2005-02-05 : Archive 169


Player input mechanics like fan-mail(PtA) and trust(tMW), and the dynamics they create between players.

Providing adversity to yourself and others. Creating a social contract the lets you take the kid gloves off while staying friends.

The former outlines the answer to the latter. Permission and expectation, baby!

Trust in the Mountain Witch, for instance. I say "my character Trusts yours 4." What I mean is "you may inflict 4 worth of grief on my character, if you like." Then I act on my Dark Fate and you act on yours, and that permission becomes expectation: "it wouldn't make any sense for you to not inflict 4 worth of grief on me, now."

(Both helping and betraying are grief. Either propels me toward my Dark Fate, which is grievous. Come to think of it, 0 Trust can too. That game!)

I see Primetime Adventures' Producer's Budget as permission too, not constraint. The whole Fanmail economy depends on me pitching in hard against the PCs. You're depending on me to inflict grief upon your characters, not just socially but mechanically too.

I had a conversation with Paul Czege about this once, about EPICS. When the GM can do anything, the conversation went, everything the GM does feels like cheating. When the GM is under good constraints, she's free to hose your character. To the fullest extent of the law, like.

Universalis does permission and expectation by giving everybody coins for being in a conflict - when I launch a conflict on you, you don't mind, there's coins in it for you too. Universalis doesn't promote the intense personal identification that the Mountain Witch does.

Somebody talk about how My Life with Master creates permission and expectation between the players, too. It's pretty obvious how the rules insist that the GM inflict grief upon the PCs, but what about one player inflicting grief upon another's PC? I'll bet there are some interesting and subtle dynamics at work, there.

1. On 2005-02-05, anon. said:

When the GM can do anything, the conversation went, everything the GM does feels like cheating. When the GM is under good constraints, she's free to hose your character.

That's interesting. I've been pondering recently how to get people out of their comfort zone. Whenever GMs and players have total control, I've seen them being very careful, and there's always an easy way out. Now I've come to the conclusion that I would like to have mechanics that take people out of this zone. The GM can get mechanics that specifically push this, so s/he does not need to justify it or feel bad about it. The players need mechanics that draw them out of the zone as well, make them take risks and put things on the line. After all, tough choices—the core of my favorite type of play—can only exist when they are truly supported, and the easy way out is blocked.


2. On 2005-02-05, xenopulse said:

Ah, yes. Forgot the handle thing.

- Christian


3. On 2005-02-07, Dave Ramsden said:

I would go so far as to say that the reason to have a traditional-style GM in your game is to provide a 'menu' of choices by constraining the situation for the other players. They're a substitute for the part of the game system in, say, Universalis which lets each player contribute to constraining the setting.

In fact, the traditional player-GM structure provides constructive constraint to both of the sides. The PCs know that they have a situation to react to, and the GM knows that he must create a situation which the PCs can react to.


4. On 2005-02-07, Emily Care said:

On the Forge, Jonathan Walton wrote: First of all, Vincent has this thing for making games where rolling the dice becomes the chief method of complicating and driving play. We soon moved beyond using the Otherkind dice rolls for resolution. It became a method of scene framing. Don't know what to do next? Well, you declare your intentions (what you want to accomplish) and come up with two ways that you might be frustrated. You roll, and this gives you a situation that you have to deal with. Interesting.

Interesting? Try stunning. Following up on what Dave wrote, this kind of mechanics use give structure (ie constructive constraint) to the way players can provide adversity to themselves & eachother. It's similar to what Zak did in Shadows, and Clint in Donjon.


5. On 2005-02-07, Ben Lehman said:

[GMs] are a substitute for the part of the game system




P.S. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!


6. On 2005-02-08, Dave Ramsden said:


Dude, I got it from you.

Yours Respectfully,—Dave


7. On 2005-02-28, Emily Care said:

This recent post about a Dogs game brought me back to this issue. In this game, player characters come to gruesome & dramatic ends at the hands of other player characters, and the game came to a screeching end long before the players or gm imagined it could.

And is anyone upset? Mad about their character dying or changing radically? No way. Everyone was fully committed to seeing the conflict out to this end, and all of the characters' concepts were fully realized by what happened—even if they died or betrayed others.

Now what made that possible? My suspicion is that it's because Dogs' resolution mechanics puts players and the gm on equal footing, and encourages them to escalate in ways that are meaningful to what they envisioned for their character.

With the standard gm/player divide, conflict in game is like a black belt sparring a yellow belt. The black belt has to hold back to help the yellow belt stay in the game. In Dogs you make the players black belts too. Everyone can fully commit, and it's suddenly a much more interesting match.