Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict

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Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« on: September 14, 2010, 06:57:11 PM »
'Nother split from the Agenda & GNS thread, also from Chris' post.  Man, a lot of food for thought in that one. (If this'd be better off in another part of the forum than Hardcore Theory, someone please move it.)

To use an actual example of this in AW, my group is composed of people who are friends first and a gaming group second. And we don't really share the same creative agenda. We're a mix of Story Now and Step On Up, in terms of preference and it kills our AW sessions sometimes.

Playing AW with a Step On Up mentality just destroys it, really. There's not really much of a challenge to the game, in those terms. "Solving" situations really comes down to the dice. Tactics and plans are fine, but execution is iffy, so playing that way is unsatifying.

Interestingly, it's not unsatisfying for the Step On Up players. They enjoy AW just as much. But having a Step On Up style of play crash into a few fronts results in ... problems and they're mostly problems for the players that like Story Now style situations.


So yeah, I've got a friend who's similar.  Had a conversation with him last weekend about how he really wants 'tactical combat' in a game, and how if that's not something that happens at least once a session, he feels let down.  He's pretty stoked about playing AW, but I'm not sure how that's going to work out - I get the feeling he's projecting something onto the game that may not be there. Not to say there isn't potential for interesting 'tactical combat' in AW, but it's going to be a rather different thing than say, Shadowrun or D&D3-4, and I mean different in that it actually has a different objective, not in that it has the same objective as combat in those games but gets there in a different way.

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Chris

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Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2010, 04:50:59 PM »
Your friend'll probably end up having a great time. Like I said in the post, the game isn't particularity unsatisfying for Step On Up-oriented gamers. The problem is more for the Story-oriented players who are now hitched to this drag racer.

AW is already designed with a sort of "no status quo" sensibility. Having a seriously goal-oriented player exacerbates that. You push through plot at an unbelievable level and the MC is left with nothing to do but stand on the brakes just so you get drama, which is completely not why I GM. It's left me with a complete sense of just "who gives a fuck" about some individual sessions.

The practical end point here is that you get these big set piece events that have no dramatic build at all. Or the build up is entirely anti-climatic.

A little AP from my game two weeks ago:

A scene:

Dramatis Personæ:(All NPCs)

Rum: A young woman who has seen a lot of bloodshed in her short life. After the Chairman handed over the reigns to the local area's water supply (and the problems that go with it) to her, she decided that she had had enough. The area around her had always had a legacy of death and misery, but she would fix that. She just needed to get everyone and everything under control.

Mustang: A martial man. He had served as part of the Chairman's security force both at a bar and in the Chairman's local government. He was shot in the line of duty and after his Poppy saved his life, he developed a little bit of a thing for her. He's not that happy with a lot of the methods Rum has been using to control the local area, but he has reluctantly agreed that it had to be done.

Fleece: A young woman leading her people away from a terrible disaster. Completely bereft of places to live or things to eat, her and her refugees have been living on the plains for the last few weeks. What's more, a few of them have been showing signs of a sickness, a sickness the local doctor says is very contagious.

So there we are. Fleece's camp of starving, possibly sick, definitely frightened refugees are becoming desperate. Mustang and several beatsticks head down to the camp to see if the rumors of plague are true and possibly instill some kinda order. "Any means necessary," Rum says.

The meeting goes south, as it has to. The armed representatives of those who have are there to control those who haven't. Old story. Fleece is tired of negotiating. She has nothing to negotiate with. They just want some food. Rum has food. Simple equation, in her eyes.

Things get out of control. One of Mustang's men hit a woman in the head with the butt of his rifle. Things are looking bad. We're just not sure yet which side'll get massacred: the small group of men with guns or the huge, angry, unarmed crowd.

Then a guy shows up in a monster truck and runs over some of the crowd, shoots Fleece in the chest and drives off.

The End
« Last Edit: September 15, 2010, 04:54:37 PM by Chris »
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2010, 05:38:40 PM »

Chris:  I'm not sure I understand your example, who are the PC's in that scene and what impact did they have on what happened?

