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Darl Loh
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Trouble with dramatic sequence rules
core rules, dramatic sequence, drama

I have a suggestion regarding dramatic sequences. I want to send it to John, but I wanted to see if others had similar concerns first.

My specific concerns with dramatic sequences are:

1) Costing an extra raise for approach change

2) Length of sequence.

 

Bottom line, my suggestions are:

1) In dramatic sequences, the improvising rule doesn’t trigger unless the hero changes his/her approach to a skill with either no rank, or that is 2 or more ranks lower than the skill used in the original approach. Also, the first time a hero switches approaches and uses a skill that is 2 or more ranks higher than the original skill, they can take action without spending a raise.

2) In a dramatic sequence, players never have to spend raises to overcome obstacles. They are assumed to overcome the obstacles unless they choose otherwise (“I fail”). Heroes only spend raises to negate consequences or take advantage of opportunities. For instance, in the “Out of Raises” example where the hero tries to sneak out, the GM never charges the hero a raise for sneaking out. The hero succeeds at that. However, the GM can present consequences and/or opportunities associated with the task. For instance, the GM could say, “As you sneak out, one of the guards comes around a corner abruptly. Your only hiding spot is outside a nearby window. You have to throw yourself out of the window and hang onto the ledge in order to avoid being spotting. In your haste, a bit of your signature red sash catches on the window. Spend a raise to notice the evidence, and remove it. If you are out of raises, that bit of evidence will be left behind…and most likely found.” Alternatively, the GM could say, “As you are sneaking out, you hear low voices down a corridor. You can’t hear what they are saying, but you hear the unmistakable nasal whine of the Count’s plotting mistress. Spend a raise if you want to find a good hiding spot where you can get close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation.” Or, better yet, the GM can present both, and force the player to choose. Regardless, in this incarnation of the rules, the PCs can keep overcoming obstacles in a dramatic sequence even after they are out of raises. However, they will be less able to negate the consequences of their actions, or take advantage of opportunities that arise. 

 

Discussion of my concerns:

1) I have no issue with charging an extra raise for an approach change during an action sequence because action sequences are supposed to be fast-paced and pressured. It would be hard to change directions under that situation. Moreover, action sequences will often have multiple rounds, creating a clear moment in the fiction where the hero can change approaches without penalty (and with the Flair rule is rewarded for this). Dramatic sequences are another example. Take Alice in the dramatic sequence example. After talking her way into the party and make buddies with some young nobles, she has the fun idea to seduce a noble in order to get information. However, she decides against this because it will cost her extra raises. Wow, stifle creativity much? Furthermore, this makes no sense to me from a fictional standpoint. Just because she Convinced her way into party, why is it suddenly harder to Tempt this particular fellow? It also seems to fly in the face of the Flair mechanic, which wants to reward players for being creative and varied in how they tackle obstacles.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I see the design issue here. How do we smoothly resolve a chunk of fiction without requiring half a dozen rolls, especially when the resolution mechanic is not meant to determine success or failure in an absolute sense? Having Alice roll separately for each obstacle she faced would place undue burden on the GM. After all, the resolution mechanic is not a simple roll X + Y vs. target number(s) = this outcome(s). No, the GM needs to determine opportunities and consequences, and then the hero spends raises to deal with those. And then, these all need to be adjudicated. This would bog down the scene with no discernible benefit. So, rolling a simple risk for each obstacle seems like a non-starter. At the same time, there needs to be a mechanism to prevent players from just rolling their best approach at the beginning of the dramatic sequence and then spending raises tackle problems however they want. Still, seems like you risk stifling creativity too much with this approach (e.g. Alice forgoing her idea to Tempt the young noble). See my suggestion above.

 

2) Since the length of a dramatic sequence is not spelled out at the outset, the players don’t know what obstacles they face. This creates information an asymmetry -the GM knows how many "raise-worthy" things are in the next sequence but the heroes don't- that is not found elsewhere in the rules. So, if a hero has 3 raises, how is he/she supposed to decide whether to spend those raises early on, or hold onto them? Since, there is no set time at which one dramatic sequence ends, and another one begins, the hero has no idea when he/she will be getting a chance to “refresh” raises. It seems even tougher as a GM. As a GM, I would want to have a lot of flexibility in these sequences. If the heroes do something interesting, I would want to come back at them with more interesting stuff. Maybe they take things in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, and get themselves into all kinds of trouble (but not enough to warrant a switch to an action sequence). The example in the book paints a pretty picture because the amount of raises is just about right to neatly wrap up the scene. But, what happens when it doesn’t? More importantly, what happens when its not even close? Should I just let the players fail several obstacles? Or, should I switch to a new dramatic sequence? The former decision seems like a fun killer. The latter seems like it defeats the whole purpose of the rules. The other way to handle this would be for the GM to be very rigid with prep work. The GM knows that the ball is out there, and that any hero that tries to gain access will face 3 obstacles, and that's that. If the hero rolls 1 or 2 raises, too bad. Again, this seems awkward in the context of the rest of the game system, which seems to be focused on the players choosing what costs they are willing to accept (or opportunities they will forgo) in order achieve their goals…not creating an arbitrary point in time after which they automatically fail everything. Moreover, it would seem to stifle the GM's ability to improv the scene's flow.

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BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

A couple of things:

Changing approach: I may have missed something, but that's not my understanding of how it works.  You don't actually change your approach mid-scene.  The action unrelated to your approach just costs an extra raise.  If you do not have the skill that corresponds to your action, then it costs you an extra raise (3 raises) on top of that.  The only time a changed approach does not cost an extra Raise is if you have the Specialist Advantage devoted to the applicable skill.

Length of the scene vs. number of obstacles: Contrary to your impression, I don't think the GM is really supposed to be pre-planning "obstacles" for the players to overcome during the dramatic scene.  This is essentially spelled out in the sidebar on pg 188.  Essentially, the GM presents the scene as is and the players are free to follow it however they please.  You spend a raise to "change" the scene in some way.  Likewise, I think the problem of running out of raises is also a bit more nuanced.  Just because you don't have any raises left doesn't mean you can't interact with the scene.  Only that you no longer have the ability to change it explicitly in your favor.  You might still pick the lock to a door, but you might get caught or suffer some other setback at the GM's discression.  At least, that's the way I read them.

Now, all that said, I DO believe it would be helpful to have some guidance on how long a dramatic scene should last.  For instance, a dramatic scene could have an Ending (much like a story); when X event happens, the scene wraps and either transitions into a regular scene, an action scene, or another dramatic scene depending on how the players got there.  This could work like timed events in an action sequence or some other way.  They've given use three tools to handle scenes and risks, but very ittle on when to use which tool.  They love to trot out the Burning Room example for Risks, but why wouldn't that be a dramatic scene?

As for limited raises stifling creativity, I disagree with that.  The game is all about meaningful choices.  If seducing the noble is something the player wants to do, she could do it.  But she's weighing the benefits against the rest of the scene and decides its not a worthwhile choice.  That's not wrong, nor is it stifling creativity. That's the game.  :)

Darl Loh
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From BlueSponge(You don't actually change your approach mid-scene)

Agreed. I wasn't saying that. But, if you take an action unrelated to your original approach, it would have to fall under some approach. For example, see the dramatic sequence example where Alice tries to go the Tempt route instead of the orginal Convince. She doesn't re-roll (or officially change her approach), she just has to spend an extra raise to Tempt instead of Convince. Sorry if my wording made my understanding unclear.

I'm suggesting there is a fundamental difference between a hero in an action sequence deciding at the beginning of the round to approach a brute & obstacle laden scene via athletics, and then deciding on raise 3 to try and brawl said brutes. In that case, the extra raise makes sense fictionally and from a game design standpoint. Things are moving fast and the pressure is acutely on, so trying to shift gears comes at a price. In the case of a dramatic sequence Tempting the noble occurs in a fictional situation that is removed by both time, space, and surrounding circumstances from the situation where the hero Convinced her way into the ball. Maybe I am missing something, but there seems to be no fictional reason why Tempt is harder/worse than Convince for getting the info from the noble. Its purely a game design consideration (i.e. the aforementioned problem of heroes rolling their best approach all the time).

From BlueSponge(As for limited raises stifling creativity, I disagree with that.)

If I said or implied that, I apologize. I quite like how limited raises plays into this in general. But...

From BlueSponge(The game is all about meaningful choices.  If seducing the noble is something the player wants to do, she could do it.  But she's weighing the benefits against the rest of the scene and decides its not a worthwhile choice.)

But of course, that is not her thought process. There is nothing about the scene (i.e. the fiction) that makes Tempt less viable/desirable than Convince. In fact, I would judge it might even be a better approach. The hero makes the decision based solely on a rules convention. On math...2 costs more than 1, and it costs 2 instead of 1 because of how she decided to deal with an almost entirely unrelated obstacle. The game system is not designed to have heroes think that way...at least not in a way that it is so totally divorced from the fiction. 

From BlueSponge(Contrary to your impression, I don't think the GM is really supposed to be pre-planning "obstacles" for the players to overcome during the dramatic scene.)

Agreed, but that was never my impression. Sorry, if it came off that way. I was suggesting the pre-planning as a non-rules changing solution to the problem of a free flowing scene which could easily result in the players running out of raises and being force to resolve a significant chunk of the story without the ability to spend raises. It was meant as a throwaway option to highlight why my change was necessary/better.

From BlueSponge(Likewise, I think the problem of running out of raises is also a bit more nuanced.  Just because you don't have any raises left doesn't mean you can't interact with the scene.  Only that you no longer have the ability to change it explicitly in your favor.)

Maybe. Still, the example in the book seems to bely that reading:

Remember the Hero in the room after the key? He says, “I need to get out of here without being seen.” The GM says, “Spend another Raise.” But this time, the player is out of Raises. The GM says, “That’s too bad. They’re going to see you sneaking out.”

Replace "sneak" with "pick lock" and the hero just fails. My original counter example allowed the hero to succeed, but leave behind evidence of the infiltration. That's different than the example. Granted, your reading suggests you might play it the way I suggested. I certainly will. But, not everyone will get that, and I think it would cause issues in play for those that play it by the book. 

