2006-04-13 : T equals Zero

AG&G: beginning play
AG&G: characters & specializations
AG&G: action & consequences

Not yet:
AG&G: the GM player's skill

I have some guidelines for participation in this thread.

1. Don't give me critical feedback about the design, unless it's based on actual playtesting. Especially unwelcome - ESPECIALLY unwelcome - is feedback like "I don't think this will be fun because blah blah." I'm willing to explain why I made the design decisions I did, but only up to a point and tread carefully.

I've played the game a couple of times now, and it's fun!

2. Don't give me critical feedback about the quality of the text. Don't tell me which parts of the text are confusing, which explanations need to be better. Especially don't tell me that I need examples. I'm going to rewrite the whole thing. I'm not looking for editing for these playtest procedural documents.

I'm willing to consider naming suggestions for, especially, "specializations," but also anything else you think has a stupid name.

3. Please do ask me any questions you have, any questions at all, about how to play the game. Questions like "I want to play the game; how many dice do I roll again?" and "I don't quite get this 'jostling upward' thing, explain it to me?" are exactly what I want.

In other words, when the text confuses you, don't tell me that the text is confusing - yeah, I know it's confusing, I wrote it - ask me to clarify how to play!

Oh and the Clinton Oracle is here. You'll need that. And I'll plan on getting some character sheets and stuff up tomorrow.

Thanks everyone!

1. On 2006-04-13, Meguey said:

Play this game. It is way fun.

One thing I'm unclear on is how ties are handled, but that may be because I missed something.


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This makes...
Shane go "new round, no advantage"*
MB go "See, I knew I missed something."

*click in for more

2. On 2006-04-13, Matt Wilson said:

Oooh! Ooooh! I have a question!

What happens if we've been playing for a bit I just lost a conflict, but all the dice relevant are at d4s and I gots none to lower? Do I have to accept whatever bad thingy you want?

Also, does that work as kind of an encouragement to once in a while accept the other option just because you only have so many die sizes to drop? If my math doesn't suck, you can accept the die penalty thingy for at most 5 conflicts, unless there's a "raise them back up" thing I probably missed.

It also leads me to ANOTHER question (OMG): Does the assumption I'm making above, assuming it's right, make for a kind of game timer, the way budget does in PTA? Are you like, well, I better look for a finale because I'm at all d4s?

Dropping a die size... I cut down on fallout and in only a week I dropped a whole die size!

But yeah, neato, dude!


3. On 2006-04-13, Vincent said:

Good catch Matt.

If you reduce the size of a d4, it goes away. If any stat goes to no dice, the character dies. (Nobody should be the least wigged by this - you character dying doesn't affect the "we owe" list a'tall.)

You can restore all your lost dice only during a chapter's setup, by choosing that option for a recurring character.

BUT, as it happens, it doesn't serve as a timer, no, at least not in our games. In our games, everybody's psyched to negotiate other outcomes, and everybody's psyched to resolve - both our chapters so far have played out in under two hours, with no added pressure from dice reduction.


4. On 2006-04-13, Vincent said:

Ben asked me in email how single-chapter specializations work.

A single-chapter specialization is most likely to be a concrete thing, not a skill. Like in our game we've had a warlord's ancestral sword (specializes Influencing Others, adds Guts), bracelets of improbable strength (specializes Defending Myself, adds Guts), and an army (specializes warlording, adds Art). Then, just, whoever's character has control of the thing gets the dice for it.

Like, in our most recent session Julia's character had the army, just as a feature of how the initial setup went, but not written on her character sheet. She got to use the army for warlording purposes, until Emily's character swiped it from her (by getting a hateful priestess to disguise her voice). Then Emily's character got to use it for warlording purposes (although she didn't happen to). Julia's character won it back before the end of the chapter.

So it changed hands a couple of times, and whoever had it, got to use it. At no point could Meg have said "I use the army to roll Art in with my warlording," because at no point did her character have the army.

Now - that's true of specializations written on somebody's character sheet, too. If Julia had written the army on her character sheet, Emily's character could still have seized it like she did. The only difference is, next chapter, Julia's character would have it again. If it's written on your character sheet you bring it with you into the next chapter; if it's not, you don't.

That probably all makes fine sense to everyone, when the specialization's a thing. What about when it's a skill? Like "mastery of the necromantic arts - specializes Influencing Ghosts, adds Art"?

The answer is, of course, that it works exactly the same. Whoever's character has it, gets to use it; whoever has it written on their character sheet gets to have it again next chapter. Whoever doesn't, doesn't!


5. On 2006-04-13, Vincent said:

That reminds me.

Here's the total winner, suggesting consequences as alternates to "I exhaust or injure you."

Legit: "You cross 'mastery of the necromantic arts' off your character sheet."

Legit: "My character gets 'mastery of the necromantic arts.'"

Not legit: "I add 'mastery of the necromantic arts' to my character sheet."

You can lose things from your character sheet as consequences, you can't add things to your character sheet as consequences. You can add something to your character sheet only during setup for your character's next chapter.


