Author Topic: New Playbook: The Abacus  (Read 10921 times)

DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2012, 03:44:46 PM »
Paul - heh, yeah, that's exactly the inspiration. But I'd like it to be something that the Abacus or people around him would say (compare: "Oh shit! He's like a fucking ghost!", or "Yes, well. I'm thorough"). Easier said than done, of course.


I've thought about various plan/manipulation moves, but there's a problem with plans - they're only really interesting when they fail. I'd rather have planning be something that emerges from the fiction - the Abacus needs to hide and know stuff for his moves to work, so he examines places and researches stuff. Plus, I'd rather have the Abacus manipulation-weak. "Sucks at people" is his big glaring weakness, after all.

The idea behind Problem Solver is that the Abacus, in whatever his responsibilities are exactly, is a touch above as a hired professional, and so helps his employer prosper. That's where both extra barter for the employer and fatter paycheck for the Abacus come in.

Not that good a move though, I agree.

Okay, so. I thought I'd maybe split Thorough into two moves -

Making it count - any time you inflict at least 2-harm, you can choose to also cause some lasting pain or break something important.

Thorough - any time you take the time or effort to really hurt someone take time or effort to closely observe someone seriously hurt, roll +cool. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 1. Spend your hold 1-for-1 to ask questions:
* What weakness does your body exhibit?
* What are you hiding from people you trust?
* What would you die for?
* What do you usually do to dull the pain?

The questions are either physical things you find out by watching how a body reacts to pain, or uncomfortable truths a person reveals when they're pushed to the limit. Pushes any session with an Abacus into fairly dark waters, but, uh, lets say that's a good thing.

Or heh, not necessarily. I looked at the new Thorough move again... And it's basically like any House MD episode. Made a slight change to reflect that insight.

SoylentWhite

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2012, 01:06:46 PM »
While waiting for boss rules, I think it might be helpful to go over the moves one by one and see what behaviour each one promotes in the character.  Then we can see if that's what you want them to be doing.

Making it count - any time you inflict at least 2-harm, you can choose to also cause some lasting pain or break something important.

This makes them a nuclear weapon.  Not in the sense that they can kill anything, but the political deterrant factor - you may kill them, but unless you do so with overwhelming force, they will cripple you in return.  Therefore this encourages other people to avoid engaging the abacus and for the abacus to throw his weight around, since no-one will want to take him down.


Thorough - any time you take the time or effort to really hurt someone take time or effort to closely observe someone seriously hurt, roll +cool. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 1. Spend your hold 1-for-1 to ask questions:
* What weakness does your body exhibit?
* What are you hiding from people you trust?
* What would you die for?
* What do you usually do to dull the pain?

Once you've tortured someone, you don't tend to let them live to get revenge (and none of the questions, bar maybe 'what are you hiding' cover stuff still useful post-mortem), so this mostly encourages studying those that are already wounded.  Once you've done that, it encourages a manipulative social game, using their weaknesses to get them to do what you want.
It should be noticed, that with 'read a person' advanced, this becomes less useful (though not useless, 12+ rolls aren't that common, even with +3).


Like a ghost - when you appear from nowhere to inflict violence, roll +cool. On a 10+, you get your shot off before getting spotted and inflict harm as appropriate. On a 7-9, one of them notices you - either hightail it or trade fire.

Encourages a very hit-and-run style of fighting.  Also adds to the deterrant factor of 'Making it count', since a victim can't even use their gang for protection.


Aware - roll +cool instead of +weird to open your brain.

Encourages more brain-opening.  Always good.


Bloodhound - all you need to read a person is something personal of theirs, they don't need to be near you.

The 'read a person' questions are:
is your character telling the truth? - N/A (not saying anything - they're not there)
what’s your character really feeling? - N/A, unless you go for a general 'mood of the day', which is less useful (but not useless in some circumstances)
what does your character intend to do? - makes you act more informedly.
what does your character wish I’d do? - ditto.
how could I get your character to __? - and again.
So, basically, the 3 bottom questions are much more applicable/useful in this circumstance, and they all help the abacus be more informed about circumstances and act knowledgeably.


Lethal - whether using a weapon or not, always inflict at least Cool-harm, before armour. If there's a weakspot you know of, ignore that armour and do ap-harm instead.

Only attack an opponent you've researched.  Be un/underarmed so as to appear less threatening without significantly affecting your lethality.


Special move:
When you have sex, you lose your control. Your partner can have you wake up anyplace they want, good or bad.

Only have sex with someone you really, really trust.  Even then, only maybe.  In other words, don't have sex.
Of course, if you want to get to a secret moonbase, this is a good way . . . (j/k)


Are those the behaviours you wanted?  Are they consistent with the fluff?

DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2012, 04:23:50 PM »
Thanks, that's very useful to me. Yes on all counts, but I feel like I should explain Thorough better.

I don't think a torturer (or someone who really knows human pain) is necessarily going to be able to get information he wants from the person he's hurting. He is, however, going to be able to find out the weakspots in his victim's psyche. This is both a real life belief, and a game mechanic that protects player characters.

What Thorough does, then, is not resolve the whole interrogation scenario, but set it up. That's the thing that makes a post-torture interrogation a viable thing as something that can be played, I think. Difference 'tween "you've been tortured and this is what you told them" and "you're stuck in a small room with this man who has been hurting you and knows more things about you than you do."


This is a kind of idle wonder moment, but... I think the Abacus is kind of set up to be an antagonist. I mean, not necessarily, but it is much easier to create a character that other people love to hate than anything else. He couples brainer-like asshole moves, but will also (unlike the brainer) have an asshole starting situation, working for someone highly unlikable.

Which... Might be a good thing? One of my favorite AW campaigns actually happened with fairly adverserial PC relations, and after a certain point it's really hard for an MC to provide anything of the like in NPC form.

Edit:

Oh, and yeah, a thing about the sex move!

So the thing about the sex move. An Abacus starts out dangerous and difficult to approach and completelly untrusting of people. It is perfectly legit to stay that way throughout the game, more power to you!

But, say, you want to play against this thing that you're stuck in, you want to be close to another human being. That is cool, that is totally something I want you to do. I made the playbook so you could do that. But? Nothing in the playbook helps you do that, and a lot of stuff, the sex move especially, hinders it.

So when an Abacus does get a real relationship, it'll totally be a thing that's important. Or when an Abacus tries to get a relationship and has his worst fears confirmed instead, it'll totally be a thing as well. Or when an Abacus tries to get a relationship but still wants there to be *walls* between him and the other person, it will also be a thing.

That sex move doesn't look the part, but it is the heavy-duty lifter of the playbook. It is, in fact, the one thing on it that I am most proud of.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 09:48:08 PM by DWeird »

SoylentWhite

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2012, 12:46:53 PM »
Thorough *makes sense*, but if you have tortured someone and then let them go, I think you'll need a *very* good reason for them not to dedicate their life to ending yours.  And then they'll just dedicate their lives to getting around the reason.  Not only for revenge, but also you know too much about them.

Does the boss have to be unlikable?  I mean, quite a few PCs will be out for #1, so a boss interested in having a communistic hardhold, where everyone is equal and life is fair (in theory) is likely to be a serious threat without being unlikable.

But I see no problem with the character being set up with a black hat.  I don't quite agree with it, but I read somewhere (on these forums, I think) someone opine that all of the core playbooks were Lawful Evil on the D&D scale, apart from Battlebabes who were Chaotic Evil. 

And I got what you were going for with the sex move, but I wanted to purely cover the mechanical direction of force.  Narrative direction comes mostly from the player, after all.

DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2012, 10:29:38 PM »
They don't have to be unlikable, no. But by definition they have to be the kind of person who has a professional hitman in constant employment. "Inevitably" in the my sentence before meant that there's a strong drive for it due to fictional reasons, not that you will necessarily have to pick what kind of unlikable your boss will be at chargen.

DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2012, 11:04:54 PM »
Abacus introduction:

"Constants remain. There are zeros and there are people who count.

And then there is the Abacus, the one that does the math. Like those wires upon circuits in the Golden Age, doing that one thing he is told to do, always calculating, always performing. Machines of old might have been more spark than the Abacus now, counting nothings and zeroes by their own fingers, all slow and thorough, but see him work? You wouldn't tell a difference."


And the boss section I'm still working on, will maybe need to look at at the way gangs are done.

DannyK

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2012, 07:38:19 PM »
I was very dubious of the Abacus at first, but the boss stuff has fired my interest.  I think there's a nice archetypal role for the violent fixer who follows the boss around and takes care of stuff for him.  He's sort of a human pit bull, someone who's traded in his individual agency and conscience for obedience and efficiency.  Like Luca Brasi in The Godfather, or Darth Vader in the first couple Star Wars movies.  I've always enjoyed playing this kind of character in RPG's, so I'm very interested in this take on the Abacus.  

If you do TVTropes, he's The Dragon.  They come in two varieties, the clever ruthless administrator and the slow-witted heavy.  Either way, they do the dirty work for the boss and are ruthlessly loyal.  Their destiny in most fiction is to die in the service of their boss (Luca) or to turn on their boss in extremis, and die (Vader).  

