2005-02-11 : Archive 174


The division of authority, and new ways to spread it around (cf. GOG, Universalis).

It happens that our very own Emily is writing an essay on this topic, so I'm going to not answer. When she publishes, we can read and discuss!


I'd like to see you discuss task resolution vs. conflict resolution (a la here) in the context of GNS.

Narrativism depends on Conflict Resolution. I'm pretty sure that Gamism does too. Polemical (theme-upfront) Simulationism might even depend on Task Resolution; it does if the theme depends on the characters' accomplishments. Meaningless (no-theme) Simulationism works fine with Task Resolution, but probably requires protection from our human story-monkey impulses to work with Conflict Resolution.

Here's why: Narrativism depends on the players collaborating on important matters, the outcomes of the PCs' actions being an important matter. Task Resolution puts the outcomes of the PCs' actions into one player's hands, thus the players can't collaborate on it.

Gamism, the same, probably. What if the banker got to decide how many spaces your roll of the dice "really" lets you move?

In theme-upfront Simulationism, Task Resolution works so well precisely because it puts the stuff that determines theme in one person's hands. Otherwise, messy outcomes might screw up the game's predetermined meaning.

In no-theme Simulationism, there's no difference in principle between one person choosing outcomes and no single person choosing outcomes - except that, empowered to contribute, our impulse to contribute theme is hard to deny. This is a big complaint that experienced roleplayers have about newbies, in fact! Newbies have to learn how to be "good roleplayers," when good roleplaying is defined as functional meaningless play.

For more, especially my argument that only Conflict Resolution allows real collaboration, read the (newly restored) discussion in Description, Prescription.

1. On 2005-02-14, Keith, Goat Master said:

Vincent:Here's why: Narrativism depends on the players collaborating on important matters, the outcomes of the PCs' actions being an important matter. Task Resolution puts the outcomes of the PCs' actions into one player's hands, thus the players can't collaborate on it.

I don't know if I can entirely agree with this. Why does every decision in a Narrativist game require collaboration? Couldn't it function just as well with personal decisions combined with group decisions? Could not a game have Task resoltion and still be narrativist?


2. On 2005-02-14, Eric Finley said:

Personally I have to step up and say that I think Task Resolution is being a bit maligned here; this is too facile for me.

There ain't no reason why the GM in a Task Resolution system shouldn't have constraints on his selection of which Tasks it's OK to invoke. Same thing as the GM in a Conflict Resolution game having constraints on which conflicts it's OK to invoke. Dogs GM (or, indeed, any player): "Br. Mathos pulls out a nuke. Does he blow you all to kingdom come? Say yes or roll dice!" No. Not okay.

GM in a (bad) Task Resolution system: "Okay, now roll again to sneak past the seventeenth enemy guard..." Same thing. Not okay. More common, alas; I think it's harder to legislate/social contract against poor selection of Tasks than the same thing against poor Conflict choices.

May be that the world has never seen a Task Resolution system which handles collaboration "properly". Again, possibly this is just 'cause it's harder.

Um... okay, example. Robot game - 'real' industrial robots, the kind which are designed to do only one or two things over and over. Skills in this game are brutally, brutally constrained. If it's not on your character sheet, you can't do it, period; your programming does not permit it, you have neither the appendages nor the software drivers to allow physical inventiveness. The effects of those actions are likewise clear (generally a binary yes/no result with both halves predefined). Metagame resource of your choice lets us do group world-building to give these guys an interesting playground... maybe a PTA-esque thing with nifty scene framing and screen-time tricks. Rules to tell us how much Task resolution is needed to address any one spur-of-the-brain Conflict.

Dogs: Conflict is explicitly set, tasks within that are contributed freely ("collaboration").Robot Game Above: Tasks are explicitly set; conflicts surrounding those are contributed freely.

I see no reason why that robot game couldn't be a Nar build. Those constrained Tasks suggest Sim, sure, but it would depend on what else you packaged it into.