Bottom line, the dramatic sequence rules seem to indicate that once you are out of raises, you fail anything that we would consider a risk if we were adjudicating via a series of simple risks. My point is, this short circuits the whole concept of meaniful choices. At that point, the hero is just stuck in the scene with very limited ability to influence the scene once the raises are gone, or until the GM (or circumstance) ends the dramatic sequence. At which point, the hero can now roll again. One can imagine a hero starting a fight just to be able to influence the scene again. Again, the alternative (multiple simple risks) is also bad. Hence my suggested change. It allows heroes with no raises to continue accomplishing objectives by overcoming obstacles, but, they will need to weigh continued progress against accumulating consequences and/or missing opportunities. It also gives heroes that can come up with creative strategies using their best skills a limited ability to influence the scene without spending raises.

For a concrete example, consider extending Alice's adventure in the book example. What happens when the young noble she interrogates tells her about another noble at the dinner who has a letter with the Count's seal on it? That is actual evidence, not just heresay from a scared noble. The young noble doesn't know the specific noble that has the letter, but knows it is one of three nobles. Sounds like a fun continuation of the scene. Trouble is, Alice has 0 raises. By the rules, sure, she can interact, but anything she tries to do, such as Convince the nobles to tell her what's up, Theft the letter, etc, is doomed to failure. She could punch one them, thereby starting an action sequence and having an opportunity to get raises. But, I hardly think that is what the rules are meant to encourage. The GM could call this a new dramatic sequence (even though we are still in the same place and still have the same goal?) and ask for Alice's approach to get the letter. In that case, it seems to circumvent the intent of the rules, i.e. meaningful choices. That's where my solution comes in. Alice can Convince, Tempt, Theft, etc to her heart's content. However, as she goes she will accumulate consequences now that she is out of raises. But, maybe not, if she has Theft 4 and Convince 2, she can make one pick pocket attempt without a consequence, or better yet, mayber there is both a consequence and opportunity associated with the Theft attempt, but she can only choose one.

I hope that clarifies my thoughts. smiley

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
I happen to be in favor of the change of approach penalty. The problem in that scene is not the penalty, it's the minor difference between convince ( the approach used for the scene) and Tempt ( which should probably be the same skill). As a GM, it's close enough in my head to let that slide by in that situation. Buy a shift to picking a pocket or stabbing a count would certainly be a charged raise ( the stabbing might even set off the action sequence). As for duration of scenes, I am writing away at some adventures right now and what I am doing is creating in "outline" formats. So my first scene is an investigation. I know the key things they can find out, the people they might talk to and what they would learn from each, some consequences to deal with like an angry husband that thinks you should not ask his wife such things AND that the scene will end when they discover clue X. That leads to a narrative travel scene with no check involved that ends at a tavern where there will be no planned check but could develop one depending on player actions. Followed by an action scene when they get burgled during the night. Which should lead to a dramatic chase which lists several consequences and ends with either a capture or escape for the thief.
Darl Loh
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From Salamanca[The problem in that scene is not the penalty, it's the minor difference between convince ( the approach used for the scene) and Tempt ( which should probably be the same skill). As a GM, it's close enough in my head to let that slide by in that situation. Buy a shift to picking a pocket]

Fair point. I am fine with Tempt and Convince being the same or different skills. Regardless, it doesn't change my argument. There is no fictional reason why picking a pocket while inside the dinner should suddenly be more difficult just because the hero decided to talk their way into the dinner. I can't make it bother you if it doesn't. I just know that I would be awfully annoyed playing the game if every dramatic sequence I get penalized for coming up with a clever way to overcome a new obstacle simply because of the way I chose to deal with an initial obstacle (that is separate from the current obstacle in time, space and circumstance). It doesn't make narrative or fictional sense.

From Salamanca[I am writing away at some adventures right now and what I am doing is creating in "outline" formats.] Snip...

I like your approach here. Still, and maybe I am missing something, I don't see how this addresses the issue I am bringing up. I mean, what happens when the players run out of raises well before they discover clue X? That's the problem I am highlighting. My suggested change neatly avoids this problem, while give the GM more flexibility to improv if the scene goes in an unexpected direction, as well as obviating the need for overly detailed prep work.

Darl Loh
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From BluSponge[Now, all that said, I DO believe it would be helpful to have some guidance on how long a dramatic scene should last.]

Sorry, I forgot to respond to this. Agreed on the remainder of the suggestion. Regardless, I think the issues I bring up stand even if the book included more guidance. IMO, the issue is the structure, not how to use it.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

From Salamanca[I happen to be in favor of the change of approach penalty.]

Just to clarify, I also like this in the context of simple risks and action sequences. My only beef is in the context of dramatic sequences. Dramatic sequences already depart from simple risks and action sequences in a number of ways, so it hardly seems untoward to adjust how the handle improvising as well.

Kevin Krupp
Kevin Krupp's picture

There is no fictional reason why picking a pocket while inside the dinner should suddenly be more difficult just because the hero decided to talk their way into the dinner.

If your focus is on trying to talk your way into the dinner, are you really going to notice the opportunity to pick pocket? Your attention is focused elsewhere. The extra raise to do something outside of your approach is the cost of essentially changing your frame of focus. (e.g. "While the party is going on, I'm going to sneak away and into the Count's study. Wait? His daughter happens to be wandering the halls...maybe I'll tempt her into a sneaking a little ad hoc rendezvous in her dad's study instead of having to break in." or "Okay, made it to the study, coast is clear. Oh shoot, the door is lock...umm...okay I'm going to try and unlock this door, but how do I do it to while staying hidden?")

Also, if you're really concerned about it, just make sure your PC always has Dynamic Approach, or say everyone can use that Advantage as a House Rule. It allows you to completely change your approach after spending a HP instead of spending to 2 raises to do a single action outside of the inital approach.

Alternatively encourage them to take Specialty, so they can pick the 1 thing that they can also do.

I mean, what happens when the players run out of raises well before they discover clue X?

There are A LOT of ways you can handle this. I talked to Mike about this during the playtest, and here are some of the approaches we discussed:

  • Convert it into an action scene (for example, if they’re sneaking around, well their “sneakiness” is used up, so if they haven’t slipped back out you can easily decide they’ve been caught. This approach seems to match what was demonstrated in the QS.)

  • Just end the scene. If they’ve accomplished what they needed to and it doesn’t make sense to driven an action scene to it, this is the signal to move on. (e.g. They’re collecting information at a party, well their “Convince” has run out, so they’re not going to get anything else out of anyone tonight. It’s time to close out the party and move to the next scene, which may just be a shift in the current scene and in which they may or may not get to roll new intents.)

  • Have them roll new intents and get a new set of raises to work from.

  • Play out the scene, but the players have NO narrative control, except what they can control with Hero Points. They should have been more careful about how they spent their raises.
Antti Kautiainen
Antti Kautiainen's picture

I disagree with you that it would not be more difficult. Yes, it would. The character / actor focus 0on social things. But it is not so different he cannot do it. Thus the change of approahc is to start talking and then use it as a ruse to get close enough to pick pocket. Thus it requires extra effort. That is why change of approach costs you 1 extra raise. Your approach tells what you intend to do, but what actually happens depends what happen  around you.

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
Ibsee what you are getting at now that a read it again. It works to a point. But I still want to have a penalty for a player changing their plans. If the cost is the same regardless of if the action is picking a lock, seducing a countess, bribing a guard or skulking in a Hall, then we only need a single stat called "do stuff in a dramatic sequence" and a follow up stat called " do stuff in an action sequence". Without a penalty, I am going to max out one skill and skip the first use bonus die every chance I get.
BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

Best penalty I can think of us adding to the Danger Pool. 

After thinking on it a bit, I think I'm going to start using the concept of Endings and Triggers when I start working on dramatic scenes.

Endings are (timed?) events that immediately end a dramatic scene. The heroes find the prisoner in the dungeon, the grand duke arrives at the party, the clock strikes midnight.

Triggers are special actions the heroes might take that have the potential to change the nature of the scene. Not all of these need to be spelled out, but special ones might. The idea isn't for the players to find these (they aren't challenges to be faced). They are simply points where the GM can say, "scene ends!" 

 

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

 

@Salamanca- I will point you to my original suggestion.

“1) In dramatic sequences, the improvising rule doesn’t trigger unless the hero changes his/her approach to a skill with either no rank, or that is 2 or more ranks lower than the skill used in the original approach. Also, the first time a hero switches approaches and uses a skill that is 2 or more ranks higher than the original skill, they can take action without spending a raise.”

Please note the underlined, italicized, bolded portion. I didn’t completely remove the penalty. So, the strategy you endorse would backfire, and its not the same for every action.

@BluSponge- I’m curious, did I change your mind and/or adequately answer your points? Your ideas sound good, but seem inadequate (to me) for dealing with the root of the problem as I see it.

If your focus is on trying to talk your way into the dinner, are you really going to notice the opportunity to pick pocket? Your attention is focused elsewhere. The extra raise to do something outside of your approach is the cost of essentially changing your frame of focus.

I think you are highlighting a key point here. Namely, the difference between an approach in an action sequence/simple risk, and an approach in a narrative sequence. As statistician George Box wrote, "All models are wrong but some are useful.” The approach idea models fiction quite well for an action sequence/simple risk because both represent overcoming a discrete problem, at a discrete time point, with the hero having flexibility to adjust to a changing situation (multiple rounds or multiple simple risks) without penalty (and, in fact, a bonus). This aspect of discreteness and flexibility is absent in a narrative sequence. These sequences are meant to cover a much broader swath of the fiction. A narrative sequence might cover an entire night as the heroes prowl the town in search of someone or investigate a dinner for clues. It might encompass an entire journey lasting days, weeks or even months. By their nature, narrative sequences beg for the presentation of varied and unanticipated obstacles. They occur in extended time. The pressure is slow building and chronic, not intense and acute. 

So, yes, if a hero is actively in the midst of spinning a web of bullshit it would be more difficult to pick a pocket than it would if the character was focusing on just picking the pocket. However, that scenario has never been part of this discussion. What I am referring to is changing focus when a new obstacle (one that is separate from the original/previous in time, space and circumstance) presents itself. Again, referring to the book example, Alice chooses Convince as her overall approach in finding information at this dinner party. However, actual people (normal people, not just heroes) are not so inflexible that talking their way into a dinner party would make it more difficult to overcome a new challenge using a different method. Alice talks her way past the guards, then mingles with nobles and discovers some promising leads. At this point she is not trying to Convince them of anything. She already did that. We are at the next phase. What to do now? How to take advantage of these leads she found? You are honestly telling me that we should expect an actual person to now find Tempting this young noble more difficult because she was Convincing him a few moments ago, or because she Convinced her way past the guards. People don’t work that way. They are not so rigid. Again, different in the middle of an intense situation. If you are trying to parkour your way off a burning ship and a guard pops up in front of you, agreed that it would be difficult to suddenly shift to punching him out. Not the case here.   

