Thursday, February 17, 2005

[Astral] Intent

Finally had a breakthrough on the Astral role-playing game I'm designing. The question I've been struggling to answer is 'When do you interact with the System?' When is the right time to roll dice?

I've now introduced the idea of the "Challenge".

In normal Astral play the player narrates what is happening. The GM provides NPCs and bounces off the player's ideas. This means - if the player wants - she can succeed at everything she intends. In fact, "The player succeeds" is the default assumption for Astral play.

Continue reading what happens when you Challenge ...

The player continues determining the direction of her scene until another player says, "Challenge." You only issue a Challenge about what a player wants her character to do. Challenges are not issued about descriptions the player has provided or incidental details. IOW, a Challenge has to be significant.

a) .... Once a player has issued a Challenge, they name the Rating that is affected.
b) .... They say which end of the Rating the player's intended action leans towards - and then the Challenger names an alternative outcome from the opposite end of the rating.
c) .... This alternative can be discussed by the Challenger, all other players and the GM until it is satisfactory and exciting to all.

Morgue: "I get him to use his 82 eyes to see what's festering at the bottom of my soul and he heals it."
Billy: "Challenge."
Morgue: "Wait. I need this. If I don't -"
Steve (GM): "Billy's challenged. Let's see what he's got to say."
Billy: "Right. Uh-um. Okay, you're convincing him to help you so that's Focus. What other rating's are there? I think you're asking him to do something good for you, so that's Ethics as well."
Morgue: "You bastard. I've got a 2 in Ethics."
Steve (GM): "So if you roll on that, things are probably going to go bad."
Billy: "Yeah but that's not what I'm thinking. I reckon this is a Focus issue. You want 82-eye-guy to do something at the Self end of the Rating. On the Universe side of things, ... let's say his eyes see something happening, like a disaster and you - um - need to help out with that before he'll help you."
Morgue: "What sort of disaster?"
<Morgue and Billy now negotiate untily they're both satisfied with this alternative.>

NB: the GM never challenges. Therefore to play Astral you need at least three players (one of them taking the GM role); and I suspect the game would be more interesting with 4-5 players.

I see two rewards for a player Challenging another player:
1. If you challenge, you can adjust one of your Ratings by one point - no questions asked.
2. Players gain control over the pacing of scenes. If they want the game to move fast, they challenge.

I think this sets up an interesting [social contract] for a role-playing group. The GM provides almost no plot. Their role is facilitation; very much the bass player to the rest of the band. The players, on the other hand, may need to come to terms with the issue of 'spotlight time' - that is, how much time is appropriate to focus on one player's story.

The intention here is to set up clear parameters for when you roll dice. Following on from this is the rest of the IIEE system that determines the outcome of the roll.


morgue said...

morgue and billy playing astral together is more correct than you could possibly know.

that bastard! i have a 2 in ethics!

it's an interesting dynamic, certainly worthy of exploration in actual play. i wonder, though, whether players who are strongly schooled on facilitating each other will balk at challenging each other - it seems like it goes against that instinct to help. even the hose-jobs on other players that some games promote don't work as direct contradictions to a player's in-game goal.

Perhaps the 'reward' should be altered:

If the challenged player succeeds, they get their in-game success, and the challenger gets to change a Rating.

If the challenged player fails, they don't get their in-game success - but BOTH challenged and challenger get to change a Rating.

Hmm. Not sure if that works, but it should get the idea across.

hix said...

Hey Morgue, that's an interesting idea about changing the reward. I'll think about that.

My basic problem with this area of the rules is that I didn't want it to be arbitrary when the GM called for a dice roll. If anyone's got any ideas about criteria for rolling a Ratings check, fire away.

(Also, I'll be posting a version of this stuff at the Forge next week.)

The Gamester At Large said...

With regard to your intention:
"I didn't want it to be arbitrary when the GM called for a dice roll"

Aren't you just replacing a GM call for a roll with a (somewhat negotiated) player call? This won't necessarily be any more or less arbitrary than the GM being the person who, in effect, calls for a Challenge normally.

One benefit of the system, though, is that the GM will have more capacity to do the stuff you are aiming to be their focus.

Another possible problem is that you could have one player dominate the game easily. Do you intend there to be some way of taking turns? You might also want to consider saying that after a Challenge is resolved then that scene is over and play begins at, for instance, the place the next player's character is at.

hix said...

“Aren't you just replacing a GM call for a roll with a (somewhat negotiated) player call?”I know. I know.
Part of what I like about it, is that it places responsibility for scene framing in the hands of the group of players.
Part of what I don’t like about it, is that it is still arbitrary.

“… the GM will have more capacity to do the stuff you are aiming to be their focus.”I’d love for you to expand on what you mean by this (or what you’re perceiving as what I think is the GM’s focus).

“…you could have one player dominate the game easily.”True. My intention at the moment is to have turns proceed clock-wise round the group My Life with Master style. That is, as soon as the dice have been rolled and expectations for the player’s next scene have been set up, you move to the next player. Therefore, frequent Challenges create rapid cinematic cuts while less frequent Challenges give the game a more leisurely pace.

I haven’t given any thought to a player dominating the Challenges though. Yeah, interesting point.

The Gamester At Large said...

With regard to GM focus, I interpret it being "The GM provides NPCs and bounces off the player's ideas" as you said initially. I meant that by taking the need to call for die rolls out of the GM's hands, they'll be able to plot a bit more in those areas.

In terms of your concern for arbitrariness, maybe you could go this way... anybody at the table can Challenge. However, give the option of vetoing arbitrary challenges (by which I mean, those that are not fun and/or just don't fit with what the player wants for their character).

I also don't think the dominating thing is a big issue... that sort of behaviour is likely to be either okay (if the player comes up with cool challenges all the time) or a sign that the player is so disruptive you probably want to ask them to leave anyhow.

Hmm... maybe their could be a potential cost for challenging? I'm not sure what form it could take, but maybe it could open your character up for Challenges from either the particular player or just in general during your next turn? I don't know if that really fits into what you're trying to do.