2009-06-07 : Concrete Examples of Arrows

This is a cloud and dice post.

I've gone to my game shelf, pulled out a batch of books that seem likely. I'm going to do like I did with HoL.

For now I don't care a single bit whose character is whose, nor do I care if some players are GMs and others aren't. So I'm going to use "a character" for all fictional characters, and "a player" for all real-world people.

Furthermore, this is about the lines scratched in the dirt, the rules themselves as written, not what people actually do.

Over the Edge, p18:

Whenever your character tries to do something, the GM will respond in one of three ways, depending on the difficulty of the task. The task might be automatic, chancy, or impossible, as ruled by the GM.

Fictional cause: a character tries to do something.
Real-world effect: a player rules it automatic, chancy, or impossible, depending on its difficulty.

Grey Ranks, p57:

When you use a reputation's d8, you must also author a positive change to the reputation. Clumsy might become graceful, or - depending on the character's experiences - careful. This is an opportunity for each player to describe a positive change and a maturing outlook for the character.

Real-world cause: a player uses a reputation's d8.
Real-world effect: a player changes the reputation.
Fictional effect: a character's outlook matures.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplaying game, p109:

Break Neck: Before this maneuver may be attempted, the character must succeed at a Grapple (see p. 110). After that, the attacker rolls and adds Strength and Kung Fu, or just uses the Muscle Score. The defender rolls and adds Strength and Constitution. If the attacker's roll is higher, the base damage is (4 x Strength) points (Bash type). If the total damage reduces the defender to -10 Life Points, she must pass a Survival Test (see p. 121) at a penalty equal to the Success Level of the last attack. If she fails, her neck is broken, with fatal results...

Lord. My best guess:
Real-world cause: a player has succeeded a grapple roll (see p. 110).
Fictional cause: a character attempts to break another character's neck.
Real-world effect: players roll a variety of dice, add a variety of numbers, make a variety of comparisons.
Real-world effect: a player changes some numbers on her paperwork.
Fictional effect: a character breaks another character's neck.

Ars Magica (4th ed), p69:

To cast a formulaic spell, your character recites magic words in a firm voice and boldly executes arcane hand gestures memorized as part of the spell. This activity shapes and directs the magical energy that pervades the world.

When casting formulaic spells, the die rolled is a stress die if you are in stressful circumstances or a simple die otherwise...

Fictional cause: a character undertakes to cast a formulaic spell.
Fictional effect: a character speaks magic words in a firm voice and makes bold magic gestures.
Fictional cause: a character is in a stressful circumstance.
Real-world effect: a player rolls a stress die.

Primetime Adventures, p64:

A player whose protagonist is not in the conflict can influence the conflict by spending fan mail to gain cards. They can be applied toward the cards of the producer or any player with a protagonist in the conflict, however the player spending them sees fit. The player should decide where the cards apply before revealing their result.

Fictional cause: a character wants something and doesn't have it (see p59) and another character isn't implicated.
Real-world cause: a player wants to influence the outcome.
Real-world effect: a player spends fan mail, gets cards, and applies them to another player's cards.

The Burning Wheel, p31:

Working carefully increases the time for a test by half, but grants a +1D advantage. If a player wishes his character to work carefully, he must state this before the dice are rolled.

What this really means in game terms: In a time-sensitive test, the player may state he is working carefully. If he fails the test, the result indicates he has run out of time - the bomb goes off, the guards burst in, the old man dies, etc. By working carefully, the player is allowing the GM to introduce a serious time-based complication.

Fictional cause: a character is working slowly.
Fictional effect: a character's action takes half again as long.
Real-world effect: a player rolls an additional die.
Real-world cause: a player rolls a failure.
Fictional effect: a bomb goes off, guards burst in, an old man dies, etc.

Sorcerer, p19:

There is one final, extremely significant aspect of Sorcerer dice that everyone in the role-playing group should understand fully. If the character is carrying out a series of related actions, whatever they may be, victories from one roll may be carried over as bonus dice for the next roll. For instance, if a character gets three victories on his successful roll A, he receives three bonus dice for roll B, as long as the GM agrees that task A directly affects task B.