(e.g. "While the party is going on, I'm going to sneak away and into the Count's study. "Okay, made it to the study, coast is clear. Oh shoot, the door is lock...umm...okay I'm going to try and unlock this door, but how do I do it to while staying hidden?"

This isn’t a problem of shifting focus, its a problem of divided focus. The hero is trying to remain hidden while picking the lock. Agreed that this is more difficult than picking the lock alone. Sure, charge the hero a raise to avoid the consequence of being noticed while overcoming the obstacle that is the lock. It doesn’t answer the issue at hand…namely charging the character specifically for a shift in focus. To see this in action, return to the Alice example. She is presented with a new problem. How to capitalize on her leads? However, she is in no immediate threat. She can’t turn a corner and suddenly be found. You can’t explain away an extra raise for using tempt by citing something else she is actively trying to do.

“Wait? His daughter happens to be wandering the halls...maybe I'll tempt her into a sneaking a little ad hoc rendezvous in her dad's study instead of having to break in."

Its not clear where you are saying the raise cost is coming from. If its from trying to tempt while also remaining undiscovered, again, I am with you. Charge the hero a raise to avoid the consequence of being noticed while overcoming the obstacle that is the fair lady’s heart. But, charging a raise specifically for the hero having to shift from sneaking around to being sexy makes little sense to me. Normal humans are just not that inflexible. Not to mention that you have to explain this extreme rigidity in the context of the flexibility granted heroes in an action scene. For instance, in the space of three action sequence rounds, that might encompass only seconds or minutes of real time, a player might start with athletics, switch to weaponry and then use brawl, with each approach giving the player a bonus die. Yet, somehow, this same hero, when faced with a much less intense situation has some sort of mental or existential strain when he/she tries to shift from sneaking around to tempting someone? Again, I am tracking the game design problem underpinning it. I am just saying that it gets wonky when applied to the fiction. 

There are A LOT of ways you can handle this. 

Thank you for setting these out clearly and concisely. I have hit on each of them above, but not in such a clear format. Still, let’s be crystal here, we are specifically discussing a situation where the players run out raises without achieving their initial goal.

•    Play out the scene, but the players have NO narrative control, except what they can control with Hero Points. They should have been more careful about how they spent their raises.

I addressed this from the outset:

“Since the length of a dramatic sequence is not spelled out at the outset, the players don’t know what obstacles they face. This creates information an asymmetry -the GM knows how many "raise-worthy" things are in the next sequence but the heroes don't- that is not found elsewhere in the rules. So, if a hero has 3 raises, how is he/she supposed to decide whether to spend those raises early on, or hold onto them?”

Contrary to how action sequences/simple risks work, the players in a narrative sequence are spending raises mostly blind. Given this, how is it meaningful to say “They should have been more careful about how they spent their raises.” Sure, as the GM you can say it, but your are just being a dick, since the players are spending each raise while having a pretty muddy picture about what lies ahead and when they will be able to roll again. Again, this is exactly the opposite of action sequences/simple risks where the players spend every raise while having a very clear picture about the obstacle, consequence and opportunity landscape that lies ahead.

•    Convert it into an action scene

While this would be fine a lot of the time, it suffers from the same information asymmetry problem above. Forcing the players into an action sequence when they were trying to be sneaky is just as much a penalty as forcing them to play the rest of the scene with no narrative control.

•    Have them roll new intents and get a new set of raises to work from. 

Ok, but why even roll at all if we are going to do that? If the heroes just roll for more raises when they run out of them, we can just narrate the scene without slowing it down with rules. Granted, I agree that there will certainly be scenes where the narrative sequence will have a clear fictional transition. I am not talking about those situations.

•    Just end the scene. If they’ve accomplished what they needed to and it doesn’t make sense to driven an action scene to it, this is the signal to move on.

Of course. I have never lost GM beauty sleep over what to do when the players act like I expect and smoothly accomplish the objectives I hoped they would. Doesn’t apply here, where both you and I explicitly stated that the heroes DID NOT accomplish what they needed to. 

 

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

Heh. No, I think I misunderstood a lot of your initial post. Its late and I'm typing this on my phone.  Except a better answer tomorrow. :)

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
Well, we can backpedal to the old style system where you simply call for a check for every action against a specified set of raises. But that defeats the succeed unless you choose to fail dynamic. But I am done commenting until I read the latest version. Then I will see about what shifts might work.
Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

@Salamanca- to be clear, I wouldn't advocate a return to the old system. I quite like the new one. I also like the idea behind the narrative sequence. I just think it needs those tweaks to make it work better.

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

“Since the length of a dramatic sequence is not spelled out at the outset, the players don’t know what obstacles they face. This creates information an asymmetry -the GM knows how many "raise-worthy" things are in the next sequence but the heroes don't- that is not found elsewhere in the rules. So, if a hero has 3 raises, how is he/she supposed to decide whether to spend those raises early on, or hold onto them?”

See, I would argue this really isn't the case.  The GM DOESN'T know how many raise worthy things will be part of the scene.  Oh, you might have a few ideas, but once the players start mucking around in the scene, who can say what they will need to spend a raise on?  If a Dramatic Sequence is really meant to be a sandbox, then the players can take it anywhere and the GM really needs to use a light touch.  It's why I like the idea of Triggers.  Rather than a big bullet-point list of IF/THEN scenarios, you can focus on one or two things and be done with it.  You would do this anyway, I'm just putting some funky game jargon to it.  ;)

While it isn't mentioned in the text, I wonder if the scene shouldn't end once ALL the players are out of Raises.  It seems ridiculous to keep going on once no one can really change the scene.  That's when you would end an Action Sequence round, after all.

Lastly, I should point out that the GM is the final arbiture on what costs a Raise in a dramatic sequence.  I expect there will be a learning curve, but eventually we will all settle on a method that works best for our game.  The examples in the book are just that: examples.  

 

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
It can end before that. It can end when that happens and sometimes you will want to end it after they are out and suffer a bit for it. As it involves longer time frames and more variety to what may occur, I would be more interested in seeing what happens if the players can opt to fail in specific circumstances. It may not matter is some trivial parts of the act like coercing your way past a guard. But what happens if they opt to fail the moment when they try and convince the count to support their revolution? That is presumably the whole goal of the scene in the quickstart. Do we reward Hero Points for that? We should, even if they spent some raises before that point.
Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

 

 

You make a good point about that the GM doesn't know any more than the players do. My wording was imprecise. I should have said, the GM has a better idea of how many "raise-worthy" things will be in the next sequence. 

But crucially, the GM also has complete control over the number of raises needed as the sequence evolves.

Contrast that with an action sequence...the aforementioned Burning Room. The GM sets the scene and then asks for approaches. Then says something like, OK, there is Brute Squad of strength 4. They will hurt you like normal if not defeated, but they are also blocking the doorway, preventing escape unless you can get by/around them. Anyone traversing the burning room risks a consequence of 1 wound, while anyone still inside the burning room at raise 2 suffers 2 wounds. The Count's papers were knocked under a flaming desk, you can grab them as an opportunity, but going for it causes the consequence of 1 wound from the flames. Then, all players roll, and spend their raises to handle those challenges as they see fit. They have to "play" the scene. Sure, if all the players roll 1 raise the GM could have a Deus Ex Machina wave of water rush in and put out the flames, or a beam fall on and destroy the brute squad. Or, if the players all rolled 5 raises, the GM could have a second brute squad suddenly show up mid-round. But, both of those are kind of bad form. Ideally, the GM is not mucking around too much after he/she sets those conditions. He/She is letting the players interact with it as they see fit.

The idea behind the entire system is, see what you are facing, get your raises, and then the player's are charged with making meaningful choices by spending those raises. The system only really shines when a particular roll (or series of rolls) result in a situation where the players can buy most, but not all of what they want. There should be a spectrum, and it will vary by game, but clearly the game wouldn't play as intended if the heroes got 90% of what they wanted every time, or if the only got 10% of what they wanted every time. And again, crucially, the heroes have a pretty good idea of what's at stake. I think in practice, this will be relatively easy for a GM to get the hang of for simple risks and action sequences. Its just a little math. Have a ballpark idea of average raises the players will roll, and then set that many +/- a few "raise-worthy" things in front of the players for each risk or round of an action sequence.

As is, the narrative sequence short-circuits this whole concept. The players really don't know the relative worth of any raise spent because they have no idea what is in store for them. A "nice" GM can adjust down the obstacles/consequences if the players roll badly. A hard-ass GM won't, and might even adjust up the obstacles whenever the GM perceives that the players have it "too easy." The problem with this, as I see it, is two-fold:

1) This makes the narrative sequences a mechanic that lets the GM steal the narrative and secretly railroad the scene the way he/she wants it to go. You (the GM) were hoping for the castle infil to end an epic running sword fight through the castle halls after the heroes are discovered but the heroes rolled exceptionally well (those bastards). Just adjust up the obstacles to deplete the raises, and viola! cool fight scene you were wanting. Granted, this complaint edges into the gray area of "bad GM behavior" that is unfair to fully blame the rules for. Still, its an opportunity the GM doesn't really have in the rest of the game. In the rest of the game, the GM's manipulations (at least in terms of raises necessary) are above board. Not so in a narrative sequence.

2) It makes a honest sandbox scene difficult to run. If we, to borrow a phrase from Apocalyspe World, are truly expected to follow the dictum "Play to find out what happens" the GM gets stuck between a rock and a hard place with the rules as is. As I expect you know, a sandbox scene can end up in weird and exciting places as you play the fiction. This has a strong potential to take the scene well past the heroes' available raises. As you mention, the GM can let the heroes suffer, or call for a re-roll. The former seems contrary to the spirit of the game and not a lot of fun, and the latter seems to obviate the reason for rolling to begin with (to create a situation where players have to make meaningful choices). My suggestion gets around this by allowing the sandbox to go forward (i.e. rolling with unknown) by allowing the players to continue accomplishing objectives, but making meaningful choices about when they want to use raises to prevent consequences or take advantage of opportunities. As is, players have to spend a raise to do just about anything in a narrative sequence, so even the few raises they spend are not really "meaningful choices." Any obstacle that arises has basically two options, spend a raise and overcome it, or fail. With my rules change, the choice now becomes overcome the obstacle without consequences by spending a raise, or save the raise, still overcome it, but suffer the consequence. Of course, and/or add opportunities to the mix.  

