Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Core Mechanic

Fascinating how I've gotten this far without mentioning how the game works, don't you think?

Actually, that crucial question remains somewhat up for debate. We have ideas, of course, but nothing yet solid and awesome enough to take the cake.

The v. 0.2 game just used a bunch of six-sided dice, and mechanics rather blatantly taken from Legend of the Five Rings, one of my personal favorite traditional RPG's. And while the earliest dice date back to the Pleistocene, we have plenty of modern games that use dice, too. Lots and other, more complicated systems that essentially boil down to exotic dice do not help evoke the feel of the Fifth World, even if they might seem like perfectly plausible Fifth World gaming apparatus, because we have them, too.

I kept coming back to moncala; moving colored stones from one location to another seemed like a very evocative mechanic, though I couldn't come up with anything solid. One of our advisors (I'll remain vague, since I don't know how many of my compatriots want to have their participation made public) made a great suggestion, which right now leads the pack of possibilities.

Characters have some number of pools (perhaps Flesh, Breath and Word; perhaps the Wise Compass relates white:north:phlegm::black:south:melancholia::red:west:blod::yellow:east:cholia; perhaps we expand this a bit more and combine both ideas here), with tokens (beads or colored stones, ideally). Resolution follows a gambling mechanic. You put forth some number of tokens from the appropriate pool. Maybe you need to beat some unknown number, say, to jump across a river. Or maybe you try to shoot a deer, so you and the deer both put stones forward. Whoever puts forward more stones, wins.

I want to add a bidding war to this. We get some incredibly exciting play at games like Munchkin, because it gives everyone so much opportunity to escalate. It provides a mechanic like the one nature itself uses to avoid violence. Animals don't fight over everything; that would result in very fast extinction. Rather, animals engage in ritualistic escalation, from low growls to baring teeth, to rearing up on hind legs, to thumping chests, perhaps even to charging before they commit to actual violence. You see the same thing from feudal Japanese samauri, actually; they didn't necessarily always duel. A good stance could settle a duel without bloodshed, if a winner obviously emerged just from that. Likewise, the escalations animals go through give both sides ample opportunity to back down, so whatever they fight for generally goes to whoever wants it more. Likewise here--you always have the chance to back down.

The challenge lies in budgeting your energy. I think it might immediately predispose the game towards all-out, climactic encounters where players burn through everything they have. You can burn through your relationships for extra power, you can utterly destroy yourself for one moment of glory. Essentially, you can achieve almost anything if it means enough to you. The problem comes from having to budget your energy. If you spend it all to take down the deer, how will you carry it back to camp?

26 comments:

Matt said...

I like the idea of the bidding thing, it has a really cool feel to it, but at the same time, I think you need to keep the dice in for some places, as a lot of tasks take some luck, there is often an element of "being in the hands of the gods" so to speak.

Other than that, I just want to say that this is starting to sound really, really cool. I really liked the previous release, but in some ways I liked it more for the writing around and behind the game than for the game it self, and this release sounds different. (through as a side note, if you are changing a bunch of that writing, please don't remove the previous versions from the web, some of the writing is a nice clear and concise summary of all your opinions)

Willem said...

I like the mancala bidding idea. What if you had a mancala shaped like a compass, with each direction representing a 'stat' with a number of tokens in it? Different directions apply to different aspects...the East, perception and Vision, the South, focus and determination, the West, Community and Self-Knowledge, the North, Silence and Wisdom. I don't think it matters what attributes go to each compass direction...a book like 'The Sacred Tree', written by a pan-indian cultural renewal council, has a good run down of common associations relating the wise compass/medicine wheel. See http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Tree-Judie-Bopp/dp/0941524582


Then, as in the Fate RPG, your 'aspects' would go to different relationships with different wights/more-than-human family members. I.e., deer relationships mean better hearing, leaping, and deer offer their meat more often.

Also, I don't know if you know of the very very simple shaman training game, 'which hand?', but that would work great as a randomiser.

Instead of the dice randomising, your ability to apply your shaman skills and perceive 'which hand holds the token' would get you ahead. Maybe you could reserve this for shamanically oriented characters, but I think everyone needs to play this game.

I can tell you right now, if you work on 'owl eyes'/peripheral vision while playing this game, a player can get wicked good at guessing. Like eerie good. Which means that role playing has encouraged development of another important perceptual skill.

perhaps bidding and guessing can somehow dovetail into a single elegant mechanic? the number of bids = the number of guesses? ('best two out of three', etc.).

