Games in Theory and Practice

For GameMasters who want to ask advice of other GMs, get GMing tips, and talk about plot hooks, gaming aids and accessories of all kinds; things that could make a GM's job easier.

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MDMann
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Re: Games in Theory and Practice

#101 Post by MDMann » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:33 am

Vampire toon... I could dig that.

When is the next UK Ivinia or North con?
Per Sir Veer.

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Re: Games in Theory and Practice

#102 Post by gallusgames » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:52 pm

MDMann wrote:Vampire toon... I could dig that.

When is the next UK Ivinia or North con?
We're not due an IviniaCon for several 4-5 more years, if we stick to the previous interval. HarnCon was in Leeds in 2007; IviniaCon in Ripon in 2015.

IviniaCon 2018 is a 10th anniversary of the continuous sequence and is planned for Goteberg.

NorthCons take place 'at irregular intervals', i.e. approximately seasonally, and comprise a day when Andy, Neil and I have a free day over a weekend.

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Re: Games in Theory and Practice

#103 Post by gallusgames » Wed Dec 06, 2017 7:34 pm

pfstrack wrote: 1) Describe your character. When you spend a Fate point doing something consistent with your character, you get a bonus.

2) The GM describes the setting. When you spend a Fate point while doing something that takes advantage of the setting in some way, you get bonus.

No actual Aspects required. I’ve both played and run a fair amount of Fate and in nearly every game, Aspects gradually became less important.
I can't really see the difference between 'describing your character', and defining an Aspect that describes them. If you mean keeping the description more vague than the best Aspects, then you can make it more difficult to stop every character having some convoluted reason for some implied part of the description being relevant. All Aspect invocation has some of that as an issue, but the vaguer/loser it's phrased the more scope there is for Aspects becoming too generally useful.

If that's a misunderstanding then I'd say that removing character Aspects is to lose the opportunity for a player to express the core of their concept. You can probably reflect 'Knight of Larani' with a combination of skills and by inventing a Knight Stunt to deliver the mix of social and military clout honourably applied, that it implies when linked to Larani. Though you'd probably have to give more Stunts for free.

However, removing the option of 'Fyvrian who studied at Berema' and it's invocable impact (both good and bad) on other mages who studied at less impressive chantries is difficult to recreate, I think.

You might counter that the chances of encountering mages that often make it less of a miss. That's true if you ignore what is really most important about Aspects - particularly High Concepts and Troubles. They tell you the kind of game the player is looking for. It's not about whether Aspects are used much, it's about whether you as GM are responding to the Aspects so they are regularly relevant.

That's the same compact that keeps the fate point economy going. The player trusts the GM to create opportunities for their Aspects to be of value, while the GM trusts the player to take a compel with as much relish as an opportunity to invoke.

You'll get no argument from me on (2) ... anything described by the GM, or that is described by a player and is judged consistent with the fiction, is invocable.

In passing I'd also question whether the Aspects created during the pre-game/session zero are always about relationships between characters, as raised by Munin. Just because the rules involve the players describing how they have been involved in other characters' lives there's no reason why the Aspect should be linked to the other character. It can just as well link to how the character intervened (bravely etc.) and an Aspect related to their approach to problems. Or to some part of the setting involved/implied by the event - that they can create with GM approval.

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Re: Games in Theory and Practice

#104 Post by gallusgames » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:23 pm


pfstrack wrote: Mostly these days I play PbtA games, but there are elements of Fate I like and I would love to find ways to make the system better. In particular, it takes a *huge* amount of work to define a new setting for PbtA, whereas it is relatively simple to create new settings in Fate.
I'm trying to find the time to give City of Mists (PbtA) a thorough read through. The free teaser/quickstart seemed to combined some of the clarity of PbtA with 'tags' that looked a lot like Scene/Situation Aspects.

If you are looking for a PbtA for Harn then Saga of the Icelanders works as is. We've also used Apocalypse World pretty much as is for a game at Trobridge, but it could work wherever civilisation sits on the edge of a wilderness area. Fellowship (PbtA) worked well for my 'Lothrim Must Die' session at IviniaCon - though that was very much 'in the mythic past' rather than in TR720. I'm currently looking at City of Judas for a gritty mercenary game set in Harn ... it will need some setting specific tweaks, but seems a solid base. Finally, the Legacy 2nd Ed Kickstarter includes a 'dark and gritty fantasy' take on the core rules - looking forward to seeing which bits of that to steal for Harn.

What I think it IS difficult to do is to imagine a single set of PbtA rules that could play all and every type of game across Harn. By their nature moves and archetypes are usually tied to a 'kind' of setting. Dropping AW into a 'typical' Harn sandbox campaign would, for me, bend, if not break, the setting.