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Chris

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Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2010, 07:52:04 PM »

Chris:  I'm not sure I understand your example, who are the PC's in that scene and what impact did they have on what happened?

Yeah, that's sort of my point. There's a lot more subtext here that's not apparent in the example. Basically, a couple of Fronts came together in a pretty awesome way and I had this situation going where this huge crowd of unarmed refugees was facing off with a small crowd of heavily armed men who didn't really want to be there, but it was their job. Boston Massacre type stuff and both groups had connections to the PCs. Like I was really interested in how the PCs would respond to this. Which side would they come down on and why? What sort of consequences would there be? Etc.

And then one PC dives into the situation and just blows someone away and then exits it.  And it's not just this, it's over and over, exact same pattern. It's exactly Romeo and Juliet if Romeo shot Juliet in the first six minutes simply because she was a Capulet and that was the whole play. Or George shot Lenny the first time Lenny did the slightest thing that was irritating.

I went through 8 Front sheets, like 20 NPCs, and four PCs in four sessions. All PC deaths were essentially other player caused. If there is a problem that needs to be solved and you don't care about morals, then AW is an easy game to "solve".

We've since had a CA talk and moved the game into a new geographic location and had a really great session last Monday.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2011, 05:38:05 PM »

 I had this situation going where this huge crowd of unarmed refugees was facing off with a small crowd of heavily armed men who didn't really want to be there, but it was their job. Boston Massacre type stuff and both groups had connections to the PCs. Like I was really interested in how the PCs would respond to this. Which side would they come down on and why? What sort of consequences would there be? Etc.

And then one PC dives into the situation and just blows someone away and then exits it. 

Hi Chris, so why didnt that truck drivers actions have consequences?  What did the crowd do after that?  I can see the situation where a tense standoff is broken by the reckless actions of one individual and then all hell breaks loose, which would have consequences for the individual if his buddies survived.

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Chris

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Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2011, 02:01:45 PM »
I had this situation going where this huge crowd of unarmed refugees was facing off with a small crowd of heavily armed men who didn't really want to be there, but it was their job. Boston Massacre type stuff and both groups had connections to the PCs. Like I was really interested in how the PCs would respond to this. Which side would they come down on and why? What sort of consequences would there be? Etc.

And then one PC dives into the situation and just blows someone away and then exits it. 

Hi Chris, so why didnt that truck drivers actions have consequences?  What did the crowd do after that?  I can see the situation where a tense standoff is broken by the reckless actions of one individual and then all hell breaks loose, which would have consequences for the individual if his buddies survived.

Oh, there were. But that's what I mean about the issues for OTHER players. We've got this great build-up, we're circling the conflict, and then one PC who is used to the "GM lays out a problem, I solve it" mentality goes RIGHT FOR IT. It makes sense for him to do so, dice-wise. Of course there will be consequences. But again, dice-wise, it's fairly easy to solve those as well. And again, and again, and again.

What you get is a smashed setting. Because the settings tend to be interconnected, in that everyone relies on everyone to survive, whatever community that's been built, whatever triangles that exist are now gone. 

As an MC, you can combat this through building investment, building buy-in. But yeah, there is no status quo, sure, but when it's pushed through TOO fast, the quality of the game drops.

It's Deadwood if Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen killed each other in the first episode, Wild Bill Hickok killed most of the people he played cards with, Sol Starr got killed for being Jewish, and the whole town fell apart from conflict in the first two sessions.

I don't think AW does a good job of promoting the sort of circling of conflict that happens in IAWA. Looking just at the mechanics, a player can win and win and win and win and then look around and there's no town left, no meaningful community. If winning is the mentality they bring into it.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2011, 10:25:03 PM »
So how would you go about stopping a pathalogical character in any game?  I think in-game, someone is going to whack him or he'll end up king of the smoking ruin.

Youre saying the player isnt playing a pathalogical character per se, hes playing with a gamist agenda and thats creating a pathalogical character?

What type of rules could discourage that?