Anyway, you've gotten me thinking about it quite a bit.

Jason Godesky said...

Matt,

I hear you, and I've actually thought of uniting the Flesh/Breath/Word idea with the compass just by making the fourth quadrant Luck. So you have Luck points, rather than dice; you can press your luck, and you can run out of luck. As I understand it, that would actually align better with some animist understandings of luck (which takes a pretty important place for hunter-gatherers, as you might imagine), which forms some of the original concepts that other RPG's have dubbed "mana."

Thanks for your excitement. The old version will still exist in archival form, though I have to admit to some shock that someone would actually value it for its writing. Though I suppose you yourself made the point--"a nice clear and concise summary of all [my] opinions." That might make for a useful piece for any number of purposes, but does that make for a good game? I don't think it does. So not to fear, you'll have the archive around, but I think you'll agree that as far as making a game, we really do need to make these changes.

Willem,

So glad to hear I've got you thinking about this! From a purely selfish point of view, you understand, because that will help me immensely to have your input. :)

I agree that the "guess which hand" game has a lot of value all on its own, but as a randomizing mechanic for the Fifth World, I have less confidence. I just wathced The Illusionist last night, so I can guess the kinds of things that make for those eerily accurate guessers who use their owl eyes. But at the same time, that would really allow a half-decent tracker to just rule over the game entirely, which hardly seems fair. I agree that playing the game has importance, but does it make sense as part of this game? That, I don't know.

Andrew Jensen said...

Have you given any thought to a "draw bag?" The player would put a number of stones in the bag from their pool. The opposition puts their own bid in. Then the player has a chance to up their bid, and so on. At any point in the bidding process, a player can say "I'm out" and reclaim their stones. Once everyone who is in has bid as high as they like, then all the stones go in a bag, and one is drawn. whoever that stone belongs to, wins the stakes.

This system allows for bidding, escalation, backing down, marshaling of resources, and leaves chance as a final determiner based on how much the parties invovled put in. Also, it very easily allows for any number of players to participate.

Players who back out reclaim the stones they bid and return them to their pool. I'd say there should be no other penalty for backing down unless it causes trouble with a relationship. If all but one player backs down, then the remaining player reclaims all but one stone (the price of victory) and the stakes. If a conflict goes all the way to the bag, all stones that go in the bag are discarded, except for the stone that was drawn. That would be returned to the winner as a further boon

matt said...

That method is actually really interesting, Andrew, I kind of like it, it has a distinctly different feel, and incorporates all the elements in one. I don't know if it might be too much luck though, it seems just too random to me, I don't know. THen agian, thiking about it, it really doesn't have that much more luck to it than dice, it just seems that way. So, on second look, I guess I really like it.

Jason Godesky said...

Actually, that's quite like the method one of the people on the Forge suggested. It's not just chance, since the more you commit, the more of your beads are in the bag, so you increase the X in your X/Y probability.

Even so, it just doesn't sit well with me. It feels inelegant, like it's simply tacked on for no reason other than to have an element of chance for its own sake. Now, if we agreed that there MUST be some element of chance, then I think this might be the way to go about it, but I'm not sure it's really quite so necessary to have that element of chance.

WorldWithoutToil said...

I know we're talking about this on the forge, but I just wanted to say it here too. I feel that the unknown element is necessary to give characters a reason to strive for things it doesn't look like they can achieve. There may be better ways to achieve that unknown than a randomizer, but that unknown needs to be there.

Jordan said...

Andrews bead bag has me thinking. This could be done for every sort of competetion. That way, the more powerful you are (ie, the more relationship points you have accrued) makes you more likely to "win".

The randomness exists as an inherent fact of life, but with more on your side, you reduce that risk.

Some relationship points could even cancel them out. If I have seven blue stones, and you have four purple stones, and those stones equal whatever we agree on, then it doesn't matter that I have more. It works out to be a tie.

Jason Godesky said...

I feel that the unknown element is necessary to give characters a reason to strive for things it doesn't look like they can achieve. There may be better ways to achieve that unknown than a randomizer, but that unknown needs to be there.

What about the unknown of how much the other person has committed? The unknown of how much energy you'll need to get back?

The randomness exists as an inherent fact of life, but with more on your side, you reduce that risk.