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Re: Games in Theory and Practice

#105 Post by Munin » Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:13 am

A couple of things in no particular order:

On the topic of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, I'm sort of torn. We did one entire session of world-building (we used The Quiet Year to do this and it worked out really well) and played through an entire Age (which I think was like 3 more sessions) before putting the game on hold and waiting until 2nd Edition comes out. While there is some really cool stuff in the game conceptually (the fact that you're playing both a character and a family at the same time is neat), I felt like the execution was a little lackluster. I feel like it suffers from the same problem that a number of hacks of Apocalypse World share, which is that while they may be thematic, the core moves feel incomplete. It is often the case that you want to do something that certainly feels like it should be uncertain and probably covered by a move, but none of the triggers for the basic moves quite fit. So both the GM and the players are kind of left in this limbo of, "well, I guess you just do it," and the narration moves on. If feels sort of...incomplete. Worse, whenever this happens, it brings the session to a halt as the table sorts out how to handle the situation and what should actually happen next.

I've raised some of these issues with the author (he's a regular poster on another forum I frequent), but I don't know if our feedback was early enough to work its way into the upcoming 2nd Edition release.

To some extent, we're having this same issue with Cartel.

If I contrast this with the parent game (Apocalypse World), that's a game where the core moves are so well constructed that I never feel like there's something I want my character to do that isn't covered with the basic moves. And because of that, there's never really any stoppage in play and the game just flows very smoothly.

On the topic of Apocalypse World in Harn having the potential to break the "sand-box" feel, I generally agree. AW is predicated on the idea that there is no status quo and it expects the players to be doing things that "break" the setting. At the same time, it actively encourages the GM to "look at everyone through cross-hairs," so even "important" NPCs don't really have anything resembling "plot armor." Finally, it also sets the PCs up as larger-than-life from the very beginning, and some of the moves can have run-away effects on the setting if used without modification. The rate of character advancement can also be pretty rapid, especially if your players aggressively embrace the "cause trouble expressly to get XP" philosophy. That behavior is encouraged by the game and makes for hilarious and awesome sessions, but as the MC, you need to be a little careful about which stats are highlighted versus the situations in which you put your characters. If someone's Hard is highlighted, there's going to be a fight, whether you planned for one or not.

Another thing that's both interesting and different about Apocalypse World is the sort of "ticking time-bomb" effect of character advancement; advances can only be taken once, there are only 10 basic advances, and most of the "enhanced" advances are stuff that fundamentally changes your character (like, "retire to safety," or "change playbooks"). So if you're aggressive about pimping yourself for XP, you can quickly get into a situation where if you like your character the way he or she is, you're looking for ways to avoid getting XP because it will force you into taking an advance that will irrevocably change you. This isn't necessarily "bad," it's just something that players and MCs need to keep in mind when considering a long-term game. Changing playbooks can be a fantastic tool for character development, but doing it in a way that fits the fiction also has ramifications for the setting.

That said, in AW, pretty much everything lives in the fiction. The MC actually has a ton of control over the tone of the campaign based on how the narration is handled. In a lot of cases, the difference between "gritty" and "cinematic" is just in how consequences are described. I think that if an MC is more aggressive about handing out more dire consequences (especially with how the new "battle moves" are structured in 2E), you could run a decently lengthy campaign using Apocalypse World without having to change any of the core rules mechanics. Imposing a limit on how many XP can be gained per scene/session/whatever would probably help here as well, and that's one of the two house rules we've used with AW since we started playing it (the other being to add "learning a secret" to the Hx rollover process, which has been very good fun).

But for one-shots and convention games, AW has been a ton of fun, and it's let me introduce Harn to a bunch of folks.

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Re: Games in Theory and Practice

#106 Post by pfstrack » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:19 am

Munin wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:15 pm
Unless when you say, "define a new setting," what you're really talking about is "creating a new hack" maybe? Because yeah, if you're trying to come up with a whole new set of playbooks each with a specific flavor and appropriate custom moves, then yeah, that's a ton of work.
Sorry for the delay in responding, I’ve been super busy this week.

Creating a new hack is what I mean. There are a lot of subtle variations in PbtA games, each producing different moods. I’ve found that the best way to get the result you want is to take a system close to what you want and then customize from there.

For my Hârn campaign, I started with DungeomWorld and added some ideas from Monster of the Week and a friend’s custom superhero hack. I ended up rewriting every playbook to get them the way I wanted. The playbooks are so information dense that they need a lot of tweaking to get right.

I tried to anticipate some of the flavor issues you described later in the thread. A lot of PbaA games a designed for short campaigns, whereas my campaigns typically last several years. I didn’t want to “run out of game” before reaching the end of the story. So far things are working very well, but it took several months of up front work to get it right.

With Fate, however, I think it is almost possible to ad lib a campaign and end up with a reasonable result. That’s why I am still interested in Fate despite its shortcomings. Unfortunately, my players hate the system, so it’s mostly a theoretical exercise for me.

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