From BluSonge[While it isn't mentioned in the text, I wonder if the scene shouldn't end once ALL the players are out of Raises.  It seems ridiculous to keep going on once no one can really change the scene.  That's when you would end an Action Sequence round, after all.]

Maybe, but that seems to circumvent the point of the narrative sequence. I mean, if the narrative sequence had rounds, then yes, I would definitely agree. However, the idea behind the structures seems to be, "Let's adjudicate a piece of the narrative with a single roll." Like, "Let's figure out if the heroes can get the key documents out of the baron's study," or "Let's figure out if the players can find the assassin amidst the ball." I wouldn't be against breaking dramatic sequences into rounds, where the GM gives a hard end point to the round, such as, "This dramatic sequence rounds ends once the players have made their best effort to infiltrate into the baron's study." Assuming the fiction didn't suggest an action sequence as the next thing, the next dramatic sequence would pick up whereever the players had left off. Maybe they made it to the study. Or, maybe they got stuck/sidetracked along the way. Then next round starts with a similar hard end point.  

From BluSonge[Lastly, I should point out that the GM is the final arbiture on what costs a Raise in a dramatic sequence.]  

I think this is far less comforting than it sounds. While each GM will arbitrate what is "raise-worthy" differently, players will (and should) expect some internal consistency from the GM. If the GM decides that picking locks in a dramatic sequence only costs a raise if the player is under some kind of external pressure while doing it, well, picking locks better cost a raise every time that is the case. The GM will get into trouble allowing a player out of raises to pick a lock under duress one time, but not the next. Similarly, the GM will get push back if a "leisurely" lock picking is deemed "raise-worthy" when it previously wasn't. It will seem too much like the GM is railroading the plot to where he/she wants it to go (either by allowing the players to succeed, or increasing their chances of failure).

From BluSonge[I expect there will be a learning curve, but eventually we will all settle on a method that works best for our game.  The examples in the book are just that: examples.]  

Maybe, but if everyone ends up running it differently than the rules as written, maybe the rules are the problem ;-).

 

 

⚡️Christopher
⚡️Christopher's picture

I have the same reservations on the Dramatic Sequence. Unlike Action Sequences, where there is a difinitive end-point—usually that your enemies are defeated via causing enough wounds—Dramatic Sequences don't have the Death Spiral "countdown clock" to tell you when you're running out of time/raises.

I understand why they did what they did, but I do think that it could be improved by allowing more rounds than just one roll of the dice. My suggestion would be to allow for players to buy into additional rounds—either with a Hero Point, giving a Danger Point to the GM, or a combination of the two—if they want to keep trying. With a cap (either soft or hard) to prevent the players from just rolling again and again until they get what they want.

My suggestion:

  • Have rounds, like Action Sequence
  • Each round after the first costs 1 additional Hero Point—so the 2nd round costs 1, 3rd round costs 2, 4th costs 3, etc
  • Each round requires a new skill—this is to mimic the Flair rule for Action Sequences

This way, you can spend your raises how you feel you need to, like Action Sequences, and you know you will have another chance at rolling and making raises if you need—again, just like Action Sequences. The Hero Point and new skill cost is to add a soft cap to the number of rounds you can take in the sequence. If it means a lot to your PC, you can spend yourself dry to do something. It just means you're out Hero Points for the next scene!

 

This is just my musings based on reading the book, but haven't played yet, so grain of salt and all that.

Heng benjamin
Heng benjamin's picture

As I posted elsewere earlier, I was toying with 2 other solution (I thought to the danger pool to).

-Create a X step Vilain Scheme. Each round, it advances from one step. If the PC are too slow, the scheme is completed. 

The pros: it create interaction with the vilain ; it formalises the scheme rules; the tension will slowly build as the rounds advances.

The cons: sometimes you don't have cool ideas; it may distract players from the main plot to much.

-Make a GM move ( copy of the relevants: ● Separate them. ● Capture someone. ● Put someone in a spot.  ● Announce off-screen badness. ● Announce future badness. ● Take away their stuff).

The pros: it is easy; it speeds the games; your upfront with your players

The cons: it may speed up or break dramatic sequences too soon; it may distract players from the main plot to much.

 

I like your idea of buying rounds with hero points too :)

Bradley
Bradley's picture

I like the idea of buying round with hero points, but I would go with a non escalating form. Each round after the first is either one hero point, or two danger points. This allows the players to keep a specific dramatic sequences going for as long as they need, but at the cost of draining themselves or making the villain exceedingly strong.

Of course, sometimes the GM will have to say no more can be done in this sequence. Either due to real world issues, or in game events.

⚡️Christopher
⚡️Christopher's picture

I figured the escalating HP cost would give a soft cap of ~4 rounds for those who wanted to keep it going (costing 3 total HP).

Another idea I just had is to have a hard-cap of 3 rounds: the first one is free, the second costs 1 Hero Point, and the third grants 1 Danger Point to the GM per PC who contines. Many players will be willing to spend 1 HP to go again, but do they really want to give the GM 4 Danger Points for that 3rd round? One or two, sure, but not usually all 4 (or however many PCs you have).

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

Those that agree with my general problem, I'm curious if you actively dislike my proposed solutions, or just like the idea of rounds better. Regardless, curious to hear the whys.

I like the idea of rounds, but I don't really like charging hero or danger points to keep the sequence going. We already agree the underlying problem with dramatic sequences is the lack of an ending in a narrative sense (as in contrast to action sequences that have a clear ending). Maybe a better solution is to focus there.

Heng had brought up some powered by the Apocalypse thinking. However, I would argue that GM moves are implicit in dramatic sequences as written. Mr. Wick is just using a different frame of discussion from Mr. Baker. GM moves amount to the GM presenting various obstacles (● Put someone in a spot.  ● Announce off-screen badness. ● Announce future badness.), consequences (● Separate them. ● Capture someone. ● Take away their stuff) and opportunities (• Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost. • Make them buy). However, I think we could use AW style moves to help us. For instance, take this battle move from the upcoming 2nd edition of AW:

ASSAULT A SECURE POSITION

To assault a secure position, exchange harm, but first roll+hard. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7–9, choose 2. On a miss, choose 1:

• You inflict terrible harm (+1harm). 

• You suffer little harm (-1harm).

• You force your way into your enemy’s position.

• You force your enemy to withdraw.

I think its easy to imagine playing AW by rolling a pool of d10s and spending raises to accomplish the choices of above. While I am not suggesting applying the moves structure directly to the dramatic sequence, the important aspect of this move is it forces us to answer important questions about the fictional situation. Namely, does the player get into the enemy's position? And, is the enemy still there? We can't NOT know these answers after this move is rolled.  

So, maybe apply the same logic to dramatic sequences. When the sequence starts, the GM is responsible for posing a clear, direct YES/NO question about the fictional circumstances that the dramatic sequence will answer. Depending on the context, the same question might apply to one, two or more heroes. Or, each hero might get their own question. Regardless, when the YES/NO of the question is determined, a new dramatic sequence starts. Furthermore, it is the job of both GM and players to push to answer the question. If folks have seen Ben Robbin’s Microscope, this is same logic that propels one of its scene’s to conclusion. Above all, answer the question.

For example:

Do the heroes discover the identity of the assassin hidden at the ball?

Do the heroes get into the baron's dungeons undetected?

Do the heroes establish the fort's defenses before the attack?

Do the heroes convince the judge to side with them?  

I think having a discrete question like the above would make it a lot harder for the sequence to drift on forever (or, at least well beyond the available raises) because it would:

1) Give everyone a clear end to work towards.

1) Narrow the information asymmetry between GM and player to better mirror that seen in action sequences and simple risks.

2) Add some social control to the GM’s ability to railroad the players. For instance, its going to be easier for the players to call bullshit if the GM is throwing a bunch of “surprise” obstacles in the context of this discrete question versus a more open ended dramatic sequence as proposed in the current book. In keeping with AW style, the time for the GM to get crafty is between dramatic sequences (or other sequences) when the outcome is determined. That’s when the curveball comes, when the heroes have an opportunity to engage the new problem and affect it.

Regardless, I am still in favor of my “in dramatic sequences raises are only spent to avoid consequences or take advantage of opportunities” rule. The reason being, this game is focused on meaningful choices, and I think having that adjustment in dramatic sequences is in keeping with this. Consider what raises will be spent on in your average action sequence. Combat is combat, so a lot of raises will be spent on damage on both sides. However, with that exception, usually the players will only spend 1 raise to accomplish their “objective” in any round, with most raises spent on avoiding consequences and taking advantage of opportunities. However, as is, the opposite is true in a dramatic sequences. The heroes will probably have 2-5 raises on average, and if they face 2-5 obstacles, most of the raises will be spent to dealing with these obstacles, leaving precious few for consequences and opportunities. My idea shifts the focus of raise expenditure back towards consequences and opportunities.

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

It's not that I dislike your proposals.  It's just that without playing a few DS I have no idea if this is a problem that really needs fixing.

If the players can simply reroll at any time, it really diminishes the sense of tension, which is what DS are supposed to be driving.  And yes, the GM can just sit there and milk them for every tiny action ("You want to find the Montaigne countess at the party?  Ok, that'll be a raise."), but that doesn't seem right either.  And I as light and breezy as the mechanics are, I really don't feel like hard coding limits into the mix (DS = 3 rounds, no more!).

So a lot of this stuff is hypothetical until we start playing.  At which point, the more options the better.

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
That is a wise tack into the wind. Play with it, get a feel for how it works. See if there is a natural balance, if the GM ends up pacing dependent on the pools that exist, or of you are constantly running short. Once we have some games under our collective belts we can see what is working for each of us and have a better idea of how and where it needs a tweaking.
Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

Good point about some experience being beneficial.

I just want to clarify, my original proposal said nothing about rounds or re-rolls. It tried to work within the existing paradigm which seems to be, the DS ends when it makes sense for it to end. Pretty nebulous, and there seems to be broad agreement that some clarification is in order there.

