I suck at giving my game's IIEE teeth...

edited September 2009 in Game Design Help
This might not be all that specific a question, but I need some sort of substantial advice on the matter. After reading Vincent's posts about IIEE's "teeth" in Dogs, I realized apparently my game has verry little in that department. (Here is the relevant discussion.) I tried figuring it out, but the only way I could see my way out of the problem was following the same procedure as Dogs follows:
-you need to say what you're doing because that tells you what dice to roll
-you need to say what you're doing because otherwise your opponent doesn't know what dice to roll
-you need to say what you're doing because otherwise you will not know what kind of Fallout applies
Ok, so I start thinking about how to apply that to my game.

But then I thought, hey, in D&D you also have to tell what you're doing, because otherwise you won't know which skill to roll, which defences to apply, what DC to set...so I'm OBVIOUSLY missing something here, I'm just not seeing it yet. So I'd be imensely grateful if you could throw some abstract, system-agnostic theory-stuff on the subject of making the fiction and the crunchy bits connect and grind together at me. Because at the moment I think my game is really just about pushing dice around.


Oh, and this is my first post here, so hello to everyone.

Comments

  • Hi, Teataine! Welcome to the coolest forum ever! :)

    OK, so one thing I noticed right away: previously, I'd thought that giving something "teeth" meant giving fortune-in-the-middle some teeth, some bite. This whole "IIEE with teeth" thing is intriguing.

    That being said/admitted, I digested this for a bit. Vincent is basically saying, "Make it impossible to play the game properly without going through those IIEE steps properly". That's the "teeth" he's referring to. In Dogs, you have to state your intent and such because if you don't, the game says "Um, okay, we can wait...".

    It's like any game where you have to name stakes - you pretty much have to give the game something to work with in order to proceed.

    D&D doesn't quite have the same thing going on at all - you can say "I attack", and other than circumstantial factors affecting the die roll, that's it - you're done. You can get away with saying just that, and the game proceeds. If D&D asked, oh, "Why do you attack?" and wouldn't let the attack proceed until you answered that question, THEN it'd have teeth.

    Think of the teeth like this: they "catch" you, they make things pause for just a hot second, so that you can put in the mandatory player-input before rolling the dice or what-have-you. This is the clouds-and-dice thing all over again: it's a way of enforcing the direct interaction of human creativity and randomizing mechanisms. If what you say does nothing to affect the dice, or vice versa, then it's like a circuit that's been shorted out, and won't power the "machine" of play properly.

    Does this help? :)
  • The most important thing is that teeth are in the fiction. Deciding what the difficulty will be, what defenses apply, all that stuff is out in the metagame. No matter how careful you are with them, you can still wind up with what Vx called "speed reading" fiction. So, try this: when you make any metagame decision, support it out loud with reference to the fiction. "I want to stab you in the face! roll 10 + 2 dex bonus to attack. It's a bit wobbly, but I get my feet under me mid-stab. What's your AC?" "15. Your sword glances off the angled surface of my shield, and I ready my own face-stab."
  • Posted By: Teataine
    But then I thought, hey, in D&D you also have to tell what you're doing, because otherwise you won't know which skill to roll, which defences to apply, what DC to set...so I'm OBVIOUSLY missing something here,
    I don't think you are missing anything. I don't think D&D does the I_ _ E thing that Vincent is complaining about. At least, not in combat where you definitely have to say the details of your character's individual actions. It has other issues. Lazy play in D&D is like "I attack! (roll) I hit!" over and over. It's not "I intend to kill you in a swordfight! (roll) I have succeeded in killing you! Conflict resolved."
  • Ok, thanks guys, this has provided me with some additional perspective.

    So, I understand "If what you say does nothing to affect the dice, or vice versa, then it's like a circuit that's been shorted out, and won't power the "machine" of play properly." conceptually. But I don't really know how to put it in practice.

    But now, the more I think about it, the more I think I might have a problem with not trusting my players to not be lazy. A big part of design, before you go to playtesting, is how you imagine the game should run at the table, how people will use it, then design the rules to fit what you want to happen at the table, right? So, the problem is, no matter what I do to the mechanics, it feels like my players will just skip it.

    To use Dogs as an example, I feel that instead of saying what their characters are doing they would just go "I want to do d10 fallout to you, what do I need to roll to do that?" Sure, Dogs then forces you to backtrack, but I can't shake the feeling that my players will just try skipping the fiction every time, and I'm trying too hard to prevent that.