I've had a lot of people suggesting that the mechanic needs some randomizing factor, and it's made me realize something--this actually seems to illustrate a difference between the way we think, and the way wild or feral humans think. As you said, "randomness exists as an inherent fact of life," and my knee-jerk reaction tells me to agree with you, but then I realize that animists do not agree with this statement. Quite the opposite, they do not see randomness as playing any appreciable role in the universe. As hunters, "luck" means a great deal to them, but even then, "luck" comes from their relationships, not from random chance. The things we chalk up to random chance, they consistently frame in terms of personal relationships, with other persons. Lightning does not strike randomly; lightning comes from the Thunderers, persons, who strike lightning with all the intent of a hunter shooting an arrow. The lightning and the arrow also act like persons. People do not simply fall sick by chance; they struggle against sicknesses that act like people. A hunter who catches a deer has luck, but that doesn't mean he caught the deer by chance; it means he has a relationship with deer that deer honored, demanding the hunter's honor in return. If he doesn't, that hunter will suddenly find his luck has run out, and he won't catch any more deer.

Given that, it occurs to me now that I may have inadvertently made a mechanic even more appropriate to the Fifth World than I first imagined. It seems to me now that we really do need to have a mechanic about pitting person against person, without the element of chance.

Jordan said...

Then maybe it becomes as simple as a gamble. I lay all my chips on the table. It doesn't seem worth it to you. So I win.

Andrew Jensen said...

OK, so I put my own design idea to the test, and I'm a little dissapointed with how it turned out. I'm a little confused as to the intent of these checks. Jason, is this task resolution, or conflict resolution? If it's task resolution, a bidding war followed by a go to the bag is WAY too much. If it's conflict resolution, it doesn't have the great blow by blow feel that makes that kind of thing fun. What I had going was an interesting gamist solution, but it failed utterly as a narrative tool. It told bad stories.

Now, if we're looking at a simple task resolution, then I can buy a simple "how many points to put in" system. You have your base rating, your opponent has his. You each then put in a certain amount from your resource pool. The highest wins. Thats perfectly functional task resolution. It's perfectly boring conflict resolution.

In fact, I can already see a few strategies. If you and your opponent are tied, obviously the person who goes all in wins. This means if you don't care you don't put in anything. If you do care, but suspect your opponent doesn't, then you put in a small amount, while if you suspect they do, you put in a large amount. If you kinda care, you'd still put in all or nothing because putting in a half-ass bet just loses you more beads.

If you have less base rating than your opponent, then you have two choices: Either go all in and hope they don't, or you can count on them spending exactly as much as it takes to lock you out, and spend nothing yourself. You lose the test, but you've forced them to spend points where you didn't. If you have more base rating than your opponent, you can either spend as many points as it takes to lock your opponent out from winning, or you can spend nothing, counting on them to spend nothing themselves in an attempt to waste your points.

Is that more what you were getting at, Jason?

Jason Godesky said...

I'm a little confused as to the intent of these checks. Jason, is this task resolution, or conflict resolution?

Doesn't matter, but I picture a fairly wide scale here. So a bidding war would capture a whole hunt, or a whole combat, or a whole debate, with each escalation matching the escalations of the conflict, rather than a blow-by-blow.

If it's task resolution, a bidding war followed by a go to the bag is WAY too much. If it's conflict resolution, it doesn't have the great blow by blow feel that makes that kind of thing fun.

I disagree--I think the escalation of the bidding war ("I'll throw in three," "Well fine, then I'll throw in five more!" "Oh yeah, well make it six, then!") follows the blow by blow in a pretty exciting fashion. Other games I've played (primarily card games) have given me some of the most fun, exciting nights of gaming I've ever had, and it didn't come from any random element of chance. Rather, it came from the emergent dynamics at work. The player who would throw in just to block me or force me to waste my energy, the tension of whether to pour it all out to win this conflict, or accept defeat and save my strength for what came next--and what would come next? Would I find I'd already weakened myself too much? Very exciting stuff, and everyone ends up focused on this intricate web of who to help, who to hinder, when and where. It really gets to the relationships around the table, I've seen, much more than dice rolls.

What I had going was an interesting gamist solution, but it failed utterly as a narrative tool. It told bad stories.

Which idea? The awareness compass? What a shame, that seemed like something really interesting.

In fact, I can already see a few strategies. If you and your opponent are tied, obviously the person who goes all in wins. This means if you don't care you don't put in anything. If you do care, but suspect your opponent doesn't, then you put in a small amount, while if you suspect they do, you put in a large amount. If you kinda care, you'd still put in all or nothing because putting in a half-ass bet just loses you more beads.

Well, the idea I like most includes possibilities for escalation. So after the initial bet, you can put in more beads. Which I think will mean most people would put in the least amount they can and still win, but you still have a bidding war.

