Color-first ?

edited July 2013 in Story Games
I came across this concept somewhere over the net, but cant find it again nor remember exactly its definition (yeah, my google-fu is that weak)

So, whats "color-first" ?

I suspect its related to a property of Apocalyse World that I find really cool, which is the fact that the character classes and abilities and crap are more about creating interesting situations and conflicts in the fiction, than to be measures of power or physical capabilities.

So, while a Covert Operative´s abilities in Shadowrun would be all about acrobatics and technical knowledge and hi-tech gadgets, in Apocalypse World such a character´s abilities would be all about provoking paranoia and betrayal between the players characters, sabotaging things while framing others, and having occult employers showing up with morally ambiguous jobs and opportunities and such.

In other words, this vs this.

Is this correct ?
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Comments

  • Color first is about really imagining the look and feel of the fictional world and working from that to mechanics rather than the other way around. It makes sense, since many of us are more excited about the color of a game (the imagined details and style of the imaginary world/fiction) than anything else. Not even all of it, but just specific stuff to get ahold of.

    The examples from when this was talked about on the Forge were mostly centered around finding specific images and riffing off of them to make characters and build setting for any particular game. If you ever played Everway, it does this very specifically by giving you "vision cards"

    Some might say this is just the 'concept' phase of character creation, and to an extent they're right. But look, I teach visual art students all the time. Most of us think in generalities. It's what keeps us from having to make a new mental file for every car and truck we ever see. It is why artists train by drawing from a live model. No matter how good your mental model of something is, nature still surprises you with its specificity. Color first is about finding a specific vision that brings things to life in the game.

    I pretty much do this for characters all the time, now. Looking for images and then riffing of the specifics of an image or a few images to make a character gives me some great stuff. I ask myself cool questions like "why do they have that," or "why are they wearing that, or "why is that expression on their face."

    You know how AW asks you to define your look/outlook up front and gives you the specific lists of names and bodies and eyes? That's very much color first.
  • Trevis: Thanks for that.

    My own personal never-quite finished project has been about using miniatures with more of a story-game mentality, and that color-first approach has been one of the things I try to emphasize.

    It's a really hard idea to get across, the concept of using those as a starting image, and then building out from there as an early step of either character or scenario/situation creation.

    Like, absurdly, tear out your hair and cry, hard.
  • This is the future of game design, actually. Simulationism won't feel good/fast enough until we stop trying to reproduce detailed physics on a tabletop game and go into reproducing specific color sets instead.
  • WarriorMonk, I think that's a really interesting question. I mean, detailed physics doesn't seem that popular to me, but some amount of basis in in-fiction causality clearly is. I actually find that a natural fit for color-first play -- caring about how stuff works in the fiction goes well with caring about what the fiction looks like.

    I've considered replacing physics simulation with genre emulation; sometimes that works, but sometimes it can feel formulaic or nonsensical.

    Anyway, I'm curious if you had anything particular in mind as "the future of game design" along these lines.
  • Isn't that just a question of how much the "laws of causality" in your type of game or story are based on real-world physics?

    I agree that "some amount of basis in in-fiction causality" is important... but in some cases that will mean physics, and in others it could mean genre emulation or formula. (If you need an example, I think the Sincerity/Desperation/Intimacy dice in My Life with Master might be an interesting design to discuss here.)

    Looking forward to hearing more on this, too!
  • edited July 2013
    Genre emulation leads itself more to about-fiction causality than in-fiction causality, IME. "You get bonus points to your roll for describing something cool that tends to work in this genre!" does not actually reference any in-fiction causal operations. Real-world physics is always a potential concern, unless you're playing in some weird setting where kewlness actually equals effectiveness, so society is one big awesome-off and that guy from the Dos Equis ads is king of the world.

    Not that there's anything wrong with bonus points for coolness! I just don't think that approach covers the "in-fiction causality" bases that some players want covered, that's all. Even if they're not physics geeks.
  • Not that there's anything wrong with bonus points for coolness! I just don't think that approach covers the "in-fiction causality" bases that some players want covered, that's all. Even if they're not physics geeks.
    That's where the various power-checking methods in Archipelago become handy.

    Instead of worrying about writing up rules for that stuff, just put it into the hands of players and distribute it out amongst the group.

  • Dave,

    I'm thinking more of stuff like Spiritual Attributes in the Riddle of Steel, Key buyoffs in TSoY, stuff like that: for instance, in many games the character who is on the "right" side of the conflict is more likely to win. That's describing "in-fiction causality" pretty clearly, I'd say, and has little to do with "coolness points". The effect can be quite indirect (consider how Kagematsu limits your options as a player for another example).
  • Paul nailed it better than me, I should have wrote "Simulationism won't feel good/fast enough until we stop trying to write rules to reproduce detailed physics on a tabletop game" Like, when a character stats list it's strenght, speed, etc. I mean, players can use that as a reference, okay, but when all these stats come into play it creates physics of their own in a really weird way, if you think it carefully. Look at the Peasant Railgun for instance.

    And how many of us actually use ALL of these rules in a session, or even a whole campaign? If you'd take a time to write down how many rules of a trad game you actually use all the time and include your own home rules, that would probably be in the best case, one-third of the original core book.

    Yet there are still too many games going this way somehow, thankfully less and less every year, since in the end, when we get to the table, all that matters are the things that happen, and the details and argumentation of how they happen will be remembered like the time you spent cheking your character sheet and adding bonuses to your dice roll to do something. Dunno about you, whenever I remember a good game, I remember most fondly the story, the characters for what they did and how good or poor rolls made things more epic, hilarious or dramatic. When I recall a bad one, it was mostly for a stupid discussion about nonsensic rules or their application.

    Rules for physics are boring, we already know how physics work in the real world and it's easy to come to an agreement about those. Rules and proceedings to create better stories, to convey color, are not so well known. We learn them by consuming fiction but then again, anot all players are accomplised writers and actors, so anything that helps players produce high quality fiction of any genre is the future, IMHO.
  • edited July 2013
    The example of the peasant railgun parallels an argument in some very nerdy wargamer circles, usually called Bottom Up vs Top Down Design.