    As noclue said, I'm trying to prevent the "I attack!" syndrome that D&D has, but the solution I've come up with seems to cause "I want to take three dice from you!", while what I want is "I sidestep your attack and dash past you to get the higher ground!". Which, ultimately, seems to be a player problem...

    Your posts have been quite illuminating as to what I must pay more attention to.

    ccreitz, can you tell me more about this "speed reading" thing, I must have missed it completely.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: TeataineAs noclue said, I'm trying to prevent the "I attack!" syndrome that D&D has, but the solution I've come up with seems to cause "I want to take three dice from you!", while what I want is "I sidestep your attack and dash past you to get the higher ground!". Which, ultimately, seems to be a player problem...
    I think its a design issue. I used the word "lazy play" above, but that's not fair. D&D just does not care whether you put in all the sidestepping and dashing for the high ground. It functions fine without it. I might find that repetitive and boring, but someone else at the table might just want to get past the orc fight quickly so we can back to rescuing the princess (EDIT: Or they might find their fun in making tactical decisions during combat based on their character's capabilities, rather than from player narrative input). If our different points of view are trivial to us, then we'll both be able to play and have fun. If his "I attack!" is going to reduce my fun, then perhaps I should have chosen to play a game that conformed to what I wanted out of play.

    The question is how do you want your game to play? And, does it do that?

    EDIT: Vincent talks a little about the "reading-too-fast" effect in the post you linked.
  • Teataine,

    The only way I know how to get the IIEE with teeth thing is to add points in the resolution process that require cross-player value judgments in order to apply properly. Note: This is the only way I *know* how. I'm not saying it's the only way, period. Let me break down Sorcerer to show you how that applies.

    In Sorcerer the die system is deliberately volatile. If all you do is roll Stamina to "attack" and Will to "influence" your character's narrative will literally "thrash". Success one minute, failure the next with no rhyme or reason to anything. Players who engage the game at this level usually walk away thinking the game is mechanically broken. This is because they didn't engage the other parts of the game which are follows.

    There are up to 5 bonus dice a player can get for their roll. These are not arbitrary GM gives you a "treat" dice. They are for very specific things. Yes, they require an aesthetic value judgment but in practice is about identification, not Pavlovian training. They are as follows:

    +1 die for particularly compelling dialogue that accompanies your action. That might be a heroic one liner delivered as you shoot someone or a particularly clever turn of phrase used in an argument.

    +2 dice for actions that are particularly demonstrative of how your character engages the world. The way Conan swings a sword is not the same way that Elric swings a sword. If the actual action itself really shows off "who your character is" you get this.

    +2 dice for actions that are going to radically transform the situation at hand. If it's clear that "a lot" hangs in the balance because of this action, it gets this bonus.

    So that's bonus dice. Basically these require you the player communicating the three points above to the play group. GM holds final authority but again in practice that's more a matter of reading the table and seeing if everyone at the table can "see" what you're getting at.

    Another rule is that if your action clearly falls under TWO of your stat descriptors, you can roll the one (usually against just 1 die) and roll the victories (dice equal to the number of successes) into the main "real" roll. So here again, we have to be able to clearly evaluate whether the action you describe really nails more than one descriptor.

    Finally, you can link actions. That is if your action directly capitalizes on the consequences of your last action then you can take any victories you rolled on that last action and add them to your current action. Again, this requires being able to clearly see that, yes, what you're doing right now, totally takes advantage of what you just did.

    So you see, that the more a player becomes an on rushing descriptively thematic force the more likely he is to have consistent success in conflicts.

    Hope that makes things clear.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: Teataine
    ccreitz, can you tell me more about this "speed reading" thing, I must have missed it completely.
    As James pointed out above, I misquoted Vincent. He actually used the phrase "reading too fast" there, to describe what happens when the mechanics lose traction on the fiction and you get the abrg'd Cliff Notes version rather than the satisfying full text. It's a form of dysfunctional play.
  • Posted By: TeataineBut then I thought, hey, in D&D you also have to tell what you're doing, because otherwise you won't know which skill to roll, which defences to apply, what DC to set...so I'm OBVIOUSLY missing something here, I'm just not seeing it yet. So I'd be imensely grateful if you could throw some abstract, system-agnostic theory-stuff on the subject of making the fiction and the crunchy bits connect and grind together at me. Because at the moment I think my game is really just about pushing dice around.
    Welcome Gregor!

