Jeez, more refering to chicken bones…

I was looking here

Here’s some quotes from it

“If your character has the higher position, you get +2 to your attack roll.”

” your tactical advantage depends upon details of your character’s immediate circumstances.”

I’m just staggered at this reference to a flight of various peoples seperate imaginations as if it can determine something at the table. It’s like me refering to my invisible six foot bunny friend, whether I get +2 to hit.

I said as much

This is another version of what that rule is saying.

“If Harvey, the invisible six foot rabbit next to the GM, gives it the nod, you get +2 to your attack roll.”

Both Harvey and the characters positioning exist as much as each other. They each exist enough to determine the +2, as each other.

Yet while you’ll balk at Harvey determining it, I’m staggered how you all still talking about how apparently “no way, the character totally is in a certain position and that totally determines the +2!”

I’ve slowly, yet horrifying come to realise how alot of other gamers (read: American gamers) treat the wording of rules like this. They treat it literally!?

I’ll tell you what can actually happen. Someone is the backstop – hopefully declared by the rules. This person listens to everyone else, and he allows himself to be moved somewhat by their ideas. A vague approximation of everyone elses ideas collect in his head, then he looks at them with his own idea of the words ‘height advantage’ in mind and chooses whether you get +2 to hit.

That’s what happens. Maybe we talk as if were climbing onto the table and crap, but that’s no more happening than when we dream at night were climbing onto a super model a table, it’s happening. What’s really going on is our own mind tumbling through a lot of ideas.

Treating it this other way? It’s demented! I’m sorry, how else would you describe it if someone refered to voices in their head, whispering to them whether you get +2 to hit? I doubt you’d be comfortable. But if everyones refering to how the caracter is actually higher up? I’m sorry, it’s no better than the voices.

mmorpg – death penalties

Ever muse about mmorpg design even when you really know it’s pointless to do so?

The death penalty in mmorpgs. Even the apparently wimpy one in world of warcraft – it’s always a fixed penalty. No matter whether you go ten levels without dying, or die ten times in ten minutes, it’s the same. And there’s no tension involved in it at all – if you die, here’s a penalty.

It’s hard to describe – but I think basically the question rises ‘well, what can I do about all the money I lost?’

Do better next time? ‘Next time’ would be a whole new character. Once your characters died/lost X gold, there’s no way to make up for that mistake. Yeah, you’ll earn more gold, but you could always have been able to be X amount of gold ahead than you are, but now aren’t. There’s no game to it – there’s no way of making up for that error and genuinely getting that gold back and being where you were before. And where there’s no game…well, there’s no game.

I had an idea and I realise now it doesn’t fully address that. What it was is fairly simple – each time you collect gold or whatever, a fixed percentage of it gets stored away. Over time, more and more of it gets stored. If you die, you lose all of this!!! Of course at the start, it was zero, but even after you slay your first monster, you now have something to lose.

The big thing is, when you get to a certain amount, ding! You get to keep all of it! And the amount you can lose is reset to zero…until you slay a monster, etc….

This, you can game. You can nurse your way through to a ding. But how traditional mmorpgs are, you can’t nurse your way through – you will eventually die to something and then your always X amount of gold behind. This idea strictly doesn’t solve that – you can die and always be X amount of gold behind. But it does provide something to game, rather than nothing at all except to eventually take the death on the chin again and again.

Finally, some of you might say ‘not dying is the game!’. No, it doesn’t matter how good you are at not dying – you will eventually die and you can’t ‘not die’ so much that you make up for any previous deaths gold loss (unless you can manage it that you never ever die, in which case I grant your point). I’ll put it this way – you are granted the means to lose(dying/gold loss), but you are granted no means to win. There’s no way to make up for losses from death. Imagine a computer game that only ever recorded your losses and never records your wins. Can you imagine the losses slowly but surely stacking up and…well, no wins recorded to balance that out?

I guess you don’t normally see that when you look at your gold amount. But if the death penalty of X gold is supposed to matter, then yes, all your losses do matter and are recorded while at the same time you cannot win to balance that out.

Also I have sleep debt at the moment…so I’m just cutting to the chase.

Fun short term risk game broken by long term accumulation

I’m playing legends of zork at the moment, and I quite enjoy how you have a number of action points each day and you can spend them on finding more treasure, or banking the treasure you’ve found. But if you get beaten up whilst looking, you lose all the treasure on you since your last bank. But banking uses up an action point you could have used for treasure finding. See the fun dilemma?