Fictional cause: a character takes an action related to an earlier action.
Real-world effect: a player rolls additional dice equal to the earlier success.

In a Wicked Age p14:

My move:

I leave my dice on the table undisturbed - my 9 and 6 stand. You pick your dice up into your hand - your 5 and 6 don't stand.

I say what Mekha does. Since I've rolled direct and for myself, it has to be direct and for himself. It can't be violent, or I'd have rolled with violence instead.

"Mekha tears away, leaving Amek with a handful of hair, and dives out of the tent."

Real-world cause: a player's dice beat another player's dice.
Real-world cause: a player rolled dice listed with particular forms.
Fictional effect: a character takes action that matches particular forms.

If you have more examples you'd like to talk about, or if you'd like me to interpret other rules in these terms, please quote them in their entirety, the way I have. That's a big part of my point.

1. On 2009-06-07, Luke said:

I hate myself for doing this, but... I think you're shortchanging the Buffy rule. I think the ultimate fictional effect is the death of the character whose neck has been broken. Which also changes the real world effect—the character is removed from play. This seems significant.

I'm sorry for being a pedant.



2. On 2009-06-07, Josh W said:

Congratulations, I think you just graduated to obvious, which should be pretty good for game design.

Also any ideas for what to call these arrows now they are seperated from your diagrams? (If you are willing to prolong the tyranny of text!)


3. On 2009-06-08, Vincent said:

Luke, you're right.

It's especially significant if it's a PC not an NPC.


4. On 2009-06-08, Simon C said:

I noticed a rule in Dogs when we were making characters the other day.  I don't own the book, so I can't quote perfectly, but it was something like:

"You're being ambushed while asleep.  Because you're asleep you don't get to roll Acuity"

So it's:

Fictional Cause:  You're asleep
Real-World Effect: You don't get to roll acuity

And I was like "That's a super-clear example of a rightward-facing arrow."  And everyone else was like "Whatever, let's make characters".

But I'm totally right, right?


5. On 2009-06-08, Callan said:

Hmmm, how I'd describe it?

Grey Ranks: Fictional effect: The players character matures in their opinion of the word 'mature', which may not match other group members(though it's nice if it does)

Buffy: already covered above

Burning wheel: Just a strange, strange reference to what the player is apparently allowing/agreeing the GM can do, when the player narrates something or takes a certain option.

Sorcerer: Real world effect: The GM has a decision to make about whether dice previously earned should be given again because of a recent narration. One thing he can do with his decision is try and conform to what other people in the group would think would happen. But the player does not just roll dice equal to an earlier success.

Part of a small game I wrote goes like this
1. The player who's turn it is (the active player) declares their tactical move.

2. The other player rates it at 0 to 50 TAC damage. The other player can ask questions to better understand the move, if they want, or just rate it.

3. The active player can challenge and discuss that through conversation and the other player can discuss if they want, or just state the rating they wish and that's it, the rating stands.

4. This is now applied to the monsters TAC hit points!

How would you interpret that, Vincent?


6. On 2009-06-08, Vincent said:

Simon: you are indeed.

Callan: I presume that "the active player declares their tactical move" means that they say what their character does, and what they say their character does is something that counts as a tactical move? Like "my guy throws a big rock at its head," for instance? If so:
Fictional cause: a character does something that counts as a tactical move.
Real-world effect: players discuss the move (optionally) and set a number, then subtract it from another number.

Now about your comments on Grey Ranks, Burning Wheel and Sorcerer. The Burning Wheel example is really great, I think. It's clear that the relationship in the game between the players and the GM is such that the GM is to bring grief upon the players within bounds, and that the players set the bounds implicitly by their characters' actions. I dig that.

The Sorcerer example's "as long as the GM agrees" is an expression of a similar thing: it's not the GM's decision, but the GM is to exercise judgment and oversight.