Flip side, by giving precise control of which Conflicts are permissible, a Participationist GM running theme-upfront Sim could still make use of Conflict Resolution to do it. Classic Task Resolution, with Conflict emergent, would do this by controlling the number of rolls etc. to achieve the right Conflict outcome regardless of the Task results. But that's an artifact of control, not resolution method. Explicit Conflict control could put the same power into the GM's hands, allowing the same game in essence.

Feels to me like you're making almost the same mistake you condemn, conflating scope with the Task/Conflict distinction, Vincent. You're talking about the question "Who decides which (Tasks/Conflicts) we resolve, and what they mean?" which isn't the same thing as "Do we resolve by Task or by Conflict?" at all.

Which is not to say that the freedom to choose your Tasks, within a Conflict Resolution scheme - Dogs' solution - doesn't appear to be one of the most elegant pairings to promote collaboration. But that's different.


3. On 2005-02-15, Emily Care said:

Vincent, do you mean the Narr et al depends on conflict resolution being collaborative?

Keith wrote:Why does every decision in a Narrativist game require collaboration?Narrativism requires (by definition) player input into addressing theme. Story Now by everybody is Narr, Story Now by GM is front-loaded theme, which I think V refers to as theme-upfront Sim.

It's collaboration as opposed to gm fiat, not individual decisions vs group decisions. As long as everyone has the same ability (vis a vis the rules) to contribute, then it's collaborative. That doesn't mean everyone will have say in every single decision that is made, just that the authority to make a given kind of contrbution is balanced between the participants.

Frex, in Dogs' conflic res the GM and players are on the same level. Everybody has the exact same access to narration of events, with dice apportioning their relative ability in a given exchange.

Eric wrote:Flip side, by giving precise control of which Conflicts are permissible, a Participationist GM running theme-upfront Sim could still make use of Conflict Resolution to do it.So if the player has little input into what's at stake, it's not collab. Same if they have little/no input on outcome.

Question is then, is confl. res collab by nature or by how parameters are set?


4. On 2005-02-15, Vincent said:

Eric: The problem isn't whether you resolve tasks. Dogs certainly includes task resolution; each Raise and See is Task Resolution. The problem is leaving the stakes unresolved.

"[Robot game]...Rules to tell us how much Task resolution is needed to address any one spur-of-the-brain Conflict."

Right! You've just made Conflict Resolution. The key distinction isn't how you handle the tasks, it's how you handle the stakes, the reasons why you're having your character do the tasks in the first place.

Emily: I don't think Conflict Resolution is automatically collaborative; you can railroad Conflict Resolution rules too if you want to. But to make Task Resolution collaborative you have to find a way - and have the discipline - to treat it as though it were Conflict Resolution.


5. On 2005-02-15, Eric Finley said:

Not quite how I'd make the distinction, I guess. Dogs includes Tasks, yes; but it's not particularly "resolution" because it skips IIEE, you assert it and make the Raise and it's so.

Whereas for the Robot Game I see your point, but that sentence you quote was a late inclusion. Redo example without that sentence; it still works, poss. even better. The point is that the Conflict is strictly emergent, not addressed directly... which is the definition of Task Resolution.

I guess it sounds to me like you're including "poor discipline and scattered" as part of the definition of Task Resolution. Defining how many Tasks belong in one Conflict is something that has to happen in either version of resolution... and I just don't see how it's necessary that in Task resolution this decision occur strictly by GM fiat, which appears to be your point here.

"I use my arc-welder on the widget." "Why?" "To sabotage the new model." Robot game, Task res. The players are not saying, "I want to sabotage the new model." "How?" "I arc-weld the widget."


6. On 2005-02-15, Vincent said:

Eric: "I use my arc-welder on the widget." "Why?" "To sabotage the new model." Robot game, Task res.

The dice say: success! The GM says: "you successfully arc-weld, but the new model remains non-sabotaged."