If you have less base rating than your opponent, then you have two choices: Either go all in and hope they don't, or you can count on them spending exactly as much as it takes to lock you out, and spend nothing yourself. You lose the test, but you've forced them to spend points where you didn't.

Heh heh, yup. Devious, innit?

Is that more what you were getting at, Jason?

Yup!

Andrew Jensen said...

Oh, not the compass, but the BAG. The compass worked fine. In fact, I got the idea after the Bag failed.

But after I worked out that the bag wasn't working for me, I tried it without the bag. That didn't work either. What wasn't working well, as a blow by blow conflict resolution, was the bidding.

See, if you have iterative bids, then a person outbid simply puts more in. The only way to win is to bid more. This bid/counter-bid works in poker because it's the cards, not the bidding, that determines the final outcome. The bid game is to try to fake out your opponents so that they either fold and you don't have to beat their cards, or you get them to go all in when you've got a good hand. The cards are the unknown in that situation, not how far your opponent will go. If you are going to have iterative bidding, you need to have something besides the bidding effect the outcome.

I propose a double blind single bid task resolution. That is, the character attempts something, something opposes them. Each player pulls a number of stones out of their pile and places it in the ring at the same time. They should be drawn from a bag, picked out behind a screen, or whatever it takes to prevent your opponent from seeing how many you put in before everyone reveals. Then add the base skill to the number of beads put in to see who wins. It's simple and fast.

Jason Godesky said...

We've done a few, very basic playtests (we haven't really worked out a lot of details, so I mean very basic), and they've gone pretty well. How much your opponent will go in for, even with just the bidding, does play a role. How much does winning this mean to you? Which one of you will need to make a long journey back afterwards? We haven't used it for blow-by-blow resolution, though; the individual escalations give you the blow-by-blow. One resolution would encompass an entire hunt, or an entire debate, or an entire combat.

Andrew Jensen said...

Then does the loser regain some or all of the beads they put in? otherwise, I see the play pattern being all or nothing. A player who goes in and loses gains nothing.

Each point a player bids after the initial, blind bid, simply eliminates an opponent's advantage. The cost of victory is a single bead, and every other bead the victor spends is a bead spent to wear out their opponent's reserve. And a character who starts at a lower rating than their opponent has it even worse, as their opponent will almost always be able to lock them out. The longer the bidding goes on, the less incentive a player has to back out. I would predict the playstyle that would emerge would eliminate the iterative bidding anyway, as it would be in neither player's best interest to up their initial bids. It likely won't change the end outcome, and would only cost all involved parties more energy. And there are also only 2 sensible options regarding a potential conflict: either go all in, or don't get involved at all.

matt said...

I think it might make more sense to have two different levels of bidding, just like the are often two different levels of rolling in more traditional games. For a long contest or challenge like hunting a deer or persuading someone, or entering a trance, or any number of things. In these kind of contests, each round of bidding could relate to something actually happening in the contest, be it the tracking for the hunt, the preparation for the trance, or the first round of witty repartee in the debate. That way, as each person one ups the other one, or backs off, the story teller could describe what was happening.

In more simple tasks, like a one shot sprinting contest, or a one go hearing and hiding check, you could use the blind bid that Jensen is suggesting, to resolve things quickly and realistically.

Some of the simple checks could even be unopposed, or rather, the unknown opposition would be a static difficulty, rather than the ST or another player.

I think the key here is that, to me, the long bidding war is a good game mechanic, but not such a good story mechanic or RPG mechanic if you are going to do it over and over again for everything you need to do. But, that's just my opinion.

Jason Godesky said...

Then does the loser regain some or all of the beads they put in? otherwise, I see the play pattern being all or nothing. A player who goes in and loses gains nothing.

She weakens the other character. He had to put in more to beat her. She weakened him.

The cost of victory is a single bead, and every other bead the victor spends is a bead spent to wear out their opponent's reserve.

Yes, but then your opponent puts in one more. You go into this cycle of escalation that doesn't break until one or the other figures that whatever they may fight for, it doesn't matter enough to justify such an expenditure. The margin of victory will usually come out to just one bead, yes, just the way it should. Every animal tries to spend precisely the amount of energy it takes to get what it wants, and not one bit more.

Although, in our playtest, we often had players throw in big investments, figuring that it would intimidate the other player with their commitment, which would ultimately cost them less than the tit-for-tat. Along that tit-for-tat progression, both sides tend to become more entrenched, and might become willing to invest more than they otherwise would have. Throw in big from the start, and you can scare them off before that gets underway.

