thread: 2008-11-24 : Salt River

On 2008-11-25, Vincent wrote:

Oh no, it piddled out for perfectly normal personal reasons having to do with us working together as a group. I'm not going to go into them (they aren't even MY business, as it happens, let alone yours), but they aren't very interesting from an rpg design theory point of view.

I think that I know what Ron and Ralph mean when they talk about pre-negotiated outcomes, and if I do, then no, that wasn't part of this game.

In this game, there was sometimes a certain, limited negotiation about components of outcomes, but when you roll, you get your outcomes all in combination. Nobody ever negotiated about possible combinations of outcomes... Rrg. An example.

In Salt River: My guy, Michael Strong, has been on the run from this guy McInnis. McInnis was his lieutenant in the war, and is now a US Marshall; Michael deserted his company before Gettysburg. Now, years later, McInnis happened upon him and jailed him for desertion. Michael's broken out of jail and taken to the hills, with McInnis and the town's sheriff in pursuit.

So it happens that I set up a crappy ambush. They're coming up a draw and Michael's on the ledge over their heads, and he has a big rock.

"Okay, when they come under me, I smash McInnis' head in. I'm going to roll: on a high die I get away, on a high die I kill McInnis, on a high die nobody shoots me." The scale for all of these is 1-2, 3-4, 5-6: on a 3-4 I'm still at large but I haven't gotten away, on a 3-4 I injure McInnis with the rock but don't kill him, on a 3-4 somebody shoots me but not to death. (And anybody who didn't bother to read the linked rules, go do it now.)

At this moment, the final outcome is totally up in the air, and nobody's negotiating anything about it. We haven't narrowed it down to two or three possibilities with implications we can discuss and pre-plan. There are (quick math) 27 possible outcomes and all of them are at least a little bit complicated. Some of them will lead straight into a next roll, others will be final. We don't know what any of this is going to turn out to mean.

So when I pick up the dice, it's a moment of real suspense, and when I roll them, it's a moment of heightened suspense. Nobody has any say what the dice will roll, and nobody but me has any say how I'll assign them once they're down. Pre-negotiating outcomes under these circumstances is just really impractical.


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