    Unshockingly, early RPGs, descended from experiments with single character wargames, flow from Bottom Up wargame designs, and tend to have some of the same fail points.

    I'm not quite as optimistic that color-first is the future, although I hope it gets explored more. I think, depending upon where people take it, to make general imaginative gaming more accessible to more people.
  • Interesting, komradebob!

    And you see, the thing about color first is that rulesets built around it tend to convey a lot better the feelings the players seek in a game about any genre. Take for example your usual trad "Aliens (Colonial Marines) RPG" which features detailed stats for vehicles, weapons and aliens and compare it with this hack of the Regiment for Colonial Marines. Which one delivers color the best? The former which just give you the physics of the world or the later which adds procedures (Moves) to help flesh out the character's actions in the same world?

    Dunno about you but for some reason the later is yelling me "Play Me NOW!", while the trad one makes my brain say "You'd have to hack this into 1/10 of it's original size before before even thinking of prepping a one-shot session for it" For all that comes to getting more and new fans into the hobby, that's all that matters: how you make them feel and how fast you can deliver it. And getting more people interested in RPGs is what I think it's of the future of the whole business, or we are doomed.

  • I'm a pretty easy sell on color-first approaches.

  • ^_^ me too, I didn't get the whole AW feeling until I saw this Regiment Hack.
  • Well, personally, I'm with you guys in terms of taste, but I've definitely seen instances of detailed fictional measurement and physics rules providing great fun and utility to a group. I expect there's room for both in the gaming world, and I don't know which audience is larger (though if I had to guess, then I'd guess numeric simulation first, color second).

    Paul, I think Spiritual Attributes are a perfect example. They may or may not demonstrate in-fiction causality depending on whether "character is more motivated, thus character performs better" seems logical and is invoked by someone at the table. If so, it's no different than an Iron Will D&D feat. If not, it's straight metagame, no fictional causality involved. I maintain that there's a big difference between the two.
  • I expect there's room for both in the gaming world, and I don't know which audience is larger (though if I had to guess, then I'd guess numeric simulation first, color second).
    It starts to be a bit of a circular argument on that point, David.

    Is there room for both?

    Sure, but numeric simulation is overwhelmingly the approach we see. Just on the grounds of trying something different, I favor the other for a bit. I mean, I can always go buy one of the zillion or so numeric simulation based games that already exist.

    Which audience is bigger? Again, hard to say. After all, design has been dominated by numeric simulation to the extent that no one knows much about any other reaction or if there even is an audience.

    I mean, we know that there are folks like the numeric simulation approach and they constantly demand more of the same. We see it every time one the old "that's not an RPG!" arguments pops up on RPGnet or elsewhere.

    We know that people have tried numeric simulation based games and not liked them. We can only posit that they would like some other approach, like color first. It might be true, or it might be a fool's errand and there is no other commercially viable audience outside of numeric simulation lovers.

    There are hints that people might like other approaches ( the existence of freeformers of all sorts and various hippy Scandinavian design fans), but that commercially viable part is kind of a big deal. It's a big deal not just from a money-making standpoint, but also from an idea-transferal standpoint. People discuss stuff they pay for more and ponder more on tweaking mechanics and approaches related to it.

  • Dave,

    I'm not 100% sure I follow you on the Spiritual Attributes being "straight metagame". Can you give an example, maybe, of what that looks like in play? (And how that's different than a group applying, say, a "close range" bonus in a similar way.)

    As for using non-physics-based mechanics in a color-first, immersive game, what are your thoughts on Sign In Stranger? The only time I "played" it was with you at Recess, and I don't think we were playing the game as written, but I think you're more familiar with it.

    I'm with you on the utility of various physics-based mechanics, though. They can inform play in a very fun way if they're designed correctly (which they usually are not - because doing that is hard).

  • Rules for physics are boring, we already know how physics work in the real world and it's easy to come to an agreement about those.
    I don't think I agree with this, having witnessed many arguments about what should be possible in the game world. Also, even if your statement was true, I don't think that would erase the need for physics engines, as game systems don't really try to resolve disagreements (or at least that's a very silly goal for a game system).

  • Rules for physics are boring, we already know how physics work in the real world and it's easy to come to an agreement about those.
    I don't think I agree with this, having witnessed many arguments about what should be possible in the game world. Also, even if your statement was true, I don't think that would erase the need for physics engines, as game systems don't really try to resolve disagreements (or at least that's a very silly goal for a game system).

    Disagreements are exactly what physics modeling rules attempt to resolve.

    Why go through the added layer of fooling around with physics modeling, when that's not the problem in the first place? Just resolve the damn disagreement. It's a far from silly goal.

  • edited July 2013
    Paul, you know I love Sign in Stranger. Color-first rocks! My points above were mainly in response to an assertion that it could replace physics-sim. Sign in Stranger is completely unconcerned with all the aspects of play that physics-modeling aims to support.

    As for Riddle of Steel Spiritual Attributes, if no one bothers to say "my character is charged up and puts out this amazing effort!" then all you're left with is, "this opponent is a better fighter and should mop the floor with me, so I will cross some points off my character sheet and take bonus dice (or whatever it is), and now suddenly my superior opponent is toast". Or, if the player does say "charged up for amazing effort!" but narrates it weakly and someone else at the table just can't parse what's happening, or doesn't buy that a fighter motivated by his sister's honor (or whatever) fights better than an opponent who's simply trying to kill and not be killed (arguably the strongest motivation there is)... this can also seem pretty bogus to folks who like their fictional causality.

    But if everyone buys the "strong motive!" logic and can see how it applies in a given instance, then the bonus dice seem to be representing the fiction instead of just being a pure numeric system input from without, and fictional causality is maintained.

    I think this is a great example, because I run into moments like this all the time -- where I see someone look at a sheet and invoke a mechanic that makes me go "Wait, what just changed in the fiction?", and then I can either grimace and move on, or try to find a way to translate the metagame causality into fictional causality. I know some players who care about fictional causality who refuse to do one or both of these, and simply object. Much as that's disruptive, I definitely sympathize.
    I mean, we know that there are folks like the numeric simulation approach and they constantly demand more of the same. We see it every time one the old "that's not an RPG!" arguments pops up on RPGnet or elsewhere.