However, I really haven't seen anyone comment directly on this specific proposal:

2) In a dramatic sequence, players never have to spend raises to overcome obstacles. They are assumed to overcome the obstacles unless they choose otherwise (“I fail”). Heroes only spend raises to negate consequences or take advantage of opportunities. For instance, in the “Out of Raises” example where the hero tries to sneak out, the GM never charges the hero a raise for sneaking out. The hero succeeds at that. However, the GM can present consequences and/or opportunities associated with the task. For instance, the GM could say, “As you sneak out, one of the guards comes around a corner abruptly. Your only hiding spot is outside a nearby window. You have to throw yourself out of the window and hang onto the ledge in order to avoid being spotting. In your haste, a bit of your signature red sash catches on the window. Spend a raise to notice the evidence, and remove it. If you are out of raises, that bit of evidence will be left behind…and most likely found.” Alternatively, the GM could say, “As you are sneaking out, you hear low voices down a corridor. You can’t hear what they are saying, but you hear the unmistakable nasal whine of the Count’s plotting mistress. Spend a raise if you want to find a good hiding spot where you can get close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation.” Or, better yet, the GM can present both, and force the player to choose. Regardless, in this incarnation of the rules, the PCs can keep overcoming obstacles in a dramatic sequence even after they are out of raises. However, they will be less able to negate the consequences of their actions, or take advantage of opportunities that arise. 

Most everything that touched on it took the stance that a fix wasn't even necessary. So, I am wondering if, one agrees there is a problem to begin with (or, in your case, a potential problem), does this seem like a good solution? In particular, it certainly doesn't risk losing tension. If anything, it might engender more tension. Failing an objective is one thing, but players might balk at personal injury, losing equipment, or other consequences that affect the hero personally even more so than they might at simply failing to overcome an obstacle. 

Kevin Krupp
Kevin Krupp's picture

To me the biggest issue with Dramatic Sequences is the fact that you're essnetially tied to a single Skill/direction. Despite my explanation earlier, I don't necessarily agree with that. As for the length and nebulousness of the Dramatic Sequence, it's really on the GM to play fair, but that's no different from any other system. The GM can always sit there and be like "Oh, nope, the guard comes around the corner, no he surprises you and captures you, too bad." Sorry, "the rules" won't save you. The GM can always jack up a TN to some impossibly high level on a PC. BUT, if you pull nonsense like that on your Players enough times they'll stop playing with you.

I've been running 2nd Ed for a few months now as a playtester and it's taken a while for me to get the hang of them, I'm starting to, but there's still some hiccups here and there, because it is a different way of looking at things. Quite frankly, what you're describing in #2 there is EXACTLY how I might run a Dramatic Sequence. It depends on the sequence. Sometimes them succeeding in the obstacle is completely dependant on the "consequence" For example, if you hear the gaurd coming around the corner, failing to hide/do whatever it is you want to do IS going to result in the guard seeing you - not avoiding the guard IS what directly results in the consequence. In other cases there may not be a consequence, but I definitely want the hero to consider whether or not their action is worth pursuing - the door to the study is locked? You better believe I want them to spend a raise to pick the lock.

You need to think of the raises being spent as means of increasing tension. You want the heros to feel like they're on their toes and thinking "do I really want to spend this Raise?"

But you can also use DS as general means of shaping the world and the opinion of NPCs. In my last session a hero was trying to convince his sister to help with selling off some cargo. He spent a few raises to convince her to help, and then he asked if he could have completed a trade negotiation on her behalf so that instead of just getting her to "help" he could rely on her as an "ally." (i.e. an opportunit) It was a good idea and seemed very much in character, so I let him spend a raise and role-played out the sister being surprised and wondering if maybe she had misjudged her brother based on his past failures. Another hero decided to go around piecing information and started popping into varous shops and asking if there had been anyone new in town. Off the top of my head I riffed off and created a bunch of random NPCs. One of them was an Eisen who had just moved in next door to her parents' house and liked to peer out at folks into the street. Next thing I know she's asking if she can go and knock on his door and say "hello." That resulted in a really interesting exchange where she was able to piece together that this fellow was a plant waiting to keep an eye out for that hero on behalf of one of the villains. Both of those characters will be returning sometime in the future.

Really, as a GM, BE FAIR. That's what it comes down to. Don't have your heroes burn all their raises and leave them high and dry every time. If you NEED them to accomplish something to push the plot forward, let them roll intent again and get a new set of raises. If you don't want to do that, find some way to give them a little bit of help. Or if you'd rather shift gears and throw them into an Action scene, do it. If a hero seems really attached to that scene, then extend it, play it out, and see where it goes. You don't need them to spend a raise for EVERYTHING they do, let them just have it sometimes. You're the GM, you know how many raises everyone has, if someone has burned thorugh 3 of them already and only has 2 remaining, maybe you cut out some of the obstacles you had planned for them, or cut them off before they spend all their raises and turn it into an Action scene - now the hero feels like it was intentional and part of the plot instead of you just milking them for raises.

Here's the tl;dr version of what makes this system work: Improvise. Improvise. Improvise. Be constantly improvising. Be ready to throw your "well-laid" plans out the window at any given moment. Let your players offer up ideas and suggestions to change the scene and roll with it. You're writing a story together. Plus, you'll always be able to come up with a new way to "get em" later.

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

Good comments, Kevin.

Dahr, the only issue I have with your premise is "players never have to spend raises to overcome obstacles."  I don't think that's the intent of DS.  Aside from the vaguely worded "players change the scene" language of the rules, its clear that not all obstacles are created equally.  Certainly if the hero is performing an action that a) meets her approach and b) isn't particularly difficult, then there isn't much point in charging a Raise for the act.  Finding the Montaigne countess in the ballroom at a party should not cost a Raise, unless the matter is urgent and you are trying to be as undisruptive (is that a word?) as possible.  Sounding impressive as you talk about wines to a crowd of hangers on shouldn't cost a raise, unless you are trying to impress an expert that you really know your stuff (and if you have a background that suggests you are an expert, it probably shouldn't).  There is a lot of give and take.

What I see DS doing is making the standard mechanic work for BIG scenes.  Remember when the QS came out and we GMs all recoiled because coming up with 2-3 unique consequences every time the players try to do something difficult was going to be hard work?  DS take care of that nicely.  It gives the game a chance to breath, without a lot of dice rolling getting in the way.  Otherwise, 75% of any game session was going to be eaten up by the GM rattling off consequences – or was going to devolve into diceless handwaving, one or the other.

And despite my "play it first" attitute, I'm still feeling like Goals and Triggers need to be a part of it for my own personal style.  I like the idea that players have something they want to accomplish in a scene based on their approach, and all the other raises are the cost of the other things they decide to do that aren't necessarily connected to that Goal.  When the Goal is achieved, the scene ends.  That's pretty much me putting fancy words and jargon to what really is common sense play, though.  laugh

What I'm REALLY interested in seeing now are the first couple of published adventures for the game.  Because THAT is going to inform a lot of us as to how to manage DS on the GM side.  I give it about a year and six adventures before we settle on an accepted format that everyone begins to use.  (BTW, if it isn't clear, I'm expecting most of these adventures to come through the Explorers' Society and be third party offerings.)

edit: Oh, and its only a matter of time before people start taking the AS and DS frameworks and start applying it to all manner of things: chase scenes, mass combat, interrogations.  I have a feeling there will be a "third leg" that will grow out of the community after a couple of years of play.  Something the designers didn't think of, but wholeheartedly adopt going forward.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

 

 

Thanks for all the input. Kevin, I especially like the examples.

From Kevin[it's really on the GM to play fair, but that's no different from any other system.]

I would argue this point. Agreed in general. Bad GM behavior is bad GM behavior. That's not the system's fault. However, that is not necessarily my concern. My concern is information asymmetry allowing the GM to subtly steal the game's direction from the players in a way that's different than many other games.

If you play D&D/Pathfinder and the GM sets you against high level monsters and devious traps everybody knows what's happening. If your Barbarian combat monster rolls an 18 and doesn't hit the encounter's mook, you know something is up. Maybe that's the agreed situation, or maybe the GM's being a dick. Either way, its above board.

In any game, if the GM just declares stuff happens to the players, everyone knows that is the GM taking GM fiat. Again, it might be totally cool, or everyone might not like it. But, its still above board.

The best comparison to DS I can make is to an AW-style moves snowball. However, experienced players will easily be able to tell if a GM is making a bunch of "hard" moves, when he/she should be making "soft" moves.

In the DS, there is no way to tell. Do the players find the assassin in time? The answer to this question could rest (and if we are doing tension right, probably should) the availability of single raise. So, when the DS is approaching this critical moment, what's a GM to do? Does the GM have a bunch of "cool" ideas that hinge on the assassin succeeding? A cool nemesis? A frame job on the heroes? A domino like cascade of events that sets off an epic war? If the players have only a single raise left, should the GM throw that last obstacle in place to prevent them from thwarting the assassination? Or does he let them stop it, or at least let them get to the action sequence that will decide if they stop it? Either way, its very hard for the players to tell how "fair" the GM is being. Its all behind the scenes in a DS. In fact, how do you be "fair"? How do you know your own subtle bias didn't inspire that "clever" idea to throw in the guard patrol appearing to eat up that last precious raise? And again, just to contrast a similar situation in other RPGs, in D&D that question would probably hinge on a skill check. And yes, the GM could make the skill check 2-4 higher than it "should be," but still, the players have a say in the success and failure. They get to make an attempt. Ditto with AW. Its gonna rest on the outcome of a move, which the GM can't change the difficulty of. Granted the GM could set up the fiction to require multiple moves to really cement the success, thereby decreasing the probability of success. But, again, the player's have a voice. They can always take some action. And sometimes the dice Gods are fickle. Sometimes their not. This is fundamentally different in a DS (at least as written).

That, in my mind, is the beauty of my solution. It doesn't change the DS structure substantially, it just prevents the DS from ever getting to a place where the players don't have at least some narrative voice. With raises gone, their voice is muted, but it can be loud indeed if they are willing to accept the consequences. And, in the example above, the GM could under my rules, by all rights, charge a hero the loss of his/her sword arm to stop the assassination. Depending the context that might not be really "fair," but the player still has a voice. As crucially, the players know they have that voice. They know they can always affect the scene's outcome...if they are willing to pay the price. 