So I think that's the archetype the Abacus could legitimately fill. I think the playbook needs to play up the loyalty and dependency of this character on the boss, and give it mechanical teeth, like it's Acting Under Fire to disobey a direct order from the boss.  You've given up your soul to the boss in exchange for power and privilege, and the devil will have his due.  Maybe there should be specific rules for going against the boss besides that, similar to how D&D Paladins lose their mojo if they go too far.  

So the guidelines for creating an NPC Boss need to be fairly nasty, I think, so the Abacus' player can't pick a kindly old honorable warlord to work for and call it a day.  If the Abacus' boss is another PC, say the Hardholder, do you think we can rely on the player's innate deviltry to make life difficult for the Abacus?

Also, maybe it's late in the day for new moves, but since the Abacus has lousy Hot, I was thinking of a specific, narrowly defined Move called "The Boss Said So" where the Abacus could enjoy a bonus to Seduce/Manipulate rolls only when claiming to be expressing the boss' direct order.  Or maybe the Abacus just needs to get things done with Go Aggro and leave it at that.

EDIT: Ooh!  Count Rugen in Princess Bride is a prime example, too!  I also note that often this type of character has some oddity or obsession of their own: Vader has the Force, Rugen has his obsession with pain.  I don't know that this needs to be in the playbook, unless maybe mentioned in gear that the Abacus has a prize posession of some sort with great monetary or symbolic value.  And there's Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction, with his coffee fetish.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 07:45:38 PM by DannyK »

DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2012, 10:55:35 PM »
Wolfen is magic. I'd love to play a guy like that, but there isn't much in the way of reprecussions in AW to consider building a whole playbook around his abilities.

I'm not a fan of inward-pointing moves. AW has different tools to establish starting psyche of characters, and for me, that might be Hx questions. I'll frame all of the "Abacus's Hx with you" questions in terms of the character's relationship with the Abacus's boss, like so:

"On your turn, tell everyone else Hx+1. Everyone knows who you work for.

On the others' turns, choose 1, 2, or all 3:

One of them took something that belongs to your employer. Whatever number that player tells you, write Hx+3 instead.
One of them has your employer's favour and you don't understand why. Whatever number they tell you, give it -1 and put in on your sheet.
One of them has helped you with your employer's problem before.
One of them has your employer's favour and you don't understand why. Whatever number they tell you, give it +1 and put in on your sheet."

Paints a picture, don't it?

Daniel Wood

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2012, 09:20:48 AM »

I understand that you consider the sex move to be crucial to the playbook, but I really don't understand what it is supposed to represent in the fiction. Why does your character wake up somewhere else? Like, does she sleepwalk? Does whoever she slept with move her around while she's asleep? Does she go on some sort of hedonistic rampage of pure id?

I feel like, because of this, that I also don't understand what the control is, or is of, and so I don't understand what it looks like to lose it, or why the partner is the one who gets the control instead. It sounds like the Sex Move is supposed to be telling me something really important about the playbook, but all it's telling me is 'don't have sex, because it won't make any sense'.

And since none of the other moves really seem to address the sort of control the Sex Move is addressing, they don't help me understand it either. Like if the Sex Move was 'you lose control. Your partner gets to ask one of the questions under Thorough, and once you tell them the answer you know they know.' -- that fits into the character in a way the current sex move doesn't, because it turns the tables on the obvious sort of control that The Abacus exhibits: control of information, specifically information about people's weaknesses.

It also sounds like you want the player to be tempted by the sex move -- because the character secretly craves intimacy, but knows that intimacy is dangerous. But to me there isn't a lot of intimacy in controlling where I wake up -- whereas there is a ton of intimacy in having to confess secrets about myself, because it simultaneously makes me vulnerable AND creates even greater intimacy. It's about revealing who I really am to somebody, and that seems very tempting to a character who a) is very closed off but also b) has this intimate knowledge of others, and understands them (as someone said elsewhere) better than they understand themselves. What torturer -- and I mean, what torturer who is in some way involved in the mythology of 'torture', the idea that it somehow reveals truths about the victim -- doesn't secretly want to know what they themselves would reveal if the positions were reversed?

Anyways I don't mean to push so strongly for my Thorough-mirror rewrite of the move, only to provide an example of what I mean by having the 'loss of control' that the Sex Move describes be more recognizeable in terms of the rest of the book. If all the other moves were about controlling somebody's location, or restricting their movement, or always being aware of where they were... then the Sex Move's loss of control would probably make more sense to me.