    We know that people have tried numeric simulation based games and not liked them. We can only posit that they would like some other approach, like color first. It might be true, or it might be a fool's errand
    Yeah, who knows? I'm just saying, if I had to bet money, I'd put it on the audience that's proven to exist rather than the audience that may or may not.

    I think the basic appeal of numeric simulation is the promise of a fair and predictable arbiter of fictional ad-lib. Whether a given sim game delivers on that promise is another matter, but I think lots of players get twitchy without it.
  • That makes sense, Dave. Thanks for the detailed response! You make some great points.

    (Although I don't think that applying a certain mechanic necessarily requires an addition of fictional content. Just like we can say, "Hey, you're fighting from horseback, so don't forget your +1 Horse Rider bonus," it can be interesting just to see that the guy who's fighting for his sister's honour tends to win more fights, after the fact. But that requires us to be on the same page concerning what the game's about, of course. If that connection is too opaque, it sounds like a badly-designed game to me. I feel this way about many of the "stat substitution" moves in AW, for example...)
  • Wait, don't confuse detailed physics rules with numerical simulation. Both are usual for trad games, though one shouldn't imply the other. I'm against detailed physics rules because designers are human, not gods and so they can't think of every detail of how their world should work. When they try, things like the peasant railgun happen. These are things that however cool or hilaious as they can be, breake the fourth wall into a different form of fun. And also, introduce way too much rules into a game that most of the time doesn't need them.

    Numerical simulation on the other hand is meant to be a fair and predictable arbiter as Dave says. Without it you'd have to fall back to some sort of argumentation (which could take forever) or other procedures like as ritual phrases, to overcome disagreements. Which is faster and more fun? Pile one argument after another until we resolve who hit first or roll the dice to fund out? Dunno about you, but I'll pick the later any day.

    On top of that there are systems and procedures that however simple and intuitive may look to the designer, won't work with all groups of players or GMs. It's really useful to know now that Riddle of steel's Spiritual Attributes doesn't always work (thanks a lot for that, Dave) I haven't played the game but when I readed similar mechanics in other games and understood how it worked I thought they would do it fine. I'm wondering now if Fate's Aspects suffer the same problem and how. For me the thing about Aspects is that the core book should actually provide a good list of them instead of examples. I've always felt lost when thinking how should I create a character in that system.

    However I did used Aspects in a more limited way for another game I hacked, providing a list for the players to choose from, and it did really good. Not that I found a way to stop players from pushing that button (nor tried to), but compelling aspects worked just fine.

    I've never got the gist of stats for AW neither, it also looks to me like they don't do much in the game, except at first, to get an idea of what kind of character you are making.

    Anyway, I still think color first games are the future because it's a lot easier to sell the game from there than presenting a numerical simulation and hoping buyers will see the possibilities. The future is in the poeple who hasn't played an RPG and still doesn't know how fun it is. The lower to put the bar for them, the better, and right now that bar is "amount of rules you need to know to play this" and "how much creatively extrovert you need to be to play this"

    The people who already love RPGs won't need new games; some of us are still playing AD&D or 3.5. I've got PF and I'm happy with it, I don't need 4th or Next. Sure, I can try something else out of curiosity but AH! that makes me a different type of consumer, right? The one who tries things out of curiosity, and there's more of those than hardcore or casual RPG players. AND between those I'm sure there are more hardcore gamers awaiting to be awaken...
  • edited July 2013
    Paul, it's true, I'm mentioning the problematic case where the rules adjustment is visible and the fictional explanation isn't implicit. There are plenty of other cases. It's pretty normal that (a) no one notices the extra dice and thus no one asks "where did that come from?", or (b) everyone imagines "where that came from" in a way that works for them, with no communication required.

    W-Monk, I think numeric representation doesn't really become "simulation" until physics enters the equation. Example:

    I'm atop a small staircase, fighting a badguy who's completely encased in magical armor which cannot be cut, but which doesn't do much to blunt the force of bludgeons, and is also very bulky and heavy heavy. I'm getting my ass kicked, but my back is to a wall, while his back is to the stairs. I'm imagining the situation, tackling it with all the cleverness I can muster, and I have an idea. "I'm going to push him down the stairs! If I can just force him back an inch, his giant boots should give trouble finding purchase on the narrow stairs. If I hit him above his center of gravity, he should be leaning back when he loses his footing. If he then falls, the armor should provide no protection against the injuries from repeated impacts of tumbling. He should wind up a crumpled heap, struggling to get up under the weight of his own armor, and I can then walk up and slit his throat. I'm a genius! Now let's see if I can pull it off..."

    My inspiration is based on physics, so I need a physics-based rule set to reward me for its specifics. Each bonus to damage or penalty to a balance check or whatever is a reward for my cleverness. A game whose numeric quantities are broader and based on something other than physics, like "acting With A Plan gives you +1", does not offer the same rewards. A lot of narrative-first games will say something like "succeed and inflict a fictionally applicable Condition from the list". So the plan above would mean I can hope to inflict the condition "stunned" on Big Armor Guy. If that's good enough for me, great, I can use a simple rule set that doesn't concern itself with things like inertia, balance, force and distance. But sometimes that's not good enough. "Wait, I can also inflict the Stunned condition just by kicking him in the balls? Okay, so my brilliant idea was worth nothing."

    As for tapping an untapped market by offering games that don't force players to wrestle with physics and look up all sorts of detailed special cases, I certainly hope you're right! I think having a crunchy system wherein the player can deal more with rules than with other players is actually a solution to the creative extrovert barrier, and I've heard that D&D at big cons is a lot of rolling without talking. So I have some doubts about how much my taste (and yours) reflects the market.
  • Yes, Dave nails it with the "taste" thing. I think games like Fiasco attract very different people than games like D&D4E. Neither "needs" or wants the advantages of the other game.

    That said, I don't how unusual we are for being willing to try all kinds of games and try to enjoy them on their own merits.