If the rules allow the GM to say this, it's Task Resolution. That's the definition. If the rules don't allow the GM to say this, but instead insist that the GM say "you successfully arc-weld, sabotaging the new model," then it's Conflict Resolution.

What if the rules allow the GM to say "success, but you still don't get what you want!" but the GM never says it? That's the GM having the discipline to treat the Task Resolution rules as though they were Conflict Resolution. That's the group building social Conflict Resolution rules on top of the mechanical Task Resolution rules. (And that's good and cool for Narrativist play but unacceptable for Narrativist design.)

(Raising and Seeing in Dogs is exactly IIEE.)


7. On 2005-02-15, Vincent said:

Maybe this will help - stating the stakes up front isn't part of the definition. The stakes can be fully unspoken throughout the process. Conflict Resolution rules are easier to design if they demand explicit stakes, but Conflict Resolution in play requires no such thing.


8. On 2005-02-15, Ninja Hunter J said:

I'm happy to say that I've been right there with Vincent the entire time, right up to the end, where he said 'Conflict Resolution in play requires no such thing.'

How can you possibly have conflict resolultion if you don't know the parameters of the conflict?


9. On 2005-02-15, Vincent said:

Easy! I said you don't have to state the stakes out loud, not that you don't have to know what they are.


10. On 2005-02-15, Emily Care said:

Examples, please.


11. On 2005-02-15, Vincent said:

Examples of knowing what the stakes are but not saying them out loud?

Well, remember at Volucris when Severin asked Soraya to hear him out before taking him up into the griffin's presence? What was at stake just then? Something like "what's at stake is: do Severin and Soraya come to an understanding based on trust, or does Soraya refuse to trust Severin except under supernatural constraints?" We didn't say that out loud, but I bet we both knew it.

All that said: saying things out loud is, of course, the more reliable way to know things as a group.


12. On 2005-02-15, Eric Finley said:

Mmph. I think I still have problems with that definition. You can resolve by-Task without giving that kind of discretion to the GM; your basic thinking can still be "what specific act am I performing?" rather than "what objective am I working toward?"

"I use the arc welder on the widget." "Why?" "To sabotage the new model." The dice say: success! The rules say:

"Sabotage, Destruction, Disruption: The third successful use of any Type A skill for this function lets the player choose someone to narrate. That narrator then describes the effect of the successful actions, advised (non-bindingly) by tabletalk. That effect must result in a complete sabotage/destruction/disruption of the target. 'Complete' means that the conflict is over; whatever outcome is chosen (narrator has full discretion, so long as it's consistent with the actions rolled), it must satisfy the player that he has done all he can - and all he must - in this situation. Player may challenge incompleteness by mechanism X."

It's kind of a baroque example at this point, which is certainly due to the fact that "GM decides" is clearly the simplest way to answer the question of how conflict conclusions emerge from a Task Resolution mechanic. Vincent's point is that this method sucks for collaboration. I say fine; but that I still don't think it's the only way to get emergent Conflict behaviour out of Task-scale system. And it's only this one, flawed, subset of Task Resolution which is addressed in Vincent's post at the top.


13. On 2005-02-15, Vincent said:

Eric: You can resolve by-Task without giving that kind of discretion to the GM; your basic thinking can still be "what specific act am I performing?" rather than "what objective am I working toward?"

You can resolve by task without giving that kind of discretion to the GM, provided that you resolve by task within Conflict Resolution rules. Your basic thinking can absolutely still be "what specific act am I performing?" rather than "what objective am I working toward?" even though it's Conflict Resolution.

If conflict conclusions emerge from a Task Resolution mechanic by any process other than "GM [or other named player] decides," your Task Resolution mechanic is part of a set of Conflict Resolution rules, with the Conflict Resolution rules being defined by the non-"GM decides" process.

Eric, you're presenting an alternate definition and then arguing that, by your definition, my argument doesn't hold.

No surprise! Of course changing the definitions would screw up my argument!


