

if that's the case, I'm confused again.  Consider the following system:

"Whenever you make a move, mark improvement.  When you fill your 8th bubble, select an improvement option." 

Could you explain in what way the current system improves on the hypothetical? 

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2010, 04:51:24 PM »
The current system allows you to play your way if that's what comes naturally to you.

Also, fewer bubbles to fill in.

Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 04:52:38 PM »

Could you explain in what way the current system improves on the hypothetical? 


You don't have to make new character sheets. :)

Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2010, 05:28:48 PM »
Vincent,

if that's the case, I'm confused again.  Consider the following system:

"Whenever you make a move, mark improvement.  When you fill your 8th bubble, select an improvement option."  

Could you explain in what way the current system improves on the hypothetical?  

Think of this angle: Who's job is it to hand out experience in AW?

The MC? No, they just highlight a stat. The other players? One of them just highlights a stat. Yourself? No, you gotta work to earn it by doing what others have highlighted.

The end effect is: "Here," say the MC and another player, "We're going to give you experience for doing this stuff. Except we're not going to give it to you: you give it to yourself."

So instead of having a GM that awards discretionary XP according to their taste and their vision of the game, you've got a negotiation. The MC and another player are going to declare their taste, and you're going to make a statement in-play about what you think of their taste. Rinse, repeat, and you'll find play and advancement awards converge into the sweet spot of the group, while staying dynamic enough to keep things fresh.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 05:30:55 PM by eggdropsoap »

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Orion

  • 69
Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2010, 06:24:46 PM »
Eggdropsoap,

Your proposal makes intuitive sense to me, but I'm fairly sure Vincent doesn't play that way. As he describes his own play, you're *not* making a statement about the other players' taste, you're playing your character "naturally," which in this context appears to mean "without specifically trying to roll or not roll your highlighted stats".

Personally, I'm still confused about why that would be, as the extra effort involved in my "8 bubble" system seems to be less than the effort saved by skipping the highlighting procedure from start-of-session. 

 

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Help me understand the logic behind advancement?
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2010, 07:08:28 PM »
Have you seen a movie from like 2000 or so called Blast From the Past? This conversation is just like the one that he has with his dad about baseball.

Highlighting stats reinforces the group's commitment to each character, reassures you publicly and socially that your friends see what you're doing with your character, AND you can use it to inform your play of your character, or not, exactly as comes naturally to you.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 07:10:50 PM by lumpley »