Author Topic: Stat Substitution Glitch  (Read 16551 times)

Orion

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Stat Substitution Glitch
« on: July 22, 2010, 10:19:16 PM »
This post is about a potential problem I see reading through the rulebook.  I haven't encountered it in play, but I'd like to hear from anyone who has (or better anyone who successfully avoided it), and ideally from Vincent for his take.  The difficult is the interaction between
Stat-Substitution Moves and Stat Highlighting

My understanding is that highlighting stats is intended as a way to influence behavior.  That is, if another player wants to see you take more risks and put yourself out there, he highlights Cool.  If the MC wants you to pay attention to the Maelstrom, he highlights Weird.  If someone wants to steer the session towards a focus on cultivating relationships, one highlights Sharp and Hot. 

But, let's look at an example character, Wrench, a driver who aims to be a one-man "problem-solver" and protection racket.  He starts off with Weather Eye.  For his first advance he picks up Ice Cold so he put the pressure on his victims.  For the second, he snags Easy to Trust so as to arrange better pay for his labors. 

Let's look at the way the basic moves break down for him:

Cool: Act Under Fire, Go Aggro, Manipulate/Seduce
Hard: Seize by Force
Hot: Nothing
Sharp: Read a Sitch, Read a Person, Open Brain
Weird: Nothing
(Hx): Help/Hinder

Now let's say a new session starts and it's time to highlight stats.  Two Problems arise:

First, you can't really manipulate his behavior by dangling XP any more.  Let's say you want him to go commune with the spirits of the wastes, but he's been hanging around in town politicking.  Well, highlighting Weird won't work, because he doesn't roll Weird anymore.  But highlighting Sharp won't do it either, because he can still rack up the points by sticking with his negotiations.  It's similarly impossible to encourage him to be more or less manipulative. 

The second problem is that there's a risk of the highlighting process becoming more adversarial.  If you highlight his Sharp and Cool, he'll get XP for nearly every roll he makes, which defeats the point of the mechanic and puts him ahead of the group.  But there's no longer anything "interesting" about highlighting Hot or Weird; doing so serves no purpose except to screw him over.  He only ever uses three stats now, which means there are only 3 stat combinations that even make sense, making it hard to follow the "try something different every time" suggestion. 

This isn't the only build affected; it's possible to use Weird for almost everything, for instance.  Anyway, I'm not sure what to do about it, but tentatively suggest awarding XP based on the default stat for all basic moves, not the one actually used.   

Hans Chung-Otterson

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2010, 12:42:24 AM »
This actually came up during character creation at our first session on Tuesday. Nathan was playing a Gunlugger and chose Battle-hardened, which makes him roll+hard instead of +cool when acting under fire. Then I highlighted his cool, and then realized that, barring an optional battle move and custom moves (neither of which were in play for the first session), he'd never roll+cool, and so I had him highlight weird instead.

Anyway, yeah, it's kind of strange. But there're always custom moves and there're always the optional battle moves. I'm not sure if this solves all the problems you see, though (I'm only half-following your systematic accounting of all the stat-sub moves).

lumpley

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2010, 12:48:01 AM »
It's not a problem in play. So the one character has always 2 of the same 3 stats highlighted, so that "which of my stats are highlighted? I can't wait to know!" isn't part of his fun. No big deal.

As MC, it's super not your job to worry about how quickly the characters are advancing compared to one another. Make sure that all the characters get good and interesting screen time, and don't give it another thought.

-Vincent

Johnstone

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2010, 03:23:27 AM »
Hey Vincent, is it cool to opt NOT to use your stat substitution move on a specific roll? Like, "This time, I'm not Ice Cold, actually. I'm yelling, my face is red, I'm gonna roll+hard."

Or are the special moves mandatory and always on?

fnord3125

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2010, 03:52:57 AM »
Plus, don't forget about GM custom moves.  I was thinking about this kind of thing myself.  One of the PCs is a Gunlugger who took... umm... the move whose name I can't remember right now that lets her roll+hard instead of +cool for acting under fire.  I pointed out to the player that he might want to change his choice of stat line (he'd chosen one with a high cool) because he would hardly ever be using cool.

But it's not never.  I've got at least one custom move on my front sheets that calls for the PCs to roll+cool.  When/if Crille ever has to do that, she's gonna suck.