    D&D is a mix:

    - When I use a skill, I have to describe what I am doing so we know what I want if I succeed and how I am trying to get it so that the DM can set a DC. Further, depending on the version of D&D, how I am trying to get what I want may allow me to gain bonuses from other skills or allow the DM to give me a bonus for convincing ideas.

    - When I attack, I’m choosing from a list of specific effects. I’m swinging my sword to do damage. I’m grappling them. I’m tripping them. How I am doing it doesn’t matter. I might as well say, I choose option A, B, or C. Further, the DM doesn’t have any choices, they just roll the appropriate defense. Describing how they are hurt has no impact.

    In Dogs, I want to marry your son. You say no way. We have a conflict. Who your son marries is at stake. We could just go back and forth pushing dice around and at the end who wins gets to say who your son marries. But that doesn’t tell us how we come to this decision. And it matters. I could escalate to violence and you might return the favor or realize its not worth it and back down. Or I could offer you a million dollars. Or I could show you that I am the perfect wife for your son. Or I could reveal I’m pregnant with your son’s baby. The how matters.

    In D&D, I wonder if part of the problem is that combat is a different system than skill use. People get in the mode that now we are in combat, only one result matters, hit point loss, so the how is less important. Or that could just be a culture of play issue. In almost every game of D&D I play, I always try to use diplomacy before a combat to see if the DM will let me and in almost every case they don’t let me roll. Which might also have to do with the prep involved. They spent an hour prepping. Of course we are going to have this fight! All these little issues affect each other.
  • edited September 2009
    Jesse, good call on the Sorcerer bonus dice.

    Jen, I think the reason why D&D doesn't really address the How is that it relies on task resolution instead of conflict resolution - ultimately, players can move points around and beat opponents and stuff, but once they drift away from strictly tactical goings-on, they lose the ability to affect the story very much, either in how they go about things or, heck, what they choose to do with their time at all! There's a great deal of territory that could come up in stories that's just Terra Incognita to D&D - the marry-my-son scenario is just one example. No, it wasn't designed with that sort of thing in mind, to be fair.

    Teataine, I think a truly solid base for a game's IIEE is formed by boning up on conflict resolution, then incorporating it into both the mechanics and into the play notes for the physical text. Arguably, a game that's very ask-the-GM in nature could have well-structured IIEE, but then what you're looking at is a very consultative mode of play - channels for input are way too narrow to furnish meaning for player choices. IMO, of course ^_^ (does this help?)
  • Okay, so I have a slightly softer view on teeth than Vincent does. If this is unhelpful, please say so and I will go away.

    What we need to do is not necessarily to force the players to go slow, but to make it the most natural way of engaging with the mechanics. Here's how the social conflict system works in the game I wrote recently:

    Die pool. You need a number of successes equal to or more than the number your opponent just rolled to avoid losing the conflict. So if I roll two successes, you need to or more on your roll to stay in. If you roll three, it's my turn and I need three or more, and so on until someone loses.

    A success is every die equal to or less than the Friction, which is a meter in the middle of the table, going from one to six. Every level has a name, from "Harmony" through Tension" up to "Violence". Before you roll, you can choose to raise the Friction to give you a better chance of staying in the conflict.

    Now, there are no teeth in this. You can just raise the Friction, roll your dice and say "three". But it feels really weird. It doesn't feel natural. First, this is a mechanic for social conflict, so you feel like you have to say something (especially since your opponent just did). Second, you might have moved the Friction up to a new level, which has a name. You feel you need to motivate this, just like you need to motivate when bringing in a new Trait in Dogs. Third, you're not really doing much if you didn't move the Friction. You just picked up your dice and rolled them. That's not much and if that's all you're doing, you're not having much of an impact. It feels weird.

    Here's another, even simpler system: You roll your dice and throw away all that show 1-3. I roll mine and do the same. We keep rolling until someone has no dice left. That person loses. You can bring in new Traits to add more dice, to make the system a bit more interesting.

    Threre are certainly no teeth here. You can just roll in silence. But that just feels stupid. There's a void and you're not doing anything. It feels weird. So you narrate. Because that feels natural.