From Kevin Krupp[the door to the study is locked? You better believe I want them to spend a raise to pick the lock.]

Yes. My inclination is to be with you here. However, then I try to square the circle I'm discussing above...and come up short. But, if you think a little deeper about it, its not so obvious that the picking of the lock actually needs a raise spent. Think of the "fail forward" idea. We are playing D&D and the Rogue fails the roll to pick the lock...what happens? They don't get in and the adventure ends in failure? That is one possiblity, but not that fun. They have to find another way into the room? Decent option. The other popular one is, fail forward. The lock is picked, but there is a consequence. Why MUST the raise be spent to pick the lock? In that paradigm, the hero without the raise has no recourse to continue the scene. However, if they can pick the lock, but MUST suffer the consequence...well, now we are moving forward.

Maybe its also worth making a distinction in play style. I read the rules as having a "Play to find out what happens" bent to them. Its not explicitly stated, but the game doesn't seem to want the average play session to run like linear (or even semi-branching) dungeon-crawl. As you point out, it seems to want to go where it will. And it seems that is how you have been playing it in general.

Which is why, this-From Kevin[If you NEED them to accomplish something to push the plot forward, let them roll intent again and get a new set of raises]- aspect of DS is troubling to me. I exactly see this issue, and my problem with that (and obviously I am not advocating use of perpetual DS) is it smacks of GM railroading. Referencing AW, there is never something the heroes NEED to accomplish for the plot. There is no set plot. It generates itself. Seems that is what this game is supposed to do...except when the heroes run out of raises. And, obviously, a new DS should start when it makes sense in the fiction. I am speaking of that nether area where the DS's fictional question is hanging in the air and the PCs have no recourse. Interested in your experience there Kevin. Have you run into that? It sounds like, if you did, you just had them re-roll to continue playing? But, did you ever balk at that solution? Did you ever wish there was some other way to proceed? Because, in that case, it seems like the GM is deciding whether or not the heroes should fail or succeed. Which, doesn't seem to be the intent of DS. 

From BluSponge["players never have to spend raises to overcome obstacles."  I don't think that's the intent of DS.]

Absolutely correct. But, I also don't think its counter to the DS intent. I thinks its tangential. I think this- From BluSponge[What I see DS doing is making the standard mechanic work for BIG scenes.]- is a great statement of the DS intent. And I agree with your analysis here. My suggestion was aimed at making this intent work without causing the problems I saw (discussed ad nauseum above). Its a mechanics change, not an intent one. And, if the GM plays it right by setting out nasty consequences and tantalizing opportunities, I think it will feel every bit as tense as when the players are spending raises to directly overcome obstacles.  

From BluSponge[its clear that not all obstacles are created equally.]

100% agreed. I should have made this more clear with my "players never have to spend raises to overcome obstacles" dictum...but fiction first. If the players are at a ball with the high ranked noble a player can't simply declare that they convince this noble to support them in a military campaign or turn over their titles to the hero. Granted, that is no different with spending a raise. A raise isn't a magic wish. Its effects need to make sense within the fictional context. Nor was I interpreting the rules to suggest that players need spend raises to do mundane things. The rules clearly indicate raises are to be spent to overcome risks. 

@BluSponge- regarding your Goals idea, I would argue that the YES/NO Question idea I proposed might be better. As an analogy, imagine a route between two points. You begin at the start point and have X amount of gas to get to the Goal, where X is likely an amount that *might* just barely get you there. If you want to get to the Goal, you are sort of obligated to a pretty direct path. If you see an interesting road sign along the way, you don't have a lot of freedom to explore, at least not without compromising your Goal. However, imagine having a Goal, but also having some refueling stations (YES/NO Questions). Again, starting with X gas, where X is likely an amount that *might* just barely get you to a refueling station. Now, you have a lot more options. You could still go directly at the Goal, but you could also bounce around to some refueling stations if you want. But, if you do, maybe you will waste time and end up in rush hour, and then you won't make your Goal in time. 

Mike McCall
Mike McCall's picture

I definitely of the opinion that I need to play with dramatic sequences a few times before I know exactly what they're good for, what they're not, and how to deal with them. My gut reaction, though, is that I'm going to use them pretty much as is, except they don't necessarily end a scene or go into an action sequence once everybody's out of raises. My feeling is that once everyone's out of raises, the circumstances of the scene change, we reframe things, and we move on, whether that's to an action sequence, another dramatic sequence or just ending the scene.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

From Mike McCall[My feeling is that once everyone's out of raises, the circumstances of the scene change, we reframe things, and we move on, whether that's to an action sequence, another dramatic sequence or just ending the scene.]

This general sentiment has been expressed several times, and it still leaves me wondering...in that case, how would we consider DS's a game "mechanic"? Perhaps I am reading you wrong, but you seem to be saying, regardless, once all are out of raises, some sort of re-roll occurs, whether as part of an action sequence or a re-framed DS. Unfortunately, if the players know this is how it works (that some kind of re-roll is a "given," regardless of the fictional circumstances), it would seem to remove all of the tension and risk from a DS. "Re-roll when out" works perfectly in an AS because each round (bout of rolling) starts with a predefined set of "raise-worthy" things. The heroes get one roll's worth of raises to buy those things, and then they are forever gone (at least those specific ones...very similar ones might be in the next round). The tension comes from the players usually not being able to buy everything they want. In a DS, raises have a different mechanical, if not a narrative, fucntion. They are literally used to advance the scene. Raises move the heroes forward. The tension arises when they are out of raises to use for moving forward. The heroes must tackle the unknown challenges of the scene without the help of raises. They are adrift in narrative doldroms, lacking raise-wind to power their heroic sails. That is fundamental to the mechanic. If you simply remove this risk from DS's, they cease being a mechanic in any meaningful sense. Moreover, doing that would, itself, be a house rule. The gist of your post seems to be, "I want to try the rules as is, before deciding that they are flawed enough for a substantial house ruling." Yet, your description of how you would play, describes a house rule...i.e. re-roll when all heroes out of raises in a DS.

Mike McCall
Mike McCall's picture

Yes, it's a house rule. I intend to follow the rules as written for a while and get a feel for them, but I strongly suspect that I will house-rule that fairly quickly. Sorry if that was unclear.

As far as it not being a mechanic or a real consequence: when I say re-framing, I mean that the scene changes between one DS and the next. The circumstances alter, whether that's a change of location, or a big announcement by the king at a party. So there is a limited amount of potential to be invested in each circumstance, it's just that I'm not going to shut down the narrative just because the scene ends.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

 

I'm still a little fuzzy on your perspective. 

So, I will attempt to re-state in my own words for clarity. If I understand, initially you will NOT do this:

"My feeling is that once everyone's out of raises, the circumstances of the scene change, we reframe things, and we move on, whether that's to an action sequence, another dramatic sequence or just ending the scene."

As that (above), would be a house rule. Instead you will try out the rules as written, which clearly indicate that the DS ends/changes based on the fictional circumstances, and that, should the heroes run out of raises amidst a DS, you will continue to resolve the fictional circumstances, except that the heroes will be forced to play out the remainder of the DS without having raises available to influence the unfolding scene. And certainly, should the fictional circumstances indicate a shift to a new scene (DS, AS or otherwise), you will do that. But, should the fictional circumstances not indicate this shift, the heroes will remain in narrative purgatory where they have essentially no ability to overcome fictional obstacles until the circumstances change. And then, once you try this out for a bit, that you suspect you will house rule to the above style. Did I get it right?

From Mike McCall[As far as it not being a mechanic or a real consequence: when I say re-framing, I mean that the scene changes between one DS and the next...snip]

I don't think I got my point across. I have zero confusion about what you mean by re-framing. I agree with what you said about re-framing. My issue is with your proposed house rule:

"My feeling is that once everyone's out of raises, the circumstances of the scene change, we reframe things, and we move on, whether that's to an action sequence, another dramatic sequence or just ending the scene."

Unless this was miswritten, you are saying that the circumstances of the scene change because the heroes are out of raises and, this results in a re-framing such that the heroes inevitably get a re-roll, whether that is in a new DS or some other type of scene. I'm saying, if you do that, you remove the normal "consequence" for running out of raises. Normally, running out of raises means the fiction continues without the heroes having raises for influencing the fiction. Thus, players are supposed to be smart/judicious about spending raises to avoid being stuck in this situation.** In the case where there is an automatic re-frame (and thus a re-roll) upon loss of all raises, what then is the consequence of not having "enough" raises? Is the consequence the re-frame itself? I.E. does the GM get to decide how the circumstances change when the PCs run out of raises vs. the circumstances changing naturally through PC action before the run out of raises? Because, if there is no consequence (i.e. no failure, no lost opportunities, no consequences) for running out of raises, rolling raises is meaningless. If you are just rolling dice, and they don't actually have an effect (and again, its meaningless to say they are spent to overcome obstacles if every time they run out of raises for overcoming obstacles they roll for more), its not longer a game mechanic. At that point, you are rolling dice simply for the fun of it. 

**As I have elaborated ad nauseum both above and below, IMO this entire concept is fundamentally flawed. I am simply stating the way its written to work.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

Oh, and in case you were saying that you simply suspect that this-

"My feeling is that once everyone's out of raises, the circumstances of the scene change, we reframe things, and we move on, whether that's to an action sequence, another dramatic sequence or just ending the scene."

-is how it would play out most of the time, and not a hard and fast method...well, maybe. But, in that case, its not relevant to the discussion. As I am specifically referring to situation where it doesn't work out that way. 

Brian
Brian's picture

I've been feeling pretty confused about Dramatic Sequences as well. The basic problem I have is, which I think is similar to what other have said, is that I'm really not clear on what happens when the sequence is done. It doesn't really make sense to roll again...but it doesn't make sense that "now you can't do anything" either. What constitutes a change in sequence? What if, logically, one dramatic sequence would just follow another - where's the breaking point? How do you match up a narrative where it makes sense to keep doing something/going forward with being out of raises that would let you do so?

