Post-Big-Model RPG theory

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2097

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2015, 04:03:35 AM »
Yes, now that you bring it up, I could agree that read a sitch is a good example. Can you give me some more?

The entire idea of finding out the medium of the game -- in Apocalypse World's case, the conversation -- and providing direct interfaces to engage with that medium strikes me as a cool and valuable approach to this problem. So thank you for that.

In other games, that might be the action economy or the SIS or the miniatures or the card tableaus, or multiple media in one game (like in Netrunner which has both an action economy and a spatial/selective component -- which server you're in, and how deep).
« Last Edit: July 21, 2015, 04:10:31 AM by 2097 »

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2097

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2015, 04:27:47 AM »
I'm gonna go abstract to see if that can help me understand this issue better.

In Go, both players' goal is to have their pieces survive on the board and take up a lot of room.

In Gonnect, both players' goal is to have their pieces make a contiguous line from two opposite edges of the board.

Both games otherwise use pretty much the same rules.

What if one player had as a goal to primarily think about making a contiguous line, and the other player had as a goal to survive on the board and take up a lot of room?
Both players would use the same "interface" to the game -- alternating placing stones on the intersections -- and they sometimes engage with each other when sub-goals ("I want to be alive near the root of heaven", "I want to be alive around the north west star" -- yeah, it's a dorky game, I admit it) come into conflict.
But sometimes they would be completely not engaging, completely just being boring and un-there for each other.
"Why are you building up such a strong textile pattern [moyo]? I am over here building a strong line of connections undisturbed. C'mon, engage me!"


However, the conflict would be resolved if the players actively took an interest in the other player's goal.
The "take up a lot of room"-player needs to actively sever or prevent the connecting-players connection. (Usually by making a connection of her own, or a cross-cut.)
The connecting-player needs to actively shrink or prevent the "take up a lot of room"-players growth. (Usually by also growing -- one way to do that is to choke and capture the other persons pieces).

The game would revert back to being functional [albeit with the long back-filling phase of gonnect] by the players being actively aware of and engaged in each others goal and game.


To bring this back to AW -- what are the implicit agendas (agenda in the AW sense, not in the GNS sense) for the players? To make a hot god-damn mess, and clean it up (or die)? To engage with a vivid world? I dunno

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Munin

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2015, 10:52:04 AM »
I think the issue is one of cues, and you'll pardon me if perhaps I use that term in a way that is not the same as it was always used in discussions on The Forge.

If "The Conversation" is the medium through which the game is taking place, then issues like "read a sitch" or "read a person" are cues - when a player says, "Yeah, I want to read this guy" what they are really saying is that they want to interact with this element of the Shared Imaginary Space more closely or directly. If they didn't, they'd say, "Fuck this guy, I leave."

In games like Apocalypse World, the cues go both ways (players to MC, MC to players), and more importantly are both fictional and mechanical. Let's start with mechanical:

7th Sea has a great example of such a mechanical cue - at any time a player can spend points to purchase a "Background," which is some fictional aspect to their character. They can suddenly decide that that NPC they just encountered is their long lost unrequited love. Or is their new nemesis. What they are really saying is, "Hey, GM, I want this to be part of the story." Gaining that background is the result of a commoditized transaction (burn XP) governed by character aspects (you can only have a number of Backgrounds less than or equal to your Panache stat) which confers mechanical advantage (you gain XP any time a session gives you a conflict resulting from your background - a fight with your nemesis, an ill-fated duel to impress your unrequited love, etc). Further, it has an impact on the fiction. Yup, that guy is now your nemesis, and now he is gunning for YOU specifically. As a villain, he's going to keep popping up - because you WANT him to.

In AW, this same mechanical cue activity often occurs at the level of acquiring new moves. When the Savvyhead takes the advance that gives something in his workspace augury, what he's really saying is, "yo, I want this shit to get weird. I want to interact more deeply with the psychic maelstrom, make it a bigger part of the story." This also has an affect on the fiction - now there's this THING that has real POWER. Real, unreliable, potentially dangerous to the people around it POWER.

Similarly, the decision to invoke dice ("I read this guy") is another mechanical cue.