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This makes...
BL go "Legit?"*
TLR go "Wait..."*

*click in for more

6. On 2006-04-13, Vincent said:

Ben: Legit?
Your character loses three Guts and gains one Art. Your character loses three Guts and gains a specialization "demon-marked," which adds Guts to demonology.

Legit, yes indeed.

Press me and I'll get technical: you can't add die sizes to your character sheet, but you can completely move die sizes around.

Also legit: "now you defend yourself with Grace instead."


7. On 2006-04-13, Vincent said:

In reference to this of mine:
Legit: "My character gets 'mastery of the necromantic arts.'"

Not legit: "I add 'mastery of the necromantic arts' to my character sheet."

TLR went Wait...
Aren't #2 and #3 the same thing? Isn't the Winner adding Necromatic Mastery? How do these differ?

In the former case, my character has it from now until a) events take it from her, or b) the end of the chapter, whichever comes first.

In the latter case, my character would still have it at the beginning of her next and subsequent chapters.


8. On 2006-04-13, Sydney Freedberg said:

> I'm willing to consider naming suggestions for, especially, "specializations"...

Trademarks? Signatures?

Not "shtick," sadly, given the comic connotations, though the denotation is nearly perfect. Not "special move," given the

arcade game associations.

But even "speciality" would work, actually. I think the problem with "-ization" (as opposed to "-ity") is that it emphasizes "special" = "this is a narrow thing" as opposed to "special" = "this is a cool thing unique to you."


9. On 2006-04-13, Joshua BishopRoby said:

Vincent, where's this going?  Will it become a product?  Will it remain tied to the Clinton Oracle or will you provide a non-internet method of generating that stuff?


10. On 2006-04-13, Vincent said:

It will be a product. It will be a book product for sale, print and PDF. It will be non-internet capable, although the Clinton Oracle will pretty much always be the coolest way to generate the random things.


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This makes...
JBR go "Sweet"

11. On 2006-04-14, Vincent said:

Meanwhile, you'll want pages 21-23 of the Cheap & Cheesy PDF.


12. On 2006-04-14, Ben Lehman said:

So here's my real question:  Can you give a present to the loser?  In terms of die-size, specialization, or both?



13. On 2006-04-14, Sydney Freedberg said:

The rules do seem to allow that. And it's lovely:

"Take this tasy fallout trait and I will let you off the hook for this conflict you have lost!"
"No! I do not wish to be 'traumatized by my past' in order to add Guts to my attack rolls!"
"So shall we fall back on the default conflict outcomes of painful pain?"
"Uh - um - I am traumatized! I love it!"


14. On 2006-04-14, Vincent said:

It's legal, but sort of irrelevent. I don't expect it'll happen much. As winner, I can say "you're traumatized by your past - roll Guts to endure duress instead of Grace!" Why I'd give you the specialization instead, I dunno.


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This makes...
BL go "Because I am interested in your character being mechanically more powerful"
CR go "Interesting"*

*click in for more

15. On 2006-04-14, Jeph said:

I'm kinda confused about specialization economy. Say I've got a specialization called, like, "frog alchemy."

1) The specialization is on my character sheet. I want to teach another character frog alchemy. Do I cross it off my character sheet and give it to them for the chapter, or keep it myself and they can also use if for the chapter, or can I just not teach them frog alchemy, or what?

2) If I only had frog alchemy for the chapter (IE, it wasn't on my character sheet), would that change anything? So, like, could only one character know frog alchemy at a time, or could one character teach it to another, so they both have frog alchemy?


16. On 2006-04-14, Vincent said:

Jeph, excellent.

Most specializations are not unique - as many people can have them as happen to have them. At their heart, specializations are for making schools of magic, fighting styles, membership in a mystical order, things like that.

But then you can also use them to make powerful unique things, like ancestral swords and magical bracelets. The only difference is what it means to have them.

"I have frog alchemy. Here, I give you frog alchemy. Now we both have frog alchemy!"

"I have my family's ancestral sword. Here, I give you my family's ancestral sword. Now you have it and I don't!"

Whether it's in play only for this chapter or someone has it on their character sheet doesn't change this.


17. On 2006-04-14, Vincent said:

Oh, hey, obvious answer. New rule.

When one character gives another character something that'll substantially help out, it's kind of like a mini-specialization, except:

a) You set terms on how often or for how long it'll be useful, to a maximum of "for the whole rest of the chapter"; and
b) The helped player rolls one of the helper's stats in with her own.

If you're reading this, Emily, this means that when the priestess disguised your character's voice, you would've been rolling the priestess' Art as well in your roll to seize the army.

This doesn't change my answer to you, Jeph, but it adds an additional possibility:

"I can't teach you all of frog alchemy before they get here, but I can show you a trick that just might help..."

Make sense?


18. On 2006-04-14, Vincent said:

Here are the pullouts we've been using:
Character sheets
Specialization sheets
NPC sheets

Notably absent is anyplace to write down your character's interests. Dumb, huh?


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This makes...
VB go "also I'm not certain..."*
Jeph go "Your fears are warranted."*
VB go "I'll try again from home."
MSW go "OMG"*

*click in for more

19. On 2006-04-15, Vincent said:

I've re-upped the sheets. They should work now.