    As far as physics modeling, and Dave's armoured guy example:

    Dave, how much of this is a question of proper "modeling" and how much of it is a question of how the players will use the rules when they're actually in the middle of the game? For instance, as far as I know, your game Delve does very little to "model" physics, and yet it's designed precisely for this kind of "clever ploy which must be plausible to succeed"-style-of-gaming. Similarly, it seems to me that super old-school D&D (aka "rulings, not rules") encourages this kind of approach much more than more recent editions of the game, which seek to codify more effects into modifiers and limitations.

    I've always enjoyed the "roll dice to slap your opponent with a Condition" style of play the most when the group is conscientious about applying the rules in a way which suits their creative vision and not allowing player input to break the illusion of a consistent fiction. So for instance, a group which says things like, "No, you can't just kick him in the balls. He's wearing heavy-duty armour. What are you going to do instead? If you want to inflict a Condition on him, you've got to come up with a way to do so which is plausible."

    Dogs in the Vineyard comes to mind here: although the system doesn't weight certain options over others (e.g. your "big gun" is always worth three dice, even if in *this* situation it shouldn't really make a huge difference), the idea of the group consensus editing Trait use seems like it works very well with the right group.
  • edited July 2013
    Delve hands the physics problem to the group and gives them the tools to arbitrate it themselves. It works, but it doesn't offer the same reassurance to a new player that pages of codification does. Delve acknowledges that you are at the mercy of the group, and doesn't offer rules mastery as a way out of that. I imagine this limits my audience significantly.

    Numeric physics-modeling covers the case of "we know you care about this but can't be trusted to work it out for yourselves", just like when you roll dice for success or failure rather than letting someone decide. (I'm not saying that's all these approaches do! Just pointing out that it's one important function.)

    As for Dogs, I suppose the right group could apply a high fictional-causality threshold to any mechanic, but in practice, I've seen Dogs players shoehorn in a lot of crap where the obvious cause was "it's on my sheet and I get dice for it". You did this with your "the youth speaks true" trait when it was a really poor fit for the situation, despite the fact that you're happy to let the fiction lead in other contexts. So I'd hesitate to call Dogs blameless on that score. Not that a physics-sim that stacks modifiers regardless of context is any better...
  • Dave,

    I can't tell if you're just pointing out weaknesses and issues for discussion's sake, or actively advocating a different approach. Can you tell us? (I'm only asking because I would have a very different response depending on which is the case!)

    Can you suggest an example of a game which does offer "reassurance to a new player", and explain how or why it does that?

    Interesting discussion.
  • So, while a Covert Operative´s abilities in Shadowrun would be all about acrobatics and technical knowledge and hi-tech gadgets, in Apocalypse World such a character´s abilities would be all about provoking paranoia and betrayal between the players characters, sabotaging things while framing others, and having occult employers showing up with morally ambiguous jobs and opportunities and such.

    In other words, this vs this.
    First of all, I don't think that the first paragraph's claims hold up. The Shadowrun character has stats reflecting interest in Elvish wines, Japanese culture, and modern jazz (for example) - as well as Etiquette and Fast-talk. The Apocalypse World character has its first move that matches your point, but then has its other moves like "Knife in the dark: when you attack from hiding or from a circumstance prepared by you in advance, your harm is armor piercing."

    It seems to me, though, that "Knife in the dark" is colorful, and likewise acrobatics and hardware and physics can be colorful. Physics and technology might not be human drama, but it can be colorful and cool.
  • Yep. What what John (Kim) said.
  • edited July 2013
    Paul, I'm just chiming in with responses to ideas as they come up. Certainly not advocating for any particular taste or approach to "win". The stuff about how many gamers might play what sort of RPG is just based off second-hand knowledge and guessing.

    By "assurances" I just mean concrete game actions you can do, with known quantities (like character stats), as opposed to open-ended or social procedures. If you look at a Pathfinder sheet, it's clear that you can hit people with your weapons and appraise gems and resist petrification, and high numbers mean you're good at it and low numbers mean you're bad at it, and your hit points track how long you can keep at it before you might die. Compare that to Wicked Age and "With Love: d8". You and I look at that and see creative opportunities, but someone who's more familiar and comfortable with board games might be like "How do I push that button? And how many points of Love do I inflict on a successful roll?"
  • Good call, Johns. If the OP returns, I apologize for the threadjack.
  • edited July 2013
    Without it you'd have to fall back to some sort of argumentation (which could take forever) or other procedures like as ritual phrases, to overcome disagreements. Which is faster and more fun? Pile one argument after another until we resolve who hit first or roll the dice to fund out? Dunno about you, but I'll pick the later any day.
    Not sure what mechanics you're thinking of, but I have played Archipelago, Matrix Games, and Mythic GM Emulator.

    None of those have much in the way of numeric/physics sim and none of them have become endless debates or argument piling to get through the game.

    Edit:
    I feel like I should explain that a bit more actually.

    Part of how it work is that you just plain come in with a different mentality.

    Even with numeric sim, we don't roll for everything, right?

    With these other approaches* a couple of things are going on:
    We're using those mechanics only at times and places when someone involved thinks there is either a problem in narration or when there's seen to be an interesting point of possible divergence.

    In playing these games, players tend to come in with the mentality that moving things along is actually more important than grinding to a halt to dissect things.

    Players are more willing to accept input and move on, as these don't tend to be about winning in-fiction as much. Challenge here is more like: You've engaged the mechanics and it turned out differently than you expected. Are you capable of rolling with that and continuing to play? If the answer becomes "No!", that's your lose condition, not what just happened in the fiction.

    They tend to be fast set up and fast play. There's little in the way of mechanics, most of them can be explained and described in everyday language, and they tend to be universal in application. This last one is kinda important if fairness is actually important to you. It means that anyone can play the game, not just people who have don a huge amount of homework and no one is getting advantaged or disadvantaged by those things.

    They work rally well when you accept them from the POV that the rules/mechanics are going to be refining and re-inforcing what the group believes to be true and it will develop over the course of the game. In contrast to the more numeric or physiques sim, this is something that happens at the table rather than at the designer's computer.

    Is this good or bad? Truth be told, the group at the table or the designer might actually create something wildly off-mark based on their own understanding and biases. If it happens at the table however, you're dealing with it at the moment and with the face to face people you are gaming with, which has benefits.