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
This is very much an intuitive aspect of the game. I recommend looking at it as movie scenes. When you hit a point where the film would cut to a new thing or change the focus of attention it is probably time for a new scene. ALSO, do not think you HAVE to be in a Dramatic sequence at all times. There is a lot you can do by simply role-playing interactions without needing raises at all in a scene. If you have an investigative scene that, as the GM, you know will result in the heroes getting certain information to further the plot, you can skip the roll and talk through what happens. The info HAS to get revealed for the story so there is no chance they will miss it. Save the Dramatic Sequence for when there are grave consequences in trying to get the info.
Wolfflin Huyghen
Wolfflin Huyghen's picture

I know what you mean, but... it sounds really, really railroad. Even more than actual video games. Read again what you wrote, please. Seriously.

It looks like if you were looking for a only "crunch" game.

The next step it's erase all the dices out of combat? Because all the other scenes can be considered investigate...wink 

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

@Brian- Put it much more succintly than I, lol. And hence, my suggestion. Don't charge to raises to defeat obstacles, just use them to avoid consequences and grab opportunities. It makes spending the raises much less linear (i.e. I don't have to spend a raise on obstacles 1, 3 and 5, as long as I am willing to accept the consequences that goes along with them) and allows forward progress after raises are gone (if I am willing to accept the consequences).

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

From Salamanca[If you have an investigative scene that, as the GM, you know will result in the heroes getting certain information to further the plot, you can skip the roll and talk through what happens. The info HAS to get revealed for the story so there is no chance they will miss it.]

I will second Wolfflin here...holy railroad Batman! No judgement here. Many ways to play the game. You can play Apocalypse World as a linear plot game. It won't work very well, but you could do it. Problem is, DSs almost force the GM to railroad. As written, its exactly opposite from a mechanic that helps the group generate the story through play. Instead, its a mechanic that encourages...nay, nearly requires, the GM to directly decide one of the holy grail untouchables of tabletop RPGs. Namely, does the PC succeed? We've all implicitly agreed the GM is supposed to give up that power (to a large degree at least), and let the PC's actions and the dice decide the answer to that question. 

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
There is a difference between a railroad and a plot advancement. If you run every game by simply hoping the characters figure out where to go without a single clue left by the GM, you accomplish nothing...ever. If your plot involves questioning a captured lackey to find out where the villain is, it NEEDS a sequence and dice to be rolled. If the plot involves finding a scrap of paper with the name of a tavern on a body in an alley...why the hell are you wasting time rolling for that? If they find it, the plot advances and if they fail, you have nothing to move them forward. They waste the night fumbling for other leads that may or may not exist. Your whole adventure keys off them eventually arriving at that tavern so describe the body describe what they find and let them narrate the search. Your game DOES have to contain a plot. Plots do need steps. But each step does not NEED a sequence.
Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

 

I misread you somewhat. Agreed that the GM providing the players information, or creating situations to advance the story are not railroad. So, yes, every step need not be a DS.

I do take issue with your contentions about plot. Maybe I am misreading, but when you say plot, it implies aspects of the story arc being pre-established. For instance, the PCs might travel different paths, but, in the end they eventually end up at one or two specific scenes. Those scenes will be different depending on what the PCs do/did, but those scenes are still the only two possibilities. That is a totally legit way to play tabletop RPGs. Whether or not an actual game played in that way counts as "railroad" is a long and complicated discussion. Suffice it to say, it could go that way, but whether or not it does, depends on a host of factors.

Its not the only way to play. Your game does NOT have to contain a plot. If you don't believe me, just check out the explosive success of Apocalypse World and its spin-offs. This -From Salamanca[Your whole adventure keys off them eventually arriving at that tavern]- is anathema in a Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) style game. You can't play a PbtA game by the rules and railroad. Its not possible. Granted, 7th Sea 2E is not a PbtA game. Stil, the rest of the rules seem to support a "let's make this story together" style of play, more than a "players advance through the GM's prepared plot path" style of play. Again, no judgement. Play how you want. However, the DS rule as written almost forces a GM to play in the latter way, and makes it very hard to play by the dictum "play to find out what happens." 

Moreover, your movie analogy highlights the problem, instead of solving it. You said -From Salamanca[When you hit a point where the film would cut to a new thing or change the focus of attention it is probably time for a new scene.] This answers the question, "What should you do when it doesn't make narrative sense to continue the current scene?" You told us, change the scene. Well, nobody in this conversation was confused/concerned about that. Yes, if the fictional circumstances inherent to the DS have been resolved (in whatever way, and regardless of the players' current number of raises), move on to something else. Yet, Brian asked "How do you match up a narrative where it makes sense to keep doing something/going forward with being out of raises that would let you do so?"  He poses a situation exactly opposite to the one you already resolved for us. Its a legit question. If we want to advance this conversation, you (or somebody) needs to answer this question. And, the answers can't be:

1) Roll again- we already established that this would make the mechanic a sham. It removes any teeth from the system if players just re-roll when out of raises.

2) Suck it up and fail at the rest of the scene- I won't reiterate my extensive arguments against this. I can readdress on specific points, but I have already stated and re-stated my position here.

So far, for solutions, we have my house rule, which is, an actual solution to the problem. I haven't heard much support for the idea, but it does solve the problem.

We have also discussed better defining the DS end point. I find this an ok, but imperfect solution. Still, it at least attempts to address the actual problem.

 

DaWaterRat
DaWaterRat's picture

Okay, I just re-read what the book says about Dramatic Sequences. While it's not directly spelled out, I'm not convinced it's that unclear.

The players are supposed to go in to the scene knowing, roughly, what they're going to need to do, what's likely to be in their way, and about how long the sequence is supposed to last. It's right there on page 187. Column 1, Second sentence under Step 1: Approach.

Now, how they play things is, of course, going to change this, but with that information in mind, the Players should be able to estimate what they're going to need in terms of resources. Once the raises have been counted, the GM should then know how many opportunities, challenges and consequences they can present before the players are out of raises.

So the issue of how long the sequence is supposed to last is covered in that everyone should know, roughly, how long the sequence will last. This could be a unit of in-game time, until a particular event occurs, or something else, but the GM is clearly supposed to have an end point in mind, and let the players know what it is.

As for what they do when they're out of raises... I actually don't think that there's a one size fits all answer to that. It's going to vary depending upon the nature of the Dramatic Scene, and the needs of the story. Which solution is going to provide the more interesting story? Sometimes a round two may provide the right dramatic feel (well, that approach failed, let me try something else...) sometimes you just end the scene prematurely and move on, coming up with a new way for the objective to be achieved (if it's something that *must* happen) or a new direction for the story (if there is no story required event.)

I do agree that stumbling through and failing the rest of the scene is dramatically unsatisfying, though.

I know that your house rule can't be applied retro-actively, which this approach kinda requires, but I'm not convinced that your solution really is any better, in terms of dramatic tension, than allowing a "round 2" since it reduces the base raise cost of the scene by however many obstacles there are. Reducing the cost of the scene or getting a second roll feel fairly similar to me, in terms of net effect.

I also think it's the job of the GM to remind players when they're running low on raises if they haven't achieved their objective yet, and to not screw the players over by presenting more objectives/challenges/consequences than the players have raises. (Opportunities are another matter, because that should be a meaningful choice - take advantage of the opportunity, and you may not be able to avoid some consequences) If there's something that the GM feels the players must discover/accomplish, then that should be discovered early enough in the scene that the players can at least make an informed choice if they don't want to go that way.

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
I will post up my details from a conversation with John over the weekend but based on what came out of it, the short answer is that there is no defined manner of handling it. Me, I would probably change the context of the scene push it into an action sequence based on social discourse to have a last chance to get what they need and they do or do not. In some cases, they just got themselves distracted and failed.
Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

Me, I will use my house rule so that I, as the GM don't completely remove my player's agency.

You see that right? You are directly saying, "If the players, according to the rules, fail to accomplish something,* I will decide, based on my whims, whether or not they get a second chance, or, if they do, in fact, fail." That's like having a skill check in another game, where you decide the difficulty level in secret after you see the player's result,^^ thus deciding if they fail or not, and then, decide whether or not to give them a re-roll for the very skill check that you decided whether or not they should fail to begin with.

*And, of course, you had complete control over whether or not they "failed."

^^ And, of course, there are no rules for what the difficulty level of a particular challenge should be.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

 

 

To help frame this consider, this game is different from most RPGs, in that is a "roll and move" system, as opposed to "move and roll." See Mr. Wick for more detail (http://johnwickpresents.com/rants/no-dice/). This is tricky to make work. Because, RPGs are not like miniature or wargames where all of the available actions are precisely defined. Hence the mechanic in action sequences and simply risks (but not DSs) where the GM has to explicitly spell out the options available. This mechanics keeps everything above board. But, if you roll, and you neither know for certain what "moves" you might make, and the available moves may change at the whim of the GM at any moment, it removes the normal dynamic that makes it a "game." I have no doubt that with a responsible GM, the DS will "appear" to play well in practice. In fact, I suspect this is why those who have playtested them don't find them particularly problematic. By manipulating the obstacles in front of the players with respect to the availbale raises, the GM can create a scene that is dramatic and interesting and tense. The GM can force the players into that cool chase, or mountaintop skirmish instead of an easy snatch and grab. The GM can also help the players win, thereby earning the undying emnity of his well-developed villain. Moreover, he can do it without the players ever realizing he/she manipulated events. After all, they don't know if the GM added that last obstacle solely to make the chase happen, or if he/she had it in mind all along. 

Yet, even though it works, it comes at the price of player agency. I don't believe this is the rule's intent, but its the result. And, you can ask, "So what?" If its fun and tense, why do you care? Well, because I do. I play roleplaying games for the experience of a shared story. If one party (regardless of which side I am on) has their ability to contribute nerfed, that's a problem in my book. Moreover, its not a necessitity for creating interesting and dramatic stories. See, basically every other tabletop RPG ever (including 7th Sea 1E).

DaWaterRat-Okay, I just re-read what the book says about Dramatic Sequences. While it's not directly spelled out, I'm not convinced it's that unclear.

Meh, on the unclear part. I think it could be clearer, but its a minor issue in my book. The real problem is that the DS structure removes player agency.

DaWaterRat-The players are supposed to go in to the scene knowing, roughly, what they're going to need to do, what's likely to be in their way, and about how long the sequence is supposed to last. It's right there on page 187. Column 1, Second sentence under Step 1: Approach.