Now I'm only using j, no r.


20. On 2006-04-16, Clinton R. Nixon said:


I'm really playing this tomorrow. I'm not questioning your decisions - that is, I'm not saying "you shoulda done it this way." I want to ask, though:

Why a GM? Why not just rotate around the table and have people pick characters until all characters are picked, with the caveat that you can't play two characters with similar motivations?


21. On 2006-04-16, Vincent said:


Three reasons.

1) Because someone needs to describe the world ("don't skimp" is what the final text is going to say), start scenes, end scenes, intercut scenes - intercutting scenes is wicked important - and finally call the session done. Someone, in other words, is in charge of pacing, and that person needs to see the conflicts and events in the game from a more removed position than everyone else.

2) Because every PC is, potentially, a recurring character. Not every character in a chapter, however, deserves to be a potentially recurring character. Someone has to play the characters who don't matter.

3) Because if everyone's playing the same game, adversity will tend toward the middle - no one will want to be the harshest, no one will want to be the easiest. Putting one player in charge of being harsh gives the game its teeth.

Here's a rule you'll like, though, that I meant to include in the documents but failed to. Beginning with the third chapter, you can rotate GM players. Every chapter, you need someone to do those three things, but no reason on earth they need to be the same person from chapter to chapter. The only restriction is that in any given chapter the player whose character tops the "we owe" list can't be the GM player.

(It starts with the third chapter to give everyone a chance to develop a shared vision. Lots starts with the third chapter, you'll notice.)

Tell me how it goes. If it goes rockingly, post at the Forge. If it sucks, hush hush! Just kidding.


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This makes...
SF go "Why all 3 jobs to one person?"*

*click in for more

22. On 2006-04-16, Vincent said:

Oh, Clinton, I meant to say but forgot -

When you play, during resolution, it's super important that you make your raise - er, challenge - before you see the answerer's reroll. I like to have the answerer pick up her dice and hold them in her hand while the challenger challenges, then reroll.

It's like Dogs in that way. Not knowing for sure whether your opponent can block or has to suck it up is an important part of making your raise.


23. On 2006-04-16, Clinton R. Nixon said:

Hey, we played it. Playtest Actual Play is at:

Oh, and Vincent - seriously, the GM's role is almost exactly the same as the players'.


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This reminds...
VB of Linkxord

24. On 2006-04-17, joshua m. neff said:

I just read that Forge write-up to my wife and showed her the Clinton Oracle. She's crazy excited about it.


25. On 2006-04-17, Marhault said:

My wife and I prepared a situation last night for the two of us to play.  We're planning on running it later on this week.

We're kinda-sorta sharing the GM responsibilities for two reasons.  Firstly, that one player character on whom all of the conflicts hinge sounded somewhat boring, and secondly, that I think the added input level will be good to build her confidence and enjoyment in play.

Now I'm looking over the reasons you gave Clinton with interest.  Since we are, more or less, going to serve as each others GMs, I think we'll be okay, as long as we keep an eye on the pacing/session structure.  Any suggestions or requests for a two person playtest?


26. On 2006-04-17, Vincent said:

Marhault (I know you told me a real name, but ... was it Jamey? Anyhow): Any suggestions or requests for a two person playtest?

Please do! That's all the suggestions or requests I can think of. I'd love to hear how it goes.


27. On 2006-04-17, Avram said:

So, consequences, when do you come up with them? At the start of the conflict, or when somebody's just lost, or sometime in between?


28. On 2006-04-17, Vincent said:

Consequences: you come up with them, the winner and loser together, once somebody's won and somebody's lost.

The dice back-and-forth makes sure that everybody knows exactly what their character has done. "Exhaust/injure" establishes the baseline for consequences, upon which the players may elaborate, according to what happened during the back-and-forth.

An example would really help, I think. Give me a few minutes...


29. On 2006-04-17, Piers said:

The limited charts and recurring characters:

So the "We owe" list and the rules about bringing characters in are set up such that if a character's name is not on the list at the end of a chapter, that's it, we never see them again.  But...

What about the Oracle and the things it throws up?  If we've met the "poweful war-sorceress, slender but commanding, with golden hair" and the Oracle brings her up again, she's back in the story, right?

I kind of like this. Is it a deliberate feature?


30. On 2006-04-17, Vincent said:

Deliberate feature.


31. On 2006-04-17, Piers said:

Also, care to resolve the differences between these two sections:

From resolution:
:: Maybe my reroll is less than yours, but greater than half yours.
I have to choose:
Or else:
b) My character totally sucks up your challenge and the conflict ends, without going to a next round. However, unlike when your roll doubles mine, your character doesn't exhaust or injure mine, nor do we negotiate any other consequences. This is called giving, as in "I give."

From the recap:
** Answerer's over half: the answerer's character hangs in there; the challenger gets an advantage die and the conflict goes into a new round, or they negotiate another outcome.


32. On 2006-04-17, Vincent said:

Oops! I forgot to correct the recap.

The full description is correct. The recap is not.

Avram, I haven't forgotten your example. Just haven't had the chance to write it.


33. On 2006-04-18, Vincent said:

Okay, example time.