Okay, so that’s fun. But I’ve been playing it and saving up for some armour (because everyone else in the game seems to have a huge armour stat and they keep beating me up in PVP).

The thing is, while that fun dilemma is fun, at a bigger picture level, it’s just slow accumulation. The bigger picture game is boring. There is no game of risking for potentially more reward. So that bigger picture, the way it is, actually spoils the smaller picture.

Of course you could just duplicate the smaller game at the bigger picture level. Like perhaps after you get X amount of gold and Y amount of RL time, you can face some risk and increase it by some percentage, or you can bank it and be safe. That’s a quick, clumsy idea for it.

But the interesting thing is how that bigger picture appears and spoils the game. I think this happens in mmorpgs too – I wasn’t thinking of saving up a whole bunch of coins, but because of item costs my mind shifted to it – and when it shifted, it shifted to a larger picture that spoilt the smaller picture/game.

I think it can sort of explain the love hate thing you can get for a mmorpg, where your attracted to it, probably because of a reasonably fun small picture game, but then your mind drifts onto the larger picture and that spoils it.

Imagination coupler, Mk. 2

Not that the rest of the roleplay community works within the idea of artistic expressions, but something struck me about that today and I thought I’d have a chat with myself about it!

It occured to me that someone elses art can just be flat out boring to you. This isn’t terribly controversial – I’m sure we all like some types of music or paintings, but to other types of them we go ‘Meh’, while other people might hail them. Not controversial.

But it struck me that if I took a board game and plugged in spaces for artistic expression to occur (like someone describing their characters move), I’m putting in work and effort into something that, if I look at it calmly, can not be exciting at all. It could be entirely boring, simply because I don’t dig the art the other person expresses at that point.

Why add something that adds nothing? The art has a chance, perhaps a fair chance, of adding nothing. Indeed, why go out of my way to fit it into something which would have worked perfectly well as a board game? Why spoil a good board game will dull blanks? In fact, go to the effort of filling a good board game with dull blanks? It doesn’t make sense, yet that only just occurs to me.

So I thought about it and realised I’ve sought of thought along these lines before and suddenly a hybrid appeared in my mind (and some steam wafted out of my ears). Basically I’ve thought of an imagination coupler before, but it was fairly rudimentry – the classic “Get +2 to hit if the GM feels prior narrations would grant that”.

Here it’s slightly more complex. Say you had three moves (how many doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s atleast two/a choice). Upper Cut, Roundhouse, Flying Kick.

Now the first thing is that as designer, I choose moves that atleast I find exciting. So these are all exciting options that thrill me, the designer – instant reward for designing! The second thing is, the player chooses one of these moves as his move, BUT he can also describe his move. And if the GM so whishes, he can construct a bonus to hit and damage that suits that narration (perhaps working within a certain budget – how much he spends of the budget depends on how poweful he feels the prior narration was). Or the GM can just take it that the move they stated, happens. The third thing? The player gets the stats described to him and can either choose to take it OR the previous move he stated (which was one of the following: Upper Cut, Roundhouse, Flying Kick).

The good thing about this coupler is that something I as designer think is exciting, will always happen! No ‘dull art’ moments. Either one of the moves happens, or in play if I as GM think the art is exciting, then it gets implemented (assuming the player goes with it – if they don’t, they go with one of the pre set exciting moves). There is only what I think of exciting – there is no forcing imagined moves into the design, even though they can pan out dull as dog poo.

My pretend responce to: Actual RP in MMORPGs and World of Warcraft (split)

Again, I thought I was posting too much here, so I drop off my reply here, so it atleast get to stretch its legs somewhere:

I think a philisophical gulf is that real life is “kill a goblin, get a reward”, at its base. Even if it’s just harvesting a crop of plants (or cutting down rainforest, if you want an example that nips at the emotions a bit more). Various media like books and film typically examine what we kill and what for. The thing is, not everyone who watches or reads them set out to think about that. Sometimes the movie or book inspires them to do so, which is great. But they didn’t need to think about it.

I think with roleplay, particularly the story now variety, all participants need to go in with that desire to examine the process of killing for reward, because otherwise it just becomes flat out depiction of “kill a goblin, get a reward” without examination of that process. The more participants who go in without that desire to examine, the more gameplay merely depicts “Kill goblin for reward” than examines it.

The thing is, in a movie or book the author doesn’t have to mechanically fight with other peoples mechanical input, to depict some examination of the process. So he can depict an examination fairly strongly and that often inspires others to examine the process too. If, however, he has limited mechanical resources to do so and other people coming in have no desire to examine the process…

Well, it’s just a hypothesis, but the lack of desire to examine the kill process, will swamp the activity.