Fictional cues are important as well, but a little harder to pin down. They live in the conversation, but often make themselves felt through the mechanics. So when the player says, "I want to run through the ruined factory all Parkour-like and get around behind Dremmer's guys before they're ready for a fight," the MC looks at that idea as a cue, weighs it against what we know about the Shared Imaginary Space and either says, "Sweet, you jump, leap, spider-walk, and roll your way through all the rusty gantries and soot-covered conveyer belts, ending with a front-flip off the old loading dock and into a position behind Dremmer's dudes," or, "Holy shit, that sounds difficult and dangerous. Roll+Cool!" and they narrate the results of the mechanical roll accordingly.

As such, a fictional cue is typically either a GM saying, "this aspect of the world may mechanically affect future interactions, be advised," or a player asking, "is what I'm doing difficult enough or story-changing enough that it needs to be governed by the mechanics?"

And here's the part where I opine: well-designed games have both fictional and mechanical cues, and those cues affect one another.

AW example: a player describes their long, slow attempt to crawl unseen into an elevated position, slowly and carefully assemble their sniper rifle, and adjust their scope for windage and heat shimmer. This is fictional cue, the player has said something about the world and their position within it. Maybe there has been something mechanical here as well (act under fire to get into position unseen?), maybe not. Either way, When it comes time to take the shot, the MC might look at all this and say, "Yup, that guy is toast. His head explodes like an overripe melon as your round passes through it." This is instead of saying, "Oh, you're trying to inflict harm from a position of safety? That's going aggro so roll+Hard." The fictional position has conferred mechanical advantage - you get to inflict harm without making a roll (i.e. without risking complication or failure).

The problem is one of arbitration; when does the GM say, "yes" and when does he or she say, "roll dice." What fictional things convey mechanical advantage or disadvantage, or how does the mechanical result of a die roll add to the fiction? In terms of game design tools, I think one of the best things you can do is help GMs figure out which is most appropriate in any given situation (i.e. the stellar advice for MCs that die rolls are both prescriptive and descriptive, explaining and giving examples of both).

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2097

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2015, 03:01:45 PM »
Munin, are you saying that one of the answers on how to design tools that help resolve conflicting duties in one of the participants' roles is to implement cues?
y/n

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Munin

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2015, 05:17:31 PM »
Yes and no. What I am saying is that the cues need to have clear delineation of responsibility. There are certain cues that (say) the person responsible for setting the scene might use. There are certain cues that players narrating their character's actions or motivations can use. There are certain cues that whomever is involved with setting the stakes of a conflict can use, and so on.

The important point is that those cues inform the conversation through the mechanics and the fiction. Thus, their interactions are not exclusively "one way."

Example - say you want the game you're designing to use a stake-setting mechanism similar to DiTV, TSoY, Solar System, etc. In other words, everybody knows before the conflict starts just what the stakes are, and what each participant in the conflict stands to gain or lose. Further, say you have a "GM," upon whom the responsibilities of "make the world seem real" and "be a fan of the player-characters" falls. These two responsibilities can sometimes come into conflict - usually because the player wants to do something really unrealistic (i.e. breaking the "real" feeling of the world) but totally bad-ass (something of which I might be a fan). How does the GM balance those responsibilities when setting the stakes of the conflict?

The answer is in the conversation, and specifically in the cues that inform it. By adopting a mechanic that allows the players the ability to escalate a conflict by bringing something new into it in the middle, the stakes change organically - because that thing is now "in play." This is how Dogs in the Vineyard works. Under the hood, what this is doing is communicating that the player is willing to risk more to accomplish his or her character goals, and that the ultimate actions resulting from the conflict might be more important to the table (be a fan) than the setting's verisimilitude (make it seem real).

Alternately, you could avoid the problem completely and go the direct route - when setting the stakes of a conflict, the player initiating the conflict says what he wants. The "rule" (mechanic, cue) for what that player is risking (i.e. the other side of the stakes) is the "best option" as proposed and voted on by the rest of the table. That removes the responsibility from the GM entirely, thus removing their "conflicting" agendas in this case.

Is this making any sense? It seems clear in my mind, but I'm not sure I'm explaining it well.