For both of them: don't think of the GM's authority, think of the GM's responsibilities. The GM does a job for the group, and answers to the group for how well he's doing it.

I have more to say about the Grey Ranks example but just confirm for me that you get what I'm saying so far?


7. On 2009-06-09, Callan said:

I'm not sure whether it matters or whether it's a quibble (and I'd normally just not note it), but I'm not sure...
"Fictional cause: a character does something that counts as a tactical move."
Well, within whatever fiction imagined...there isn't any sort of tactical move that it would 'count as'. A tactical move is just a game procedure term and also a narrational prompt for players. What actually is narrated and what that inspires in listeners imaginations is just whatever happens to be inspired. I'm looking at it from a very outside perspective, in saying that. Outside the activity, looking in, I mean. But it might not matter...

On the burning wheel,
"It's clear that the relationship in the game between the players and the GM is such that..."
It's not really clear? I mean, upon reading the text a player might say "Whoa, by working slow I'm apparently allowing what now?"

Is it stating a rule? Or is it saying what the player allows - and given allowing is a choice, the book can't say for the player that he is allowing anything. It really does seem to be refering to some prior agreement that doesn't necersarily/most likely doesn't exist.

For myself, if I were playing and hadn't read this text and it's shown to me after me narrating going slow, I might very well go along with the general idea so as to be supportive of the game the GM/someone I care for to some degree, wants to play. But if I'm shown this after my narration, even if I go with it whole heartedly, then it's clear when I was narrating I was in no way allowing anything like what the text talks about. At all. You can't say you agreed to something in the past you didn't actually agree to - you can only agree right now, in this moment, surely? But the text is trying to tell the GM I was allowing stuff when I narrated, when I did not allow it (I agreed/allowed it, afterward, with a smile indeed - but that was after, not during)...this text doesn't make sense?

"For both of them: don't think of the GM's authority, think of the GM's responsibilities."
Well, my own philisophical default is that he starts out with no responsibilities, at all. A blank slate. Then he gains responsiblities if they are explicity stated to him and he agrees to them.

But one thing he can decide to do, in his responbilityless decision, is, perhaps because it's fun, is to decide to use his decision to facilitate judgment and oversight. Doing this stuff not because he's responsible, but because it's a bit of fun to do. The text can even point this usage out, so he doesn't have to stumble across/invent the idea latter.

Is my philisophical default simply at odds with this rule? It might be and that might be the issue here. But I'm pretty sure my default can still achieve the goal the rule is aiming for, anyway. Perhaps it's the default I'm bringing to the rule that causes me to not understand it?


8. On 2009-06-09, Joel said:


So. . .if you don't know the rules beforehand you can't be said to have agreed to them beforehand? Sure, I guess. But what of it?

Also: that rule requires that the player specifically invoke the rule before resolving the action. You really can't get blindsided by it.


9. On 2009-06-09, Callan said:

Well, as I said, I find it to be some bizarre wording. I just cut my post (and stored it) because I'll write alot if prompted - but I don't want to get into the situation where I get prompted, then get asked why I'm writing so much :)


10. On 2009-06-09, Joel said:

I guess I'm a bit more trusting—that when a text says something like "the player states they are working carefully" or whatever, I assume that the overall text will make clear what that means and how and when to implement it. In this case I happen to know that it's perfectly clear in the context of the overall text, and is of a piece with other rules and stipulations throughout the book.


11. On 2009-06-09, Vincent said:

Callan, about your own example: Sure, it's real people who have to decide whether what you're character's doing counts as a tactical action.

It might be that you get to just decide yourself, like this: "My guy stops and stands with his head tilted, remembering how his grandmother used to push pigs up a ladder. What a chore. That's my tactical move."

The rest of us: "that's your tactical move? Okay, weird. Zero."

It might be that you don't get to just decide, but we all have a hand in deciding, like this: "My guy stops and stands with his head tilted, remembering how his grandmother used to push pigs up a ladder. What a chore. That's my tactical move."