    ---

    Now, in Dogs, there's a lot more to do. You roll your dice, you choose wether to see or to take the blow, or give. You pick the dice to use and then you pick dice to raise. There's a lot going on even if you're not narrating. So you might forget to narrate because you're doing so much fiddling. Therefore the system needs teeth to make sure you don't forget (although the seeing and the taking the blow doesn't have any teeth! OMG!).

    This is my long-winded way of saying "it's not a problem unless it's a problem". If you feel there's enough "game" in your mechanics to maybe take the attention away from the narration, then you look to see if that's happening in play. If it is, then you do something about it. We don't skip narration in freeplay and we don't skip narration in simple "succeed or fail" rolls. Just adding a die doesn't make people skip narration. We do skip narration in 4e, because there's so much going on that we can have a satisfying "game narrative" (like in a board game) without having to add a "fiction narrative". We could skip narration in Dogs for the same reason, but we don't since the mechanics force us not to.

    Buh. Long post.
  • Posted By: Simon PetterssonNow, in Dogs, there's a lot more to do. You roll your dice, you choose wether to see or to take the blow, or give. You pick the dice to use and then you pick dice to raise. There's a lot going on even if you're not narrating. So you might forget to narrate because you're doing so much fiddling. Therefore the system needs teeth to make sure you don't forget (although the seeing and the taking the blow doesn't have any teeth! OMG!).
    Totally not the case.

    You can play Dogs without narrating, but you're not playing by the rules.

    Consider it this way: When you see someone's raise, you're blocking their execution (the thing they said they were doing in their raise). When you take the blow, you're blocking their Effect (they don't get what's at stake).

    So, from some real-life examples:

    What's at stake: Does Caleb befriend Sister Abigail, despite Brother Virgil?

    Brother Virgil's go: (Raise) "He snatches the spyglass out of your hand"

    Brother Caleb: (Take the blow) "I try to stop him, but he's too quick"

    Brother Caleb's go: (Raise) "I say to him "That was my father's. Give it back." and I stare at him real hard"

    Brother Virgil: (See) "I don't care. Leave my daughter alone"

    Brother Virgil's go: (Raise) "He tosses the spyglass into the woods"

    Brother Caleb's go: (See) "I dive to catch it!"

    See what's happening here? The question of what happens to the spyglass is entirely decided by what people say in the fiction, and whether people raise or see. In this conflict, if someone put forward a couple of dice and said "I raise 11", we'd all look at them and wait. Oftentimes, it's much more important stuff being decided by the content of sees and raises than what's actually at stake in the conflict.
  • Simon, I found this really interesting:

    We don't skip narration in freeplay and we don't skip narration in simple "succeed or fail" rolls. Just adding a die doesn't make people skip narration. We do skip narration in 4e, because there's so much going on that we can have a satisfying "game narrative" (like in a board game) without having to add a "fiction narrative". We could skip narration in Dogs for the same reason, but we don't since the mechanics force us not to.
    -- this speaks to me, particularly the bit about a "game narrative". I definitely experienced a lot of that playing Spirit of the Century tonight: there was very little "my guy does this" or "so, this happens", and a whole mess of "OK, I roll this skill to declare this fact about ___". It was quite jarring. That might have had a lot to do with our really strong banter as players, and a lot to do with how many cool ideas we had for the scenario.

    ALSO, to be fair, we were transitioning from the pre-game setup (a form of play in itself) into discussing the scenario premise (which was kinda/sorta narration, kinda setup), and then I had to abruptly leave the game 'cause of time constraints. So, depending on how things went after my departure, maybe things change once you get into it a bit longer. I'll happily play it again and see ^_^
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: Zac in Davismaybe things change once you get into it a bit longer
    Things change when the Nazis attack riding an enormous Zombie Kong. Then everyone's rolling skills and invoking aspects to make shit happen, trust me.

    Gregor: Is this thread still helpful? Is it giving you any ideas about your game?
  • Simon C,

    Yeah, maybe. That doesn't feel like a useful discussion in this thread, so I'll concede.

    ---

    Anyway, here's another way of encouraging narration without adding teeth: Let's say you've got a bunch of traits and you're fighting. If you've got traits like "Master swordsman 5", you can just say "I use my 'Master swordsman' trait" and then roll. No fictional narration, and it feels natural. Everybody gets how 'Master swordsman' applies to the situation. However, what if you've got a trait called "The lessons of my departed Master 5"? Now it's more unnatural to just add the trait and roll. Someone's gonna say "Wait, what? What lesson?". It feels natural when using such a trait to say "My Master taught me to always be light on my feet, so when his attack comes I dodge to the side. I'm adding 'The lessons of my departed Master'." It's not self-evident that the trait applies to the situation. you have to motivate it.

