Hey Eero, tell me about your Princess play, minis using game!

You mentioned it in passing a couple times, and I'm very curious about it. Sadly, my command of anything other than English is dicey at best.

Care to talk about it a bit?

Comments

  • I can give the gist of it, I guess. This has a high potential to be boring :D

    The game's name is "Sipi Sormivaltti", which translates roughly as "Simeon Fingerflex" or something like that. The titular character is a fairy tale anti-hero with few heroic virtues and all the vices. Alone he would be a small-time grifter, but as it happens, Sipi has an astounding talent for partnering up with wondrous companions who will, generally speaking, help him make good of all sorts of adventurous challenges. Obviously enough Sipi himself is a comedic NPC, while the player characters in the game are wonder-companions, each with their own astounding talents and tragic backstories. Sort of like Wizard of Oz, insofar as the structure goes, but the content is generally more to adult tastes.

    (This entire set-up is very similar to Nathan Russel's Space Rat, although the similarity is unintentional - I was more thinking of fairy tales and Baron Munchausen.)

    The creative agenda of the game is for the players to develop their own characters as colorful individuals and get opportunities to showcase them in different interactions with each other, adventurous challenges and quirky NPCs. The plot structure of the game is explicitly a railroad, the only factors the players influence are pace (how fast we move on to the next station) and focus (how much we talk about each fictional detail). A goal-oriented player might say that the goal is to steal the show from Sipi Sormivaltti, whom the GM plays like a demented clown version of Han Solo. As the game is so party-based, though, it's cool if a player just wants to follow along and let others have all the spotlight.

    The character creation is pretty much that the GM preps a bunch of interesting miniatures (men, women, monsters, whatever), about double the number of players, and then each player picks the one they like for their own character. The player gets to invent the rest about their character pretty much without constraint, except they'll need to be willing to accompany Sipi (in the fairy tale genre this is often out of gratitude or utter stupidity, but whatever you want is fine), and they need to be a wonder companion, so they'll have a wonder talent (a superpower, essentially, the scope of which depends on the number of players somewhat). Players who want to be really unique may also decide that their character is cursed and/or a sage - all three of these "character classes" can be mixed together freely, depending on the character concept.
  • The actual play of the game occurs with miniatures in literal setpiece encounters, according to the adventure the GM preps. Play is loosely organized by turns, whether in combat or not; "initiative" is the sitting order, and your turn narratively means that this moment just happens to be when your character's contribution might matter, not necessarily that they're just slow to react or whatever; the order goes, no matter what the scene is about. The turn order pretty much regulates the game and gives it its specific flavour; I would compare it to things like Capes, games that are thoroughly regulated in a loose way.

    The key ideas in the mechanical rules are that players roll dice to accomplish things, those dice are left on the table for later reference, better dice beat smaller dice, and if two dice should clash by having the same value, then they're both removed from the table and both characters suffer for it. Thus, the more dice you have on the table, the more exposed you are to clashing with others (or yourself; you can clash with yourself just as much as others). The only ways to mitigate this are to roll dice conservatively or spend turns taking dice off the table so you don't expose yourself too much. Miniatures position in the play space matters quite a bit, as your dice can only clash with those of other characters immediately associated with whatever it is that you are doing; in practice the characters tend to scatter around the scene a bit to be able to act without causing quite so many dice clashes, but often the things they are trying to accomplish are specifically about other characters, so everybody can't just sit in their own corner in practice, either.

    Reacting to what others do is a key element of a game like this, as the turn structure often has players acting in inconvenient order. Characters are entirely free to "seize the initiative" by rolling and acting, at which point the turn order simply resumes from whoever did the seizing. (The "cost" of seizing is simply that you cannot seize without rolling, even if you already have suitable dice on the table.) Alternatively, players can change sitting order at certain points in the game. The end-result is that the turns tend to zig and zag around, but as nobody is, technically speaking, particularly trying to accomplish something like in D&D 4th edition or whatever, the move economy isn't an issue; you seize the turn when you want, or wait for it to come around to you, if it ever does.

    (NPCs all act on the GM's turn, but he will generally only act with one of them each time the turn comes around, and will instead seize and react when anything happens that the NPC in question would obviously react to.)

    Assuming you're following the dicing logic here, it's easy to see that generally speaking the dice on the table will escalate towards the higher end of the range over a given scene, as low dice are removed from the table as unnecessary risks (or eliminated by other players with their high dice), and high ones are retained to maintain a character's dominance in the scene. There are certain rules nuances that whittle high dice down a bit (e.g. suppressing an almost-as-good die costs -1 step off your standing die), but the big fat main rules concept for keeping things continuously interesting is the "dramatic turn": whenever any player manages to engineer a dramatic turn in the story, all the dice are swept off the table in addition to the other effects that a turn has. Dramatic turns are things like sudden appearance of allies, the reveal of a big secret, a shift in allegiance, whatever; the GM has it much easier engineering these, but it is no by no means impossible for the other players, and as the GM is something of a show-smith in this game anyway, it's not exactly at cross-purposes for him to cause dramatic turns; the scenarios for the game are in fact written with a certain number of dramatic turns pre-prepped, so the GM just chooses when to make his big reveals and send the characters scampering again for more dice.