I'm the GM. You're the player. My npc is Althesa, a warrior-priestess of a truly bloodthirsty cult. Her interest is to drive all foreign influences out forever. Your character is Irin, the lieutenant of the prince sent to pacify the region. His interests are to marry a priestess of the cult (in order to create a tie by blood between the two groups) and to do the prince's dirty work so he can keep his hands clean.

My character comes into your character's chamber in the middle of the night, to kill your character.

We roll. You roll your defending yourself, Guts, d12 d6. I have "warrior-priestessing" as an endeavor, so I roll it, my Art, d10 d8.

Your high die is a 4. Mine's an 8. I'm the challenger.

"I cut your throat while you sleep," I say.

You reroll. It comes up a 7. You do a partial block or dodge and I get the advantage. (Also, because my dice are better than yours and I didn't double you out the gate, your name goes on the we owe list.)

"I wake up when you come in, but I don't realize the danger I'm in - I figure you're a prostitute bought by my captain and sent to me. I catch your wrist, but only when you've got your dagger to my throat."

We both roll fresh. You roll an 11, but adding the d6 advantage die, my roll's a 15 (ouch).

"While we're grappling, I slip a long spike, a needle [holding up my thumb and forefinger spread as far as they can] out of my sleeve with my other hand. I stab it straight into your ear."

You reroll. A 6. My roll doubles yours, I totally win.

First of all, you have to take the blow. "Oh hell," you say. "Yeah, you stab me in the ear. Crap, dude."

Then we negotiate additional grief for you. Either of us can simply insist that it's exhaustion or injury, my choice - and let's say that exhausting or injuring your character means that you lose two die sizes from Grace - but let's hold that back. Is there something else we like better?

"I totally kill you," I say. "I totally kill you right in the ear."

You think about it for a while. Your name's on the we owe list; being killed won't take it off. You can continue to play this character, in flashback, as a ghost, all kinds of ways. But, "nah, I'd rather just be exhausted or injured than killed. But how about you make me deaf in that ear?"

"Deaf in that ear and lose one die size from Guts," I say.

"Done. And you leave me for dead."

"Yeah, okay."

So what we've just done is, we've established that me deafening you in one ear and taking one die size from your Guts, and leaving you for dead, is equivalent to me taking two die sizes from your Grace (for exhaustion or injury) - and we've chosen the former.

Make sense?


34. On 2006-04-18, Avram said:

Yeah, makes sense. And the bargaining aspect is pretty cool.

It looks like "I cut your throat while you sleep" isn't automatically fatal, even if Irin's player had rolled a 1 instead of a 7, right? The default penalty for losing is the two die sizes from the appropriate stat, which probably won't be fatal early in the game, so Irin's player could go "Augh, you slash my throat, but miss the windpipe and cartoids."

No, wait, I'm wrong about that. The stakes were "My character comes into your character's chamber in the middle of the night, to kill your character," so losing the conflict has those stakes. The exhaustion/injury rule is in addition to the stakes. Do I have that right?


35. On 2006-04-18, Vincent said:

Avram: No, wait, I'm wrong about that. The stakes were "My character comes into your character's chamber in the middle of the night, to kill your character," so losing the conflict has those stakes. The exhaustion/injury rule is in addition to the stakes. Do I have that right?

Nope. There's no stakes setting. That's why I'm calling the chapter "Action & Consequences," in fact.

The exhaustion/injury rule is in addition to taking the blow, which is the throat cut. So you were right the first time: "I cut your throat while you sleep" isn't automatically fatal.


36. On 2006-04-18, Avram said:

But if the winner narrated a fatal blow ("My war elephant stomps you into a paste!"), then is it fatal (unless they negotiate otherwise)?


37. On 2006-04-18, Vincent said:


Narrating a fatal blow puts you in a nice, strong bargaining position, if you want the other player to accept that their character's dead instead of just injured.

If you like, you can read "take the blow" to mean "take the blow unless it's fatal, in which case you get to somehow block or dodge the fatal part, unless your dice are already low."

But maybe look at it this way instead. We know what the baseline for consequences is - exhaustion or injury. If you make your challenge be something whose natural consequences would exceed exhaustion or injury, you should be prepared to scale back to exhaustion or injury afterward. It's not like I cheated you out of me being stomped to paste by your war elephant - we both knew when you made that challenge that it probably wouldn't entirely come true.


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This makes...
Colin go "You mean 'give'?"*

*click in for more

38. On 2006-04-19, Ben Lehman said:

Hey, man.

How exactly is d12 + d6 "lower" than d10 + d8?  I believe that the first is more likely to roll higher than the second.



39. On 2006-04-19, Tris said:

D12 + D6 = Average roll 10 (6.5+3.5) Range 2-18
Chance of max/min = 1/12 *1/6 = 1/72

D10 + D8 = Average roll 10 (5.5+4.5) Range 2-18
Chance of max/min = 1/10 *1/8 = 1/80

It's 50/50 which comes up higher on any given throw.  Over a number of throws, it's 50/50 which totals higher.  D12 + D6 is more likely to hit a maximum, and more likely to hit a minimum.