    Strictly speaking, this isn't teeth. It's more like, uh, lips. Make sure your traits aren't self-evident in the kinds of conflicts you expect, and people will need to start motivating.
  • noclue: yes, all the comments have been illuminating one way or another. And even in the case that the thread wouldn't be helpful, what the heck, I just love discussions about game design.

    Thank you guys. I think it's time I get back to the drawing board, but I believe there is less to fix than I expected.
  • Totally not the case.

    You can play Dogs without narrating, but you're not playing by the rules.

    Exactly true. But then the exact same thing can be said of a game without "teeth".
    Like say IaWA. You can play IaWA without narrating, but you're not playing by the rules.

    Which is why, while I find the notion of "IIEE with Teeth" or "Leading with the Fiction" to be an interesting design direction that does interesting things...it in no way solves any perceived problem of people privileging the mechanics and not engaging the fiction. Because it still comes down to players choosing to play by the rules.

    As far as I'm concerned, IIEE with Teeth is a nice marketing sound bite but it's hardly a definitive design principal.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: ValamirExactly true. But then the exact same thing can be said of a game without "teeth".
    Like say IaWA. You can play IaWA without narrating, but you're not playing by the rules.
    Ralph, Vincent says much the same thing in his anyway post. As you point out, saying "they're not playing by the rules" doesn't fix the problem. If the rules say narrate, but the game just chugs along with out it, then some players will ditch the narration or forget to narrate in the thick of things (and that maybe okay with the designer).

    For Dogs, the teeth are here:
    Posted By: Simon CSee what's happening here? The question of what happens to the spyglass is entirely decided by what people say in the fiction, and whether people raise or see. In this conflict, if someone put forward a couple of dice and said "I raise 11", we'd all look at them and wait.
    There have been times in Dogs games where someone will see a raise with an "I see your 11, and I raise with a 10!" But then everyone at the table generally asks "How? What did you do or say?" And the player has to back up and narrate some. The game doesn't just break down into a bunch of sees and raises without narration.

    Edit: although the dice game could definitely "function" that way if you had some mechanism to determine what fallout you were taking.
  • edited September 2009
    Ralph, Vincent says much the same thing in his anyway post. Saying "they're not playing by the rules" doesn't fix the problem. If the rules say narrate, but the game just chugs along with out it, then some players will ditch the narration or forget to narrate in the thick of things (and that maybe okay with the designer).

    Yes, I know Vincent says as much. But saying "they're not playing by the rules" IMO does fix the problem.

    Vincent points to Dogs and its teeth and says its a better solution than IaWA without teeth.

    I say: Baloney. Both boil down to players choosing or not choosing to narrate and engage with the fiction. Maybe one is better at actively reminding players to do that, and that's fine. But no game design can force players to engage with the fiction if they'd rather just engage with the mechanics. So therefor it always boils down to players' willingness to engage the fiction.

    Yes, I've read all that stuff about Dogs needing the fiction to function...that's a nice story to tell but its ultimately bollux. The people at the table all wanted to play that way...and so they did...and it was great...and super...and wonderful...but the notion that the game required it...or couldn't be played effectively without doing that...nonsense. Its still just players choosing to do what the game text guidance tells them to do. Following that guidance makes the game play better than if they don't. JUST LIKE following the guidance in IaWA makes the game play better than if they don't. Same exact thing, same exact solution. Players choose to play by the rules.

    Some players do not really care so much about engaging with the fiction vs. engaging with the mechanics or the "story" so for them its not a problem whether the guidance gets followed or not.

    Some players do care. And for them the lack of fictional engagement is a problem. What I say is: "if you like that, if you want to do that, if that's what gets you jazzed (and that's what the game is saying you should do)...then do it. If you can't be bothered, if you get easily distracted and forget to do it and then don't have as much fun...not the game's problem...do better next time."

