thread: 2009-04-10 : A Moment of Judgment

On 2009-04-17, Valamir wrote:

Ben, the method for dealing with disagreements in Universalis is very explicit through the Challenge mechanic. The Challenge mechanic has two parts.  Part 1: the negotiation, which is the "hey I disagree, would you mind changing that" part.  And Part 2: the bidding which is the "  You won't change it?  Well here's some resources that say you will" part.

There's other nuances such as resources spent backing up previously existing facts in the fiction count double (and in Universalis only things paid for with resources count as fact so there's rarely disagreement there, and if there is that can be resolved via Challenge also).  Also other players get to support the interpretation they like better.

But the important thing is that even though Part 2 rarely ever gets used, its existance is what makes Part 1 work so well.  Without Part 2, the negotiation part is just limp wristed wrangling relying on social pressure to eventually resolve.  With Part 2, there's a much stronger motivation to reach accord.  The existance of Part 2 (what you'll see me refer to as a "backstop" in various threads) serves as an effective time limiter, a third option that both parties generally want to avoid, and a way of gauging the group opinion without relying solely on social cues.

Its a very "put your money where your mouth is" solution, not suited for all games.  But a rule that serves the function of a backstop IS suitable for all games.  IMO is a prerequisite for good design.

Case in point:  The absolute strongest rule in Dogs...the rule that I think makes Dogs work...the rule that serves as the backstop rule in the "go with the most critical voice at the table" rule.  There's no attempt to pretend there's an objective standard to the person's criticism, there's no requirement for their to be one.  Much less elaborate, much less mechanical than what Uni uses...but it works...and it very much doesn't rely on "just work it out".  Because when "just work it out" fails...there's instructions in the game on what to do.

So IMO quality design may start with "just work it out" but it had also better provide some backstop for when that doesn't get it done.

David: Its exactly that "shared judgment criteria" that I'm saying creates all sorts of problems.  Because once there is a criteria that is supposed to be followed, I can now accuse you of not following it.  That's what I was saying above with the difference between:

"I don't like what you're doing" and
"I don't like what you're doing...and you're wrong"

The second is vastly more toxic than the first.


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