Re: Re: Contest Questions

From: Nikodemus Siivola <nikodemus_at_...>
Date: Sun, 4 Oct 2009 04:36:10 +0300

2009/10/4 Mike Holmes <mike_c_holmes_at_...>:

> Is anybody in disagreement on this? I don't think so. What you're calling "removing
> choice" I'm calling "making the character uncool."

Maybe there's a misunderstanding here.

Alexander suggested:
> With the mugging I’d roll to intimidate because the original
> poster wanted a very zoomed in conflict. In my usual group we’d probably go straight
> to the conflict mechanics the minute the mugging was announced.
> Adam: Awesome I win my mugging roll.
> Bruno: Well my characters a coward I probably hand you the
> money shaking in my boots and sobbing and pleading with you not to kill me.
> Adam: Awesome I win the mugging roll.
> Bruno: Well my characters a seasoned vet with his wits about
> him, he weights up all the options and realises he can’t go for his sword
> without you stabbing him first. ‘Better watch your back’ he growls as he chucks
> over his purse.

To me this is zooming out, and takes the a major part of choice out of Bruno's player's hands. I would roll out the mechanics at this stage only if Adam's player indicated his desire to do so (probably because he feels that his ability to stage the mugging attempt at the table is vastly inferior to Adams mugging prowess.)

Adam: "I lurk at the end of the narrow alley. When you approach, I brandish a dagger and demand your money." I'm trying to scare you into giving your money without things getting physical.

In which case I'd make it a contest between Adam's Mugging and Bruno's Assess Threat -- or whatever. Unless you're throwing around magical mojo, I don't consider a conflict that forces the another PC to make a choice one way or another valid (unless Bruno's player wants the system to choose for him) -- against an NPC not an issue, though.

In my mind, the mugging attempt is a bang of sorts. Choosing how to react to it (Relent? In what manner? Attempt to bluster? Flee? Resort to violence?) is the player's prerogative. Same with pretty much all social conflicts between PCs.

> What... you'd have them roll to successfully kill a rabbit caught in a trap? Do you get
> my zen point? It is always and everywhere a subjective choice as to when to have a
> player roll for their character's success.

Of course. I prefer not to engage mechanics as long as the fiction doesn't need them.

> You'd have to define integrity here for me. I think we're talking, again, about the same
> thing. Like if what makes my character cool for me is that he's is a Mel Gibson-esque
> character who always gets beat up, then not allowing him lots of chances to fail is
> taking away what makes him cool to me. Which might  be what you're calling integrity?

No, actually not. I would call that a part of the character concept, hopefully clearly flagged or discussed with me / others, so that we can support it through play.

What I'm calling integrity is the players prerogative to choose when his Gibsonite character has had enough -- or not. To put it another way: assuming no mind control powers, in virtually every situation the player is the sole authority on what the character thinks and feels, and how he or she character responds to situations.

> Again, not sure what "micro-goals" are, but, yeah, if it would suck to roll, don't roll.
> That's clearly embedded in the rules.

Micro-goals would be moment-to-moment the task-like stuff: "I cut his head off!" vs "I run away!"

> ?? So... you'd let them roll again, and only keep the result if it's a failure?

Pretty much. (Assuming you mean letting the characters repeat attempts to engage the mechanics again, instead of just letting the player roll without this being prompted by the fiction.)

I am definitely inclined to be more lax about sufficiently changed circumstances if characters are effectively risking what they have gained thus far by retrying after a victory (hoping for a more decisive outcome.)

> Or... Not seeing what you're saying. But to be clear on the other perspective, it's not
> saying that the character can't say "I want to do it again" it's saying that when you
> resolve the roll, the narration of the outcome is, "Well, he tried lots and lots of
> times, and failed again and again. Then he decided to do something else." If, in fact,
> you believe that the character would continue trying until they died, instead of moving
> on to something else, then you've created the wrong contest.

(Is there a play-style issue here? If the character keeps trying something until he dies, while being aware of having other options, that sounds pretty awesome! Obviously something pretty intense is going on to drive the character to such a tragic end!)

That said, with a macro-goal what you say is exactly how I would handle it.

"I go out, and try to mug a few people for some cash." (Let's assume that the potential failure is interesting.)

[Simple Conflict: Mugging vs Tough City] => Marginal Success

You lurk, you threaten, you mug. All the trouble for a measly two pence.

"I try again!" You did. And again, and again. It's a tough city. Time to call it a day, or think of something else.

> If that doesn't seem like an interesting contest, if they're going to get the lock open
> eventually, if they have plenty of time to do so, then don't bother rolling.

Obviously. Equally obviously, if the degree of success represents the alacrity of getting the lock picked, then retrying for a faster result is nonsensical.

> Wait, they've already got what they want, no? So why would they bother "trying" again?

> Are we talking about killing again?

About any case where the result isn't really binary, where degrees of victory matter.

Say we're talking about getting an investor to invest. A marginal victory would imply a marginal victory. Have another lunch with him, trying to get him to commit more monies? Is it a repeat attempt, or not?

If the scene seems like worth playing, I'd let it slide: play the scene, then roll. Maybe they get a better deal, or maybe the investor smells desperation and pulls out entirely.

If the scene would not be played at all, just dealt with at a distance through mechanics -- I'd call it a repeat attempt and let the previous result stand.

> I mean... you wouldn't argue that the die roll represents some tremendous variation in
> how far they can actually leap, right? I mean, sure, they might slip or something, but
> their maximum distance isn't really all that variable. They either actually can leap
> that far, or they can't. The question of whether or not they do is bases on whether or
> not they think they can.

Quite so. We're in perfect accord here. (In my mind the example was when fleeing from danger: a marginal success might have had them barely catching the ledge, and a marginal failure might have had them realizing that the jump is too long just at the last moment, leaving them in a precarious situation on the original side, etc.)

> Now, like you say, this might seem like a limit on player "choice." Or, as I'd put it,
> it might seem uncool for that action hero character not to make the attempt. That,
> again, is part of trying to determine the player's intent. Some players are playing
> Hamlet, and like it when their character hesitates. Others are playing the guy who never
> hesitates. For them the contest is not about getting the treasure, but about risking
> life and limb.

I don't consider that messing with integrity, no. Call it a reflex response to the environment.

If the character was explicitly very reckless, or if the conflict was about fleeing a soul eating horror, then I would probably not narrate a minor failure as hesitating at the edge...

> That's the point. Looking at any such contest out of the context of play, not knowing
> the player, or the character in question and what the player likes about the character,
> you can't make this call.

Perfect agreement. What I was after was finessing the carryover results from conflicts, mostly, I think.

> If the players didn't mind failing at times, then they'd be playing freeform, or not
> playing RPGs at all. Resolution rolls are a randomization of results that cause play to

One thing that has a strong bearing on this is that most of may players have massive experience in Scandinavian larps -- so there is a strong element of freeform (assuming you mean the kind of freeform I think you mean...) at the table.

(Not that I entirely understand what you mean by lack of failure: those larps are certainly what thought me the glory of interesting failures. Maybe I don't know the kind of freeform you mean, after all.)


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