Which actually makes me think of how simulationism seemed to take over roleplay, over its history.


Something was going wrong and my efforts ended up taking up space over at anyway. So I thought I’d draw some pictures!



#2 Anika’s Odyssey, an adventure game in the classic style


#3 Most roleplay games


I’m aiming for the impact of having #2 and #3 being identical and almost entirely identical to #1.

Though I have to spoil that impact and say that in Anika’s Odyssey, there are hints towards a pre determined solution. In #3, there is no pre determined solution. There is no correct answer. Or to be exact, no person has pre determined a correct answer. Which means there is no correct answer.

It’s hard to describe this. It’s like horoscopes – people take the ‘right answer’ from them, that they want to see. You’ve probably heard the old example of a classroom of teenagers who are handed their ‘personal’ horrorscope. They can’t look at each others. They are then asked how well it describes them. The majority say it describes them really well.

They all have copies of the exact same text.

They all drew from it what they wanted to draw from it.

Same goes here. A player will see the answer they want to see, in regards to whether someone gets high ground.

The problem in roleplay culture at large, is that they don’t see that they do this. It’s not a problem in itself, it’s actually kind of fun to ‘see’ an answer (like pretending wrestling is real is fun, or ‘reading’ tarot cards is fun). It’s only a problem if you can’t see that your inventing answers. It’s only a problem when you think you refer to the imagined space to determine if someone has high ground, rather than simply inventing the result.

This goes against the desire of most sim players, I imagine. Because they want the integrity of some kind of internal truth to their imagined worlds, and they are refering to that ‘truth’ that they ‘see’. For it to simply be self invention utterly is makes it completely flimsy and loses the ‘truth’ that made it so compelling.

“There, I’ve got my design half built! I wonder how it actually works?”

You know, there’s this post on the first thoughts page at the forge and it sounds like the guy has made all these mechanics but is only just now deciding what the machine is for!? Building amachine and then deciding what the machine is for after or half way through? He’s now trying to get them to work in a consistent manner, he says. Consistent with what??? He had no intention when he made them, but now he wants make them to work consistently with…what? What intention? Mechanics don’t mystically just come with some sort of method – all there is is human intent, and it wasn’t there?

If someone intended to go in, knowing they had no intention and then kind of find/inventing it half way through, I get that as a sort of found art/find inspiration where you can. But it doesn’t seem to be that at all? It’s just making mechanics and then getting them to work half way through? It sounds like a sort of repeating habit of having played traditional games and then half way through having to get the damn thing working – but to actually build something and then get it working towards some goal half way through?

And as you can see, I look completely unhelpful and disruptive. And yet I think they’re all valid questions – it all looks like a big error! But I suppose on reflection, why am I that worried about someone walking into a big error? Care so much I’m disruptive? Could be.

Anyway, posting it here to get it out of my system.

Dead Game Walking

Mostly a thought experiment this one, inspired by recent discussion and a touch of excentric humour.

Take any actual play account of a gaming group you might think of. Now imagine they all had rubber knives (wont hurt anyone). And every time one of them detects that there is no way of continuing play that they have agreed with as yet, they stab everyone else! Insert this into the actual play text. After the stabbing, they’d do whatever they do in the actual play account.

I just like the imagery, because to simply say “At each of those points, the game actually ended. Then afterward they started a new game but didn’t admit it to each other” sounds drab. Also the imagery is kind of fun to talk about even if you want to ignore the hypothesis.

RPG’s/designers that assert jumping the shark is cool

I wrote the following at the forge, basically about kewl moves – which seem to be the big excitement for some but seem incredibly vapid from my perspective. There’s another poster there (not in that thread) who really seems to have this “OMG, way of the kewl samurai means wow moves all the time and that’s fantastic!”. And it just seems so hollow, except that perhaps it all works cause you’d be afraid to disappoint such an excited fellow. I do keep a scientific view on it though – perhaps it does work somehow and I do not currently see it. But my current evidence indicates it’s hollow.

I use the old happy days ‘Fonzie jumps the shark’ example, because if there had been a moral context to it, it might have worked (though perhaps there was one – I tried to avoid watching the show when younger). But as it was, it was just shark jumping.

Anyway, I wrote the following with a bit of a rant at the end. What might be useful to readers is the suspension of disbelief trigger I describe. Also at a philisophical level, it might be useful reflection as well.