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This makes...
BL go "Two things"*
TB go "Two more things..."*

*click in for more

40. On 2006-04-19, Matthijs said:

I sent Vincent some statistics for dice rolls, but I don't have them here.

Ben's right, though; you have to look at all the possible combinations of the dice (from 1-1-1-1 through 1-1-1-2, 1-1-1-3, ... 12-6-1-1, 12-6-1-2, ... 12-6-10-7, 12-6-10-8), count how many combinations give win/lose/tie results, and divide that by the total number of combinations for a probability between 0 and 1 for each outcome.


41. On 2006-04-19, Ghoul said:

Yeah... the probabilities aren't really hard to do with only two dice, of course.  They do get trickier with more, naturally.

For d6 + d12, the distribution is this...

1   1 in 72   1.39%
2   3 in 72   4.17%
3   5 in 72   6.94%
4   7 in 72   9.72%
5   9 in 72 12.50%
6   11 in 72 15.28%
7   6 in 72   8.33%
8   6 in 72   8.33%
9   6 in 72   8.33%
10   6 in 72   8.33%
11   6 in 72   8.33%
12   6 in 72   8.33%

And for d8+d10, it's this...

1   3 in 80   3.75%
2   5 in 80   6.25%
3   7 in 80   8.75%
4   9 in 80 11.25%
5   11 in 80 13.75%
6   13 in 80 16.25%
7   8 in 80 10.00%
8   8 in 80 10.00%
9   8 in 80 10.00%
10   8 in 80 10.00%

Convolute those and you get the following...

P[d6+d12 loses] = 35.677%
P[ tie ] = 9.549%
P[d6+d12 wins] = 54.774%


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This makes...
G go "On Ties"*
G go "Ooops!"*

*click in for more

42. On 2006-04-19, Vincent said:


You count the sides to determine whose dice are bigger.

d12 d6 is IN NO WAY lower than d10 d8. It is, in fact, equal to d10 d8.

I said it was lower because I am DUMB.


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This makes...
BL go "Interesting..."*
G go "Not for Ties"*
BL go "Look at your figures again"*
G go "Ties"*

*click in for more

43. On 2006-04-19, Vincent said:

In marginalia, Sydney says, of the GM: Why all 3 jobs to one person?
1a (describe world) blurs easily into 2 (play minor characters); 2 blurs easily into 3 (antagonism); and 3 blurs into 1b (pacing). The two halves of 1 connect darn loosely. But any and all of these can be split out.

I find the two halves of 1 (describe the world, be in charge of pacing) to happen all the time in the same sentences. I'm like, "okay, it's a hot summer day, and Sovay you're at the head of your army looking down at this little fishing village on the coast. It's all like white clay buildings, all tangled and maze-y, and they're rehearsing their beloved mayor's funeral so it's all banging gongs and weeping mourners, you can see the activity from up here on the hillside."

Any and all of them could be split out. My thinking is that for low numbers of NPCs, that'd be fine, but that as the number of NPCs increases, you'll increasingly want one dedicated person.


44. On 2006-04-19, Vincent said:

Before anybody does any more statistical analysis, let me post what Matthijs did. No need to duplicate effort.


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This makes...
TB go "We are all geeks"*
MH go "Please do :)"*

*click in for more

45. On 2006-05-03, Darren said:

I'm interested in seeing those statistics findings...

Here's a question: in your example, what happens if I gave at this point:
"I cut your throat while you sleep," I say.
You reroll. It comes up a 7. You do a partial block or dodge and I get the advantage.

What happens if I give here, rather than going on to the next round?
Your roll is better than mine, but as far as I can make it, I can walk away without any consequences. Is this right?


46. On 2006-05-06, Vincent said:

You can walk away without any consequences...

...Except that my character's cut your character's throat. The fiction has to follow from you taking the blow.

Here's another way to think of it, if you like. Same example, right where yours left off.

I say, "while you're lying there dying, I take the enchanted pearl from its jeweled box on your shelf and absent myself. Oh and I spit on you as I go past."

Or maybe I say, "just to make sure, I stab you ten times in the chest."

Now you have to choose: did you really mean to give? If you object to my action, no biggie, you just take back your give. We keep rolling and I get the advantage, after all.

If you really did mean to give and you stick to it, then your character's dead, or dying robbed and spat upon, and you suffer no other consequences.


47. On 2006-05-07, Darren said:

Thanks, that's clear.
Do you have any bargaining power when Giving, ("I'll give - I'm down and bleeding, you can take the emerald but leave me the magic sword,") the way you do when you roll under half your opponent's roll?
Hmm, as I write this, I have the feeling this is one of those questions your response will be, "well, duh, obviously."


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This makes...
DJ go "Bargaining caveat"*
VB go "you've got it."
DH go "Great!"
DH go "Oops - that DJ above was me."*

*click in for more

48. On 2006-05-13, colin roald said:

Some things I'm not sure about:

When you say "a d6 with pips", I presume that just means "pick a die you can distinguish from all the others in use."  Because most of my favourite d6s have pips.