That the players have a general idea was never in question. At least for me. Sorry if I gave a different impression. Still, you must admit, that there is a pretty big difference between the start of a dramatic sequence where the GM says something like, "Ok, you are infiltrating the castle. You will need to cross the moat, get inside, and get down to the dungeons. Guards are posted in each of these areas, and are moderately alert. Also, your enemy, Richeliu, suspects your plan. He can't let anyone officially know about the conflict between you and him, but he is taking secret precautions" and an action sequence round where the GM says, "Blah, blah, blah" (i.e. an exact total of 10 raises worth of stuff with a re-roll when all raises are used). Moreover, a DS sequence is specifically set up to change at it goes. So, yes, the players are not completely in the dark. But, they will not be able to estimate raises needed nearly as well as they do in the rest of the game. And, when success and failure in a DS might hinge on the availability of a single raise, having a muddy estimate can be a big problem. 

DaWaterRat-Once the raises have been counted, the GM should then know how many opportunities, challenges and consequences they can present before the players are out of raises.

And this is exactly the problem. The GM is encouraged to manipulate the story to be dramatic based on the outcome of the roll. You, the GM, have a cool DS in mind with tons of twists and turns, but then your stupid players go and roll 3 raises between them? What now? Do you adjust things to make it dramatic? Do you keep your concept in mind and let the players fail? If so, by how much? Do you let all of those twists come in, or leave out a few because your not a "dick"? There is no other mechanical space in any RPG (that I am aware of) where this dynamic is present. Where the rules exactly specify that the GM gets to see the player's roll result, and then decide how to challenge that roll. If you were to apply this to D&D, it would be like asking the player's to roll attack rolls at the start of the round, and then letting (nay, specifying) the GM decide the AC of the monsters after seeing those rolls. Yes, a "good" GM would adjust the ACs the so the fighter gets the magic 75% hit chance, while the wizard is more like 40-50%, etc. And, the game would "feel" like a normal D&D combat. But, it would be an illusion, where the player's capabilities actually don't make much difference, and the GM is just deciding what happens.

DaWaterRat-So the issue of how long the sequence is supposed to last is covered in that everyone should know, roughly, how long the sequence will last. This could be a unit of in-game time, until a particular event occurs, or something else, but the GM is clearly supposed to have an end point in mind, and let the players know what it is.

I think you are overstating the solidity of the end point. From page 187, "All of these facts aren’t set in stone, and things can change as the Sequence progresses." So, yes, the GM is supposed to have some idea. But, so what? The whole issue is, ending of the DS in reference to number of available raises. The end point and number of raises are intrinsically linked. And, if neither the end (nor the path there) is set in stone, and the GM is sole arbiter of both of these, the GM basically has carte blanche to make the story as he/she sees fit. It almost completely removes player agency. Can you not see the rock and the hard place this places the GM in if he/she respects player agency? If the GM is paying close attention to the number of raises, and presenting just enough of a challenge to worry the players, but not to defeat them, the GM is basically writing the story instead of collaborating. If the GM ignores the actual number of raises, and plays the fiction, there is a good chance the game will reach an arbitrary cut-off where the players have zero agency. The GM has no way to respect agency at this point. If he/she follows the rules, he/sje just decides the outcome of anything that happens to the players. If he/she doesn't follow the rules, and re-rolls, now he/she is just deciding that the players get another chance at success. The GM can't NOT remove player agency.

DaWaterRat-Which solution is going to provide the more interesting story?

Again, exactly the problem. Now, the GM is just deciding how the story progresses instead of the sweet collaboration that are tabletop RPGs. That being, the GM, players and rules collaborating to generate the story. Yes, the GM is always deciding what happens next. That is how RPGs work. However, in every other game, and in every other place in this game with the exception of DSs, the GM is doing so in the context of previously resolved situations. The GM makes the next moved based on what happened previously, and when what happened previously involved the rules, the GM is bound by the result the rule produced. The GM doesn't get to decide the outcome of a roll. The GM is bound by the roll's outcome. 

Imagine a simple risk. The GM presents a risk, being easy, medium or hard. The players tackle it, with the outcome being decided by the roll and the players actions. That is the rules and players taking control. Once that is resolved, a new fictional state is established. The GM has control again, but he/she is bound by that new fictional state. The GM presents obstacles, whether they are environmental, NPC or both, and play continues. This is different than a DS. The players are out of raises, but we haven't resolved the situation. The GM decides whether its more "dramactically appropriate" to re-roll and give the players another opportunity to succeed, or let them fail, or adjust the scene in another way. It short circuits the normal RPG dynamic in favor of hidden GM fiat. 

 

DaWaterRat-I know that your house rule can't be applied retro-actively, which this approach kinda requires,

I don't understand what you mean by retro-actively, nor why this approach (I assume you are referring to the house rule?) requires it. If its relevant to the discussion, please elaborate.

DaWaterRat-but I'm not convinced that your solution really is any better, in terms of dramatic tension, than allowing a "round 2" since it reduces the base raise cost of the scene by however many obstacles there are. Reducing the cost of the scene or getting a second roll feel fairly similar to me, in terms of net effect.

You are misunderstanding the dynamic here. My house rule has no specific effect on the raise cost of the scene. That is entirely up to the GM. As the GM, I can present an obstacle, and slap the PC with 0, 1 or 10 raises worth of consequences to go along with that obstacle. As a gestalt, the easy thing to do would be to present obstacles as it makes sense in the fiction and assign each obstacle a 1 raise consequence to go along with it, with an occasional opportunity thrown in to mix it up. Regardless, its entirely up to the GM how many raises are availble throughout the entire DS (somewhat restricted by the fictional circumstances). I would expect no correlation between use of my house rule and mean raise expenditure for a DS. And, if there was one, it should go away if you controlled for GM personality and/or group play style. 

The real effect is to re-grant players agency. They can always accomplish their objectives, so long as they are willing to accept the consequences (and/or pass up opportunities). This is exactly what RPGs are built to do, have the GM and players collaborate to make the story, by having distinct groups of participants with asymmetric, specific and clearly defined mechanical ways to affect the story. This is exactly opposite to the GM deciding for a second roll or not. In that case, the players have no say. It is entirely the GM's call.   

As for whether or not it is better for dramatic tension, I don't it necessarily provides more tension than the current rules. But, it does so equally well, while still providing the players with agency. That being said, I think any player that figures out how the DS removes their agency would feel more invested in a mechanic where their choices still matter. I would definitely "check out" a bit if I knew the GM was just going to decide whether or not I have enough raises win.  

But, sorry, you are wrong that it wouldn't provide more tension than having a standard "round 2." And, to be clear, this is "round 2" in the specific situation where the first DS has not fictionally ended, but the players are out of raises. This discussion is irrelevant to the situation where a new DS is called for by the fiction. In that case, of course, do it. If you have a standard "round 2," the players always know they will get more raises when the current ones run out. No worries. With my house rule, they don't know what lies ahead, so they don't know if spending a raise now to avoid a minor or moderate consequence, will result in not having a raise later for avoiding a severe one. They also don't know if taking an opportunitiy now, means missing a better one later. However, they do know that they never lose complete agency, so it makes this muddy estimate much less egregious.

DaWaterRat-and to not screw the players over by presenting more objectives/challenges/consequences than the players have raises. 

Again, the GM knows how many raises the players have, so, explain to me how this doesn't read as the GM just deciding whether or not the players succeed. Also, let's be clear. In the rest of the game (simple risks/action sequences) the GM presents challenges BEFORE he/she knows exactly how many raises the players have. So, the GM is not deciding success or failure. He/She is deciding difficulty. That is fundamentally diffierent from deciding outcome. I can't make this bother you, but you also can't deny the dynamic's presence. 

Alfredo Tarancón
Alfredo Tarancón's picture

My plan on using the DS is to try to keep them as simple as possible, as well as close to how they are presented in the book. The way I see it, they are just like Action sequences. You have to declare what's the intent of the DS, the possible complications/goals/risks involved and then move to the roleplaying. As a GM you can decide to communicate this goals/complications in advance, or at least part of them, so the players know where they stand, in a more or less generic way. 

If they get to a point where they need a Raise to solve/acomplish a complication/goal and they have none, they can roleplay the failure, at their leisure, or choose between
A) Spending a Hero Point to get an Extra Raise that they must use inmediately to solve/accomplish the complication/goal. The DS can proceed as usual. (if other players have raises yet, if the fiction is not concluded...)
B) Spending a Hero Point to inmediately end the DS (for everyone involved!) and start an Action Sequence (and in a way that makes sense in the fiction side)
C) Letting me, the Gm, get an extra Danger Point instead of paying with HP, to activate the A or B option. I can use the DP at the moment, or save it for a later time...


All this is gonna depend greatly on the fiction, on what's going on, and whatever they do, it has to make sense in the fiction...

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

I like these ideas. They certainly solve the issue at hand.

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

I like the idea of spending a Hero Point (or giving the GM a Danger Point) for a Raise to use right then and there personally. I don't know if I like the idea that one person out of raises can suddenly "end the DS for everyone". Would have to see how that plays out.

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

That's a good point. Especially since I suspect a clever player could do something that would fictionally kick off an action sequence without needing to spend a raise. After all, with raises gone, the players are still able to do interact with the scene. 

Alfredo Tarancón
Alfredo Tarancón's picture

Yeah; i'm not sure either about Option B. I do like the idea of a mechanic that ends automatically the DS, but it's true that such thing can be solved just using the fiction... let's give it a spin...

If they get to a point where they need a Raise to solve/acomplish a complication/goal and they have none, the player declares what his character will do. He can...

A) ...roleplay the failure and admit whatever the gm states as a consequence of not having raises. The DS can proceed as usual. (if other players have raises yet, if the fiction is not concluded...)

B) ...spend a Hero Point to get an Extra Raise that he must use inmediately to solve/accomplish the complication/goal. The DS can proceed as usual. (if other players have raises yet, if the fiction is not concluded...). Alternatively, if the player prefeers it, he can let the GM get a free Danger point instead of spending a Hero Point. The Gm can use the DP at the moment, or save it for a later time. 

C) ... take an action that will start an Action Sequence. The GM will decide whether this AS interrupts or ends the DS, and whether the rest of players are affected by it. If they are, the DS is finished, and the AS starts. In either case. the GM gets a Danger Point. The Gm can use the DP at the moment, or save it for a later time. 

 

Darl Loh
Darl Loh's picture

Good!

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