    I find it completely boggling that someone can say their fun is totally dependent on having a meaningful engagement with the fiction...and then just...not engage the fiction. The very concept is nonsensical. I can see getting caught up in the flow of a well designed game and not taking the time to engage the fiction and letting the game just sweep you along. I can see that happening...once. After that, you're aware of the issue, and you don't let it happen again. Problem solved. No teeth needed.
  • I have to agree with Ralph. I think Vincent exaggerates the case for Dog's "teeth".
  • edited September 2009
    A lightbulb just went off in my head. Vincent's claims always struck me as very true in some way. Valamir's dismissals always struck me as very true from my mathematics background's point of view (essentially: there exists a transform from the fiction to numbers which still allows you to play Dogs without fiction). Now I think I know why.

    IIEE with teeth (at least in the case of Dogs) for a player who insists, individually, that she will engage with the fiction, makes it impossible for her to continue processing the mechanics unless her fellow players *also* engage with the fiction. When I say "I see your 11, and I raise with a 10!" she cannot continue and still engage with the fiction. She is barred from engaging with the fiction according to the rules until I do, because the rules say at this point in the mechanics she is to do something with dice and narration based on the fiction I just proposed.

    If everyone cares about engaging with the fiction and doesn't get lazy? Then IIEE with teeth doesn't matter and they'll have fun. If no one cares about engaging with the fiction and doesn't get lazy? Then IIEE with teeth doesn't matter and they'll have fun. If at least one person cares about engaging with the fiction and at least one person doesn't, then IIEE with teeth means the one who doesn't, in agreeing to play that specific game with the first, also agrees to engage with the fiction on pain of causing the first not being able to play (social pressure! :)).

    It can go the other way too, of course. A common technique in game design that prevents a player from engaging with the fiction is including concentration as a resource. After a certain minimum skill, you cannot play Starcraft and engage with the fiction against equally skilled opponents and hope to win. Your time and thus concentration is too important. Similarly in many tight Eurogames you cannot ever make decisions (your imagination is another matter) based on the fiction and hope to win. There's no slack in the mechanics to allow it, and in many cases like Puerto Rico with its strong left-right binding the game just falls apart if one player tries.
    Posted By: ValamirBut no game design can force players to engage with the fiction if they'd rather just engage with the mechanics so therefor it always boils down to player's willingness to engage the fiction.
    Dogs game design does more than boil it down to a player's willingness to engage the fiction. It adds the effect that another player who is engaging with the fiction will often halt play, confused, with no social stigma, when another player just engages the mechanics, and everyone will know it's due to someone not engaging with the fiction. The design gives mechanical support that doesn't feel like bullying to social pressure to engage.
  • I don't know what the truth of the matter is, but I have consistently witnessed people engage with the fiction when using Dogs conflict resolution and then watch these same people ignore the fiction with other games. This could be for a lot of reasons. But I've had multiple people play Dogs and then say... wow, this games makes you roleplay. People who pretty much only play magic the gathering and when they play RPGs they usually ignore the fiction. But not with Dogs. I don't know why that is. Most of these instances are with people who have not read the rules and who have had the same experiences regardless if I was in the game or not. In 2 of these examples, my friends Jerry and Jay started off playing Dogs without engaging in the fiction and after the 3rd conflict they were all about narrating every attack and defense. I don't think it was because they were immersing in the fictional details. If I had to guess it is because describing the fictional elements was an effective strategy (one of many) for getting what you want. It mechanically mattered.

    Maybe the reason isn't what Vincent is describing. I don't know. But something is happening that is repeatable and measurable. For this reason, Dogs is my go to game when playing with people for the first time.
  • Hm, ok, reframing...

    I completely agree that it's probably impossible to create a game that needs the fiction 100%. But these so called "teeth" serve two purposes in my opinion. First, it's to remind lazy players to actually narrate...which can also be a bit self-absorbed. I mean, maybe they don't want to, maybe the players just want to skip this part and get to the good bits, so why force them to slow down the story if they *want* the "reading too-fast" action, right? This is the problem that I've come here with. It seems that most of the time, my players are just skipping the fiction, and I was thinking "that's probably a mechanical problem, too" and I wanted to design rules that would facilitate and provoke narration.*

    Second, I think that there's maybe a bit of a reverse reasoning going on here...if I write a game that people enjoy by just using the mechanics of and ignore the fiction, maybe I've designed a good game, but a game that isn't actually roleplaying anymore. Maybe it should have been a boardgame or something that doesn't need fiction at all, and stop trying to force the narration on people. Fiction is essential to roleplaying, I think we agree on that - so designing rules that support or engage the fiction better, should provide us with a better roleplaying game...in theory.