14. On 2005-02-16, Ninja Hunter J said:

Can I paraphrase here? Cuz I want to get what both of you are saying, and I think I do, but who knows?

Conflict resolution is this process:

1: Declare (or telepathically grok) Stakes2: Resolve what the cost of conflicting over those Stakes is3: Determine the loss or gain of the Stakes



15. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

Yes, if we understand point 1's "telepathically grok" to include regular day-to-day unspoken communication, with point 2 being optional, and adding to point 3 "by some process other than one person's fiat."

Uh... Maybe I'll just restate. Conflict Resolution=1: Come to consensus over Stakes, verbally or non-verbally;2: Determine the loss or gain of the Stakes, by some process other than one person's fiat.

Furthermore steps 1 and 2 can happen in any order or all intermingled with one another, although 1 first, then 2 is probably the most convenient to manage.


16. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

Oh lord, am I going to have to point out that even though Dogs has something called "stakes," Fallout is part of the true stakes in Dogs' Conflict Resolution? I hope I'm not. If I'm not, please ignore this note.


17. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:

Snark. Vincent, your blog appears to reject comments when posted simultaneously - the note above bounced my reply.

Reiterated, it reads:

'Kay then. I buy all that. I submit that the two haven't ever been formally defined before, that I've seen, and thus people will have been running off the intuitive definitions... and the ones my intuition supplies are not the same as the ones you specify here. The distinction is, however, so damn picky that it's not worth doing anything more with it than archiving this thread as a reference.

In which case I'm in full agreement with the originating post and its dissection. I do think that a well-written game could do theme-upfront Sim, with Conflict Res., and "protect from story-monkey impulses" in a manner which would be smooth and invisible to the end user - which would make it "done" as well as any game does anything. But I don't think it's yet been written, so... full agreement.


18. On 2005-02-16, Ben Lehman said:

I submit that "Task Resolution" and "Conflict Resolution" suck as terms. I propose "Resolution mechanics with stakes" and "resolution mechanics without any stakes a'tall."


19. On 2005-02-16, Ninja Hunter J said:

Fallout can be part of the stakes, sure. That's up to the player and hir vision of the character. In two notable cases, I wanted that fallout to add up. In other cases, I might not. In any case, it's the option of the player if they want to put fallout up as intermediate stakes. Given a crappy roll, sHe might opt to inflict fallout with the few decent dice, then give, then follow up.


20. On 2005-02-16, Matt said:

Here's a Q. If the stakes in a conflict are not vocalized, what keeps the GM or whoever it is that narrates from saying whatever he or she wants? Take V's examples way up above about Severin and Soraya. I don't know what's going on dice-wise or otherwise, but surely something is making sure that what Vincent says is kosher.

Compare that with "I try to knock down the orc." If I succeed, and you say otherwise, you've violated the stakes.

But if I say, as in the S&S example, "I want the other person to hear me out first," it sounds like that's not really what's at stake. How can we be sure that I'll be happy with the narrator without saying, "hey, that wasn't what I wanted?"


21. On 2005-02-16, Matt Snyder said:

Far out. I really dig this post. Vincent, I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on Gamism and its need for conflict resolution. You say you're pretty sure it's required. Can you elaborate? Can you get us both in to the "We're 100% sure" camp? I'm there, 100% as it relates to Narrativism. I just want to think about it a bit more on Gamism.


22. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:

Ben's comment brings me back to the 'anatomy of conflict' stuff. One way you could rephrase Vincent's comments about collaboration, without using the Task/Conflict terms, would be like this:

The Stakes are an important element of any conflict. In order to allow players to collaborate on the framework, you need them to be clear from the start. Otherwise the only person who can truly contribute is the one who has the Stakes secretly thought out, usually the GM; everyone else is working in the dark.

If having one person control the conflict is necessary - which I submit makes it effectively a cutscene with player-contributed Colour - then fine, this will work. If having group control of the conflict is necessary, then Stakes management is required.

I don't think Stakes are the only chunk of conflict for which this sort of thing is true.