    Character effectiveness is entirely up to the dice, so if you've got a high die, you generally get to coast with it and just tell everybody what you do, and unless somebody interrupts and rolls better, you'll get away with it. Character build doesn't matter much, everybody generally speaking rolls the same sorts of dice; the specific nature of your character only matters for where your dice come from, for the most part. There are a few special rules regarding wondrous powers, cursed companions and using sagely advice, as well as some similar traits that may come up after character development (for multi-session play), but in general the principle is that you get to roll dice by doing the shit your character does, whatever it is - or failing that, by engaging the environment. (So technically there is no subjective right to roll dice, but in practice it is merely a low-tension narration task to justify where your dice come from; it is not intended to limit dicing, the rules about dice clashes do that admirably already.)

    That's pretty much the high points of it. At the end of the game the GM distributes rewards for the wondrous companions depending on how Sipi's quest fared. The rewards come in the form of traits, and generally every companion gets the same one, except of course there will be exceptions. The basic opportunities are "experienced adventurer", "lord of the land" and "horrible monster", depending on how the adventure went; after multiple sessions of play one might win stranger (and more specific) accolades as well.
  • Lots to digest there, but it sounds hilarious!

    I'll post some thoughts when I get back from work.

    I like the core concept of Sipi, and how he acts as the catalyst for getting the companions into all sorts of trouble, but they are really the focus characters, not Sipi.

    Also, on just practical grounds, I like how you've incorporated the idea that this is a bit of a railroad with preplanned reveals/twists along the way.
  • I'll have a few more mechanical questions about the dice rolling in a bit, Eero.

    (For anyone else following along, my interest in this game came from starts from an old thread talking about using miniatures in gaming, but in a more open, loose, kind of narrativist way ( or at least with the types of mechanics/methods/procedures found in more dirty hippie games). It was an attempt to move away from thinking of minis simply as markers for tactical, wargame style, gamist play and do something else with them.)

    Eero attacks minis-use problems

    Problem 1) Identification with minis

    One of the things I'd been positing for some time is that RPGers come at minis use with a whole lot of baggage that doesn't necessarily work well when combined with minis. A common complaint I was used to hearing in threads about minis was that players had a hard time identifying with minis, since one could never seem to find a mini that matched well with the character they'd built. My solution was to treat the mini as a form of Inspirational art and start with the mini, then build the character afterwards, thus avoiding that clash.

    Eero's game starts with that concept, as he notes above.

    Questions
    So Eero, how did your players react when introduced to that reversal of the normal sequence of character creation? How did they feel about having only a smallish pool (10-12 or so) of miniatures to choose among for the basis of their character? How were they about incorporating the physical/visual characteristics of the miniatures into their character concept?

    Problem 2 Table space and its use

    Being a miniatures gamer, at least partly of the wargaming variety, much of my thinking has been centered around how to approach table layouts ( the terrain environment) in the mode of wargamers. Basically, have a big table layout, but only use a fraction of I for any given scene. That really isn't a very RPGer approach. Usually, when played around a table, RPGers have very little space for any sort of layout in the center of the table. Since RPGers also ten to expect changes of location fairly frequently, this leads to a bit of a hassle. Heck, in regard to D&D 4E, it may be an argument for having combats take a long amount of time to resolve. It means a smaller number of times picking up and re-setting the scenes.

    Eero's Sipi game uses set pieces, which opens up a lot of opportunities for using smaller amounts of space, potentially re-using space for later scenes at the same location, and, because they're pre-planned to a degree, the GM can pre-draw things on poster board or printout downloadable tiles ahead of the session and have them ready. I don't know if that is the path Eero took, but it would be terribly practical for space and budget considerations.

    Questions
    No direct questions on this, but I'd love to hear what different methods you employed for this, and if you experimented a bit before deciding on a certain approach.
  • edited May 2016
    (Continued)

    Problem 3) The Crowded Table
    Another big difference from a miniatures gamer approach and an RPGer approach is that, generally, RPGers will have more paper objects on the table in the normal course of play ( books, character sheets, and so on). This takes up table space on the smaller types of tables RPGers use.

    I'm not sure form the description of Sipi so far, but it sounds as if there is very little paperwork or books of any sort used in this game. This also frees up space for minis use and may make re-setting as locations change easier.

    Question
    What sorts of paperwork/books are used in this game, Eero, and of what sizes? Where do players keep that stuff during play?

    Problem 4) Real world budgetary limits and the need for re-use
    Pretty much everything involving miniatures is going to involve a monetary cost. There are plenty of tricks to keeping it lower, but money will still be involved at some level, no matter what.

    With wargamers, you get a lot of re-use out of your miniatures simply because battles are generally treated as one-off affairs and, well, there are always more troops of the same type out there fighting other battles. If 3rd platoon of Charlie Company gets wiped out in a battle today, next week they're either rebuilt 3rd platoon, or they're 4th platoon, or whatever. No problem.

    With RPGs, miniatures often have a lot more identity and personality. They're characters. (Well, unless they're mooks. Generic, un-named Orc NPCs, for example, might get a lot of re-use).

    Questions
    What kinds of methods did you use to maximize re-use of minis ( including any terrain/environment re-use)?
    How did Princess Play urges play into these methods ( Basically, how did you work mechanics such that people got to continue using those cool characters they'd made based off miniatures alive while having dangerous adventures over and over again?) What about re-use of nifty opposition miniatures/NPCs ( especially if you used cool and/or expensive monsters)?

    Also, did you slowly grow your pool of toys over time?
  • Oh, and the basic question about the dice system.

    Does each player have a pool of dice per scene/until they refresh, and are they of different types ( d6, d8, etc)?
  • Someone please quickly define Princess Play.
  • Heh, we were talking about that in another thread. Eero has his own working description.

    Here's mine:
    It's when you make up a unique character, get really into playing them, and a big part of it isn't just the portrayal ( or even getting deeper into first person thinking) but also wish fulfillment. And you want rules that support that. It isn't that you always want to succeed with no struggle, but you certainly want the character to show off their coolness regularly. And while you also likely want them in danger and adventure, you really don't want them to die and stay dead, unless it's by your choice.

    Sometimes the fun really is just in portraying your cool character, too. You don't have to be adventuring for this, you can just be the character, and that's fun too.

    Basically, it's the adult version of how kids play pretend versions of favorite movie characters or comic book heroes.

    In practice, this tends to happen in RPGs a lot anyway, but not necessarily with a whole lot of RAW support for it.
  • Someone please quickly define Princess Play.
    The kind of roleplaying game where a player's primary value, reward for playing the game is the opportunity to develop their own, unique character vision and see that character in action in the variety of situations presented by the GM. It's pretty common, all sorts of entirely mainstream games ranging from Vampire to new school D&D have inclinations in this direction.
    Questions
    So Eero, how did your players react when introduced to that reversal of the normal sequence of character creation? How did they feel about having only a smallish pool (10-12 or so) of miniatures to choose among for the basis of their character? How were they about incorporating the physical/visual characteristics of the miniatures into their character concept?
    I've only played one session of the game so far, mainly because of how it's pretty prep-heavy. In that one session the players liked the opportunity to pick and choose from a limited set of character ideas; as each individual miniature suggests its own, highly unique kind of character, the biggest problem tended to be that there were several interesting choices to pick from.

    As the miniatures for the session were chosen specifically for being radically different from each other, the players found it generally easy to let the toy lead the character development. A minority of the players (one or two) gravitated towards the less "strange-looking" miniatures, and I understand that this was precisely because they wanted to bring more of their own ideas into it. Playing a woman with a bow gives you much more leeway than playing a small runt of a gnome riding a huge bipedal rat-thing as a mount, for example. Most of the players picked characters in between these two extremes, where the miniature itself strongly suggested things, but left something up to interpretation for the players as well.
    Problem 2 Table space and its use

    Eero's Sipi game uses set pieces, which opens up a lot of opportunities for using smaller amounts of space, potentially re-using space for later scenes at the same location, and, because they're pre-planned to a degree, the GM can pre-draw things on poster board or printout downloadable tiles ahead of the session and have them ready. I don't know if that is the path Eero took, but it would be terribly practical for space and budget considerations.

    Questions
    No direct questions on this, but I'd love to hear what different methods you employed for this, and if you experimented a bit before deciding on a certain approach.
    As you note, I specifically structured the game with a railroad strategy in mind, so as to enable practically everything to occur in set-piece scenes. The scenes themselves have a bit of a mechanical formalization to them; the larger the scene in physical dimensions, the more extended it is mechanically by allowing a greater number of dramatic turns per scene.

    A technical last-recourse exists for situations where the fictional logic requires events to occur outside of the pre-designed adventure path with its fixed locations: players may narrate events that occur in between scenes, but those narrated events cannot have immediate mechanical impact on anything, and they cannot be interactive - other players cannot react to them or build upon them before the next actual scene. This is pretty effective in sweeping away difficult corner cases without distracting from the fact that the actual play always occurs on the table, within a scene.

    As for the physical strategy, I opted as a GM to use pre-drawn paper sheets for the terrain; this allows minor customization on the flight, and is in general more realistic for me as a non-miniatures person than constructing the sets in some more elaborate manner. "Large" sets were a full A4 in size, "medium" sets were A5 (half of A4), and "small" sets were A6 (half again), which proved pretty appropriate for the amount of action and miniatures in the scenes. It was simple to switch sets between scenes, too, which is good when playing an intricate game for the first time. Playing on paper often encouraged having character jump "off camera" to circle round or go do something outside or whatever, which was an useful distinction in many situations.

    (The game's dramaturgy assumes that "small" scenes are used for foreshadowing, flashbacks and development scenes in between "large" scenes, which involve multiple NPC interaction and such. "Medium" scenes are for ambiguity - scenes that could go either way and you don't want to determine it in advance as the GM.)

    Despite my very non-miniatures gamer approach to everything, the table I used for the game was still a bit to the small side. The game's character sheets are rather minimal, but with all the snacks and six people around the small table I used it was still pretty crowded as miniatures for past and future scenes floated around and so on. I'm sure I could improve on the aesthetics by playing the game more - and should, as the minis presentation is a big part of the aesthetics of the game. Should actually have spot lightning on the game table to emphasize the action there.

  • Question
    What sorts of paperwork/books are used in this game, Eero, and of what sizes? Where do players keep that stuff during play?
    As I noted above, there isn't a lot of paperwork on the player side, but the GM side is surprisingly complex with all the NPC miniatures and prepared scenes and the adventure notes (pre-prepared railroad implies notes). When I play the game more (it'll happen sooner or later, despite the high prep threshold making the playtesting process glacial), I'll be sure to have one table for the GM stuff, one table for the snacks, and one table for the currently in play scene.

    The character sheets pretty much consist of the player's freeform notes and a list of character traits, which is technically just a list, although some of those traits (such as the character's wondrous talent) do have different game-mechanical uses. Not much space use in that.

    There are lots of dice floating about due to the nature of the dicing rules during a scene. We tried out having the given character's current dice in front of the player himself, but it also worked well to place the small 6-siders we used next to the miniatures themselves on the map. So the dice themselves, although they are pretty persistent at times, don't add much to the space requirement. Could use several different colors of dice when there are many characters all clustered together in some sort of a clusterfuck, though. (Clusterfucks are very common in this game, as its literary style is somewhat farcical, and the "clashes" caused by the dicing rules often encourage weird domino reactions where characters bounce around getting in each other's way.)

    Questions
    What kinds of methods did you use to maximize re-use of minis ( including any terrain/environment re-use)?
    How did Princess Play urges play into these methods ( Basically, how did you work mechanics such that people got to continue using those cool characters they'd made based off miniatures alive while having dangerous adventures over and over again?) What about re-use of nifty opposition miniatures/NPCs ( especially if you used cool and/or expensive monsters)?
    Keeping the material expense down is a topic very close to my own heart, being as how anti-consumerist I am in general. One might easily say that not wanting useless plastic clutter in my home is a major reason for why I'm not a miniatures gamer in the first place :D

    In this case I solved to problem by using disposable paper miniatures for the NPCs, and likewise disposable paper maps for the setpiece locations. Having only the player characters as actual plastic toys emphasized their special nature, although at the expense of the overall evocativeness of the setup. I am sure that a real miniatures gamer would blow me away in the visual prep. In hindsight I'll probably put a little bit more work in the NPCs next time - at least some sort of small weights on the bottoms of the paper miniatures, without they tend to be a bit too flimsy.

    Regarding player character death and character recycling, my solution in this game is simply that PCs only die by player choice: when a character "clashes" the player affected by the clash gets to choose the penalty they take for this, and while taking an injury (and subsequent death if you suffer a second injury while being injured) is one option, the character may also e.g. suffer a loss of motivation or courage; the default is pretty much that the character decides to surrender or run away, whichever is appropriate to the situation. It's therefore always strictly a player's own choice if they decide to have their character die.

    (Well, really strictly speaking there is a character trait, "Great Monster", which specifically enables the player of the character to mandate the clash consequences for their foes. So in advanced play I guess it would be possible for a character to die without the player's volition.)

    In general I think that character death should not be a common occurrence or routine stake in princess play games; it's one of the simple fixes one can make to almost any princessing game to simply declare that character death is off the table, whatever the rules call "death" heretofore simply means being left for death or taken captive or whatever.

    Note that while I used paper miniatures for the NPCs in the first playtest session, the above rules mechanical principles go for the NPCs as well, so their attrition does not need to be massive either. Furthermore, the fairy tale fantasy genre of the game supports recurring cast of characters rather well; in the first session we had a specific manifestation of the Devil, a certain ill-reputed tavern, a couple of sea captains with memorable character, an ancient wizard, a princess and a few other important NPCs on top of the ancillary support cast, and I think that there's no particular reason of literary style or such for them not to re-appear in another adventure.

    On the other hand, the game's style is pretty humanistic, anti-archetypal (both the PCs and important NPCs are often highly memorable and specific, instead of archetypal and generic), which sort of makes reuse of individual miniatures as different characters difficult. I could see how it might be a smart move with this game to have two different styles of miniatures (paper vs. plastic, for example), and use one of them for the unique characters whose minis are never recycled, while using the other, distinctive style for archetypal characters.
  • Wow, some really good stuff. I'm still taking lots of it in.
    ...I've only played one session of the game so far, mainly because of how it's pretty prep-heavy.
    Testing some of the stuff I've worked up has also gone at a glacial pace for similar reasons, and that's even before considering just how poor I am at organizing the real world end of things.

    Uses of space
    Ah yes, the cluttered table. When I was working on something using these ideas, I actually wrote a bit about organizing the playspace and came to some similar conclusions. Snacks in a different room or on another table if possible, minimal paperwork, and an area set aside for dice and minis not being used at the current time. Where I was looking at mechanics cheat-sheets and similar, I'd been seriously considering printing them up and placing them on a nearby wall with tacks.

    A slight difference with some of the tablespace. Approaching it from more of a wargamer perspective, I had intended to simply let non-currently-being-used minis "live" wherever they were most appropriate until needed. So if it's a village table layout, the blacksmith mini can hang out near the smithy until needed. Possibly also to speed up scene location changes.

    Suggestion: 2d and cardstock/cardboard/foamcore
    Given how you're working things, 2d drawings or printouts of locations ( drivethrurpg has a ton of pdfs and there's some freebies to be found around the internet) might be something to consider. If you're staying with drawn locations, corrugated cardboard, foamcore, or even poster board might be some good options to look into. Depending on how big those pieces are that you plan to use, they can be stored near the GM either upright under the table for large pieces. The smaller pieces you've been using can organized in something like an accordion style folder holder.

    Suggestion: Princess Play, Village Play, re-use, and fairytale feel on a budget
    Early on when I began thinking about this kind of stuff, back when I was mostly thinking about it in terms of games I could play with my then-young daughter, I was playing with the concept of "village play". "Village play," like Princess play, is something kids seem to do kind of naturally, especially when they have toy locations. Just like a princess doesn't need to be a literal princess, a village doesn't have to be a literal village. It could be a pirate ship, a space port, the local fantasy tavern, or whatever. It's a location at the center of many events, with other more peripheral ( sometimes scenario specific) locations occasionally visited. And usually, there are also recurring NPCs.

    I noticed you mentioned there was some naturally developing re-use of non-player characters and locations. You might consider going further with that just on practical grounds. It means that you can have some core locations re-used regularly in sessions along with associated NPCs. It keeps the number of miniatures and maps to a minimum through re-use. It also means that if you want to spend time/effort/money, you can focus it there. That's where the pretty toys are located.

    It also allows a slow build up of stuff outside of the "village". You can do that on your own time and budget allowances, maybe for specific adventures, at a more relaxed pace. If three sessions down the road, they're going to visit the Goblin King in his caves, well, that's only a one-adventure location, that's easier to put together as a drawing or three for that one session.
  • Some stuff you did that's going to be completely and utterly stolen for my purposes

    Some things you mentioned that are of enormous help to me:
    As the miniatures for the session were chosen specifically for being radically different from each other, the players found it generally easy to let the toy lead the character development. A minority of the players (one or two) gravitated towards the less "strange-looking" miniatures, and I understand that this was precisely because they wanted to bring more of their own ideas into it. Playing a woman with a bow gives you much more leeway than playing a small runt of a gnome riding a huge bipedal rat-thing as a mount, for example. Most of the players picked characters in between these two extremes, where the miniature itself strongly suggested things, but left something up to interpretation for the players as well.
    I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to incorporate this, but having some thought about the spread of possible minis is going to always be in my thinking for the reasons you've mentioned, regarding how different players reacted to their options of minis.
    The character sheets pretty much consist of the player's freeform notes and a list of character traits, which is technically just a list, although some of those traits (such as the character's wondrous talent) do have different game-mechanical uses.
    I was already inclined towards No Character Sheet play ( or minimal sheets). This confirms to me such a thing is possible across different groups.
    A technical last-recourse exists for situations where the fictional logic requires events to occur outside of the pre-designed adventure path with its fixed locations: players may narrate events that occur in between scenes, but those narrated events cannot have immediate mechanical impact on anything, and they cannot be interactive - other players cannot react to them or build upon them before the next actual scene. This is pretty effective in sweeping away difficult corner cases without distracting from the fact that the actual play always occurs on the table, within a scene.
    I had had pondered a similar problem, even with a Big Table style set up. I like the restrictions you've put in place on how those mini-scenes can be used and what they may or may not impact. I'll absolutely be using those restrictions in some form.
    I could see how it might be a smart move with this game to have two different styles of miniatures (paper vs. plastic, for example), and use one of them for the unique characters whose minis are never recycled, while using the other, distinctive style for archetypal characters.
    I have come to the conclusion some time ago that having a pool of "everyday people" for whatever the setting is, is terribly important. In some ways, it's easier for 20th Century inspired settings, since cheap plastic 1/48 ( O-scale) model railroad figures exist and pair decently well with gaming miniatures. One quick and dirty possibility is to just not paint the "crowd" miniatures, or, in the case of those model railroad miniatures, simple spray paint them in batches of different colors ( if there are 4 batches of 12 poses in a given box, just get four different colors of spray paint and paint each batch of 12 a different color), You've maximized the number of common NPCs without a great deal of effort. And you can always paint them up prettier later if they become important NPCs organically through play.
  • Glad to hear that there are useful ideas in there. I have to say that this miniatures play paradigm is a lot of work compared to what I'm used to, but there seem to be people out there who want to do the work, so I do believe that there need to be game texts for it, too. This friend of mine for whom I wrote this is one such; if he's going to be painting miniatures all the time despite not even playing Warhammer anymore, he might as well do it in service to a passable story game :D

    Regarding the less important characters, one thing I did with the paper miniatures was to make crowds of supporting NPCs as single "big" miniature figures. (I made the paper miniatures in three sizes for the playtest scenario - small, medium and large.) Like, this here is the knight guy with a personality and all, here's his retinue. I had a knightly retinue, a crowd of tavern-going peasants and a bunch of anonymous freed slaves, at least. This seems like something of an advantage for the paper miniature, getting a similar notional, symbolic effect out of plastic would be harder.
  • That's a clever solution to crowds. In the minis gaming circles where it's a bit like semi-rpgs, GMs just tend to recycle a lot. 6-10 mooks get used over and over ( mooks being defined by genre), and that's also the times when you see lots of substitution going on.

    For visual and aesthetic reasons, one usually puts the most appropriate, closest to correct figures nearest the action. So, f you need a horde of zombies but only have 6 painted up zombies, you fill out the crowd with whatever is handy, could possibly be a zombie, and behind the proper zombies. If something needs to be removed, you remove the less appropriate miniatures first.
    I have to say that this miniatures play paradigm is a lot of work compared to what I'm used to, but there seem to be people out there who want to do the work, so I do believe that there need to be game texts for it, too. This friend of mine for whom I wrote this is one such; if he's going to be painting miniatures all the time despite not even playing Warhammer anymore, he might as well do it in service to a passable story game :D
    Minis gaming generally has a high Lonely Fun ratio. I know guys who collect and build stuff for months, just to take it to a couple of conventions each year and present it.

    But yeah, it would be nice to have some texts.
  • edited May 2016
    Oh, I forgot to ask:
    How does the dice system work?

    Does each player have a pool of dice that depletes as play continues, until one of the twists comes along, and then everything refreshes?

    If so, what kind of dice are used, and how many does each player get?

    If I'm misunderstanding, can you clarify if it isn't too much hassle?

    Thanks again.

    Edited to add:
    Also, can you talk a little bit more about the use of space within the scene areas/terrain you were using?

    You mentioned that players took turns based on seating order ( with some sort of "interrupt" mechanic) and also that play was somewhat influenced by the size of the sheet you were using for the scene.

    I noticed that the sizes of sheets you were using weren't very large. Was movement rate/range simply a matter of "whatever makes sense in context"?

    Since the areas were small, could you, for example simply say "My character is moving over here [move miniature as appropriate]"? If there was no good reason you couldn't do that, well, you just did it?

    How near one another did miniatures need to be for those conflicts of roll results to start kicking in vs. how far away did they need to be for those effects not to matter?

    Did any of this cause initial problems for payers more used to wargame style ranges/movement? How soon did they adapt?

    I realize that some of that may be simply a matter of individual scene context and naturally developing playstyle rather than finicky, wargame style measuring.

    Edited to add even more questions:
    How many set-scenes did you use in your test?
    About how long did it take to play through ( hours and sessions)?
    Were there times you ended up skipping stops on the adventure railway, and if so, why?
  • How does the dice system work?
    On his turn a player may declare a fictional action for his character; this may include movement. Accompanying this action, the player may either roll a die (so as to improve his outlying set) or withdraw a die from the character's outlying set (so as to reduce his vulnerability to clashing). The dice are d6 (by default; a character may possess a special trait saying otherwise).

    To get a new die to roll, you need to either reference a character trait (all characters start the game with their wondrous talent and their motivation trait, but you can get more easily enough if you have an idea of what you want your character to be) or utilize something in the environment. The former is simply "because I love the princess, I am empowered to roll here", while the latter is "I'll take cover behind that large table and throw apples from that barrel at them". It is supposed to be rare for this to become a constraint on character action, but sometimes you don't have the leverage to act because the character has nothing useful to contribute.

    When a character acts, his outlying dice are checked against every other die involved in the immediate activity (debate, fight, whatever it is) - doesn't matter if it's an enemy die, an ally's die, or your own die. If two or more dice are equal in size, they clash, which interrupts the immediate resolution of your action and goes into clash resolution. (Clash resolution has some nuances of its own, but it's sufficient to know that it's the primary injury system, constraining characters from extending conflict situations indefinitely. In other words, don't clash unless you want to get hurt.)

    At this point other characters may also decide to interrupt your action - they do so by declaring their action and rolling, after which the turn continues with them if the interrupt succeeds. (I'm not sure if counter-interrupting is a good idea - probably not, it's more interesting if you have to wait for your next turn or other opportunity to interrupt.)

    Assuming no clash and no interruption, your best die will be either higher or lower than those of any possible other characters who might be resisting your action. If it's lower, your action fails due to superior force. If it's higher, your action succeeds.

    Due to how there are generally many things going on at once, and the general round-by-round nature of the game, many actions are more interesting if the GM sets a "length" for them by requiring a certain number of successes in the action before it goes through in the fiction. It may take three successes to convince a troll to step aside, for example. Each declared action accumulates the difference between acting and resisting die values as successes, so accumulating three successes takes e.g. a '6' against a '3', or three turns of '5' against '4', or whatever. (Note that there is no particular necessity to roll dice with each action, if neither party needs or dares to do so; an action accumulates success just fine without new dice, if the old ones suffice.)

    When another character's action fails because you resisted it, this is called "suppressing" the action. When you suppress another character's action with a die that is merely a little bit better than the opposing die, both dice lose one step of their value. (I'm not sure what "little bit" means here, but it's either merely one step - so a '3' and '5' are already clearly divergent - or the smaller die is more than half of the higher's value.) When you suppress with a clearly superior die, the opposing die is removed from the table altogether, and your own die is unaffected.

    (Note that there are mechanically two ways for a character to resist another's action, passive and active resistance: if you already have an appropriate die out and the other character's action interferes with yours, your character automatically resists the action. If you don't have a good die, or your character needs to take initiative in the fiction to get in the way, then you need to interrupt as per above. The difference is in whether you need to roll a die - always a risky proposition - and whose turn to act it is next.)

    That's pretty much the gist of it. The philosophical basis is that instead of task-by-task resolution we have ebbing individual dominance "auras" for each character; if you have a big fat '6' on the table, for the moment you're the king in the roost and the action economy is the only thing limiting you from declaring all sorts of successful actions as long as this lasts. I chose this somewhat peculiar approach because I wanted to make the grandstanding inherent to princess play easier and more explicit; instead of having to play mother-may-I with the GM, the player with the high die knows that they're dominant now, without needing to risk it all on a dice roll in every little task.

    The system is also very specialization-agnostic in that no matter who or what your character is, once the dice are on the table, they're a relatively abstract measure of narrative domination, as long as they last. The player describes how their character achieves their goals and suppresses others, but the dice are the same for everybody. I think that this, also, is a positive trait for the creative agenda at hand, enabling the player himself to decide whether and how the character's special talents apply to situations.

    There are a bunch of special rules for special character traits that affect the dicing in wacky ways, but they're secondary to the above general structures.
  • Also, can you talk a little bit more about the use of space within the scene areas/terrain you were using?
    As the GM preps the adventure and sets it in setpiece locations, he has the opportunity to flavour the action locations with the kinds of details and interactive complications he desires. In the one playtest so far I didn't push the possibilities on this nearly as far as one should. The basic theory is clear, though, and essentially similar to e.g. D&D 4th edition, except that the interesting interactive detail is more along the lines of colorful NPCs and opportunities to learn setting lore, rather than squares that cause damage if you step on them.

    I noticed that the sizes of sheets you were using weren't very large. Was movement rate/range simply a matter of "whatever makes sense in context"?
    Yeah, the scenery could stand to be larger - as could the table. The playtest was arranged in Helsinki where I don't have too much room for spectacle, which was a major part of the motivation in keeping the encounter spaces smallish. The positioning play with the miniatures could have benefited from having each scene type expand over a 2-3 times as large area.

    Regarding movement, there are some mostly intuitive nitpicks, but the basic principle is that when it's your turn you get to declare what you do, and if that includes movement, then you move to whatever position it takes to act. Between your turns you character moves reflexively by e.g. following another character who's moving, or you can just position them more comfortably whenever you want as long as it doesn't count as "action". If you need to move suddenly and meaningfully for whatever reason, you interrupt to react.

    Movement as part of action is generally not limited by distance. However, if your action is interrupted, the movement is as well, which might leave you right next to your goal or half-way there, depending on the nature of the interruption (whether e.g. another character got to where you were going first, or if they stepped in front of you to stop you).

    When characters manipulate each other's positioning by e.g. pushing, the change is whatever makes sense, e.g. an inch to the side so the other guy can fit through. As some of my scene backgrounds in the playtest were decisively not to scale, using a measure of some sort to calculate knock-off distances wouldn't have made any sense anyway.

    How near one another did miniatures need to be for those conflicts of roll results to start kicking in vs. how far away did they need to be for those effects not to matter?
    Depends on the vector of affect in the interaction at hand. That is a difficult way of saying that if you're hitting people with your fists, then you may potentially clash with anybody within fist-range. If you're arguing, you may trip up on anybody close enough to follow the debate and but in at the wrong moment. If you're shooting a gun, it's pretty much line of sight.

    (I'm not sure if this relationship is reflective; it would be simpler if a clashing relationship was always symmetric, but the whole idea of "clashing" makes a tad more sense if we determine the existence of a clash according to the vector of affect of the active character instead of looking at everybody present.)

    For example, in the playtest the heroes tried to subdue a dark wizard in a dark cave with a variety of means, including a nasty magical conflict where a djinn-like PC ended up in a series of clashes with the wizard - mutually destructive process, that. This conflict of run-away magic had a great potential to draw in others, and it did in fact start with the two on opposite sides of the cave. However, it did not clash with another character who sneaked off into the deeper caves to capture Sipi's shadow in the darkness, as the GM considered that part of the set to be "in the next room enough" to not get mixed up in the light show.
    Did any of this cause initial problems for payers more used to wargame style ranges/movement? How soon did they adapt?
    The vast majority of the players were not miniatures gamers to begin with, and the few who were have plenty of experience with the sorts of mind-fuckery you get into when you play with an old Forgite like me, so this was not an issue :D

    Edited to add even more questions:
    How many set-scenes did you use in your test?
    About how long did it take to play through ( hours and sessions)?
    Were there times you ended up skipping stops on the adventure railway, and if so, why?
    Let's see... My playtest scenario has the following scenes:

    Prologue - Sipi and the Devil in a certain tavern the name of which is somewhat tricky to translate
    Character intros - Sipi meets with each of his wondrous companions in turn [as many scenes as there are players, in generic settings]
    Back in the tavern, looking for clues and transportation
    Shipboard travel to the Isle of the Lost; two different ships to choose from, too
    Isle of the Lost, meeting funny birds and the Gollum and such
    Undercaverns, meeting a dark wizard and finding Sipi's shadow
    A side quest to the Dawn Tower Ruins, for those who are not satisfied until the slaves are free

    So that's three major locations (the tavern, the isle and the caverns), three medium ones (two ships, the Dawn Tower Ruins) and a few generic minor locations for character intros. (That last bit may sound weird, but because the character generation system is so tied to the fairy tale story structure of a Hero traipsing along and meeting people, I feel it necessary to support it with some locations. Forest roads and such, basically.)

    The playtest session took about 3-4 hours. We ended up skipping the optional side quest, mostly because Sipi Sormivaltti is precisely no hero, and most of his companions this time around were neither heroes nor very wise, so they pretty much left the only heroic person in the party at the island and returned home with the wizard's treasures, never mind his cursed victims.

    Overall I did not find the railroading difficult at all here; the players were mostly quite experienced, so if you tell them that this game here be a railroad, they grab their coats and prepare for the ride, pretty much. Railroads do not have to be dramatic power struggles between the players, in this case the railroady nature of the game mostly came up in ironic comedy as the players played around with the notion of going off the rails (with no intention at any point to really do so). I suppose that one of the fundamental advantages that a toy-game like this has is that it really, really has to fundamentally be pretty railroady in terms of locations and characters, and nobody with a whit of sense will really contest that at the game table. Much more difficult (and with good reason) for players to accept the railroad in a game where everything happens in the imagination.
  • You probably need something like this...
  • Eero said:
    I suppose that one of the fundamental advantages that a toy-game like this has is that it really, really has to fundamentally be pretty railroady in terms of locations and characters, and nobody with a whit of sense will really contest that at the game table. Much more difficult (and with good reason) for players to accept the railroad in a game where everything happens in the imagination.
    Part of what I've been interested in is how you've taken these broad concepts we talked about and took them in an almost entirely different direction in your game than what I'd been thinking of in terms of broad set up.

    ( Which naturally means I've filed this all away mentally for my use later! I'm not above creative theft. There, I admit it :D)

    I'd been looking more at railroading-by-situation/set up/setting.

    I'm not sure it technically counts as railroading/rollercoastering, but I was looking at trying to put scenarios together that were bounded by place and genre conventions, in a way similar to those 16-24 person LARPS you'll sometimes see where each character is part of a web of relationships and goals, there's a decided setting, and at least some implication of a chain of events and probable/possible series of "twists" and outside factors. And then apply that all to tabletop and miniatures play, and let the players go at it, but with less players than in a LARP. Rather, have open-source info and players take it where they want.

    (I'm not sure what that sort of larp is called properly.)

    You're absolutely right though. This is a sort of game where the simple fact of having a certain collection of toys, setting, scene locations, and so on strongly suggests both plot, characters, and a general direction for things to take.



  • I'm not sure it technically counts as railroading/rollercoastering, but I was looking at trying to put scenarios together that were bounded by place and genre conventions, in a way similar to those 16-24 person LARPS you'll sometimes see where each character is part of a web of relationships and goals, there's a decided setting, and at least some implication of a chain of events and probable/possible series of "twists" and outside factors. And then apply that all to tabletop and miniatures play, and let the players go at it, but with less players than in a LARP. Rather, have open-source info and players take it where they want.

    It seems like you're describing a Braunstein... which of course you probably already knew.
  • Not exactly, but that was part of the inspiration, probably the biggest part.

    The main differences:
    You don't win or lose because of what happens to your character, or any character, you play.

    Up to 2 dozen characters, but only 3-5 players, so openbook/open source on the rest of the characters and their goals/motivations.
  • All though I can sort of figure out what you mean by openbook/open source, could you explain it a little bit.
  • Sure.

    Did you ever see those old White Wolf [City Name] By Night books for Vampire the Masquerade?

    They'd usually have all of these relationship webs, hints on goals for various NPCs, and ideas about things likely to happen.

    Okay, imagine there aren't any player created PCs, and the books aren't just for the Storyteller. Everybody has access to them to play. And we throw away all of the actual mechanical gewgaws, just descriptions.

    That becomes our basis of setting/situation/cast and suggestions for likely possible events and twists during play.

    Okay, a bit more simplified than that, but that's the gist of it.

    Players can then take that, use those characters, and go whatever direction they want with it.
  • BTW, that was why I was very interested in where Eero took things with his game, as he'd taken in a different direction than I'd been thinking in terms of going.

    Both his game and the stuff I'd been positing had a lot of prep, constraints on what was going to happen and character pool, but where player freedom came up was in different places.
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