    *Then again, my players mostly only have experience with D&D, so I should probably just try to make them play more games and see what happens.
  • I decided to start a thread about play structures that don't require "teeth": Who needs "teeth"?
  • Posted By: jenskotI don't know what the truth of the matter is, but I have consistently witnessed people engage with the fiction when using Dogs conflict resolution and then watch these same people ignore the fiction with other games.
    This.

    And I include myself.

    With Dogs I enter this almost trance like poetic exchange of narrative details. And then find myself having to constantly force and remind myself to contribute those same kinds of details in Mouse Guard or In A Wicked Age...

    A lot of that I think has to do with the Giving mechanic. I know that if I can hit the player "just so" emotionally I can make them Give. Or, I can make "Taking The Blow" really painful for them emotionally.

    That's why I say this is about a point of cross-player judgment mid resolution. In In A Wicked Age... the mechanical consequence of losing a role is fixed. Someone ends up with an advantage die. There are not *decisions* to be made. In Dogs you have to choose between Taking The Blow or Block/Dodge. And it isn't just about the Fallout die size either. You might be "Just Talkin'" but the Raise was just so damn frustrating/painful you don't WANT to Take The Blow even though the fallout is safe/beneficial. Then if you don't have the dice for a Block/Dodge you've got to decide how you're going to get more dice and if negating that pain/frustration is worth it.

    That's the power of Dogs.

    But maybe I play Dogs more emotionally vicious than others do. When I GM Dogs I am out to hurt you. I want to find the right Raise that will make you Give because the alternative is much, much worse emotionally. (And I like it when the players are out to do the same to me with my NPCs).

    Jesse
  • Maybe the reason isn't what Vincent is describing. I don't know. But something is happening that is repeatable and measurable. For this reason, Dogs is my go to game when playing with people for the first time.

    To be clear, I in no way want to suggest that Dogs isn't doing something different and that difference isn't a special thing. I think asking the question "how can we design a game that emphasizes the fiction in such a way to make it easier for players to engage with" is a mighty fine question to ask and is leading to some very intriguing design ideas.

    What I object to is the primacy being given to that as a design goal and the implication (or in some cases explicit assertions) that games that don't have that focus are lesser games, more prone to producing lame lifeless fiction and are "mere story games".

    As far as I'm concerned I think In a Wicked Age is Vincent's best design to date. I don't think its inferior to Dogs just because Dogs has teeth and IaWA does not. In fact, in terms of replayability, accessibility, and pure design elegance, I'd say IaWA is a FAR better designed game than Dogs. It may have as a feature that it relies on players to bring their own motivation to engage with the fiction and doesn't provide the constant nudging to do so that Dogs does, but that doesn't make it a worse design.

    I can 100% see that Dog's constant reminder to engage fictionally every time you advance dice is helpful with players not otherwise prone to do that. But that doesn't make it a superior design. And it doesn't make IaWA less likely to produce meaningful fiction in play. It may make Dog's an easier game to play with new players. But that's a seperate thing.

    So "IIEE with Teeth" is totally an interesting thing. But as this meme take root and begins to spread like an out of control weed it is necessary to remember, that that's all it is. An interesting thing...and not evidence of some deeper design truth.
  • That's the power of Dogs.

    But maybe I play Dogs more emotionally vicious than others do. When I GM Dogs I am out to hurt you. I want to find the right Raise that will make you Give because the alternative is much, much worse emotionally. (And I like it when the players are out to do the same to me with my NPCs).

    Totally. Thing is, in my group anyway...we do that...pretty much with every game. Its a player to player technique. Dog's may be (and is) really good at highlighting that technique by mechanizing it...but its hardly the only game out there you can do this with.

    PTA, check
    Polaris, check
    In a Wicked Age, check
    Grey Ranks, check
    Agora...almost check though we didn't get far enough in to see the seeds of it bear fruit.
    Mouse Guard...well, first play session is tonight...but I'll be surprised if somebody doesn't get gut punched at some point...although we may decide to play this one as a light refresher game and skip the horrible dilemmas...maybe...heh...right...
  • Posted By: ValamirSo "IIEE with Teeth" is totally an interesting thing. But as this meme take root and begins to spread like an out of control weed it is necessary to remember, that that's all it is. An interesting thing...and not evidence of some deeper design truth.
    It's why I like Dogs.

