thread: 2006-10-05 : Reward systems

On 2006-10-08, Eero Tuovinen wrote:

The bonus dice in Sorcerer aren't a reward mechanic. They are behavioral modificators, you could say, because they make it tactically sensible to act in a certain manner (the manner that gives you dice, that is). But calling them reward mechanics is like calling the high ground bonus in D&D a reward mechanic. Doesn't fly.

The reason for why these things are so often confused is that reward mechanics are traditionally used in a pavlovian manner to control player participation. This doesn't mean that all pavlovian mechanics are reward mechanics.

I should also clarify why bonus dice in Sorcerer are not a reward mechanic while fan mail in PTA is: the former are used immediately, while the latter is a resource. The reward is that you get to choose what to win and what to lose by expending fan mail, which is a reward in the narrativist context. The Sorcerer bonus dice are just a social consideration that encourages certain play behaviors after you've decided that you want to win the conflict. You could say that it's a mechanic for color control, fueled by the player's will to win.

I'd write about the actual reward mechanic of Sorcerer, but Piers already nailed it: kicker resolution is the main reward mechanic, because it allows you to either retire the character or write a new kicker, which both are forms of closure (closure being a reward in the narrativist context). Because the mechanic here is "just" a story-arc flag, it's quite possible that there are other reward cycles going on, insofar as the player is invested in any other storylines apart from his own kicker. The kicker just happens to be the one storyline the rules single out for mechanical consideration. (Compare with Dust Devils and The Shadow of Yesterday; the former has the same idea of a "core story", while the latter has formal support for several concurrent story arcs.)

Humanity gain/loss as reward mechanic? Sure, makes sense. The reward is that the system affirms the (im)morality of your actions, making a moral statement independent of yourself. That's pretty fun, certainly a reward in the narrativist context. The interesting question for the Sorcerer-scholar is, how does this interact with the Kicker resolution mechanic apart from providing an alternate form of closure? My answer is that prodding Humanity is how you resolve the Kicker (similar to how by prodding the Devil in Dust Devils you resolve the Devil), so the two mechanics are actually subsets.


This makes...
short response
optional explanation (be brief!):

if you're human, not a spambot, type "human":