    Sometimes designers can be wrong too, no matter what they think they know. I'm sure that if we went back and looked at some of those very intricate naval wargames that existed even in the 1930s, we'd find designers telling us there was no way under the sun that HMS Hood could be one-shotted by a single 15 inch shell.


    *Matrix Games being a bit different here because argumentation is part of the fun (at least in earlier versions of those mechanics) and is largely meant to be in the service of better quality simulation. Early uses of Matrix Game rules also tended to be more PvP oriented.

  • Dave,

    Yes, I see. I thought you were talking about one thing, but you were actually discussing several different things. (Specifically, marketability or accessibility is a whole different beast from "color-first" or fictional causality.)
  • Regarding Riddle of Steel specifically: I do something that's actually quite questionable by the book, but makes the game smoother and also makes the fictional causality slightly clearer (though it doesn't 100% address what you're saying, Dave). Here's how it would be phrased in AW terms: When you place your character's life in danger in order to pursue/further one of your SA's, increase that SA by one and receive its dice as a bonus throughout the scene.

    In other words, the mechanical change happens as a direct result of something happening in the fiction.

    I do allow application of SA bonuses without the increase when the SA applies but the situation is not life-threatening, which I should probably stop doing.

    Matt
  • edited July 2013
    Ok, when I rambled about detailed physics (rules) I was thinking mostly of D&D. If we put your example through the system

    I'm atop a small staircase, fighting a badguy who's completely encased in magical armor which cannot be cut, but which doesn't do much to blunt the force of bludgeons, and is also very bulky and heavy heavy. I'm getting my ass kicked, but my back is to a wall, while his back is to the stairs. I'm imagining the situation, tackling it with all the cleverness I can muster, and I have an idea. "I'm going to push him down the stairs! If I can just force him back an inch, his giant boots should give trouble finding purchase on the narrow stairs. If I hit him above his center of gravity, he should be leaning back when he loses his footing. If he then falls, the armor should provide no protection against the injuries from repeated impacts of tumbling. He should wind up a crumpled heap, struggling to get up under the weight of his own armor, and I can then walk up and slit his throat. I'm a genius! Now let's see if I can pull it off..."
    That would mean you're attempting to either Bull Rush or Trip (Overrun may apply too,I think) your opponent, so he gets an Attack of Opportunity (unless you know your feats and have Improved Bull Rush / Improved Trip among them) and then you both roll the dice and add strenght or dex depending on which one you're trying. You are against the wall so you can't have a +2 for charging, but you have +1 for holding the higher ground. Perhaps your opponent should roll balance after you bull rush him or a reflex to avoid most of the damage. Oh, and then your opponent would be Prone. It already took me eight minutes to figure out how this works ruleswise, which in game time is forever. I concede that I'm not familiar enough with the system to know this instinctively, even though I have played four campaings with it (well, I never had to GM nor I'll ever dream about it, it's just way too detailed for me. If I was GMing you, I'd say "Excellent idea! roll for it, you get a +1/your opponent gets a -1 to keep its balance, etc." And if you failed, you could probably get that attack of opportunity in the face.

    My point is that you don't need rules that generate their own physics, you need a more loose and general ruleset that allows you to apply common sense physics. Numerical simulation for this is all right, I'm not against numerical simulation, like you I'm just against rules that block my creativity.
    So I don't really consider that rule you mentioned about roll the dice and apply X condition any different if it blocks creativity. It's just another sort of fake and sad physics emulation, even if it's in a story-oriented indie game. And please, don't start saying "It's all about rules interpretation" and "using common sense while GMing" because then we'll be back to the Rule Zero issue, which is the reason that made a lot of us go into indie games.

    Now, why do I bother to mention this trad game as a example, when games currently being designed are supposedly over this? Because (for the sake of appealing to the players who already love RPGs as they are) we keep coming back to design decissions made specifically for this game. On top of that, designers obsessed with flaws in trad games often go to the far opposite side making more mistakes in the way. I'm not saying there hasn't been any advance, though it's still slow since we're kinda trapped in the past. There's absolutely nothing bad with the games we've been playing, except that they won't convince a wider audience. IMHO, to get there we need something more finely tuned.
  • edited July 2013
    Without it you'd have to fall back to some sort of argumentation (which could take forever) or other procedures like as ritual phrases, to overcome disagreements. Which is faster and more fun? Pile one argument after another until we resolve who hit first or roll the dice to fund out? Dunno about you, but I'll pick the later any day.
    Not sure what mechanics you're thinking of, but I have played Archipelago, Matrix Games, and Mythic GM Emulator.

    None of those have much in the way of numeric/physics sim and none of them have become endless debates or argument piling to get through the game.
    I just meant that you'd have to fall back to argumentation if you had no rules about resolving conflicts. Yes, it's an extreme unreal example, I know, but children play that way and still have fun between quarrels.

    And I also meant -On a separate note- that besides having no rules or a numeric simulation there are procedures like ritual phrases, that also work.
  • Ah, gotcha. My poor reading comprehension coming into play there.
  • Ah, no, I'm not a native english-speaker, it's probably my poor choice of words and redaction. My apologies.
  • edited July 2013
    So, while a Covert Operative´s abilities in Shadowrun would be all about acrobatics and technical knowledge and hi-tech gadgets, in Apocalypse World such a character´s abilities would be all about provoking paranoia and betrayal between the players characters, sabotaging things while framing others, and having occult employers showing up with morally ambiguous jobs and opportunities and such.

    In other words, this vs this.
    First of all, I don't think that the first paragraph's claims hold up. The Shadowrun character has stats reflecting interest in Elvish wines, Japanese culture, and modern jazz (for example) - as well as Etiquette and Fast-talk. The Apocalypse World character has its first move that matches your point, but then has its other moves like "Knife in the dark: when you attack from hiding or from a circumstance prepared by you in advance, your harm is armor piercing."

    It seems to me, though, that "Knife in the dark" is colorful, and likewise acrobatics and hardware and physics can be colorful. Physics and technology might not be human drama, but it can be colorful and cool.
    Besides the conspiracy that the "color" game promotes if you have a player picking the covert ops playbook (the Intrigue! move), you also have the initial Hx stablishing that the other players dont trust you, you have the Slippery and the Paints something move that makes it hard for other players to read the character and to hold forwards against him. And to finish, if you fuck (literally) with another player character, it counts as manipulating them with a 10+ roll. (there was also a Sabotage move that the author, sadly, didnt put in the final version, which allowed the character to sabotage things and blame other players).