Think of an auction. If you bid on an item, and somebody outbids you by a small amount, you might end up paying much more for it than you otherwise would have. But if he comes right out of the gate with a much larger bid (even one that might actually come smaller than what he ended up bidding in the first scenario), you might back down right there.

I would predict the playstyle that would emerge would eliminate the iterative bidding anyway, as it would be in neither player's best interest to up their initial bids.

We haven't seen that happen yet in our playtests. We get with a lot of bluffing and a lot of mind-games, trying to trick the other players into thinking they don't care about the outcome when they really, really do. Sometimes, it just means that iterative process until the other player blinks; sometimes, it means scaring them by putting it all in. Sometimes it means putting very little in, hoping the other party will underestimate your investment and go small. Sometimes, players block each other just to weaken their rivals for the next encounter.

In more simple tasks, like a one shot sprinting contest, or a one go hearing and hiding check, you could use the blind bid that Jensen is suggesting, to resolve things quickly and realistically.

I actually began thinking about this earlier today. The escalation works well for something like a debate, or a hunt, or tracking an animal, or entering a trance, but what about a single moment's action, like the release of an arrow? For that, I think Andrew's idea might work much better--one, secret check. So, you'd always have that one, secret check; and then, on some checks, you could escalate.

Some of the simple checks could even be unopposed, or rather, the unknown opposition would be a static difficulty, rather than the ST or another player.

I agree!

I think the key here is that, to me, the long bidding war is a good game mechanic, but not such a good story mechanic or RPG mechanic if you are going to do it over and over again for everything you need to do. But, that's just my opinion.

I don't know, it seems to make a pretty good story mechanic ... well, most of the time. I think you got it, it doesn't fit every situation.

Andrew Jensen said...

Alright, I can agree that escalation might be appropriate in some situations, like a debate. Some extended conflicts, though, are a series of individual acts that should remain individual checks, like a knife fight.

But I think it's the secrecy that's the key here. Try this out. Each round of bidding is in secret. Everyone puts a number of stones out with their hand over it, and they all take their hand off at the same time. If there is another round of escalation, then everybody who stays in puts out stones again, and all raise their hands at the same time. Compare this to back and forth bidding. I'll give it a shot myself if I can find any willing playtesters.

I worry about having an "auction" feel to the core mechanic, however. It sends the wrong message to me. One of aquisition. It doesn't feel right to me.

Also, each character has a base rating in what they are trying to do, to which they add what they put in. An uncontested check (I want to call it a throw, as in "throw in") would have a target number, much like the base rating the character starts with. Of course, a contested roll would also have that base rating, and something would throw in. Thus, even against things that we might take for granted as being uncontested, like a jumping or crafting an item, could still be contested, and we wouldn't know if a throw was contested or not until you throw in.

In other words, not all stones are alive, but you don't know which are or aren't until you try to interact with them.

Jason Godesky said...

Some extended conflicts, though, are a series of individual acts that should remain individual checks, like a knife fight.

I disagree ... a knife fight (or any combat) as a single, escalated check makes much more sense. Why would every thrust of the knife take a new check, but not every witty retort of a debate? I think you might have fallen into a bit of hack-and-slash bias here.

I worry about having an "auction" feel to the core mechanic, however. It sends the wrong message to me. One of aquisition. It doesn't feel right to me.

Certainly if you think of it in terms of an auction as we know it, but my first thought came back to the way animals fight, or the way foragers fight--an escalation, giving the other side every chance to back down and give up. They'll still lose the effort they invested, but they can still walk away with their lives.

Thus, even against things that we might take for granted as being uncontested, like a jumping or crafting an item, could still be contested, and we wouldn't know if a throw was contested or not until you throw in.

Heh heh ... ayup. Therein lies half the fun!

WorldWithoutToil said...

I'll give you one solid reason why attacking with a weapon would be a single check, while a debate is an extended one. The arguments in a debate build upon one another, while each attack with a weapon typically does not. Now there are some kinds of physical combat that would be extended checks (wrestling comes to mind), and I can think of verbal conflicts that aren't extended tests (the individual barbs of an insult war come to mind). An extended throw is one where each act builds apon the last one. A series of throws in a row with the same goal is different.

That said, I don't think this is really an issue. The rules should include both kinds of throws and suggestions as to when they are appropriate. Each game group will and should work out what kinds of tasks call for what kinds of throws. It comes down to whether the players define a single thrust (or argument) as a task, or if they define a single fight (or debate) as a task.