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Munin

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2015, 05:57:19 PM »
...And upon further reflection, I think part of the problem is that a lot of this stuff is never spelled out explicitly in the game's rules.

For instance, while a 7th Sea player does not need the GM's permission to purchase a new Background, the GM is technically under no obligation to bring that Background into play. If the Background never causes that PC to enter into a conflict, then the player will get no benefit (mechanical advantage) from it.

But everybody just sort of understands implicitly that that's a dick move on the GM's part.

So the cue ("I'm gonna make this guy we just beat up my new Nemesis! He's going to slink away and immediately begin plotting his revenge against me!") isn't mechanically enforced, but there is an implicit understanding that using that cue is essentially the player telling the GM what he wants the story to be about.

As an aside, you could make the cue enforceable - just add a mechanic that says, "if, after three sessions, your Background has not come into play, you get to set the first scene of the next session." Add something in there for order-of-operations to handle cases where this might apply to more than one character at once, and off you go.

When we played 7th Sea, I can tell you that the vast majority of Background purchases were actually the result of a different player's suggestion; "Dude, it would be totally awesome if you fell in love with the renegade Fate Witch." "You know what? That's an awesome idea! I'm totally gonna do that!"

Fictional cues are usually implicit as well. "The interior of the ruin is littered with loose rubble. Broken bricks and concrete, rusty re-bar, splintered and rotten wood, you name it. The footing is treacherous and it's slow-going." What this is communicating to the players is, "Yo, this is a dangerous environment, and any hijinks you attempt here are likely to involve significant risk." And given this cue, no one is surprised when in response to a player saying, "I want to cross the intervening 100m of ruins at a full sprint to grab Jinty before he can hop on and start his motorcycle!" the MC says, "Awesome. Roll+Cool because you're acting under fire."

And the player doesn't say, "Dude, that's bogus; I can sprint that distance in like 11 seconds, and my character doesn't smoke a pack a day!" because everybody implicitly understands that doing so is kind of a dick move on the part of the player.

Similarly, rolling dice to read a person. It says, "I want to know more about this person." If you (as the MC) introduced this character a total throw-away NPC for your players to mow through on their way to the big bad guy, this is your chance to re-think that assumption. Something about this NPC has twigged something in the player, and you should pay attention. You could say, "don't bother, this guy's not important," but I suspect if you did the player would come away vaguely (or perhaps more than vaguely) disappointed. But nothing in the rules makes the MC turn that NPC into an interesting 3-dimensional character.

Hence, the cue is implicit.

A lot of stuff in gaming works this way. And picking up on these implicit cues is something that is a skill in and of itself. I suspect that much of the whole "Good GM, Bad GM" vibe comes down to how well the GM picks up on the players' implicit cues. Along those same lines, I suspect much of the "Good Player, Bad Player" divide comes down to how well the players pick up on the GM's implicit cues.

By making the cues more explicit, you facilitate clearer communication between the GM and players. I think this is one of the things that makes the "how to play this game" sections of Apocalypse World and Dogs in the Vineyard so useful - they explicitly call out some of these cues and give you rules of thumb for how to respond, both fictionally and mechanically. None of the information in there is earth-shattering, but the fact that they were directly stated was something new and different - most other games just gloss over that stuff, assuming it to be part of the "social contract" under which the game functions.

Does that help?
« Last Edit: July 21, 2015, 11:09:13 PM by Munin »

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2097

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2015, 03:04:22 PM »
I think we're talking past each other, Munin. One is misunderstanding the other, or both.

I get what cues are and how they work.
If you're saying that they are an effective tool for resolving conflicting duties in a participant's role, I'm not seeing it (but not counterstating it either -- I just dunno).

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Munin

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2015, 06:05:11 PM »
Ah, OK, sorry, I think I misunderstood where you were going with this.

Query: is the issue really one of resolving conflicting duties in a participant's role, or is it instead one of identifying when and were those conflicts arise? One is predicated on the other.

Better query: can you give me an example of the kind of conflicting duties you're trying to resolve?

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2097

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #23 on: July 23, 2015, 01:50:05 AM »
Resolving.