Not that I'm saying you should necessarily purposefully design custom moves to make people roll things that they don't normally have to roll.  That's not what I was doing.  I set the custom move up to use +cool because that was what seemed to make sense.  I'm just reminding you that basic moves aren't the ONLY thing that may call for a character to roll a stat.

Jeff Russell

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2010, 10:29:51 AM »
Hey Vincent, is it cool to opt NOT to use your stat substitution move on a specific roll? Like, "This time, I'm not Ice Cold, actually. I'm yelling, my face is red, I'm gonna roll+hard."

Or are the special moves mandatory and always on?

I don't remember if Vincent weighed in on this one, but in one of the other threads there was some talk about how if a brainer with unnatural lust transfixion wanted to get someone interested in her based on her actual looks and personality, and not crazy psychic powers, then she'd roll+hot in that situation. Again, I dunno what the 'official' take is, but it sounds like a way to have more options for reflecting the fiction, so I'd definitely go with allowing it.

Chris

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2010, 11:19:50 AM »
Hey Vincent, is it cool to opt NOT to use your stat substitution move on a specific roll? Like, "This time, I'm not Ice Cold, actually. I'm yelling, my face is red, I'm gonna roll+hard."

Or are the special moves mandatory and always on?

I don't remember if Vincent weighed in on this one, but in one of the other threads there was some talk about how if a brainer with unnatural lust transfixion wanted to get someone interested in her based on her actual looks and personality, and not crazy psychic powers, then she'd roll+hot in that situation. Again, I dunno what the 'official' take is, but it sounds like a way to have more options for reflecting the fiction, so I'd definitely go with allowing it.

Yeah, that sounds awesome.

If a player is deliberately highlighting a stat someone doesn't use, that's not a game problem, that's a "you've got a dick in your group" problem. Just tell them not to highlight stuff that won't be rolled and let's get this game going.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Bret

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2010, 02:09:41 PM »
I don't get why that's a dick move. Like if there are certain aspects of a character I want to see and the player isn't pursuing it ever, then I highlight the stat accordingly. If the brainer is always using unnatural lust transfixion all the time and I want to see her use +hot, I'm gonna use +hot.

I don't get why that's a jerk thing to do. If you get to highlight a stat, it's your prerogative. I know I go out of my way to highlight stats that players aren't using.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2010, 02:11:36 PM by Bret »
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Johnstone

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2010, 02:15:20 PM »
It's a dick move if the stat substitution is mandatory, and the MC has not introduced any custom moves that use that stat. In that case, you have no options that use the highlighted stat.

Bret

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2010, 03:07:42 PM »
Ooh, I see.
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Jeff Russell

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2010, 03:17:02 PM »
I don't get why that's a dick move. Like if there are certain aspects of a character I want to see and the player isn't pursuing it ever, then I highlight the stat accordingly. If the brainer is always using unnatural lust transfixion all the time and I want to see her use +hot, I'm gonna use +hot.

I don't get why that's a jerk thing to do. If you get to highlight a stat, it's your prerogative. I know I go out of my way to highlight stats that players aren't using.

I dunno, I'd say it's only a dick move if the player in question has said "dude, I really don't want to use hot. I have no interest in doing that, and I'm not even going to do it just to get experience" and you still insist. There's probably a fine line between "coaxing your friend out of their shell" and "trying to impose too much of your creative vision on them".

Chris

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2010, 03:33:13 PM »
Yeah, it's only messed up if there's no mechanical way to roll it, as in the case of a lot of stat subs. I never highlight a class's MAIN stat. But I am a dick, so there you go. :)

And yeah, if I'm highlighting Kreider's hot because I think it would be interesting to see Kreider's .... social side, but Jeff isn't comfortable with that and yet, I'm still digging my heels in, there's a dick factor going on there. Man, that sentence was coooomplicated.

A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Orion

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2010, 03:34:19 PM »
Not at all against choosing to roll the original stat as a fix for an individual game group, but I want to point out that the printed text does not say "you may use cool instead of hard" (or whatever), but "you use cool instead of hard."  If rolling the original when the fiction demands is a necessary fix, then it should go in the text next time revisions happen.  

---

I also don't completely accept Vincent's assertion that it's not the MC's job to worry about how fast characters earn XP.  If I understand him correctly, the assertion is that since failure is as interesting as success, having a "more powerful" character does not make the game more fun, and in any case different characters have such wildly different competencies that discrepancies in the number of avdances aren't really noticeable.  (Is a Hocus going to be jealous of the Gunlugger because he has more advances?  No, they're each doing their own thing.)