    In resume: the "color" covert ops is all about injecting interesting situations and conflicts into the fiction that are apropriated to the spy genre while directly envolving the other players. While the "numbers" covert ops is all about passive numbers that are there to simulate capacities from agents of the spy genre and thats it.

    Do you agree that there is a distinction in focus, system-wise ?

    I may be not using the best words though (Im not a native speaker). Maybe "color-first" is not the best term to label the first covert ops. Maybe "fiction-first" is more apropriated. Or "genre-first".



  • Yeah, it's by definition (original Forge terminology) not color if it impacts or triggers the mechanics.

    Matt
  • edited July 2013
    W-Monk, I completely agree with your last post about physics-sim and the indies. After GURPS went through so much effort to fairly codify every physical situation, and the results still wound up rewarding system mastery more than fiction-based creativity, I think many designers were eager to flee that trap entirely. "Let's stop worrying about whether position and balance and armor weight really make a difference, and roll for Determination or Vengeance or other good character-in-a-story stuff instead!" And yeah, rolling for Vengeance is fun, but it doesn't scratch the same itch that GURPS was aimed at.

    So now I'm curious what you'd think about my game. In Delve, fiction-based creativity is supported as follows:

    1) Although the "what" of the game is adventuring and puzzles and demons, the "how" is presented right up front too. Part of the pitch is "immersion in being there, seeing the fiction through your character's eyes, tackling it with the tools at their disposal".

    2) The rule for arbitrating in-game stuff starts with the fiction. "If it wouldn't work, it doesn't. If it would work, it does." There are no game quantities that factor into this. There is no GM prerogative either. It's up to the group to agree on what's plausible. I've developed some dialogue techniques for forming this agreement in a satisfying and efficient manner. See these comics for learning and trouble-shooting, but once you get used to it, it's much quicker and smoother.

    3) When the group agrees that something might or might not work, and roughly how likely/difficult it is, a target number is chosen from the range of Nearly Guaranteed (3) to Nearly Impossible (12). Any relevant ways in which the character is above or below average are then added to a 2d6 die roll. I continue to mess around with the specifics of this, but here's the relevant portion for our present topic: You only roll if the group agrees that this could go either way and the difference is worth focusing on. A die roll is not a right given to you by any items on your character sheet; in fact, most of the stuff listed on your sheet defines things you simply can or can't do. Only on edge cases should you expect to roll.
  • One thing that's worth noting about very un-granular but very fiction-first games like AW: how you describe what you're doing does matter, a great deal even, but not in terms of your probability of success/failure(/partial success). It matters in terms of how much the GM will fuck with you even on a failure. In the Heavy-Armor-Guy example above, acting with relative caution to push HAG down the stairs is still a better idea than trying to kick him in the balls.

    Matt
  • Yes, I agree with Matt. A lot of "roll Vengeance"-type games can be played with a strong connection to the fiction, simply because they return certain at-the-table results (e.g. "player B narrates a difficult failure", or "group decides on most plausible way for the situation to go as well as possible"). Same goes for "stake-setting" games, where the group must negotiate a plausible good outcome and a plausible bad outcome.

    The only things I see that process missing for the "idealized GURPS play" Dave is discussing are:

    1. The "right" to have your clever plan guaranteed a certain chance of success by the "physics" of the game engine. In other words, even if the other players don't agree with you, you have a chance to see your plan succeed because it's just that smart. This is how it "works" in real life after all, right? You have an audacious plan which you just know is brilliant, but no one seems to see it the way you do. So you can put it into action and prove them wrong! But you can't do this in a system which is based on group consensus.

    2. The ability to play "what if?", trying different things to see what would actually happen. Let's throw together this thing and that thing, and try something we've never seen anyone do before. We have no idea how it will turn out! What if you cast an Enlarge spell on a worm trapped in someone's stomach? I don't know, you don't know... we just want to find out! (I've only seen this work in games where those consequences have already been spelled out by a writer, and you can open the book and see what it say.)

    Can you think of any others?

    I can't think of any games which actually DO deliver those two things meaningfully, but I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be stoked if someone made a game which actually could.
  • edited July 2013
    Paul, in response to your points:

    1. This absolutely works for system mastery if the group abides by the rules. You invent Peasant Railgun and feel brilliant. For fictional causality, though, no; like you, I haven't seen that succeed.

    2. Trying things to see what works is also a fun system exercise in many games. I remember some D&D2 economic tricks you could pull by transmuting stuff to gold, and the pace of Tunneling had some fun applications. Cloud Kill + any container spell was badass. And there's good ol' Web + Fireball. The spell list was really where the "what if?" game was at in 2e. The downside from a fictional causality perspective is that if stuff really worked this way in the gameworld, gold would be valueless and moles would rule the world. So if you cared about plausibility, you eventually got tired of looking the other way.

    I think you missed a big one:

    3. Measurable bang for your creative contributions. Regardless of whether your cool idea requires other players' consent, when it does get to make a difference in play, some players find "+1 for high ground and -1 to their reflex save" to be a more satisfying game experience than "hey, good call, I guess that works".

    As for action narration as a fictional cause in AW, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes, as GM, it's easiest just to pick a cool-sounding Hard Move and run with your own inspiration. Your range of options is often quite broad, and working in a way to reward player cleverness can be extra work beyond what the game demands of you. If you have a GM like Matt who cares, then no problem, but I don't think I ever got to be clever in Monsterhearts (which was awesome in other ways).

    More broadly, I agree that some sort of strong connection to the fiction is present in all sorts of games, just as you mentioned. My convention Primetime Adventures play has been very fiction- and color-first. Zero fictional causality, though. The inputs into what happens are Fan Mail points and entertainment value and the like.
  • the "color" covert ops is all about injecting interesting situations and conflicts into the fiction that are appropriate to the spy genre while directly involving the other players.
    I think a lot of people refer to that approach as "story first".