Examples:

"DM, portray a 'naturalist' world." vs "DM, challenge the players"

"DM, make the player's challenges difficult" vs "DM, make the player's challenges survivable"

"DM, it should be possible to die sometimes" vs "DM, it's not fun we die too much"

"Player, do what your character would do" vs "Player, put your character in dangerous situations"

"Player, stay in actor stance all the time" vs "Player, stay in author stance all the time".

I think this situation came about because the codified object of the game and the means and methods of playing towards that object started to diverge over time and evolve separately.



A game I've often expressed my confusion around in this regard is GURPS which has on the character end has very detailed and fun character construction rules that are in no way related to balance or making a character make sense. Making the PC stay within a certain character point limit is just an added restriction for the sole purpose of being fun, like a LEGO set or a puzzle. Also it has very detailed rules for adjudicating character actions such as jumping, digging etc.

On the GM, NPC side everything is just muddy water. The GM has very little interface to the system and is supposed to create/manipulate the system freely.


Another, more consonant example is Moldvay/Mentzer Basic. "Players, create your characters according to these rules [char gen rules] and portray them according to these goals [xp rules]." "DM, create your dungeons according to these rules [stocking algo] and portray them according to these rules [turn structure, wandering monster table]".
Both types of participant roles have an explicit interface to the system of similar level of complexity (which is part of  why the game has such enduring popularity and works well), but how they can meet or engage with the other role's object is not made explicitly clear (which is why conflicts arise).

AW is similar to Basic in this regard in that the DM has rules for how to portray the world -- the agenda and principles -- but the player-specific object isn't made as explicitly clear ("have your characters carve out a little space of hope and freedom in the filth and violence, and try to hold onto it") and how to engage with that object on the DM side isn't spelled out explicitly either. (As Vincent pointed out, a discourse about that engagement is implicit in certain moves, with Read a Sitch as a great example -- and Munin has pointed out cues as a more general way to subtly conduct such a discourse.)

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lumpley

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2015, 09:54:06 AM »
2097: Right on! I'm with you. I think I know the problem you mean.

I think that the problem is hard. And worse, I think that the problem is so, like, contingent that it resists every instrument we have, except for a whole game.

What I mean is, I think that the problem you're describing is the problem of game design. Every game has to tackle it on its own terms, and every game is its own attempt to solve it. You can learn from other games by example, but you can't really duplicate their solutions. You always have to find your own, for every game you create.

edited to add: I hope this is liberating! I don't know the answer any better than you do. There are no best practices, just practice, practice, practice. I have to struggle to design my games same as everyone.

-Vincent
« Last Edit: July 23, 2015, 10:55:03 AM by lumpley »

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Munin

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2015, 11:05:55 AM »
Hmmm, OK. While in some sense these are "conflicting" responsibilities, I think virtually all of these examples are cases of degree, and what I mean here is that in the ideal case, the player can satisfy both constraints simultaneously.

And in some sense I contend that this is still a case of identification. It is a tautology to say, "these two duties are potentially in conflict." What is much more difficult is to say, "these two duties are in conflict right now." Only then can you move on to "So how do we resolve it?"

Let's take one of your examples:
Quote
"DM, make the player's challenges difficult" vs "DM, make the player's challenges survivable"

First off, while the term "survivable" is pretty straight-forward, the term "difficult" is pretty loaded. What constitutes "difficult?" Should the player's character be somehow "damaged" or "diminished" (in resources or what have you)? Is that the metric we're using? Or is it something fictionally related (i.e. it takes a lot of fictional maneuvering, with the real-world resource spent being a player's time)? By extension, how do we identify when a challenge is "too difficult" or "too easy"? And once we've identified what metric we're using, what unit of the metric constitutes "difficult?" Half dead? Mostly dead? Financially inconvenienced? Impoverished?

Aside and complication - if we're using dice (or any other element of randomness) to resolve situations in-game, the DM may not actually control these things at all. He or she can slant things one way or the other, but if you consistently roll for crap, even an "easy" encounter might leave your character grievously injured.

So, the heart of the issue is one of determining when the issue is really an issue. How do the players signal to the DM, "This is too hard," or "this is too easy," or "I don't even want to attempt this because I'm pretty certain my character will die trying." In a very real sense, this is an issue of cueing at work, because that's what's really going on - the players and/or DM need to somehow convey the message that something is an appropriate level of difficulty.