Uncertainty, Price, possibly others... are just as important. And I betcha the same structure applies. "If this element isn't on the table, then the people around the table are playing in the dark."

Calling Fallout 'stakes' doesn't work for me, I call it 'price' which is not the same, but I'll take that discussion elsewhere in a minute. Expect a x-ref link sometime today.


23. On 2005-02-16, Dave Ramsden said:

It seems to me that Gamism sans Conflict Resolution is, essentially, either empty or a gambling game without bets.

If I want to do the whole Step On Up thing, then there has to be a concrete goal within the SIS. (I think I once defined Gamism as 'the desire to achieve a certain state of the SIS'). Right there, that's the stakes. No one says that the conflict has to have Deep And Personal Meaning, but there's got to be a goal.

Do you defeat the horde of orcs that are trying to kill you? Stakes. Can you make it through the Tomb of Horrors and get the treasure? Stakes.

If you don't have stakes, then there's no challenge _within the SIS_, only outside of it. Conflict Resolution is what happens when you have context for your individual tasks. There's no Gamism in 'Roll a d20, if you get a 5 or higher you hit the orc'. That's Task Resolution, and it is explicitly separate from any kind of context in the SIS. There _is_ Gamism in 'How can you best leverage your abilities to take out that orc?' And THAT is Conflict Resolution.

The difference is that in most traditionally Gamist games (say, D&D), the Conflict you're resolving is usually understood by group consensus, and the Conflict Resolution gets broken down into a lot of different die rolls to resolve individual tasks and a lot of on-the-fly changing of the stakes. In fact, I posit that that's why such games often aren't very good at doing anything other than tactical combat - because with tactical combat, the stakes are often evident enough that they don't have to have an explicit statement made about them. I make sense?


24. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:

Yes, crystal. Exactly my thoughts on it.

And for anyone interested in the thread split I mentioned above, fork that discussion to here.


25. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

J, Eric, on Fallout: no no no. Fallout is definitely part of the true stakes. It's only confusing because Dogs calls a fraction of the true stakes "stakes," and another fraction of the true stakes "fallout."

Yes, this means that in Dogs' Conflict Resolution, part of the stakes is explicit before resolution, but part doesn't become explicit until resolution's over.

Matt S.: when people ask me about Gamism I just flounder. My big thought is just what I said, about the banker getting to decide how many spaces you get to move. You and Dave should please continue the conversation; I'll watch and learn.

Matt W.: If the stakes in a conflict are not vocalized, what keeps the GM or whoever it is that narrates from saying whatever he or she wants?

Well, I mean, in that situation, we agreed what the stakes were without having vocalized 'em. It was just, y'know, obvious. If it hadn't been, then you're absolutely right.

I fully endorse saying things out loud as a way to be sure that everyone knows them. As methods go, it's a very, very, very good one.


26. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

Hey, Eric? Good blog.


27. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:

We may have to agree to disagree. "Do I convince Sister Beth to rejoin the Faith?" is simply a different kind of beast than "...but it turns out I succeed only by her guilt at my death."

Staying alive wasn't part of the stakes in this conflict. As a player, I certainly thought it'd be nice, but was willing to accept a form of success which cost me my life.

The things you sacrifice to achieve your goals are not merely goals you failed to achieve.


28. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:



29. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

"Staying alive wasn't part of the stakes in this conflict."

Well, no, clearly it was, or you wouldn't be dead now. We knew that it might come to that, going into the conflict; we knew that the game's Fallout and Escalation rules could take us there. How was it not always at stake?


30. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:

Because its presence as a conceivable outcome did not, by itself, initiate Conflict. Lots of things can kill you. Only Stakes can make us roll dice.


31. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

"Because its presence as a conceivable outcome did not, by itself, initiate Conflict."

Zoink! Okay. That sounds extremely reasonable.

"Zoink" is the noise my brain makes when people say things like that to me.