    And I agree with you that the difference in system focus is huge!

  • edited July 2013
    Dave, I love the way you're using comics to explain the keywords/phrases in a more detailed way, this is something all roleplayers use but it isn't written in any rulebook at all. Most of us learned this by seeing more experienced players use it or the hard way by trial and error, to finally develop the tools to face the fiction and deal with the GM and other players in the most efficient way.

    I love that the keywords you use are totally intuitive. I do use that phrases when I play but never stopped to think about it, this is exactly what I've been complaining that most rulebooks never do.

    However there are a few traps in your text, most of this will only work well with a group of collaborative players and it looks like you're assuming these are the only kind of players that would be interested in playing your game. Let me point a few of these traps:

    -Player's Assumptions are an easy to press button. You reccomendation "don't get in the habit of assuming too much" is insufficient to keep players from hitting this button, since it isn't phrased as a rule. Probably the GM will have to turn it into a rule and enforce this by his own if the group isn't in a totally cooperative mood. You see, there's no way to determine when a player will have a cooperative or a competitive mood, it may depend of circumstances outside the game, so I think it's safer to assume the worst case scenario when designing a game. A player may even act like she is being cooperative, but she may still subtly hit this button to get an advantage that might not look like too much at first, but will be decisive in a long term plan. And yes, assuming that the player might be smarter than the GM is also a safer path for a design.

    -Stablishing Settings isn't bad, though I'd recommend having the GM show pics whenever he can. If you have designed specific looks for specific things in the setting, you'll be better actually showing them in the core book if you can make/afford the art. Just a thought.

    -Complex decisions looks good at first glance, but it has small traps and assumptions you're making that might not be true for many groups of players. "Sounds Good?" isn't something all players ask, I've seen GMs and players cleverly evade this to avoid the GM or the group questioning. Works when the victim(s) are distracted or the perpetrator has skillfully make them focus on something else. It can easily go under your radar and/or if you're less strong-willed or more introvert than the perpetrator is waaay too easy to be dazzled by this and go with it, even when you feel you're walking into a trap. If the PCs are in the same team, they probably support the player doing this anyway, if it comes in their benefit too. Of course, if your group is entirely composed of cooperative players (meaning they also cooperate with the GM on making the challenges more difficult/fair) your system will work as expected.

    -On the panel above the phrase "Does that seem likely?" it's clear that the GM actually has prerrogatives, though he has to get past player's final approval to fit them into the fiction, as you show next. It isn't the same as saying that There is no GM prerogative. So, what you have here is the GM also imposing some stuff on the settings so the players don't get off with it too easily, but doing it in a more subtle way, as players can do with assumptions, only that being the GM, he can indulge on making this an habit (since otherwise, the game would be too easy)

    -That was my mistake is like Rule Zero, here giving the GM freedom to walk back in his steps and putting the bar higher. I'm not too sure this will do. Now when I look at the GM's character in the comic, it makes him look like a dick stealing the game from the players. I'm not saying this scenes doesn't happen, but it usually happen with things more important and logical than the height of a house, which suddenly gets higher to stop a player from doing something that could end an scene too quickly. (ok, perhaps he actually forgot, but it still looks like that wasn't the case)

    -Fuck it, I'll just do Y instead finally makes this an example of what shouldn't happen. The player's expression says it all, he's clearly frustrated that they have been discussing this for five minutes only to get the GM and other player block and idea that could have ended up on a quite cinematic scene. He's dealing with it and going with the GM of course, the action continues, but those were 5 minutes of his life that won't come back, so at least this deserves some profanity. As a GM I'd have just gone with his plan, make him roll for the stunt and have him fall badly if he fumbled it. Or land on top of the chased if he had rolled a crit. Both things are still better than railroading him into going with the group, which is how the entire example feels up to this point.

    -Not plausible is also, like the assumptions, like putting a blade in the hand of the players ready to use it against the GM. I know the idea of your game is having everyone cooperate on building a good experience, and thus this is a tool to keep the GM at bay in case the fictions gets over his head. But then again, you're not thinking into the worst case scenario from the other side. The first scene narrated by the GM before the "not plausible" interruption sounded like an amazing cue of how the supernatural abilities of the Demon are taking action, by creating an illusion that is, of course, not plausible but yet strong enough to distort the sense of reality of the PCs... and then somebody ruins it saying "not plausible" and reverting the world back to boring normal. Well, I dunno what the demons do in Delve's setting but now it sounds like the answer is "not so much"

    -Trust isn't realistic at all, sorry. It's a good hope, but it's like wishing for world peace. Even stating it as a rule won't make players trust each other, even if they are old good friends. Specially if the are old good friends. You may think I'm being too cynical, well, perhaps I am. There are other people like me in the world and even though you may have a really interesting setting and a nice game, we probably won't be able to play this game as a totally cooperative group. Not a big deal, no game is made for everyone, but I still think that if you could tweak this just a bit, thinking of not even the worst, but just a bit worse case scenario, I'd buy it inmediatly. And you could add a lot of cynical people into your audience.
  • In resume: the "color" covert ops is all about injecting interesting situations and conflicts into the fiction that are apropriated to the spy genre while directly envolving the other players. While the "numbers" covert ops is all about passive numbers that are there to simulate capacities from agents of the spy genre and thats it.

    Do you agree that there is a distinction in focus, system-wise ?
    I'm sure there are distinctions in focus - though I'm not entirely sure of them since I played Shadowrun only once at a convention and didn't get a good feel for the system beyond it being complicated. I've played Apocalypse World three times along with about ten times playing offshoot systems - though I've never used the Turncoat.

    The Turncoat playbook emphasizes keeping secrets from the other PCs. The character sheet is a lot longer than the Shadowrun Covert Ops sheet. On the other hand, it also reads to me as being rather one note - i.e. the material given is only about being a good liar and sneak, with nothing else there. The Shadowrun character is shorter on text, and emphasizes being a good teammate rather than distrusted spy, and has more of a variety of capabilities.

