: Shock: and Conflict Creation
Fun game of Shock: last night. My guy was a slavedriver vacuumorph who learned the truth about his artificial slave religion - that it was, in fact, a religion cynically constructed by the true human overseers to keep the vacuumorphs in line - and learned something ambiguous and challenging about God, too. My cold-light-of-morning interpretation of what he learned is: just because your God isn't real, doesn't mean that God isn't. You can probably imagine my shielding-one-eye-from-the-blast reaction when I realized that's what Ben and Joshua had done to me.
Here's a note I wrote to myself on the back of my character sheet (reconstructed from memory): Omniscient conflict creation = it's good whichever way the stakes resolve = no reason to interfere.
As a game designer, you don't want both of a) the conflict is fully satisfying to everyone whichever way it resolves, and b) the game's dynamics depend on the uninvolved players participating mechanically. If we construct the stakes of the conflict so that I like both possible outcomes, I'm not motivated to cast in on one side or the other.
Better to bump the "it's fully satisfying to everyone no matter how it goes" up into the reward cycle, and let losing individual conflicts sometimes really, really suck. That way everyone invests in the conflict and its outcome - including spectators investing mechanically, if that's the way your game works.
I wrote the note when and where I did, reflecting on Shock:'s old resolution rules. Shock:'s new resolution rules confirmed it - confirmed it by, yes, bumping "it's all good" up into the reward cycle and letting conflicts sometimes go way bad, and consequently we all cared hard.
Ben, Joshua, Emily, would you say?
("Bumping 'it's all good' up into the reward cycle and letting conflicts sometimes go way bad," is a direct paraphrase of this thing Ron said, by the way.)
1. On 2006-01-19, Lisa Padol wrote:
Actually, if I'm remembering the rules of PTA correctly, there is a reason in that game to spend fan mail to try to influence the outcome, even if you're good with either result. The high card gets you narration privileges. If you want these, even if you don't care which side wins, you have to invest in the outcome.
Of course, one way of doing this is to spend equal amounts of fan mail on either side. But, that's not necessarily a problem, is it?
Lisa: In fact that very example figured in our discussions last night.
Personally, I see that as a fallback in Primetime Adventures - it's good to have it there in case of some given conflicts. If it were the primary driving force behind the players' fan mail expenditure, though, the game's economy wouldn't hum like it does.
Hm. All the minuti?? expenditure was happening before the repurposing of the PvP rules to general CR? Maybe you're right. Ben's konked out on my couch right now, but when you wake up, Ben, could you remind me if you were throwing in on Vincent's last scene? I think you were.
What the crap is so much more fun about the new rules than the old? Why does the tension go up in a way that it didn't, before? I dunno! I mean, the Antagonist mechanics were designed specifically to reflect the Protagonist. Maybe the issue is that, given the tools in 0.2.1, you couldn't make a plausible character for opposition. Hm. That's something to think about.
Roger, I think you're glossing over the fact that I'm talking especially about the people who aren't playing the protagonist and antagonist. As the player of the PC, I might have a strong preference, but if no one else does, then no one else will bother spending their points for or against me.
Setting up conflicts where all possible outcomes are totally awesome from the audience's point of view may be fine, fun and workable - but not if your game design ALSO depends on the audience spending their points on the side they want to win.
And then on top of THAT, there's the whole issue of bumping "it's all good" up into the reward cycle, which is not at all encapsulated as "conflicts need stakes."
We aren't disagreeing, but you haven't summed up my points, if that's what you're trying to do.
J: "Maybe the issue is that, given the tools in 0.2.1, you couldn't make a plausible character for opposition. Hm. That's something to think about."
Another thing to think about: I'm choosing my stakes and you're choosing yours - with no effort to make them mutually agreeable, only mutually compatible. I don't get to sign off on your "my guy wants to throw yours into space." Instead I get to go "oh crap, I better win."
John: "Vincent, can you talk more about bumping "it's all good" into the reward cycle? How is it part of the reward cycle now?"
Let's start with Ron's words: "Because the larger reward system, whether character improvement or crisis resolution (crisis resolution = Kicker in Sorcerer, town in Dogs) will be 'fed' by smaller-scale resolution, no matter what happens in the, for lack of a better word, 'fights.' To be absolutely clear: what happens in a given scene in Sorcerer is absolutely crucial to the story-in-development, and the dice-wrangling is crucial to what happens in that scene. But failure to strategize the dice well, or a bad bounce from the dice in spite of your strategizing, will not ruin the story-in-development. It will turn out differently, that's for sure, but the overall endeavor is not at risk. Look at the reward cycle at the larger scale and make sure it turns over as you want it to."