What I was saying is this stuff only works in the context of a greater story. For example in a movie, hero guy is getting beaten up while the girl is about to be raped. And were all like “OMG, hero guy!!1! Beat them! Don’t let her be raped! OMFG!” and then he pulls off this move and it busts ass and were like “OMG yes, that’d beat their asses!!!!1!! YES!”But you know why we think that? It’s not because it necessarily makes sense or is logical. It’s because were all so damn invested in the girl not being raped we will believe in any damn excuse for it not to happen! We will engage is super duper suspension of disbelief, if it means she avoids rape. Because if you start to think about it clinically, you start having to stomich that she’s just have been raped, with no mercy and no greater good that stopped it. And we don’t want to accept something like that! Inside ourselves we shout out at a moral level that should not happen – and when that special move occurs we grasp onto that as the reason why it would not. THAT’s why it works in the movies!

Now strip out that moral context – the hero’s being beaten up and…he’s just being beaten up. They’re not even gunna kill him. Do we believe his special move works?

That’s what you’ve got here with body of fire – special move with no moral context to initiate a suspension of disbelief. You might say that’s up to the GM to write the uber story – but really everybody already owns a game where it’s up to the GM in this particular way.

That’s as I understand the issues of design. Hope I’m not just dropping this on you, as it actually seems to be (from my perspective) a wider problem in game design, where people go “Oh yeah, and then we shot the monkey cannon and backflipped onto the flying whale and it was awwwwwesome!” and I really think are you guys just working yourselves up so you can say it worked? I mean, my god, if it stopped the poor blind girl being killed, that’s an awesome way to save that girl! But without some moral context, it’s just colour and movement. No, it is not awesome. If you can actually do a backflip in RL, I’m impressed – but that you just talked the backflip talk in game – no, not awesome.

The impossible trait use before breakfast

I was having trouble finding a home for this post at the forge, because it didn’t quite fit, but then I remembered I haz blogz!

The discussion was about trait usage (didn’t quite fit the thread topic, though, and I don’t have just the right actual play). Basically I’m saying if ALL narration has to take into account the result of a trait, then all latter uses of traits will have to fit into that narration. That’s fine if your using what were currently calling ‘Before’ traits. But it’s completely screwy if you want to implement ‘After’ traits. And cause it’s my blog I’ll randomly say I dislike the terms ‘before’ and ‘after’ and would prefer internal traits and external traits, in reference to whether they are inside/restricted by the SIS in how they further effect the SIS, or if they are outside the SIS and are not restricted by the SIS in how they affect the SIS.

After Christoph’ post, this is my phantom, doesn’t have a home yet, responce (I have PM’ed it to him at the forge, block quotes are Christoph. ):

Your alleviation of the “impossibility” for “after” traits seem to me to be superfluous, in the sense that otherwise we’re not talking about “after” traits in the first place

Yes, your not talking about ‘after’ traits. After traits are your goal, but the logic in your design is flawed and will not meet your goal. No biggie. It’s like writing a computer program and writing code your certain will meet your goal, only to find it does something screwy. I’ve done that a million times!

Also, I don’t see the use of traits on such a long time-scale. I’ve understood this discussion of “after” and “before” to be purely based on the immediate conflictual situation. Of course, my “Killer Instinct” trait example would be “before” if we took the whole history of play into account, but then we wouldn’t be distinguishing between “has already been mentioned (or is obvious when pointed out) in the situation leading to the resolution of the present conflict” and “will be used once mechanical resolution of the present conflict is done, as part of the narrational resolution of the present conflict”. Then again I could be wrong.

Your thinking in too compartmentalised a way. The immediate conflict may be whether Rupert the red is killed, but after it’s resolved and narrated that he dies, are you going to keep playing as if he’s alive, or dead? As you can see, the narration is on a longer time scale than the immediate conflict because the narration is on a longer time scale.

Actually, should clarify that. If someone HAS to take Rupert’s death into account in their narration, is that for ALL narrations after that, or is that just for the narration that happens in the conflict? Say for example we kill Rupert, we narrate him being decapitated, then I roll a pass on working a copy machine and narrate Rupert walking in and helping me operate it. Was it only the kill conflicts narration that has to take the kill into account? Or is ALL following narration supposed to take his death result into account? If it’s the former, oops, you don’t have a problem in the logic of the wording! Sorry to type so much! If it’s the latter, your wording is indeed bugged (as noted, specifically the use of the word ‘ALL’, without any exemptions. Must have exemptions!).