But If you are thinking the extended throws are a conflict resolution mechanic similar to DITV, then I feel it's not delivering. This is firmly a task resolution mechanic.

Willem said...

andrew-
as a 'martial artist' i have to disagree about it following the 'single-check' pattern. even at a minimal skill, in combat one attack builds upon the other, each attempt hopefully moving you up a chain of advantage and the opponent down, until you can safely strike that heavy/pinpoint/etc. blow.

WorldWithoutToil said...

And from my experience fighting, maybe for like 3 or three chained blows, but not the whole fight. unless 3 or three blows is all it takes.

But that's not really important. What I think is important is that the throw determines if you hit your opponent (or your argument is effective, or you find the tracks, or any other action), but not if you win the fight (or the debate, or succeed at the hunt, or acheive any other goal). I know conflict resolution is big in gaming right now but I don't think it fits this mechanic or the feel of the setting. After all, some of this is supposed to be a simulation of a feral lifestyle, and thus should focus on how you do it as much as what you do, yes?

Willem said...

Andrew:

I still disagree. For precisely the reason you say, 'we should base it on how we do it, as much as what we do'. Nothing happens in isolation. Everything comes out as a bet, that you either further back up or not.

'One' knife thrust doesn't exist, in my mind. You've already bet by your initial approach, and your plan for what to do it fails...the 'single action/single risk' thing exemplifies an artifact of modern thinking. The quantum/dynamic nature of reality and perception put the lie to this, I think.

More and more, I like this idea of escalation.

WorldWithoutToil said...

So I playtested a few different versions of this with my little brother over thanksgiving, and we found the following:

For the first tests we had an even pool of points and we ignored any "skill rating". We tested pure single bid, iterative bid with open and secret bidding, and a vew mixed variations. Single bid performed much as expected, with bluffing, conservation of resource, etc. As for the iterative bids, we found that when the bidding was open, the play that emerged was thus: Bidding proceeded 1 point at a time, with each player upping the bid by only 1 bead each. If the bids were ever more than 1 bead apart (usually only happened during the initial, secret bid), the lower would give immediately. The higher would win, but would also have less points for the immediate follow up conflict. The person who lost the first connflict was then able to leverage their point advantage to win all successive conflicts. (For the record, it was my little brother who did this to me repeatedly. He's got a head for strategy.) When the bids were within 1 point of each other, it was really, really easy to become "pot committed" and blow through all your beads, because giving at any point was always of less utility than staying in.

We also tested a iterative style where all bids were secret, and if anyone maintained high score over a certain number of turns, they won. my brother and I liked this a little better aethetically, but fom a gameplay standard, it was worse. The player who got the initial high bid would become "pot committed" and simply throw in the maximum each follow up bid to lock in the win.

In all our testing of iterative bidding, The initial throw was the geatest deciding factor in who won. Each round of bidding after that had little to no effect on who seized victory, but would increase the costs of the throw. When bids were open, everyone's cost increased. When bids were secret, only the cost to the victor increased. In the end we would simply give after the initial bid even when we had the chance to put in again. We never went more than 1 extra bid. The thinking became "OK, here's the throw. He's up. I want this bad, so I throw in enough to win. Shit, he threw in to match. Well, there's no point in drawing this out. I give." And that was at most.

My brother and I tested from a purely numbers perspective, and these are the strategies that emerged for us.

Incidentally, just because each act may have it's own check doesn't mean they don't build on each other. In one of our tests of single, secret bid, I twice bid nothing on an attack that my brother spent several points on to defend. I described these as feints. The third blow, I put all in, while my brother, expecting another feint, held back with nothing. This knocked his character out. Thanks to the limited resource mechanic and some psychology, each individual throw was still linked together despite not being iterative.

Jason Godesky said...

Wow, thanks so much, Andrew. That really helps a great deal.

Although it's also confusing, because our playtests have gone quite differently. At first, we did get some tit-for-tat, yes, but as we playtested it with more of a scenario, that stopped pretty quickly. We saw more behavior of trying to psych out the other player and scare them off with big investments. Of course, given the propensity of people to pay much more than they ever would have otherwise in a gradual escalation, throwing in big and intimidating the other party into backing down could well mean committing less than you might have otherwise.

Of course, when we just did a single contest, we got more of the tit-for-tat behavior. When there was a scenario introduced, however, and some characters had to conserve their strength for future contests while others didn't, that's when we started to see more strategy emerging.

But thank you so much, again, Andrew; playtesting reports like yours are gold for us.

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