26Sep05

I’m back from a weekend away. We went camping at Knoebels’ for a letterboxing “gathering” with Kat’s friend Daina. There were a number of rollercoasters–both physical and emotional. My role was basically to be the facilitator–he who makes sure that everyone else has fun. I’m usually pretty good at that, and this time I was able to facilitate everyone else’s fun and squeeze in a bit of time for me, a notebook, and a few gaming thoughts.

Kat reminded me that she loves With Great Power… more than I do. But that’s okay, ’cause I really love it. She wants it to have a Sorcerer/Burning Wheel level of success. I’m pretty happy where it’s at. I’ve often said that I want 10% of what Luke’s got. That includes 10% of the workload. Right now, I’m o-target for acheiving that goal

Kat and I talked more about her problems with Stakes. Part of the way I think about this is best summed up in a picture.

The red line represents what we’re talking and thinking about. The part circled in blue is too easy to skip and just go from setting Stakes to resolving Stakes to setting a new scene. It’s really part of Fortune-in-the-Middle. Once the fortune is resolved, a lot of the scene’s tension bleeds away. Skipping this part leads from anticlimactic scene to anticlimatic scene.

Plus, pulling into character, then out of character, then into character again creates its own distancing problems. It puts a wedge between player and character. That wedge can lower the emotional impact of the play and weaken the SIS.

A few solutions that pop into my head are:

1) Lessen the impact of the “rules discussion” by making it very simple and perhaps even nonverbal. Something like hand signals for resolution or sliding chips forward could accomplish this. So could With Great Power…‘s card comparison, so long as everyone at the table was reasonably familiar with the rules. I had this kind of silent resolution in mind while writing the examples.

2) Another way would be to set up a reward system that specifically targeted the blue-circled section. It would work like PTA’s Fan Mail, but focus strictly on play after the resolution. After all, in the blue circle, you’re essentially like an actor in a stage play. You know what’s going to happen. You’ve just got to play it out as if you’re experiencing what happens.

3) Possibly reviving Fortune-at-the-End for social-type encounters while keeping FitM for physical stuff to avoid the Whiff Factor.

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14 Responses to “”

  1. I think if stakes are set up just so, the scene’s tension isn’t drained away but its propelling right toward something else. But stakes have to be set up carefully for that, so that a success means cool and a failure means aw shit, but cool!

    • Judd, you’re absolutley right, but the content of the Stakes isn’t the problem–it’s the way the Stakes and their resolution get discussed. Since Stakes and Conflict Resolution settle disputes between players, it’s very easy to just skip to another dispute between players.
      This is what Kat finds troubling. When this happens, the characters and the SIS degrade from lack of attention. An actual play recording starts sounding more like a plot synopsis than a radio play. The best-laid Stakes in the world won’t breathe life into a plot synopsis. At its most extreme, it’s the difference between seeing MacBeth performed on stage and reading the Cliffs Notes.
      Does that make more sense?

      • Gotcha. I played in two games where stakes played a major part and the issue I wrote about was on my mind, I reckon.
        I fully understand Kat’s discontent with gaming that takes the role-playing right out of it.

  2. Firstly, about “With Great Power…”, It’s not that I love WGP more than you do, and its not that I think WGP should/could achieve the uber-coolness of Sorcerer and Burning Wheel, I just don’t want WGP power to be dumped because its done.
    2ndly, what I figured it that when Fortune in the middle is close to the end then Stakes works well, be when fortune in the middle is closer to the beginning, then resolution never really gets played.
    -kat

  3. 5 Anonymous

    Here’s a further thought: Skipping the SIS in resolution is an intrinsic danger in games like WGP and PTA for the exact same reason why solving every problem with violence is an intrinsic danger for AD&D and Shadowrun.
    The players will gravitate to what the system supports. Since dispute between players is what the system supports, the players gravitate toward that, allowing the SIS to degrade.
    In essense, there’s too few points-of-contact. I think I may clean up this line of thought and take it to The Forge.


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