kihou: (CHUN)
[personal profile] kihou
So, thinking about dice in tabletopping while dicelessly HGing Chuubo's has got me thinking about what I like about random dice roles in tabletopping. And I think it mostly comes down to interesting failures.

As I talked about a while back, outside of combat, D&D has this failure mode where, if at first you don't succeed, try try again. A lot of that is because failing to find something in a search, or climb something, or whatever, doesn't tend drive the story forward. Other games like Burning Wheel and Fate respond to this by limiting your ability to retry things. I feel like that's only a partial solution, though. It's still pretty boring to roll and have nothing happen, even if you're forced to change tactics afterwards. Which is why I like the Apocalypse World approach: you basically get either major success, partial success, or dramatic failure with every roll. On a missed roll, the MC makes "as hard and direct a move as you like", and the book encourages you to make it irrevocable. Give failure consequences that are interesting, relevant, and not easily undone.

Obviously, not every game is Apocalypse World, and not every game wants that that same feeling of being on the edge. But I also feel like "interesting result on a failed die roll" doesn't have to mean "failed action". Several games, such as Fate Core, talk up an option for failure that's "success with complication or cost". (This also helps avoid the "you failed at something that would've let you follow the plot, and now you're stuck away from what's interesting", something that "saying yes" can also avoid.) Looking at it more, actually, many of Fate Core's suggestions for "succeed at serious cost" aren't actually that different from Apocalypse World's irrevocable MC moves, with a more general presentation, though some of the options like "it takes a long time" are pretty weaksauce without situational support.

(I feel like other aspects of Fate make this less effective, at least when I've played it. With Fate points, players have a lot of ability to ensure they succeed on important rolls, which are also the rolls that have the most potential for interesting failures. Having repeated rolls for combat with well-defined failure consequences means that combat doesn't really have room for such failures. It also has the competing "compel an aspect" mechanic for adding complications, which I've never gotten good use out of and feels like takes away space for character-based failure complications.)

In thinking about what failure might look like for a Chuubo's-y Invoke the Miraculous move, I really didn't like conventional failure being an option. Mortal magic randomly failing might be fine, but miracles just failing isn't the right feel. An obvious way to handle a failed die roll is to increase MC cost or time to activate, or to exhaust the power for a while. That'd be fine as far as it goes, but it focuses on player-level resources rather than the narrative, and it would only make the story interesting in certain situations.

I feel like what I'd really want is more narrative/story-driving consequences. Some wish-type powers already have "be careful what you wish for/this might backfire" built-in. Some other powers fall back to the mundane intention system, though I feel like that doesn't necessarily give you a ton of useful guidance as the HG. I think the easiest way to spec this would be to just have a failed roll mean that your power works, but there's something that adds a complication: you attract attention, there's an unforeseen side-effect, there's a revelation of something you didn't know that makes your solution incomplete.

But looking at this again, that's all stuff that could be handled without dice, by HG fiat based on the narrative or by NPCs acting in the context of the miracle. Having such thing be random doesn't fit feel-wise the way it does Apocalypse World. So, while I like interesting failures and the the narrative feel of solutions bringing complications and other forms of plot depth, that's less about dice vs diceless and more about perspective. So, something for me to keep in mind in future Chuubo's sessions.

Date: 2016-04-18 08:00 am (UTC)
vatine: z^5+z^3+1 Newton-Raphson fractal (fractal)
From: [personal profile] vatine
I tend towards the policy of "if failing and retrying isn't limiting in any fashion, you might as well let them succeed, and state that time passes".

For when you're spelunking in a dungeon, time should be of the essence. You're providing movement, sound and new exciting smells in an environment full of hostiles. Clearly you can't spend forever searching for the hidden entrance that may or may not exist in a given room, because roving monsters will be attracted by your delightful smell of "new meat".

In the campaign I'm currently playing (alternate WW2, with added magic and quite a lot extra that the PCs are still trying to figure out), we're almost always under time pressure. Perhaps not in the "ten seconds matter", but when your protective magical ritual takes 3-4 hours, provides a one-shot protection for one character and you have to get the party ready for a covert air insertion using tomorrow's bomb raid as cover...

Date: 2016-04-18 03:56 pm (UTC)
ext_81047: (Journaling at Stonehenge)
From: [identity profile] kihou.livejournal.com
In a diced game, being willing to say yes instead of rolling the dice is certainly a strong option that can keep the game moving. (Tangentially related post.)

I feel like time passing, by itself, isn't as interesting as what happens because time passes. The guards arrive, or the villain is better prepared, or a wandering monster shows up, or all sorts of things. But I definitely want to focus on a time delay being interesting because of circumstances that make it matter.

Date: 2016-04-19 08:28 am (UTC)
vatine: z^5+z^3+1 Newton-Raphson fractal (fractal)
From: [personal profile] vatine
Yep, we've had to send our PCs into conflict with (some) of them not having the protective luck charms that we wanted them to have, because our hermetic ritual magician didn't have time to prepare them (due to a failed roll).

I don't think that's ever caused PC loss, though, Of teh two PCs we've lost, so far, one was due to a rather bad curse, we suspect the PC has been taken bodily into whatever the local equivalent of hell is (this was actually agreed before the campaign even started, to ensure we set a strong tone of "PC elimination is within the scope of the campaign"). The second was a rather impulsive shaman, who not long after having shot a dive-bomber out of the sky with his rifle thought that taking a second pot-shot at the German magical mecha that just shot him in the chest was The Done Thing, earning a second .50 round to the body (and firmly revoking ALL chances of revival). He's still with the campaign as a spirit guide for one of the PCs, though.
Edited Date: 2016-04-19 08:29 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-19 02:02 am (UTC)
l33tminion: (Bookhead (Nagi))
From: [personal profile] l33tminion
To me (at least, what comes to me immediately), dice address two problems:

1. Globally, characters failing some of the time is interesting, but many players in the moment always want their characters to succeed.

2. Not knowing in advance whether characters will succeed creates dramatic tension.

In both cases, there are other ways to achieve those goals.

Dice are good at creating interesting failures if the aspect of interesting you're looking for is (moment-to-moment) unpredictability. And I think that makes it more suited for stories where arbitrarily bad things might happen to characters at any time. If you have dice-based mechanics and arbitrarily bad things shouldn't happen to your characters (i.e. not Apocalypse World), then when one of your players has a particularly heinous run of bad luck, things start getting inconsistent one way or another.

Date: 2016-04-19 04:11 am (UTC)
ext_81047: (Journaling at Stonehenge)
From: [identity profile] kihou.livejournal.com
The thing is, I don't think that a character's particularly heinous run of bad luck is out of line for Chuubo's; it just feels like it should be narrative instead of random, and probably needs player buy-in if it's going to be sufficiently blatant. Unpredictability can get in the way of narrative in some circumstances, and one way to look at a game like Chuubo's is that it gives characters certain defined areas where they, not the HG, can establish truths to steer the narrative.

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