Chroma

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2012, 01:59:47 AM »
Okay, after watching the latest episode of Archer, I wanted to suggest this playbook be called "The Accountant", and came up with this intro text:

In the Golden Age, the bosses had guys to cook the books and crunch the numbers.  Nowadays, there ain’t nothing left to crunch but the bones and no books left to burn, let alone cook.  But there’s still bosses and there’s still those that owe ‘em.

And there’s
still fucking fools who think they can get away without paying.  You’re here to make sure the accounts are balanced, even if payment is a hunk of bloody flesh.  You can calculate what needs to be done, which buttons to push, and where to apply leverage to be able to stamp those fuckers “PAID IN FULL.”  

That’s why the boss sent you.


Thoughts?
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 03:27:56 AM by Chroma »
"If you get shot enough times, your body will actually build up immunity to bullets. The real trick lies in surviving the first dozen or so..."
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DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #25 on: February 02, 2012, 08:21:05 AM »
Yes.

Goddamnit I'm happy. I need to watch that show.


[Minor style things that I need to say but don't want to detract from how in tune you are with the direction my gut wants to take this:

I love your writeup, much more than my own. But! I'd like to keep it stylistically consistent with Vincent's playbooks, and it addresses 'you' differently. Except for one case that I know of (So there you go, Chopper. Enough for you.), playbook writeups are not directed at the player's character, they're directed at the player as if he was living in the apocalypse himself. And even if it is, then this would be the Abacus addressing himself, telling himself and his player why he does the job, right? Though, in my mindspace, Abacus is not a guy who says 'fuck' much - swearing like a sailor is for persons without control.

So tell me if these changes rub you wrong:

"In the Golden Age, the bosses had guys to cook the books and crunch the numbers.  Nowadays, there ain’t nothing left to crunch but the bones and no books left to burn, let alone cook.  But there’s still bosses and there’s still those that owe ‘em.

And there’s still fucking fools who think they can get away without paying.  They're wrong, of course - boss's accounts always get balanced, even if payment is a hunk of bloody flesh.  They've got a man for that sort of job, you know, who calculates what needs to be done, knows which buttons to push, and where to apply leverage to be able to stamp those fuckers “PAID IN FULL.” 

That’s why the boss sends the Abacus."


And another minor point! Accountant, yeah, that's a better description than Abacus is. But again, other playbooks have a theme going. Wouldn't call a Chopper a Biker, an Operator an Enterpreneur, a Hocus a Cultist, a Brainer a Telepath, right?

And, plus, I'm already plenty attached to the name as it is.]

zmook

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #26 on: February 29, 2012, 06:03:51 AM »
This seems really promising. Any more progress on a final version?

Rubberduck

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #27 on: March 09, 2012, 11:44:10 PM »
Ya, I need to see an updated version before I'm really sure what has been changed by now.

Though I am a bit sad to see the first part of Like A Ghost disappear. I liked the picture that "always ignore gang size bonuses" painted in my head. Though it does need a change:

When you are fighting a gang and they are not sure where you are, you take damage as if though you were the gang's size.


So as long as the Abacus is slipping around in the darkness, utilizing confusion, or such classical moves he is only taking on one ganger at a time.

Note that the gang still takes damage as if though the gang was its full size. So if the Abacus is fighting a large gang, he may take down a ganger or two, but he isn't really doing damage to the gang as a whole. If he is fighting a small gang, he can pick it apart bit by bit, but he does so slower than a Gunlugger who simply charges right on in.

Might also make sense to separate the move from Like A Ghost. Though I can't really figure out a really good alternate name for it.

DWeird

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #28 on: March 10, 2012, 01:27:29 AM »
The protective effect of never fighting a gang is still there for the Abacus - he just has to fight them one man at a time, for which he has all the necessary tools.

I'll try to get up a more or less final version in by the end of the weekend.

Yarrum

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Re: New Playbook: The Abacus
« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2012, 08:50:13 PM »
I like the idea of a violent-type who's calculating, instead of a berserker/femme fatale type, as it fills a niche the game didn't already cover. However, the first incarnation kind of seemed too hyperfocused on violence (which would be made redundant by the Gunlugger), so some of the revisions are making me a lot more enthusiastic for this playbook.

I'm digging the Boss. The Hardholder, the Hocus, the Chopper... they all have some NPC obligation, so I think it fits really well but is also a different approach.

Quote
When you are fighting a gang and they are not sure where you are, you take damage as if though you were the gang's size.

Really seconding this. It makes the Abacus/Accountant a lot like a stealth assassin to my mind, which is also kind of filling a niche that's left open by on-the-front-lines Gunlugger and look-i'm-pretty-now-you're-dead Battlebabe.