32. On 2005-02-16, Dave Ramsden said:

Huh. That's neat, but I don't think that's all of it.

What's 'stakes' mean? There's a question that needs to be answered, but sometimes that question changes on the fly based on the ongoing conflict.

"Does Sister Beth return to the Faith" is a statement of the overarching conflict, but there's also something going on with "Can I talk Sister Beth into returning to the Faith?" turning into "Can my example bring Sister Beth back into the Faith?" into "Can my death bring Sister Beth back to the Faith?". I'm not sure what it is, but I think the 'price' you're talking about can be seen in the differences between those questions.

Sadly, I'm not sure where the lines between Stakes, Goal, and Price are.


33. On 2005-02-16, Matt Snyder said:

Dave Ramsden, that's good stuff regarding Gamism. I dig what you're saying. I don't have much to offer in reply, just yet anyway. I'm tinkering with some fun stuff lately, and I'm trying to address these issues related to Gamism. I'll have to leave it at that for now. Thanks!


34. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

The "stakes" is the matter over which we have a conflict of interest to begin with. The "goal" is, I think, just to win the stakes. The "price" is undecided upfront, it's what the winning or the losing of the stakes causes, tangential to the winning or losing, and you're right that it can be clearly seen in your series: "Can I talk Sister Beth into returning to the Faith?" "Can my example bring Sister Beth back into the Faith?" "Can my death bring Sister Beth back to the Faith?"

I think we need to add "consequences" to the list. In Dogs, this is the follow-up conflict.


35. On 2005-02-16, Eric Finley said:

Note that the syntactical distinction between the original "Sister Beth" stakes and the derivatives isn't trivial. It is, in fact, the same thing as the Stakes/Price distinction.

Here's another way of looking at it. When you begin a conflict, you have known Stakes and a huge amount of uncertainty. As the conflict progresses, the uncertainty decreases but Price(s) accumulate. Eventually the uncertainty reaches zero - we resolve - and Prices peak at wherever they currently sit.

So the various steps of your "Sister Beth" progression are just stages along this road. The first one, without any qualifiers, has a ton of "I dunno" attached. As the conflict evolves and the stakes 'shift', the uncertainty about how the conflict will turn out is decreased in our heads, and we can reflect this through newly precise restatements of the Stakes.

I'm tempted to contend that Stakes never change during a conflict. If the actual core issue over which the conflict of interest exists is changed, then we're talking a different conflict. If the core issue doesn't change (but we're apparently rephrasing the Stakes) then really we're just moving some information around on the IIEE slope, marking some stuff as known-now and other stuff still-TBD. This would imply that the Stakes is the "thing behind" the phrasing, rather than the phrasing itself; the actual Stakes is "Sister Beth's possible return to the Faith" and everything else is added detail. Defined that way, I say that the Stakes never change without closing one conflict and starting a different one.

As for "consequences" I'm hesitant; Vincent, go on, say more.


36. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

So we have Price, which is the consequences of the events inside the conflict of interest. We also have the consequences of resolving the stakes beyond the stakes' resolution. It may be that something immediate and significant comes of Sister Beth's revival, changing the existing situation beyond the mere fact.

In Dogs, this new thing might be a) nothing, b) undisputed, or c) the stakes of a new conflict.

Similar to the way that some prices might be (in Dogs, "do you die of your injuries?").


37. On 2005-02-16, Eric said:

Yeeessss... but how is that a characteristic of the Sister Beth conflict? Seems like the choice of whether a conflict rolls into other conflicts is a meta-conflict thing. It has to do with decisions of how one generates conflict (followup or otherwise) to begin with.


38. On 2005-02-16, Vincent said:

So pretend there's not going to be a follow-up conflict.

Sister Beth comes home to the Faith. Consequently, she leaves her illicit lover and he murders her in a rage.

Pretend that, the moment the conflict was won, it came to us all in a blinding, undeniable flash of truth that this is what would happen. Nobody thought that far ahead but now it's clear. One of us says it out loud and nobody but nobody thinks there should be a conflict.