Most traditional ("old school") games do this implicitly. If you don't make challenges survivable and the players' characters keep dying, eventually you'll end up with no players. Similarly, if the challenges are too easy, the players are left with no real sense of accomplishment, and they'll drift away from the game out of boredom.

So how do we make these cues explicit? How do we structure the rules such that the DM can ratchet up the difficulty but that the PCs have an out of things go pear-shaped?

Dogs in the Vineyard has a great mechanic for this - escalation. When an in-game conflict starts, maybe there's not too much at stake. Some harsh words, maybe a little pushing and shoving. But it gives both the player and the GM the chance to stake increasing amounts of resources (through the fallout mechanic) on the conflict depending on how important something is to their character. Similarly, The Shadow of Yesterday's "Bringing Down the Pain" mechanic serves a similar role; it is a clear signal that simple failure is not acceptable, and the character is willing to stake more on the conflict. As an aside, it's also a great cue that the player is more fictionally invested in something, because it is also a way to go from high-level conflict resolution into "bullet time" where things are resolved more blow-by-blow.

One of the important facets of both mechanics is that they allow players an "out." At any point, if the stakes become too high, the player can "give," accepting some consequence (be it fictional or mechanical) that represents some sort of loss of character resources (be they fictional or mechanical). This too is a cue: "I deem this as too difficult, so I'm going to stop before I die or lose more than I think the gain is worth."

Another important facet here is one of open and clear communication about the Shared Imaginary Space. If the GM isn't clearly communicating what's going on, the difficulty of a task is not necessarily apparent up-front:
Player: "Hrm, I completely whiffed my defense roll. I guess the troll knocks me down, yeah?"
GM: "Yes. Take 10D20 damage from the lava."
Player: "Wait, what?"
GM: "Oh, did I forget to mention that this bridge lacks rails and crosses a fast-flowing stream of molten rock?"

So the answer to your question ("what tools can help resolve these conflicting duties") starts with a mechanism which allows the players to indicate to each other when something is a problem. Then, once the problem has been identified, gives them a way to reach a compromise.

Alternately, you could split the responsibilities (e.g. by commoditizing difficulty as one possible method). In other words, the player gets to decide how difficult something is:
Player1: "I want to cross the lava stream, but I'm only rolling a d4."
GM: "OK, but with a d4, you're not going to get anything else other than a simple cross/no cross result."
Player1: "Yeah, that's cool. I don't care about gaining any advantage here."
Player2: "I want to cross the lava stream, but I'm gonna throw a d10. It's important to me to be able to disrupt the evil priests' ritual before something worse gets summoned, so I feel like I need an advantage when I get to the other side."
GM: "You mean 'if' you get to the other side. A d10 is going to expose you to a critical hit if you fail badly enough."
Player2: "Psssh. Whatever. Fortune favors the bold. Let's do this!"

The result of Player2's roll then might result in a couple of "Drama Points" that can be used somehow, either to add to a future roll, improve his or her character, take control of narration, introduce a fact about some element of the setting or an NPC, or whatever. In terms of character improvement, this is how Dungeon World works - in order for you rack up Experience Points, you need to attempt stuff you're likely to fail at, so the decision of how "difficult" to make something is often up to the player rather than the DM.

Another commoditization method is to incentivize certain behaviors a la FATE. The GM has a limited (albeit large initially) pool of Fate Points. 7th Sea did the same with Drama Dice. Sure, the GM could go whole-hog, drop them all, and make any given test virtually impossible. But doing so shifts those Fate Points into the hands of the players, who will in turn use them to make later tests much easier/more consequential, and so on. Doing this will both a) allow the players and GM to balance the difficulty between them and b) give players and GM clear ways to give fictional "weight" to in-game conflicts; if you're dropping a lot of Fate Points on a particular conflict, it's because the outcome is important to you - which is both and explicit and implicit cue to everyone else at the table.

Vincent's last post is a good one because he's spot-on - every game is going to tackle this differently because every game's underlying principles and mechanics are going to lead to different degrees of conflicting duties in different places. There's no magic bullet.