In the old Shock:, we created conflicts in such a way that you couldn't fail to strategize the dice well, or poorly, and the dice couldn't give you a bad bounce or a good one - you were guaranteed an agreeable outcome to your every roll. Thus the old Shock: was timid; when you bothered to wrangle the dice, you did it without fear, hope or passion. Mostly you didn't bother.
Allowing disagreeable outcomes at the conflict resolution scale lets the larger reward cycle kick in and do its thing. "Its thing" was there all along, in a design sense, but obscured by, or made superfluous by, the fact that conflict resolution wasn't feeding it anything but all agreeable all the time.
As far as Shock:'s mechanics go specifically, yeah, too nitty-gritty, for me, not for the topic. I hope the more abstract talk made sense, though, and if J wants to talk concrete mechanisms I'm for it.
Yeah, we did. Maybe you forgot to write yours down, but I sure as fuck needed more Features. I was only on my second turn when the shit hit the fan for me and you were approaching your third, so I can see how you might have forgotten.
I can't talk about the mechanics of Shock: in detail right now because I'm not completely certain just how they're related to what we're talking about here, though they clearly are. Also, I'm cleaning up the house.
I can say this little bit, though: the Protagonist in a scene does stuff. The Antagonist does stuff against the Protag player's wishes for the Protag. The other players can chip in from a finite number of resources to bring in circumstance, the details of which have been worked out in play.
The big challenge was, in 0.2.1, the Antag was relatively powerless. The character deliberately had no will; they were just there to highlight the features of the Protag. So the characters were flat. When the Antagonist is flat, the conflicts are flat. But once the Antag Player had resources and motivation (which sie was supposed to have before, but didn't), the players suddenly have an opinion about what the *Tags are doing and start playing the environment to help out the side of the guy they want to win.
So, what I think V. is saying is that either side of the conflict can win (in fact, both sides can win), but the players have opinions about what they want to happen. Not because one side is a stupid thing to happen and the other is good, but because they actually take a stance on what the *Tags are doing.
J: "So, what I think V. is saying is that either side of the conflict can win (in fact, both sides can win), but the players have opinions about what they want to happen. Not because one side is a stupid thing to happen and the other is good, but because they actually take a stance on what the *Tags are doing."
Exactly. Exactly. Another breath-taker-awayer.
Not because one side is a stupid thing to happen, but because the players have opinions about what the characters are doing.
I used an ephemera in your last challenge, to get control of the narration long enough to insert that little Lord's Prayer moment, essentially forcing you as a player to confront the idea that Father might actually believe in God. Whether or not you won the conflict was largely irrelevant, though I did think it would be cooler if you won.
Sort of an aside, but still I need to know as my gaming group was interested in playing SHOCK this week (I have the 0.2.0 version):
What do the antagonists' dice actually do? It's not clear in the version I have.
The version I have has a play example, where it says the Protagonist rolled 2d10, and the antagonist rolleod 3d4, and the result was "1, 4 and 9". I didn't quite get what was going on there. Can anyone summarize briefly in Marginalia for me? Thx.
BTW: As soon as Josh accepts preorders, I'm all over some SHOCK noise.
"As a game designer, you don't want both of a) the conflict is fully satisfying to everyone whichever way it resolves, and b) the game's dynamics depend on the uninvolved players participating mechanically. If we construct the stakes of the conflict so that I like both possible outcomes, I'm not motivated to cast in on one side or the other."
I think I have a game where b) is part of the rules, and a) always emerges in play.
The other players have responsibility for setting some of the consequences in a conflict, then the player of that scene's central character makes the decision. It's always a difficult and meaningful decision, and I've not seen or felt that someone was dissatisfied with the outcome, or felt that one choice would be bogus.
Just an observation: I've been grappling with the issue of how to encourage players to be able to provide challenging adversity that plays into their opponent's character concept & interests in the game. Ben pointed me toward Capes as a great example of a game that does that. In discussion, he pointed out that exactly what it does is to train you (via rewards etc) to find outcomes that make the other players really not happy with them & fight hard to make them not happen. This drives play. Very different from "both sides are okay".
ecb go "Gangbuster saved by little Timmy..."*