Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mass Effect Hack: Response to Gwathdring

Let's be clear: this would not ordinarily be a blog post, as it is a response to a single person. However, it is also 1800 words long, well overshooting the Story Games character cap.


Let's furnish this post with Big Giant Circles (aka Jimmy Hinson), a musician and remixer (frequently on OCRemix) who worked with Jack Wall on Mass Effect 2, and then again later with Black Ops 2. Some amazing tracks, such as Tali's theme. This was produced after he was not involved in Mass Effect 3 in tribute. A whole album was actually produced, called Legacy, which includes much of his unused work for Mass Effect 2 and draft music. I really love this guy and it's obvious how much he loves this series.

This is a response to Gwathdring's posts HERE ON HIS BLOG (just like this, a posting after having overshot the character limit) and then HERE ON STORY GAMES.

First-off: As for length/harshness, that's no big deal. I'm the same way when I write. So, like, thanks for taking the time to provide such thorough thoughts on the stuff!

Since it's a more fundamental thing, I'll talk about Give Orders as a basic move. On PCs, I see what you mean about it feeling like a Playbook move rather than a Basic move. I actually like the idea of players asserting themselves over each other. Even as a Mass Effect thing. In the series, you don't see it much, but I find that that may have simply been a gameplay concession - no one wants to play a video game where your NPC crew literally refuse to do what you ask them to. Occasionally in cutscenes they express doubt, but even Jack, Javik, and Miranda never outright deny you, because that's kinda rough as a video game thing. Wrex actually DOES deny you, and it's only through orders (whether Paragon or Renegade) that he could be drawn back to a begrudging faith. These are characters with significant flavorful conflicts of interest who rarely, if ever, actually decide on the not-Shepard side of that conflict.
In an RPG though, I'm actually interested in seeing that conflict played out more completely. Every rolebook other than the Veteran comes with a built-in conflict of interest with whoever is the Leader (or just the leader, in a game without that rolebook). The Agent is for their Agency, the Rebel is against a major institution, the Loner is against others in general, the Academic has their own things they're trying to pursue. That sort of pushing your own agenda against the others, despite existing loyalties and relationships, is the sort of thing I think the ApW system is very well-situated to do, and it's possible that this is simply the tone I personally am interested in pursuing. I can absolutely see the
I would also bring up that, just because it's a Basic move doesn't necessarily mean it's actually going to be regularly relevant. I very very rarely roll Seize By Force, or Parley, or many of the basic moves in Sagas of the Icelanders. If I'm distinguishing between Basic and Peripheral moves though, perhaps Give Orders belongs there, despite my own inclinations as to its importance.

Regarding Loyalty, you can give orders to a PC with no Loyalty, and though Loyalty is an easy path to denying Orders, you can totally try denying through Dig In. You've a good point that Dig In feels less appropriately universal though - if it were more like Act Under Fire would that resolve that issue in Give Orders?

I think the important thing to emphasize is that Loyalty isn't just a means to deny orders, but also to issue Orders yourself. It can work in either direction. Loyalty is still a bit of a nebulous system for me. The exact mechanism of denying orders could really use some alteration.
My main goals are to play Loyalty into Give Orders, as I think fictionally those two are very appropriate for each other. Loyalty seems like something you could call upon to push your own agenda, and at the same time like something you can use to support your right to deny being pushed about, but the actual rules for what happens precisely in those situations I am very open to altering.
As for replacing XP with Loyalty is an attempt to draw the Loyalty mechanic further into the game and provide a ready avenue to generate it. Precisely what you can do with Loyalty is still a little up in the air - rather than bringing back XP there, what could I change to make Loyalty a more enticing thing to have?
(I'll mention that I'm drifting away from XP as a mechanic as a whole. Not advancement, that I want to hold on to, but using XP as the means of achieving it isn't looking attractive to me right now).
Loyalty is complicated, and is the main subsystem I am concerned about, so your doubts are certainly understandable.

As for Support Your Team: frankly, the name isn't one of those others in order to avoid the implication that it is a combat-only move. You can cover your allies and take the blame or focus someone's anger on you or distract someone for your team in a non-combat (mainly social) sense as well, and Support Your Team was the best I had at the time.
Definitely with you about the trigger. It's definitely a first draft, and heck, "when you occupy your opponent's complete attention," doesn't sound awful.
I think this move is Draw Aggro. I probably won't call it that, but it's relevant I think.
As for the implication of not-shooting-wildly, you can do your normal, but my clarification is mostly just that SYT-fire isn't strong enough to be considered BA-fire. Your actions (as an individual) aren't about taking down the foe directly or keeping yourself safe, but to allow your team to succeed. If that involves shooting at the enemy a bunch, sure, okay, but it's not like Bold Aggression style dedication to taking down foes.