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Chris

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Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2011, 12:54:56 AM »
I'm saying that in games that thrive on creating interesting, untenable situations, the resolution of those situations is much more simple if the character's morality is directed tied into the player's perception of the mechanics. I.E. he knows that mechanically, he can "solve" this situation by removing one or more elements from it like a math equation. And the argument for consequences is reductive; he can do it all the way down until his destruction of the environment and the MC's subsequent consequences are ruining other people's enjoyment.

For some players and GMs, even those looking for dramatic situations to arise out of play, their play style simply needs a set of rules that encourage status quo rather than discourage it. They naturally dissolve status quo and run through situations. It might be pathological, sure, but it's also problem of looking at just the mechanics, not the character. Like the fact that there's no reason to take the Hypnotic move as a Skinner. The Skinner can just as easily sleep with someone and get the Hypnotic move for free; it's the same roll based on the same stat, with more options and no need to waste the character move slot. Except people in the RL don't sleep with everyone they run across. As Baker put it in another thread "That's icky".

As far as what type of rules discourage that? Grittier ones, I suppose, where it's easier to die from that sort of behavior. Maybe Hx for NPCs, to create a larger sense of investment in the NPCs at a mechanical level.

These aren't things I think AW needs. But I think some of the people I play with, ones who look at the mechanics more deeply than I do, would appreciate. More mechanics that effect mechanics, rather than fiction, which looks to be the exact opposite of AW's intent.

A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Re: Tactical Combat vs. Violent Conflict
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2011, 07:36:06 PM »
Sorry to butt in here, but I feel like Chris might be missing something important here.  That part about the 'where are the PCs in this story'?  For AW, they should probably be right up at the top of that Dramatis Personae list.  Your NPCs sound so complex that you had to put a (NPC) tag up on there so the casual observer could tell the difference between PCs and NPCs.  Are you looking at your NPCs through crosshairs?  AW really wants you to make NPCs expendable, with obvious motivations- they follow their parts.  That's mechanics on the MCs end.

You mentioned you built some triangles between PCs and NPCs- were you enough of a fan of Monster Truck that he felt he had a stake in the situation, something to lose if he just started shooting?  AW wants the Dramatis Personae to be the PCs, not the NPCs, specifically because of this tendency to git to the shootin'.  If every NPC comes across as a whiny, complex bundle of emotions that needs to be carefully unpacked in order to have a fun game, there's a distinct kind of gamer that is going to unpack their carefully-designed brain with a full clip of armor-piercing rounds.

The players end up driving a LOT of the action in AW- what was Monster Truck's shtick besides 'shoot everything in sight'?  Was his hard highlighted, session after session?  If Monster Truck's the 'I kill things to take their stuff so I can kill bigger things' type, I'd just highlight his hot and his weird until he figured out that he doesn't get new powerful moves that way, he just gets a big pile of trash to sort out.  It might've been valuable before it got ran over with a monster truck, but now, it's trash.

If the other players weren't cool with pulling the game in two different directions (some players want to have complex conflicts involving multiple factions of NPCs, Monster Truck wants to git to the shootin'), then you might just have an interpersonal problem rather than a mechanics problem.  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to play with a player who insists on having a character with 'no morals'... in any game.  If the other characters weren't cool with it but the players were, why wouldn't the other players roll to interfere until he messed it up real bad, which happens eventually?  Even if this guy is some hot-shit +3 hard grizzled vet, a -2 knocks it down to a +1 pretty quickly.

In short, I feel like there are plenty of mechanics in AW which should have prevented this scene from ever getting to that point.

Orpheus, your problems are a lot easier.  If your buddy wants combat, AW has rules for it.  They're not the pull-out-the-battlemat, shift-some-minis-around-and-argue-about-cover kind of rules, but they cover it pretty well, and if he wants it to happen, oh boy will it happen.  If he likes it, great.  If not, well, thanks for giving it a shot, buddy.  Then you either go back to whatever RPG you all enjoyed playing, you tell your buddy you'll let him know the next time you start up another RPG he likes or is willing to try, or you force him to play AW until he drives a monster truck through your game. ;)