2005-03-10 : Conflict Resolution for Luke


Let's talk about Character Death! Task and Conflict resolution!

Here's the Task and Conflict resolution one and I want it to be short.

I'm going to start by summing up my current position. I'm not going to use the term "conflict resolution," because I consider it more trouble than it's worth.

1. Whenever there's a conflict in your game, something's at stake. Somehow you have to resolve what's at stake, in order to move past the conflict. You have two choices: a person can resolve it by fiat, or your rules can resolve it.

"I hit him, to give him a scar to remember me by." Do you scar him?

2. If your rules don't explicitly resolve what's at stake, but instead only resolve whether characters successfully perform their tasks, they're leaving resolution of the stakes up to a person's fiat.

"I hit him, to give him a scar to remember me by." The dice say: yes, you hit him. Do you scar him?

3. It's possible for that person to resolve the stakes strictly according to the characters' success or failure at their tasks. That person, then, has transformed the (formal) task resolution rules into (informal) stakes resolution rules.

"I hit him, to give him a scar to remember me by." The dice say: yes, you hit him. The GM says: "yes, you scar him."

4. If, however, that person exercises fiat and resolves the stakes according to his preferred outcomes, he becomes the sole author of the game. Overtly or covertly.

"I hit him, to give him a scar to remember me by." The dice say: yes, you hit him. The GM says: "you hit him, but you give him no scar."

5. Task resolution rules with additional outcome rules - like a to-hit roll plus hit points - resolve stakes, insofar as the stakes of the conflict correspond to the provided outcome rules.

"I hit him, to put him out of the fight." The dice say: yes, you hit him. The damage roll says: you put him 22% closer to out of the fight.

However, they're a poor substitute for real stakes resolution rules, if you have any diversity in your conflicts.

"I hit him, to give him a scar to remember me by." The dice say: yes, you hit him. The damage roll says: you put him 22% closer to out of the fight. Unresolved: do you scar him?

6. If your rules do resolve the stakes, you're free to treat task resolution however you like. Your rules can resolve tasks too, as Dogs in the Vineyard's do; they can grant success to all tasks always, as My Life with Master's do; or they can let success or failure at tasks follow the resolution of the stakes, as Sorcerer's do.

"I hit him, to give him a scar to remember me by." The dice say: no, you don't scar him. Does that mean you didn't hit him?

Luke: I hope that you read this and say, "oh. I thought you meant something else. This seems fine" and that's the whole conversation.

1. On 2005-03-10, luke said:

may i attempt to reparse? You're saying that so long as the mechanics explicitly state the effects* of success and failure, it's conflict resolution, aka "good rules"?

*Not "you do it" or "you don't do it", but "you achieve your intent or not"

Sorry, it's not in my nature to let you off easy.


2. On 2005-03-11, Vincent said:

Um... For broad meanings of "mechanics," yes, exactly.


3. On 2005-03-11, anon. said:

Most systems have some set of things where the rules systems will tell you "This is what happens".

Most gaming groups have some set of things that they want to figure out.

When the answers the system is giving you match the questions your group is asking, life is good.  When they aren't, it isn't.

If the question you are asking is "do we live or die?" then any game with a combat system will work for you.  If the question you are asking is "do we acquit ourselves in heroic fashion?" then a system that only tells you whether you live or die is not helpful.  In fact, it may dissuade you from asking the question about heroism, because you know you won't get answers.

So, Luke, when you say "the system explicitly states whether or not you achieve your intent", I think you're skipping an interesting phase where rules (good or bad) influence how you frame and communicate your intent.


4. On 2005-03-11, TonyLB said:

... and I forgot my handle.  And since I rather like this post, I'd like credit for it.


5. On 2005-03-11, luke said:

Actually Tony, I think you're addressing the perennial problem of SCOPE—"what exactly can a player ask for via his intent?"

Achieve intent or not is resolution. What can I ask for and hope to achieve is scope.

Vincente: Gimme so time to do some chewing and playtesting. I'm going to give you the "this seems fine" with a dash of "but let me think about it some more."


6. On 2005-03-11, Vincent said:

Tony: I agree fully that "how do your rules provoke and constrain your intent?" is very, very interesting - far more interesting than "do your rules actually resolve or do they just foist resolution off on the GM?" - but like I say I want this one short. How about I owe you a post.

Luke: poifect.


7. On 2005-04-27, Oliver said:

Tony, I think as usual, "it all depends". The system can very much tell you whether you live or die in a fashion that lets you conclude it was heroical or not. If you almost lost your life yourself, because the only way to survive was a daring maneuver, then by all means, you can conclude it was heroical. I think the specific example shows some problems quite well. I want to know if I scar him -but I roll... what? I obviously need to inflict some injury on him, but is my skill at inflicting the injury a decisive factor in whether or not I actually scar him? It provides a necessity, but that necessity doesn't translate to a probability. This to some degree relates to Luke's argument of scope. Is scarring him a valid intent upon which I have some meaningful influence? I can provide a necessity, but whether he suffers a scar or not is largely out of my hands

Elsewhere, the example was safecracking to get some dirty info and the possibility of failing at safecracking but still getting the info e.g. from a paper basket. Ok. If you just make one roll to get the info. But... what if you had that roll influenced by a safecracking skill, say, by adjusting the target number? Is finding it in the paper basket still a sensible option? What influence does safecracking have on finding stuff in the garbage bin?

You may say I think too much in a simulationist fashion, but I think of it more of an issue of suspension of disbelief.


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