2009-06-15 : Lazy Play vs IIEE with Teeth
Here's my personal rephrasing of IIEE. For this thread you can take it as definitional:
In the game's fiction, what must you establish before you roll, and what must you leave unestablished until you've rolled?
In other words, what fictional stuff do you need to know in order to roll at all, and what fictional stuff should you let the roll decide?
Look familiar? It's what I've been talking about for the last 2 months. Fictional causes, fictional effects.
Here's a quick resolution mechanism.
1. We each say what our characters are trying to accomplish. For instance: "My character's trying to get away." "My character's trying to shoot yours."
2. We roll dice or draw cards against one another to see which character or characters accomplish what they're trying to accomplish. For instance: "Oh no! My character doesn't get away." "Hooray! My character shoots yours."
What must we establish before we roll? What our characters intend to accomplish.
What does the roll decide? Whether our characters indeed accomplish what they intend.
What do the rules never, ever, ever require us to say? The details of our characters' actual actions. It's like one minute both our characters are poised to act, and the next minute my character's stuck in the room and your character's shot her, but we never see my character scrambling to open the window and we never hear your character's gun go off.
Maybe we CAN say what our characters do. Maybe the way the dice or cards work, there's a little space where we can pause and just say it. Maybe that's even what we're supposed to do. "Always say what your characters do," the rules say, maybe. "No exceptions and I mean it." It remains, though, that we don't HAVE to, and if we don't, the game just chugs along without it. We play it lazy, and we get the reading-too-fast effect that Frank describes.
Contrast Dogs in the Vineyard, where if you don't say in detail what your character does, the other player asks you and waits patiently for you to answer, because she needs to know. She can't decide what to do with her dice without knowing. Dogs in the Vineyard's IIEE has teeth, it's self-enforcing.
In a Wicked Age has a similar problem to the example's. Maybe a worse problem. The rules say "say what your character does. Does somebody else's character act to stop yours? Then roll dice." That's what the rules say. But if, instead, you say what your character intends to accomplish, and somebody else says that their character hopes she doesn't accomplish it, and you roll dice then - the game chugs along, not noticing that you're playing it wrong, until suddenly, later, it grinds to a confusing and unsatisfying standstill and it's not really clear what broke it. If you play In a Wicked Age lazy, the game doesn't correct you; but instead of the reading-too-fast effect, you crash and burn.
So now, if you're sitting down to design a game, think hard. Most players are pretty lazy, and telling them to do something isn't the same as designing mechanisms that require them to do it. Telling them won't make them. Some X-percent of your players will come to you like, "yeah, we didn't really see why we'd do that, so we didn't bother. Totally unrelated: the game wasn't that fun," and you're slapping yourself in the forehead. Do you really want to depend on your players' discipline, their will and ability to do what you tell them to just because you told them to? Will lazy players play the game right, because you've given your IIEE self-enforcement, or might they play it wrong, because the game doesn't correct them? Inevitably, the people who play your game, they'll come to it with habits they've learned from other games. If their habits suit your design, all's well, but if they don't, and your game doesn't reach into their play and correct them, they'll play your game wrong without realizing it. How well will your game do under those circumstances? Is that okay with you?
Take Dogs in the Vineyard again: not everybody likes the game. (Duh.) But most of the people who've tried it have played it correctly, because it's self-enforcing, and so if they don't like it, cool, they legitimately don't like it. I'm not at all confident that's true of In a Wicked Age.
You could blame the players, for being lazy and for bringing bad habits. (As though they might not!) You could blame the text, for not being clear or emphatic enough. (As though it could be! No text can overcome laziness and bad habits.) Me, I blame the design, for not being self-enforcing.
Anyway, you're the designer, and maybe it's okay with you and maybe it isn't, that's your call. (It's my call too for my games, and for the Wicked Age, yeah, maybe it's okay with me.) But I raise the question because from experience, slapping yourself in the forehead when people don't play the way you tell them to gets pretty old. If you don't want the headaches, do yourself a favor and make your game's IIEE self-enforcing.
1. On 2009-06-15, Vincent said:
2. On 2009-06-15, John Harper said:
3. On 2009-06-15, Matt Wilson said:
4. On 2009-06-15, Matt Wilson said:
5. On 2009-06-15, Vincent said:
6. On 2009-06-15, John Harper said:
7. On 2009-06-15, Chris said:
8. On 2009-06-15, Roger said:
9. On 2009-06-15, Sage said:
10. On 2009-06-16, Moreno R. said:
11. On 2009-06-16, Emily said:
12. On 2009-06-16, Vincent said:
13. On 2009-06-16, Matt Wilson said:
14. On 2009-06-16, Mathieu Leocmach said:
15. On 2009-06-16, Guy Srinivasan said:
16. On 2009-06-16, Simon C said:
17. On 2009-06-16, Callan said:
18. On 2009-06-17, Vincent said:
19. On 2009-06-17, Emily said:
20. On 2009-06-17, Vincent said:
21. On 2009-06-17, Brand Robins said:
22. On 2009-06-17, John Jenskot said:
23. On 2009-06-18, Callan said:
24. On 2009-06-18, Vincent said:
25. On 2009-06-22, Abkajud said:
26. On 2009-06-22, Abkajud said:
27. On 2009-06-25, Paul T. said:
28. On 2009-06-25, Vincent said:
29. On 2009-06-26, David Artman said:
30. On 2009-07-02, Josh W said: