Kill a Cow: Lasting consequences

edited November 2007 in Play Advice
From the Sacred Cow thread, and by request by Jason (and made its own thread by Andy's request):
A game requires by assumption that there be lasting consequences.
Seriously, this is something I struggling with right now in Know Thyself's design, because I ended up designing a game that doesn't have lasting consequences due to a constantly-changing situation inside of a hallucination-like playing field. And I don't know if I can unpack or break this assumption -- which is something I've been trying to do for a couple months now.

So, first, do you buy this as an assumption? Second, can you unpack or break it?

Comments

  • Ryan, I think your game DOES have lasting consequences. They exist in our understanding of the character, their memories, and their possessions.

    The consequence of the scene is the royal throne room of some mythic Russianesque kingdom was that I learned that my character was a.) female, b.) a wicked halberd fighter, and c.) princess. All of which were awesome and important. The resolution of the scene - kicking the ass of the royal guardsmen, didn't matter in the least afterwards. But the lasting consequences were all knowledge.
  • Sure, I buy it. At first blush what you are up against is a reward/penalty structure (its own sacred cow) - if there are no consequences, actions might not be freighted with meaning, right? Victory and defeat are attenuated, made less important, or even worthless.

    So how do you make the ephemeral vital? Maybe that's a players-at-the-table thing. If you're heavily invested in the things that are changing, even briefly, those changes will have meaning and weight. just a thought.
  • Increasingly, as my actual-play gaming experiences become shorter in duration but more intense in quality, what I remember most is not campaigns or whole stories or wide arcs of progress and advancement... but rather intense, awesome scenes which crackle and pop and stay with me forever like the grabby bits of my favorite movies.

    A game which gave me a series of stunning scenes with consequences relevant only within those scenes could be a sell for me.

    "Lasting" is the key word here.

    Scene as vignette or flashfic micro story.

    -B
  • Posted By: joepubRyan, I think your game DOES have lasting consequences. They exist in our understanding of the character, their memories, and their possessions.

    The consequence of the scene is the royal throne room of some mythic Russianesque kingdom was that I learned that my character was a.) female, b.) a wicked halberd fighter, and c.) princess. All of which were awesome and important. The resolution of the scene - kicking the ass of the royal guardsmen, didn't matter in the least afterwards. But the lasting consequences were all knowledge.
    To my embarrassment, I must state that the game has changed since that playtest. Though, because I pushed myself and rushed to produce an ashcan (which is a topic on its own), I'm revisiting the older playtests to see what did work. Thanks for the reminder.
  • edited November 2007
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarSo how do you make the ephemeral vital? Maybe that's a players-at-the-table thing.
    When I say have been struggling to come up with an answer, I mean that I've been trying to come up with an answer that is something outside of the chemistry of a specific group, because I really don't want that to be the only answer. I don't think I can work with that answer.

    Now, maybe it is the only answer or the best answer, but I'm hoping against hope that I figure something else out here.

    Though, thinking about it, this is sometimes a bad player/GM complaint, where one side ignores consequence & situation, and just does whatever he wants. And that person is perhaps just being a jerk and not caring about the players around the table.

    I have to chew on this some more.
  • Might consider the alternative cow "No lasting MECHANICAL consequences". To have no lasting consequences at all, you'd need every player to disregard every past fact introduced into the game.

    I've seen a tendency in some games to insist on having somesort of MECHANICAL consequence that struck me as a bit bovine. For example, in Polaris it is suggested that statements with long-run consequences should be formulated as changes to Aspects and the Cosmos. I always thought, why not just rely on people's intuitive loyalty to continuity to get people to preserve previously established facts about the setting/characters/etc.?
  • Posted By: cydmabMight consider the alternative cow "No lasting MECHANICAL consequences". To have no lasting consequences at all, you'd need every player to disregard every past fact introduced into the game.
    Actually, I did mean what I said, without focusing solely on the mechanical element. In fact, the narrative element is more along what I was thinking with respect to my game, because the playing field is rebooted every five minutes or so. That said, you point still stands well.
  • edited November 2007
    Posted By: Ryan MacklinPosted By: cydmabMight consider the alternative cow "No lasting MECHANICAL consequences". To have no lasting consequences at all, you'd need every player to disregard every past fact introduced into the game.
    Actually, I did mean what I said, without focusing solely on the mechanical element. In fact, the narrative element is more along what I was thinking with respect to my game, because the playing field is rebooted every five minutes or so. That said, you point still stands well.

    I'm sort of confused now...

    Every five minutes (game time or play time?) everything... resets? Or is replaced by something new?

    Without continuity?

    I'm having trouble imagining how this could lead to a cohesive game experience at all... perhaps a smidge more info for those who don't know the score on your project yet.

    -B
  • Oh, OK. Well, then I think you'd need a rule/norm imposed on players "You MUST ignore what happened in the last scene when portraying this one." anyone who tries working off elements of the last scene is breaking the norms of the game.

    So I guess one example would be a game where each player played the same character, but that character dies at the end of each scene. Mr Bill: the Game.
  • I was actually thinking "Aeon Flux" myself, but yeah, same idea.

    One trippy hallucinogenic scenelet after another.

    To what end?

    Would tracking, awarding, and spending some player-level but explicitly NOT character-level story/metagame beans be considered 'consequences' within the context of this discussion?

    -B
  • edited November 2007
    Capes has killed that one. That's why there are huge raging discussions about how to add rules to make conflict outcomes stick.
  • Posted By: cydmabOh, OK. Well, then I think you'd need a rule/norm imposed on players "You MUST ignore what happened in the last scene when portraying this one." anyone who tries working off elements of the last scene is breaking the norms of the game.
    Real quick: For Know Thyself, I very much don't want that rule. Why involves a long discussion, and I don't want to have this thread devolve into helping me design my game.
    Posted By: BailywolfI'm sort of confused now...
    So am I, and I made it. :)

    I'll post up another thread that actually goes into details about how this related to Know Thyself sometime later, when I have time to write it.
  • Posted By: xenopulseCapes has killed that one. That's why there are huge raging discussions about how to add rules to make conflict outcomes stick.
    I have to say I have problems digesting the text of Capes, which is why that didn't come to mind. I should make another attempt.
  • Because I don't want to jump in on a discussion I don't fully understand (which is more than 90 percent of the discussions on the board at this point), I was hoping to get a little clarification on what is meant by lasting consequences. Are we talking about a story where the characters end up where they began, no better and no worse? Or are we talking about no character growth, stat-wise (like gaining levels or attribute points or such). Are we talking no character death? Are we advocating for or against "lasting consequnces?"

    ME
  • Lasting consequence: I do something in the game, and the results of that -- for good, ill or neutral -- continue to exist/matter/impact the game.

    While I'm speaking strictly in a narrative sense, the mechanical topic is a good one too.
    Or are we talking about no character growth, stat-wise (like gaining levels or attribute points or such).
    That's a different cow that I call "character advancement is necessary."
    Are we advocating for or against "lasting consequnces?"
    There's no advocation -- I'm not talking about an opinion here. :) The heart of what I'm asking, though, is: "Can games work if there are no lasting consequences to the actions we do?"
  • I might be missing some of the point, but "consequences" will occur regardless of narrative or mechanical "effects." There will be laughter (or sorrow); there will be memories, good and bad; there will be continuing play (or not). All consequences of a game--whether or not the game "works" is, I believe, orthogonal to the unavoidable fact that there will be consequences of play.

    But I'm prolly missing the point (or 'semanticizing' it).
    David
  • David, I am specifically talking about consequences in the narrative. That they may be other vectors of consequence outside of that is a different topic than what I bought up. And consequences != whether or not a game "works."

    And I'm specifically talking about lasting consequences. That if I do something in the narrative, the effects of that action will have a lasting impact on the world of that narrative. (And vice versa -- that which is done to me in the narrative world will last.)
  • Reflecting on my last comment, I think I may have had a different kind of "narrative" consequence. I think there might be a distinction between in-setting-consequences and in-story consequences. An example would help:

    Suppose you're doing Aeon-Flux/Mr.Bill setup where the setting reboots at the end of each scene. Let's say you had a really sad scene last time, and a player wants the next scene to be a happy story. In one sense, this is a "lasting consequence" - the fact that the scene was sad last time had the "consequence" of having a happier scene this time. There might be no in-setting consequences (Aeon Flux is alive instead of dead, the super bio-death weapon released at the end of the last scene no longer exists, etc.) but there are in-story consequences (We had a sad scene, so it's time to do something more upbeat) Another example of in-story but not in-setting would be in the first scene we revealed the hero was so afraid of heights that she lost her grip while climbing and fell to her death; in a second scene we reveal the hero loves another Character Bob. Motivated by the first two scenes, a player might propose In the third scene we might explore whether she would risk coming up to a cliff to save Bob. (is her fear stronger than her love?) Story consequences (the details of the first scenes influence where the group decide to take the story in future scenes), even with no setting consequences (setting resets after every scene)
  • I didn't expect "consequence" to be such a touchy-feely term, but I'm glad it turned out that way, because that idea is full of some awesome, William.

    I've noted the gist of it down in my notebook for Know Thyself. To muddy the water with the terms I'd use here (as "consequence" is being used for several different things, making the meaning unclear), I'd call your idea a "tonal impact" in a "thread of stories," rather than what I was referring to before -- a "factual impact" in a single story.

    The reason I don't use "setting" here is because the problem I'm unpacking is devoid of setting. There is a meta-setting of "this is what your mind is going through as you travel through time," but then a scene's setting is constructed over again every time there's a new scene. It's different from what you're talking about, where you're definitely re-using established elements over and over and, uh, I may and may not be.

    To step back to the original premise for a moment:
    A game requires by assumption that there be lasting consequences.
    It begins to sound like, for some definition of "consequence," this is true. I will avoid the "the game impacts ourselves because we react to it" element and stick strictly to some variant of "consequence in narrative, whether mechanical or not," because that's not what I'm trying to unpack (and I'm unsure if that's unavoidable anyway -- but it's a different cow).
  • Another concept I was thinking of but not sure what kind of consequence it is, or even if it was one, was players learning about a "setting" or "characters".

    For example, think of Aeon Flux again, and the point of each scene is to explore/create different aspects of Aeon's character by putting her through different situations, and then resetting after each scene. The character, in the fiction, isn't changing, but player's understanding of the character is changing.

    Why would you do this? Well in a "normal" game, you have a kind of Heisenberg Uncertainty principal going on, where every scene you do to learn about the character also changes the character. For example, there's a difference between:

    A:
    Scene 1: Character's Family is killed
    Scene 2: Character's Dog is killed

    and

    B:
    Scene 1: Character's Dog is killed
    Scene 2: Character's Family is killed

    What happens in the first scene would, in a "normal" game, change what happens in the second scene. A normal game can only give you the experiences A1 followed by A2 or B1 followed by B2, but never both. But maybe as a player you want to experience A1 and B1. So you want resets. Sometimes you don't want to know how a character changes... sometimes you want to know who a character is, right now.
  • So you're trying to kill a cow which moos something like this:
    "A game must have events which leads to lasting results, which in turn become events that promote further results."
    -or-
    "Events in a game must have persistence and must causally impact future events."

    That might be the Armored Cow of Doom--can we call the very definition of a term ("game") a sacred cow?

    (Head starting to ache... veins popping... eyes roving wildly....)
    David
  • Yes, that's exactly the cow I'm trying to evaluate, and while I don't believe that the definition of a game is involved, I suspect the habits of a good game are after this discussion and my own experimenting.
  • Or, put another way, "the habit of building a coherent narrative to drive a good game is involved."

    I figure, if you lose causality in the narrative, you get incoherent stories of the Aeon Flux, Mr. Bill, Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers variety. Might be fun with bonghits, but would it have legs as a "game"?

    If you lose causality in mechanical effects, you might as well have a "system" whereby you throw darts at the newspaper and riff of the pierced word, to resolve conflicts (Stop right there, mister! That "conflict" cow is safe in these parts!). Or, hell, the "GM" could just ignore whatever the player asserts (narration-wise) or tries to engage (ability-wise) and just go on gut instinct as to what "caused" what. Or just open a dictionary to a random word and say it out-loud, as if it's the perfect response to the player proposition.

    I might need to head back to the kiddie pool. I don't see any way to have anything approaching a "story game" or a "roleplaying game" without causality in the game world or consistent resolution system (or neither). I think you leave the realm of "game" or "story" at that point (and I agree: let's not go into "what is a game" or "what is story" in here, if at all possible). I'll put on my swim wings and watch you dive deep, though....
    David
  • Posted By: David ArtmanI figure, if you lose causality in the narrative, you get incoherent stories of the Aeon Flux, Mr. Bill, Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers variety. Might be fun with bonghits, but would it have legs as a "game"?
    In a game I'm working on, the one PC is conscious and aware of everything that goes on, but the scenes and other characters constantly, instantly change around him or her, to where her own actions and the actions of others -- even of, say, killing the PC brutally -- has no lasting consequence from scene to scene except, perhaps, in the affected mindstate of the PC (which is itself not mechanically manipulated). This is separate from the Aeon Flux-style, where everything, including the mindstates of all characters, is rebooted. (That is, if I understand that correctly.)

    Now, one could say "dude, Ryan, that mindstate is proof of lasting consequence!" except that, in play, I have found that in my game the complete new information tends to override the old, because as play progresses the players are focused on the here-and-now, so while perhaps the character is dealing with this shit, the player is only barely sharing that mindstate while being bombarded with the newly introduced game elements.
  • well, I interpreted the definition as no "lasting" consequences, and I've been implicitly thinking of "lasting" as "past the current scene" or about "15 minutes of play"

    However, there is another, related kinda of cow:

    "Decisions in how to play a game should be based off 1) internal logical consequence of the narrative 2) needs of a "good story" 3) random elements, and (1) should always play at least some part."

    In other words, there's a cow that says it's "wrong" for any given player to completely and utterly disregard internal logical consequence when altering elements of the game's sharedImaginedSpace/Narrative/PickFavoriteJargon.
  • Also, I actually find an Aeon-Flux style idea kinda interesting for exploring a Canon character in a fanfiction like way. That is, suppose I have my favorite canon character that I want to play. But if I play her in a sufficiently long campaign, the campaign events will change her, so she'll no longer be the "same" character, the one I wanted to play. Once that happens, I might want to "reboot" the character so I can go back to playing my favorite character. Same thing might happen with the setting. I might start off with my favorite setting, but the setting changes with time, until it is no longer my favorite setting. So a reboot is in order.

    Furthermore, the scheme might help me explore material I might otherwise avoid. I might be interested in how the character faces death, without then being forced to retire the character if she dies in the game.
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