Undefined magic is a tricky thing in a game, especially with player-vs-player conflict.  Suppose the player of "a reclusive enchantress" declares halfway through a chapter, "I cause the entire castle to be swallowed up and crushed in a titanic earthquake!"  Is there any mechanism for the GM or other players to object, "No way!  enchantresses don't have that kind of power, that's just out of line."  Or is it expected that any magic-using character can pretty much do whatever they want?

A related case is when a player decides his heroic accountant can pretty much climb any wall, break any door, carry any weight, and stagger forward with any wound.  My impression is that in this game, a player pretty much has the freedom to decide any character is Conan, any time they want.  (I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing, but I just want to be clear.  That pretty much seems to be what the "When do we not roll dice" section says.)


49. On 2006-05-13, Vincent said:


1) Yes, a die you can distinguish from the others. Just, "with pips" turns out to be extremely easy to spot and remember. A whole magnitude easier than "the black die" or whatever, along the same lines as switching from "count the odds" to "count the red cards" in Primetime Adventures.

2) The answer is that nobody ever does anything except the perfect thing for their character. It's remarkable, inconceivable, if you're accustomed to the kind of play where someone has to ride herd on everyone else's input. But it's true.

Seriously: there's no mechanism for anybody to object to anything, because there's no need for one. Including such a mechanism would be like putting corks on the ends of your forks so your friends won't pick their noses with them - NO NEED. Your friends already don't pick their noses with your forks, and in AG&G the players already don't have their characters do anything out of line.

I can explain to you why they don't, if you want me to, but you won't believe me until you see it in play.


50. On 2006-05-13, colin roald said:

Okay, cool.  Just making sure I understood the intention.  I admit, I'm not quite convinced that we won't need any process at all for resolving differences of vision between players (my examples were exaggerated, of course), but I'm keen to try.


51. On 2006-05-14, Vincent said:

Colin, I don't think your examples were exaggerated. Sometimes somebody is going to say, "my reclusive enchantress causes the entire castle to be swallowed up and crushed in a titanic earthquake!"

They'll only say it when obviously the reclusive enchantress is capable of that.

And if anybody else hadn't figured out that the reclusive enchantress was capable of that, that person will say, "she can DO that? HOLY CRAP THAT'S AWESOME."

The game doesn't need to resolve differences of vision because it's made exclusively of powerful vision aligners. More powerful than any GM ever was.


52. On 2006-05-14, colin roald said:

Vincent says: I'm willing to consider naming suggestions for, especially, "specializations," but also anything else you think has a stupid name.

Resource, Advantage, or Capability are just as boring as Specialization, I think.  I like Specialty better, just because it saves a couple syllables.  Forte might work, but it's maybe a little twee.  Talent?  Power?  Strength?  Good for skills, not so good for items.  Favour?  Benefice?  Edge?  I think Edge could work.


direct link

This makes...
BL go "Edge!"*
CR go "I haven't even read PTA"*

*click in for more

53. On 2006-05-16, colin roald said:

I have some questions re: Conflict Resolution.  The playtest rules say:

:: Maybe my reroll is half of your roll or less.
a) My character totally sucks it up. Whatever you said your character does, that's exactly what happens.
b) Consequently, your character exhausts or injures my character. I lose two die sizes from a stat - the stat I use when my character exerts herself or the stat I use when my character endures duress. You choose which two die sizes (two sizes from which die, or one size each from both?) and which stat, if there's a choice.
Or else the two of us agree to some other outcome. It can include die penalties if we choose, or it can be entirely what happens to our characters.
But either of us can, at any time, fall back on the standard: your character exhausts or injures mine.
These consequences are in addition to the challenge coming true.
c) Either way, the conflict's over.

Question 1: So suppose the challenge was "I totally chop your head off."  How do we simultaneously resolve (a) "whatever you said your character does, that's exactly what happens," and (b) "consequently your character exhausts or injures my character."  If my character's head is actually chopped off, then he's off to join the choir invisible, to become one with the Flashback Repertory Theatre.  Or if my character only takes two sides of damage, then his head can't possibly have been chopped off.

My inclination is to rule that, no matter what you *say* is the challenge, the only way something worse than 2 sides of damage can be done to a PC is if the player agrees to it in negotiation.  And the losing player always has the right to say, "No, I'll take the two sides.  Narrate around that, monkey boy."

:: Maybe my reroll is less than yours, but greater than half yours.
I have to choose:
a) My character sucks it up but hangs in. I say how my character blocks or dodges the worst of your challenge, but takes some of it anyway. Consequently, your character goes forward with an advantage. The conflict continues into a new round. We both pick up and reroll our dice, but because of your character's advantage, you get to add a d6 with pips - an advantage die - to the stat dice in your hand.
Or else:
b) My character totally sucks up your challenge and the conflict ends, without going to a next round. However, unlike when your roll doubles mine, your character doesn't exhaust or injure mine, nor do we negotiate any other consequences. This is called giving, as in "I give."

Question 2: Option (b) here confuses me.  The challenge was, "I totally chop your head off, John Parker."  If I suck that up, I'm taking some damage.  How much?  Is that damage supposed to be any different from the "you doubled me" case, or is the difference just supposed to be that I get the option of giving you an advantage die and trying again?  Is there anything mechanically to discourage me from saying screw it and forcing us to keep re-rolling until you really do double me?