    Since Champions introduces disadvantages in 1981, there's been ongoing debates in RPGs about building "hooks" into the character sheet - like being watched and ordered around by a shadowy cabal, having a boyfriend who gets in trouble, and so forth. People vary in how much they like this, so disads have become common but not ubiquitous. Their use also varies within modern story games. I don't pull strongly in either direction - I think it depends mostly on how well it is implemented either way.
  • edited July 2013
    Trust isn't realistic at all, sorry. It's a good hope, but it's like wishing for world peace. Even stating it as a rule won't make players trust each other, even if they are old good friends. Specially if the are old good friends. You may think I'm being too cynical, well, perhaps I am. There are other people like me in the world and even though you may have a really interesting setting and a nice game, we probably won't be able to play this game as a totally cooperative group. Not a big deal, no game is made for everyone, but I still think that if you could tweak this just a bit, thinking of not even the worst, but just a bit worse case scenario, I'd buy it inmediatly. And you could add a lot of cynical people into your audience.
    Perhaps there's a comic to go with this and the others called "Stack the deck in your favor Mr. GM!"

    I recall a podcast interview with Dave Wesely where he talked about early proto-RPGs an how people eventually simply took to being fairly exclusive about inviting people.

    To make a game a success, you made a point of inviting people that you were betting would gel with the vibe you were going for in the playstyle.

    You knew that was only a subset of all the people you gamed with.

    Some of your concerns about Trust and other issues in the comics David has made could be covered by simply going ahead and dealing explicitly with this issue.

    On a tangent, and getting well into highly opinionated territory, but I've found loosey-goosey approaches ( including some approaches to color-first) seem to work best with two very different groups of people. The first group is noobs who have very little experience with any sort of RPG ( or similar) and who are approaching it from a play pretend/story making mindet. The second group that it seems to work well with, if invited selectively, are people with an enormous amount of experience with RPGs and similar.

    It's the people somewhere between the two extremes that seem to have the difficulty with it.

  • You know, about Trust and some other stuff, there's been something else biting me about this whole subject, though I can't completely nail it. You see, it's like when as a designer you want players to experience something in a game so you enforce the things that lead to that experience in the rules. You can introduce moves, feats, stats and procedures that produce specific color, so players see this, get inspired and make it happen in the game.

    But then on the other side, players that already come inspired to play their characters in a certain way crash into the rules like a wall that blocks their creativity.

    Back to the designer's side, another designer tired of these rules that block his way of playing comes up with a more narrative rules-lite game. Kudos for him, except that now here comes a player who gets a blank page syndrome when trying to play this game!

    Well, I know, different games for different players, so nobody is to blame here. But I'd really like to find an story game that doesn't depend so heavily on players focused creativity, or that haves otherwise such high expectations on players as expecting not to cross each other, joke on serious scenes and not game the system. I'm really fond of all the interesting mechanics and procedures I've seen in these and other forums, but I have only being able to play a single game from here as it was designed with my group of players. Another 6 or so, I've had to hack to be able to play them. For most of the rest, I took what I found inspiring and tried it on another game with different results.

    I'm beggining to discern better what things will work on a bigger player audience, what things players can adapt to and what may feel totally unnatural to most. It's got nothing to do with trad vs. indie, but more about gaming psychology and social psychology. I feel like the answer is there, more than in marketing strategies. It's got something to do with integrating gaming advice with game design and making the whole subject of how to play RPGs clearer to a broader audience. I've seen comics used to explain rules, but this is the first time I've seen one detailing the procedures we are totally used to explained nicely for non-gamers. Thanks a lot Dave, I'm totally stealing this! :D (funny thing, I'm a comic artist and didn't thought of this before :P )

    Now, about the tangent you pointed KomradeBob, you're right: it easier to find something to appeal to people who are on the extremes of the spectrum. One possibility is that these people had a bad experience with RPGs; we know there's a high number of things that can go wrong with a session and that most of the time it has to do with playing the wrong game with the wrong people in a wrong time of their lives.

    There's also a lot of misinformation about the hobby, perhaps because it's a complex one and it takes a lot of time and examples to explain, and even more to learn enough to enjoy it. Dozens of times I've heard that excuse for not trying it: "it sounds/looks too complex for me"

    There's the feelings of shame/embarrasment against re-activating the use of your imagination, something that somehow society still thinks only kids should do. Perhaps this one is -still surprisingly to me- a heavier reason than any other. Should we make and sell a few games more like "this is an adult game as serious as poker"? Perhaps stick it with the image of 40 year olds, playing at a table with some beers beside a fireplace adorned with the head of a dragon and a couple of orc axes? Jhonnie Walker add style? I dunno. A lot of people still seem to think this hobbie is about child-like escapism. We all know that's unfair, I'd really like to be able to change that.
  • I'm really fond of all the interesting mechanics and procedures I've seen in these and other forums, but I have only being able to play a single game from here as it was designed with my group of players. Another 6 or so, I've had to hack to be able to play them. For most of the rest, I took what I found inspiring and tried it on another game with different results.
    WarriorMonk,

    This is really interesting, and I bet a lot of people here would love to hear about those experiences, and how those games were not compatible with your game group. From a design and marketing standpoint, this sounds like a goldmine of information and would make great feedback. How would you feel about starting a new thread about those experiences?

  • edited July 2013
    I think a lot of this hobby is about child-like escapism. I just don't think that's a bad thing.

    I also think that escapism for adults can take different forms than it does for a 12-14 year old, or a 16-18 year old or an early 20 something.

    As for complexity, I remember a while back Levi K was doing a little example game thing where it was dead simple. You're at home or at work. A Zombie Apocalypse happens. What do you do?

    I mean, there was more to it than that, but there's the rub. Enough people get that set up that you could easily introduce the core concept of roleplaying that way. I don't recall what there was for instructions for a would-be GM.

    I think Levi just assumed you'd be using it as an experienced gamer ( you'd be GMing) to introduce newbie friends.

    I mean, one you introduce/re-introduce people to ad hoc imagination games, all of the other stuff becomes an expansion on the concept. Color-first, physics sim, whatever. Those are specific approaches once you've gotten the basic core concept across.
  • Paul-T, done.

    Komradebob, exactly. We would need to make your post our selling line for the complete hobby. Except for the part about using experienced GMs to introduce the techniques and procedures, which I think Dave's comics cover best.

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