I'd agree that in a game where player's don't regularly go all out on each other, they all have their own schticks, and there's a little maturity, trying to keep the party "balanced" in the way you would when playing D&D or something isn't really necessary.  But there's a bigger problem with advancement: it undermines the premise of the game.  

The Character Creation session does a lot of setting the tone for the game to come, and which playbooks are chosen can be very important in that regard.  If nobody takes one of the Leadership playbooks--say you have a Driver, a Gunlugger, and a Brainer--then often the PCs will end up a little less attached.  The game can be more mobile and "pulling up stakes and leaving" is a viable respons eot some problems.  On the other hand, with a Hocus, Chopper, or *especially* a Hardholder, the story is naturally going to end up revolving around the social groups the Character have created.  Most of the game reports on this site revolve around the troubles of a PC Hardholder's holding.  

Well, almost every character has the option to pick up a holding or some followers as an advancement, and the faster the advances come, the more likely you are to see that.  Unfortunately, adding a new holding has a major effect on the entire game, not just that player.  The overall mood can change, lots of new NPCs may need to be invented, and existing threats may need to change shape to remain relevant.  The same effect can happen with certain more prosaic moves, too.  Picking up "not to be fucked with" can make formerly scary raiders much more manageable.  

The bottom line is, the faster advancement happens, the harder it is to predict the outcome of events, the faster existing threats will get churned through, the more of the MC's prep time will be wasted, and the more work will be required to keep up with the advancing story.  Keeping the reigns on that is absolutely the MC's perogative.  

Chris

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2010, 03:56:57 PM »
The bottom line is, the faster advancement happens, the harder it is to predict the outcome of events, the faster existing threats will get churned through, the more of the MC's prep time will be wasted, and the more work will be required to keep up with the advancing story.  Keeping the reigns on that is absolutely the MC's perogative.  

What? Nooooo. Absolutely not. Nothing about this game is about reigning anything in. They get a hold? Then they get a hold. One character is "more powerful" than another? Then they are.

If you're talking about wanting a mobile game and then having someone introduce stationary things into it, then tell everyone that at the onset that this is a mobile game and no one will pick "hold/follower" type stuff.

And as far as wasting prep time, that's never gonna happen. The fronts are going down. If the players stop them, then they do. The players aren't ruining an MC's prep by doing awesome stuff. They're just doing awesome stuff. Player stuff trumps my MC stuff every time.

And an MC should never be 'predicting' things. As an MC, I'm there to see what happens same as everyone else. That's why I come.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

Orion

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Re: Stat Substitution Glitch
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2010, 04:17:07 PM »
If that's your philosophy, why have advancement rules at all?  Why not just have the rule be, "players add a new move when they feel it's dramatically appropriate"?

All rules ultimately come form the MC, since even though Vincent wrote them, you're endorsing them and choosing not to hack them.  By having advancement rules at all, you're implicitly stating that there is a desirable pace for advancement to go. 

To look at it another way: advancement, by its very nature, changes things.  The entire point is to alter the relationship between the characters and their environment.  That means that sufficient advancement destroy the existing situation and replaces it with a new one.  That's great if you (collectively) felt that the old circumstances were mined out, and things needed to be shaken up to keep life interesting.  On the other hand, during the First Session you and your players presumably set up a situation that you liked and found interesting to explore.  If character advancement destroys the situation while people were still having fun with it, that seems like a bad thing. 

Or, for yet another angle: most games have an agenda beyond simply simulating the lives of the characters.  There is an end toward which events trend.  The MC may not know what it is ahead of time, but the point is that the story of a given game is finite.  Vincent himself acknowledges this--a comment I've seen him make several times on this site is that some advancement options propel games toward their end.  The Ungiven Future advanced moves, especially the 12+ Manipulate and Open Brain results, change the game in fundamental ways that tend eventually to end it. 

If like Vincent, you believe that the game won't last long once Players can make Allies and see through the maelstrom, then your game probably won't see more than about 10 advances.  And that means that the XP bubbles are a countdown clock.  If you want your game to last, say, 7 sessions, you can't give out 2 advances per session.  Are we such slaves to the "play to find out what happens" rule that we can't take action to prolong the life of a game we enjoy?