The rest of us: "yeah, no it isn't. Is that what your guy's doing? Because that counts as a pass."

Or else: "My guy picks up a great big rock and smashes the monster's head with it. But that's not my tactical move, it's just what I do."

The rest of us: "yeah, sorry, that's OBVIOUSLY your tactical move. 30? 30."

Either way, yes, real people deciding what counts.

I think it's important for your game design which way it works, but I don't think it's important to my point. My point is: if you don't say what your character does, nobody has any way of assigning a number.

You: "I make my tactical move. Assign me a high number."

Us: "What? Um, we'll see. What does your character do?"

You: "Whatever. I want at least a 30."

Us: ???

(As people, we COULD say "okay, 30," if we wanted to. But we'd be defying your rules as written to do so.)


12. On 2009-06-09, Callan said:

That makes me tilt my head? I hadn't thought of implimenting a rule for passing, and perhaps I'm just bringing boardgame culture with me, but that's just passing. One or two minute time limit, egg timer and all. run out of time? Zero points. I just wouldn't normally think it would have to come to that?

I think I know what your getting at - if he says nothing, what on earth do you do in terms of the imagined space? What fictional thing happens when he's silent? Or to be exact, he is fictionally silent?

For myself, I feel if he passes, then the ruleset itself gets his turn. It says he's passing, then the rules are speaking into the fiction and saying the character is passing. Okay, I might add a bit of twist and lime to that in my own mind (and might say it as suggestion to everyone else to take on, or to prompt what suggestions they have), saying he paniced and did nothing.

That's where my mind goes - if you pass your turn, then the ruleset gets to speak into the fiction instead of you and ruleset says your character passed (the ruleset gets brief control of your character, as much as funky indie RPG's might pass character control amongst multiple players instead of just one). But I'll grant, that isn't even written in my game. It's more like my own boardgame culture that a pass is a pass, whatever game it's in, then my mind tries to patch up the fiction to fill in what that means.

I'll grant it's not written in my rules and it's me bringing my board game culture to the fore, but I do have a way of saying what number you get if you don't describe your character doing anything. How would it look in boxes and clouds? Umm, probably an arrow from box to box, and another arrow issuing from the same spot as the first arrow, into the cloud. And perhaps back again, since the player did not speak into the fiction and that is why his turn passed/ie, it has a system effect of 'pass'.

Or to take less time saying it, perhaps it's my boardgame culture coming to the fore, but in practical terms I'm not really getting your point?

Though I will say, on the first pigs up a ladder thing, there was this manga once where a guy was fighting a computer, who seemed to predict his every move. So he just stopped and walked toward it - no manga leaps and dives, no tactical move, just walking. It kept attacking where it predicted where he was going, which was always off to the side - and he kept walking toward it and killed it. I think it's possible standing there and thinking about pigs might, in some particular imaginary circumstance, garner a 50. Unlikely, but possible - that was my point just on this thing, there is no tactical move/non tactical move in the imagined world. There is no distinction. Though I'll grant the listener could think it doesn't sound like the guy is making a tac move, so he stops thinking about it (and defaults to a zero) and doesn't think about the full ramifications. Eh, but it's a side point to the main topic I think, and I'm writing alot again...darn


13. On 2009-06-09, Vincent said:

Callan! Perfect. I agree with you with my whole brain. If I say "My guy stops and stands with his head tilted, remembering how his grandmother used to push pigs up a ladder. What a chore. That's my tactical move," maybe I'm asserting that it's a tactically significant thing to do, and everybody else should go " Seriously? That doesn't seem ... Huh. Let's see, that would mean ... this ... and that would mean ... that ... and that would mean ... HOLY CRAP 50."

A significant rule in Dogs in the Vineyard works exactly that way. "A raise is something your opponent can't ignore." Broadly speaking, it's my job when I make a raise to think of something you can't ignore, and it's your job when I make a raise to figure out why you can't ignore it.

But yes, a side point. One of my favorite side points, but yes.


RSS feed: new comments to this thread