Bold Aggression's "escalate their threat" still feels okay to me. Many of this style of move incorporate some seemingly odd options: Go Aggro has "barricade themselves securely in", which is totally not a success at all. I like escalation because I find it dramatic, and as long as the MC is thinking about what that NPC would do, oftentimes escalation is actually undesirable - it makes me think of Dogs in the Vineyard, there's a point where escalation is too costly to actually be good for them. And if they don't have any means to escalate, well, they can't pick that option. Maybe I'll add an "If Possible" to the option to make that very explicit.
I agree about the putting yourself in a spot in the process. I think it would be mitigated with as little as a "Potentially" before the clause, giving an out if there's no good fictional reasoning.
As for the basic-shooting stuff, my mind's general position is that, on the whole, it's irrelevant. It's the sort of back-and-forth that just results in momentary weakening of shields. General little gunfights with infantry can often simply be overlooked as just having succeeded. You're pretty awesome. So throwing out basic gun damage isn't really all that important usually I don't think. When it IS relevant, I'd say yes, harm-for-harm, though you get the Shields move to protect you a bit. But, I mean, most fights you play out should require something beyond the just-shooting - if staying generally safe and just shooting away is enough to handle this fight, why do we care that it's even happening?
Also, I'm not all that upset about hesitating about going out and going with Bold Aggression - it IS a scary thing. But it's also very effective.
However, these thoughts regarding lethality are simply from the immediate assumptions I'd been operating under. I haven't yet precisely considered the mechanical implications or fallout of such a decision yet, so we'll see how that actually stays.

Yeah, I'd consider taking shots at people coming around your cover or whatever is totally still a part of the Dig In. I would probably rule that, if logical, they ducked back around the corner or some such (maybe their shield ate the shot, maybe not, who cares) but they can't actually get to you unless you stop focusing on safety. Maybe chasing after that corner guy is enough to be focused on something else! When they're bearing down on you but you're still staying safe, you're fine, but when you finally get up you're gonna have a mountain of trouble on your hands - and you can't win fights if you're staying safe. At that point, the MC probably wants to cut over to what the others are doing. If there's a couple of you Digging In together, it's not inconceivable that you can work up a Crazy Plan. Speaking of that...

I too wasn't satisfied with Crazy Plan. It took the longest to write, and it wasn't quite right, but it was the last thing produced for the first posting and I didn't want to just leave it blank. Manoeuvre is interesting - I haven't read The Sprawl but I get the feeling that my own Move With Intention (from Avatar World) was cut from the same cloth. So I really do like that move, but I have the same misgivings I have with my own MWI: That's a lot of little numerical alterations, without much direct recourse into the fiction. But it's got my mind spinning in a different direction, which is definitely good. Those Soldier playbook moves are also amazing.

Imposing is an awesome third trait, goin' with that (or some synonym). Doesn't do much tomake Turians any more interesting to me personally as a species, but it's definitely a great defining characteristic, and sounds not-crazy to turn into a move of some kind.

With regard to the gaps in the basic moves: In many ways I agree. A formal way to transmit information in order to provide such a sense of what wasn't picked up on is an excellent point I'd totally not thought of. While I don't want such a move to become dominant, I won't rule out building one up as a Peripheral move. For ways of establishing non-hierarchical relationships, well, you can have a position of authority over someone without it being literally a position of organizational dominance; if you can justify how you're dominant in the matter at hand (including, but not limited to, literal organizational station), that's enough. Of ocurse, that's not very hard or mechanical.
Mission? Yeah, I'm covering that, it's just in other places. I'm going back and forth between having several different sorts of Mission moves inside of various playbooks, eg the Leader's mission, the Agency's goal, the Academic's research, etc, or going with a more static Peripheral-type move that would be applied to the Leader, or to whoever is actually in charge if a Leader is absent. It's in flux, but yup, I'm thinking abou tit already.
I definitely agree about Crazy Plan still not doing enough, so hey, I'll make another pass at it.

I DID atually intend to make it clear how open-book it is throuh MC principles, which are still absent. I agree about the potential of how the moves actually allow for greater exposition even when the MC is technically open-book, so I'm gonna think on how I can make that work. There's definitely some bias here: the ApW games I play in use the Read a ___ moves only rarely, and I play a LOT of Monsterhearts which doesn't even have a real version of those moves, so I do a lot of play where Observational moves end up feeling a bit redundant or unnecessary. I understand their power, I just have a hard time writing them since I'm not particularly fond of playing with them generally.

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