Question 3: What happens if I "suck it up but hang in" twice in a row?  Do you now have two advantage dice for the third roll?


54. On 2006-05-16, Vincent said:

Colin, in descending order:

3) No. An advantage die lasts for only one round. (It does last for the entire jostling-up process of its one round, though, if there is one.)

2) Read 45, 46 and 47 above, including marginalia.

1) I was going to refer you to 33-37, but I see your marginalia. No, "take the blow" doesn't mean "give." It means "the challenge comes true."

The general answer for your (1) and (2) is: if you make a challenge that's beyond the scope provided for by the consequence rules - giving, going forward with the advantage, or exhausting/injuring vs negotiation - then you can expect to scale back at consequence time.

Do make strong challenges, but do be prepared to scale them back when you win them.


55. On 2006-05-16, colin roald said:

Darren thought 46 was clear, but I have to say I didn't.  :-/

It appears to me that it only makes sense to give if your opponent offers you consequences less severe than exhaustion or two sides damage. If not, you might as well keep rolling until she manages to double you or you manage to roll better.  Is that correct?

I want to check how you intended this to be interpreted: "Consequently, your character exhausts or injures my character. I lose two die sizes from a stat".  If you choose "exhaustion", then that's instead of damage?  The victor generally gets to choose which stat/die is affected;  does she first get to choose whether it's going to be exhaustion or injury?  I presume yes.  That is, the loser can say, "no, I won't accept death, give me exhaustion or injury," but it's the victor who says, "okay, exhaustion then.  You crumple under the stunning blow, and I stride by to seize the princesss."


56. On 2006-05-16, Vincent said:

The time to give is when your opponent makes a weak challenge, one you don't mind coming true. If you don't want it to come true, don't give.

Exhaustion is losing two die sizes from the stat you use to exert yourself, injury is losing two die sizes from the stat you use to endure duress. They might be the same stat, in which case choosing exhaustion vs. injury isn't mechanically significant, although feel free to color it one way or the other.


57. On 2006-05-17, colin roald said:

So, Aquilo the drunken Black Knight attempts a seduction roll to talk Bethania, the prince's loyal young wife, into spreading her legs for him.  And not suavely—he's coarse and crude and does it in front of the court, and there's absolutely no way she can do anything but call for the guards to break his face.

But Aquilo has a specialization in seduction, and his player calls for a conflict, and he throws down a 12.  And Bethania's player rolls crappy and throws down a 4.

The rules seem to say, "Whatever [he] said [his] character does, that's exactly what happens."  There must be wiggle room here somewhere for Bethania's player to say "no!  she just would never do that!"  Is she allowed to insist on exhaustion damage instead of having the described challenge come to pass?  We have one exception for lethal damage;  is there another one for "no mind control"?

Aquilo here I am postulating not to have any actual magical ability, just famously dangerous sex appeal.  The enchantress with genuine mind control magic is a different issue.


direct link

This makes...
CR go "I'm not trying to be difficult"*

*click in for more

58. On 2006-05-17, Vincent said:

There is no wiggle room anywhere for Bethania's player to say "no! she just would never do that!" Why should there be?  Aquilo's player won the conflict fair and square, so it resolves in Aquilo's favor. He won the roll, so she spreads her legs for him, and in addition, is exhausted or injured or whatever other consequence the two players agree to.

There's not an exception for lethal damage. I still chopped your head off; I still trampled you with my elephant; I still stabbed you in the ear. You didn't die, maybe, but I already knew that when I made the challenge. It was never lethal, unless I saw up front that your stat was already low enough for me to kill you.

No, you're missing what conflict resolution rules do. They resolve conflicts. These particular rules, a crappy roll means that you lose. That's okay; that happens to characters sometimes. Bethania isn't the first character who ever spread her legs for a crude lout with dangerous sex appeal.

But it's not so much this case I'm really worried about as figuring out where the dividing line is between this case and obviously reasonable ones like "Do I talk you into letting me come with you?"

There's no dividing line. You handle them the same way. The dice tell you the answer and you go forward, resolved. Aquilo's player says "I commit egregious bastardy, but everyone still loves me!" and he rolls and I roll and ... fuck me, he commits egregious bastardy and everyone still loves him. And everybody at the table - the real people, who don't still love him - we shake our heads and go, jesus, that guy's going to get stabbed in the ear one day.

Look, Colin, what you're missing is: try it. You won't believe me until you try it. A five minute face to face demo and I could show you, you'd never look back.


direct link

This makes...
cr go "I have a game scheduled"*

*click in for more

59. On 2006-05-17, Vincent said:

Colin: My players are going to need to be warned that a success on "Influencing Others" can pretty much give anyone mind control over "your character", and I'm just figuring this out myself. This breaks one of the basic axioms of every game we've ever played.


Now turn your mind 90 degrees. Hold "mind control" in your peripheral vision, vague, not central. It's real; what you just said is real. This DOES break one of the basic axioms you've always held. But it's not some weird mind control thing.