Now, we can't consider it price, because it didn't follow from the events of the conflict, but rather from the conflict's full resolution. What do you call things like this? They happen all the time. I think we should call them consequences, and I think we should make room for them in our inventory of conflict.

The fact, then, that the consequences of one conflict can become the stakes of the next is a feature. It shows that conflicts advance situations.


39. On 2005-02-16, Eric said:

Right. Okay. I'm still hesitant because in some conflicts it's so minor, or so unknown, that its place in a "necessary bits" analysis still feels sketchy. But as long as it's permitted to remain open even after the conflict ends, which it kind of has to be, then sure - I'm good with that.


40. On 2005-02-16, Dave Ramsden said:

Wow. I have a vision of Task Resolution systems as not an actual system at all, but a vast set of data - probabilities - that help you calculate Prices. Stakes: Do I kill the orc before it kills me? Price: Loss of Hit Points, expenditure of magical items and spells, etc. The real conflict system is happening nigh-unarticulated in the minds and assumptions of everyone around the table.

All that the incredibly complex rules are doing is providing you with an interesting setup to try to minimize the price you pay to succeed at your goal. All those THAC0s, Armor Classes, and weapon damage ratings do is give you a probability for each step of price-determining. The real challenge, and the point of the game, is to analyze those probabilities thoroughly, optimize your strategy accordingly, and then wager on the decisions you've made.

Incidentally, I agree that Price can potentially include things rolling into other conflicts. If part of your Fallout in Dogs is that Sister Beth's dad gets mad at you, then you're explicitly adding 'potential further conflict with Beth's father' as part of the price. It doesn't have to be that way, but it can be, as long as it's explicitly stated.


41. On 2005-02-16, Eric said:

Dave - Yah. Let's throw away the name Task Resolution entire. It's not; it doesn't "resolve." Not in the sense we're using here. It's just an approach to conflict resolution where the bitty steps get all the attention and the conflict itself is strictly an emergent phenomenon.

If you want a case of "Task Resolution" which isn't quite so snarked, try TRoS as an example. Like a fight in D&D, TROS combat is "about" winning, and it comes down to playing the wagering game. The real conflict-resolution system is "can you win consistently enough at the Task game?"

Rather than "resolve" Tasks, let's try for another word for them. "Execute", maybe. You launch an Acid Arrow at an Orc, roll to execute it. Unless that's the last Orc, nothing has been resolved... but uncertainty has decreased, Prices have been paid, and you're one step closer to resolving the conflict and thereby deciding the stakes.

In Dogs, all players have been handed the power to Execute by simple assertion. This defers attention back to how those executions move us toward the resolution. That's what we mean when we say Conflict Resolution systems.

Which answers the question you (Dave) just posted to the "Open House" comments. Can you do "Task Resolution" and "Conflict Resolution" together? I'd say yes... you'll just pay other costs, like in player attention. Envision a Dogs variant where it's possible to fail an attempt to Raise or See. We've withdrawn the privilege of execution-at-will, forced you to roll for Task execution... but we've done nothing to withdraw the primary engine, which controls how many Tasks (Raises and Sees) you need before Conflict resolution.

I call that sufficient proof that "Task Resolution" and "Conflict Resolution" are a sneaky coincidence of similar names, rather than true alternatives to one another.

Vincent - Does that imply that "Lead-In" is also anatomically worth recognizing? It is, I think, as interesting a place to look as Consequences...


42. On 2005-02-16, Dave Ramsden said:

Eric - I like the idea of separating them out. Task Execution and Conflict Resolution.