That said, I think showing people up-front where the conflicting duties might arise in your game is worth doing. Telling someone straight-away, "hey, you have to balance these three things" at least makes them cognizant of the challenges they'll face in fulfilling their role. "Make the world seem real" and "Make the characters' lives not boring" might very well be in conflict - but being told up front that you have to do both at least gets you thinking about it.

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lumpley

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2015, 12:12:04 PM »
2097: But you also had a question about Apocalypse World, right?

The explicit agenda for the players is: your job is to play your character as a human being. My thinking is that that's enough to get the good things you mention, about trying to carve something out, or trying to make a mess, or engaging with the world, to happen.

Does that make sense?

-Vincent

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2097

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #27 on: July 23, 2015, 02:09:16 PM »
Game design:
Yeah, it's liberating because it's like a whole open field where we can try things out and learn and experiment. Design space is wide open.

On the other hand, I just gotta believe that some best practices -- or even awareness -- about this issue will be invented in the future. Maybe by me (Sandra -- the best!) or one of you guys.



Apocalypse World:
As you might know I'm always the hardholder, it's my favorite class by far, and so far they haven't been very human (when they have power). When they are powerless the humanity comes out.
I know that's not what you meant maybe.
Just a random "let me tell you about my character" blurting out. :p
They usually start out as these really weird charicatures and only after time they become human -- often in spite of me fighting it tooth and nail.

Munin:
Putting a lot of energy into identifing a specific instance of duty collision and providing a "patch" on that (like post-hoc "Save your ass"-points) can sometimes be futile and remove the nerve, the tension of the game.

Vincent is, if I've got it right, suggesting a general method of identifying not only a specific instance of collision, not even a whole type of collisions, but collisions in general, in play, via (for example) built-in troubleshooting that still keeps the game exciting and motivating. Acknowledging the conversation, and conversational techniques (asking questions, facilitating new perspectives in dialogue), as the primary interface and mediator and medium itself. Sorry to put words in your mouth if I haven't gotten it right, Vincent, I'm kinda groggy right now.

While I'm day-dreaming about doing the same already at the design stage.
So far without success :p


So we're talking about three sorta different takes on the same problem, I dunno.

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Munin

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Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #28 on: July 23, 2015, 03:42:10 PM »
Putting a lot of energy into identifing a specific instance of duty collision and providing a "patch" on that (like post-hoc "Save your ass"-points) can sometimes be futile and remove the nerve, the tension of the game.
I actually agree, but I think it's because as I've gotten older and have more demands on my time, my tolerance for "crunch" has drastically reduced. I like games that let me get to the stuff I care about (an interesting story about compelling characters) without wasting my time on learning rules or mechanics that don't add to those things. But I recognize that that is a personal preference, and further that it is different from my previous preferences.

But this idea that there are "tools" for troubleshooting gaming is a little circuitous. If the game is a conversation, then the "tools" that you use for making the game better are the same tools you use for making any conversation better: asking questions (and actually listening to the replies), facilitating new perspectives in dialogue, etc. But there is nothing mysterious about this as an aspect of game design.

Further, it has always been this way. That guy that always talks over you? You don't like having a conversation with that guy. That GM who never lets you do what you want your character to do? You don't like gaming with that guy. And for exactly the same reason - the conversation is one-sided.

In their most reductive states, any bit of player advice usually reduces to a) give people a reason to want to participate and b) don't be a jerk. This is as true for RPGs as it is for Parcheesi as it is for managing your work-place as it is for being a good spouse.

What Vincent did in Apocalypse World is to remind us how to have a polite conversation, i.e. how not to be a jerk.

What more structured rules that explicitly address these role conflicts do for us is give us Robert's Rules of Order - a shared mechanism through which we can all get to what we want (or at least what we can accept) without devolving into being a bunch of jerks.

Of course that doesn't explain the US Senate, but I digress...

Re: Post-Big-Model RPG theory
« Reply #29 on: July 23, 2015, 05:56:56 PM »
I agree with this.  I was considering "Don't be a jerk" as one of the points on the MC Agenda for a homebrew hack.