    Oh, and it's also why I like Wushu, and why I like Puppetland.

    Although, notably, in puppetland, it's not in the resolution. It's in the rule "If you want to talk out of character, you have to stand up"
  • Posted By: ValamirWhat I object to is the primacy being given to that as a design goal and the implication (or in some cases explicit assertions) that games that don't have that focus are lesser games, more prone to producing lame lifeless fiction and are "mere story games".
    Well Ralph, we found something to agree upon. I too don't share Vincent's view that games that easily go from Intent to Execution without the middle I & E are a big problem.
    Posted By: ValamirDog's may be (and is) really good at highlighting that technique by mechanizing it...
    That's all I'm really saying.
  • Ralph,

    For what it's worth I don't place a value judgment on the design. I don't know whether Vincent does or not. I like his phrase that certain games require "discipline" to maintain the fiction. It's a legitimate design question to ask yourself how much do you want the mechanics to participate in maintaining that discipline. A lot? A little? Not at all? That question is real and personal.

    Jesse

    P.S. I think this issue got a little muddled with the "Storyboarding" issue which I think is related but somewhat different. There IS a value judgment I place on certain applications of storyboarding (namely when play becomes an unsupported social competition to control and own the fiction). But on this particular issue of IIEE with Teeth or whatever I place no judgment. It's just something to be aware of.
  • I like the discipline phraseology as well. And its definitely a legitimate design question to ask how much fictional discipline you want the players to bring and how much assistance you want to offer them. A VERY important question indeed.

    I would be interested in how / why you distinguish this from the story boarding issue such that you pass judgement on that but don't on this. To me they seem like slightly different angles attacking the exact same core issue. That core issue being the relationship between the players, the mechanics, the moment to moment creation of fiction, and the broader story dynamics.

    Some games place greater emphasis on the relationship of the players to the story dynamic (i.e. story boarding) and as a result don't require mechanics to draw attention to the moment to moment fiction (i.e. IIEE with teeth).

    Some games place greater emphasis on the moment to moment fiction and as a result may benefit from mechanics that draw your attention their and don't encourage you to slide up into the broader story dynamic level.

    I see both of those as being equally legitimate game designs.
  • Posted By: TeataineIt seems that most of the time, my players are just skipping the fiction, and I was thinking "that's probably a mechanical problem, too" and I wanted to design rules that would facilitate and provoke narration.*
    Gregor, I think you should design the game you want to run and play, first and foremost.

    Is your game more fun to play with or without narration? If it is more fun without narration, you haven't designed rules that facilitate and provoke narration. If it is more fun with the fiction stirred in, then you have.

    If the fun is there and players continue to avoid the fun, then there must be an obstacle. Player narration is new and different. New and different things often cause discomfort and humans are willing to endure a whole lot of meh to avoid discomfort. Its why self help books sell so well and psychologists make so much money trying to get people to not do stupid things that wreck their lives. People will go to amazing lengths to avoid discomfort.

    So, you might try to lower the discomfort associated with the spotlight. Things that will help someone over the "What do I do now?" feeling. For example, Penny for My Thoughts uses story seeds to spark ideas. SotC has aspects that can be invoked and compelled for narrative effect. Lots of games allow kibitzing and suggestions from the table if the player is out of ideas. Bonus points and advantages for narrating can help overcome that discomfort with a reward, so that narration and spotlight begins to feel good, rather than scary.

    These mechanics also add to the discomfort level of the players that don't add to the fiction. Which is another good way to overcome resistance. So, if you don't narrate you don't get bonus dice in Sorcerer. You can't get what you want in Dogs. You don't get color dice in Roanoke. Unlike, other games where there's minimal to no built-in discomfort from shouting "I roll to hit!"

    From your "I want to remove three dice from you" example above it sounds like your game uses a dice pool in some way. You could borrow from Roanoke (a Wushu variant) and just make narrating color the way dice are added to the dice pools. For both players and the GM.
  • Oh, and I'm trying to provide some concrete examples of mechanics that might achieve your design goal, in counterpoint to the high concept stuff we've had so far. Let me know if that is useful.
  • Posted By: ValamirI would be interested in how / why you distinguish this from the story boarding issue such that you pass judgement on that but don't on this. To me they seem like slightly different angles attacking the exact same core issue.
    New Discussion started here: http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=10492&page=1#Item_1

    Jesse
Sign In or Register to comment.