However, as a gedankenexperiment, consider this example combining Conflict and Task resolution:

Player 1: I want to escape from the pursuing starships. (Statement of Conflict).Player 2: Ok, so what's at stake is whether you escape from the starships. How are you going to do it?Player 1: I'm going to rig my starship's engines for 120% power output. Then I'm going to fly into that asteroid field to shake them off. (Declaration of Tasks for the conflict)Player 2: Ok, that'll get you away unless your pursuers can manage to not crash while they're following you through the asteroids.Player 1: Ok, the engines are ready.Player 2: Halfway there.Player 1: Darnit, I missed by 2 points.Player 2: Okay, your ship hits a small floating rock and is spiraling off course, all but one of its engines out. You can't escape from your pursuers anymore. They're closing in carefully. (Conflict lost.)Player 1: All right then, I'm going to try to kill them before they capture me. (Another Declaration of Conflict)Player 2: Ok, how's this conflict going to go?

(Obviously, here 'Player 2' is fulfilling the GM role.)

I don't know if that loses player attention. Obviously, it needs some kind of overarching system to determine how many tasks of what magnitude are necessary to deal with each conflict, but...


43. On 2005-02-16, Dave Ramsden said:

Erm. I managed to leave out some dice-rolling in the middle of that example. Silly comment codes. There's essentially supposed to be two Task rolls that Player 1 is making in the middle (before 'engines are ready' and 'missed by 2 points'.)


44. On 2005-02-16, Eric said:

"Loses" attention might not be the best phrasing. It's about selecting a depth of focus for each element. Your example has the Conflict process of figuring out "how many Tasks?" as a quite simple exercise, where in Dogs it's very involved. Dogs makes Task Execution trivial so that it can spend its time on the conflict. So far, nobody has tried to get players to focus on complex systems for both simultaneously. It's all tradeoffs.

TSoY comes close to doing both at once, though, in Bringing Down the Pain sequences. No way the GM can just "roll Sneak until they fail" in that setup; the conflict itself has strict parameters.


45. On 2005-02-16, Matt Snyder said:

Eric, I have a different take on TRoS. I see it as a conflict resolution system emphasizing questions like "Are you willing to kill this guy to reach that goal?"

It's about winning, certainly, but for what? That's what the Spiritual Attributes are for. When I play that game, I play a Machiavellian noble who has been in something like 3 fights in his career. Why? Because I'm not rewarded for just any sword fights. I'm rewarded for entering sword fights that answer whether or not my noble will regain his lands or show his loyalty to his kingdom.

For me, that's what the game is all about more than the gamble of alloting my combat pool just so. I make damn sure I have a combat pool that puts even superior swordsmen to shame because I have such a reserve of Spiritual Attributes.

When you resolve a goal (hinted at by your Spiritual Attributes), you can opt to spend out that Spiritual Attribute, improve your character, and aim for a new one. Rinse, repeat.

Just an aside, really. I just wanted to offer up my take that TRoS has a more obvious conflict resolution system than the tasks of its intricate dueling mechanics. Then again, I'm probably completely misreading you! Wouldn't be the first time I did that to someone.


46. On 2005-02-16, Eric said:

TRoS seems to be ambiguous over whether SAs reward you for initiating conflicts that serve them, or for single tasks that serve them. I've seen it played either way. In any case, it has no system which describes how many Tasks it takes to finish a conflict - whether that be winning a bar-brawl or surviving a storm at sea. And thus it has intricate Task execution and no Conflict resolution system. Your point agrees with mine, however, that it's got a much clearer unspoken Conflict parameter than D&D does... but it's still the GM's call on when you're really done.

Two things seem to stand out as the tests of a well-controlled Conflict system. One is that it forbids the "Roll sneak all night until you fail" syndrome, where the number of tasks is decided by pure fiat. Second is that it seems to generally mean that fudging dice rolls is irrelevant and pointless; fudging being one of the big GM tools to make satisfying Conflict resolution emerge from assorted Tasks. TRoS, in my experience, does fail both tests. This isn't to say I don't love it to bits; I'm working on a followup to this thread about how it's the Uncertainty element which gets enhanced in all these "classical" systems, which is why they can be so darn fun. (Gotta find a less misleading term for Task Resolution. Any suggestions?)