What it is is: whenever something really matters between your character and another's, neither of you gets to just decide it. You roll for it fair and square. This goes for "I hit you," "I rob you," "I throw you off the wall," "I turn your lover against you," "I invade your dreams," "I seduce you," "I trick you into leaving your armor at home," "I engulf your castle in a tremendous earthquake," and "I stab you in the ear."

The victim doesn't ever get to just decide that it doesn't happen. The aggressor doesn't ever get to just decide that it does. We roll for it.


direct link

This makes...
AG go "This reminds me of the Hero system..."*

*click in for more

60. On 2006-05-17, colin roald said:

It seems like kind of a weird hybrid thing, really.  In some ways it's more like we as players are dicing for control of narration, than we are dicing for the success of characters' actions.  Because if it was really about the success of actions, there ought to be some mechanism for acknowledging that some actions are more difficult than others.  But on the other hand, if it's purely about whose turn it is to decide something, there's no reason to involve character stats at all.  Each player could just roll a d12, high roll wins, and loser goes on the "we owe" list.  (Bleah.)

For what it's worth, the reason I'm excited about this game is not the conflict resolution—it's the chapter creation rules.  They offer me a shot at solving the basic problem that's kept me from role-playing at all for a year or more:  I don't have time to do the prep work that most games demand from the GM, and neither do most of my friends.  Rolling on the Oracle and going from there will be awesome if it works.


61. On 2006-05-17, Sydney Freedberg said:

> there ought to be some mechanism for acknowledging that some actions are more difficult than others

Uh, isn't there? Each player chooses the relevant ability and/or specialization from their character's sheet and rolls that.

As I read it, the Core Endeavors are key here:
a) If Aquilo the drunken Black Knight has a hugely high score in Core Endeavor: Influencing Others, then he should have a high probably of getting other people to do awful things they'd never even consider doing if someone with a lower ability tried.
b) If Princess Bethania has a lousy score in Core Endeavor: Defending Myself (that covers both physical and social, I think—or should social be "Asserting Myself"?), then she should have a lousy chance of resisting other people's suggestions that she take action harmful to herself.

This is exactly the way the system would handle it if Aquilo tried to attack Bethania with his, err, longsword—you just plug in different abilities, endeavors, and specializations as appropriate.

I suspect the thing that's tripping you up, when you say that "some actions are more difficult than others," is that you mean more difficult inherently, regardless of who's involved: convincing someone to have dinner with you is always more difficult than convincing someone to have sex you, for example, so there should be some kind of difficulty modifier to apply on top of your ability score for "convince someone" and the other person's ability score for "not be convinced."

Here's the thing, though: We can all conceive of characters—fictional ones at least, though for some of us people we know—for whom "have dinner with me" is a much, much easier proposal to resist than "have sex with me." Maybe they're anorexic nymphomaniacs; less extremely maybe they just aren't tempted that much by food, but they are tempted by sex.

So this whole idea of "some actions are more difficult than others" is arguably unrealistic. Actions are only more or less difficult in the context of the specific people involved.


direct link

This makes...
colin go "inherent difficulty..."*

*click in for more

62. On 2006-05-17, Vincent said:

Colin: Because if it was really about the success of actions, there ought to be some mechanism for acknowledging that some actions are more difficult than others.

It's about who wins the conflict, not whose action succeeds. Thus, the only "difficulty" is: who's better equipped to win?


63. On 2006-05-17, anon. said:

Intuitively, I want "better equipped to win" to include both static factors (the stats recorded on character sheets) and dynamic factors (the ever-changing context of the story).  Maybe Bethania's innate resistance to seduction can be designated by whatever's on the character sheet, but the fact that Aquilo initiated this conflict in public in front of the court isn't.

It's like if we were having a foot race.  Your "exerting yourself" might be higher than mine, but if you're wearing plate armour and currently chained to a water buffalo, then maybe you don't have the advantage after all.  I don't normally expect to modify characters' stats for transient conditions like "chained to a water buffalo".

But it could be I'm just trained to expect that stuff, and you don't really need it.  I'll play the game and find out.


direct link

This makes...
colin go "that was me"

64. On 2006-05-18, Sydney Freedberg said:

How'd you get chained to that water buffalo?

Because if some other character did that to you—by wining a conflict—then that can be depicted mechanically as just the consequences ("damage") from the last conflict.

The "in front of the whole court" thing—rather than go with a static modifier, I'd be tempted to treat the court itself as a character (group rather than individual) that both sides in the conflict can compete to win over and thereby put added social pressure on their side, but I'm not familiar enough with AG&G to be sure how to make that work in these specific mechanics.


65. On 2006-05-22, colin roald said:

Um, well, how I got chained to the buffalo, that's kind of a long story.  You know, boys will be boys.  It didn't seem like a big deal at the time—how was I to know the free ice cream giveaway was about to begin?

That is, (a) it's quite likely I negotiated the chaining as a consequence *instead* of damage, and (b) as soon as I get a scene alone, I can trivially narrate my way out of the chains.  If there's no one around to oppose me, that's an automatic success.  It would be kind of a pain in the ass to keep track of every transient condition like that as damage on my character sheet.

(My first test game is scheduled for Weds.  I'll report how it goes.)


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