Author Topic: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws  (Read 812 times)

Arcandio

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Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« on: March 21, 2017, 03:19:26 AM »
So I'm a newcomer to AW, just got AW 2e, but I've had and read Dungeon world for a while. My play experience is very limited so far, but I'm working in a hack already, because I love the system, and that's what I do.

So here's my question: How would you implement fatal/tragic flaws?

My current idea is to write a bunch of specific ones, each with their own specific effects, and have them triggered by other moves in the case of failure, but I'm not sure this is the best solution.

I guess another way to handle it would be to insert the flaws as part of the consequences for failing other Moves? This way seems weaker and less explicit about how the flaw is the downfall of the character.

Some Background:

I love that AW/PBTA really sells the theme using the entire suite of game mechanics, so here's what I'm trying to sell in this hack:
  • Somewhere between High, Heroic, and Low Fantasy with amped up magic levels. Focus is on the specific heroes, and their interactions with each other and their early nations and tribes.
  • Epic Fiction style ala the Trojan War Cycle, LOTR, Nibelungenlied, Conan, etc.
  • Greek Tragedy style character development and treatment. Everyone has a flaw, and they come up often. Smart folks exploit their enemies'.
  • Bronze Age, but anachronistic because, y'know, magic

So yeah, how would you approach writing Tragic Flaws in AW/PBTA?

Paul T.

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2017, 09:12:09 PM »
I think that, as written, AW is not a good match for "tragic flaws". The game pretty consciously takes personality, interests, values, and similar things off the table mechanically, and, instead, creates situations for you to consider those things "in-character".

That doesn't means it couldn't be done.

For instance, Monsterhearts (and some other PbtA games) successfully encodes certain character flaws and types of character relationships into moves (take, for instance, the Mortals' "True Love" move). That's probably the closest I've seen to what you're talking about.

However, it does suggest that you might not need to address it strictly *mechanically* - some things are happily left for players to sort out in the fiction, or as a side effect of play.

However, before you go there, you have to consider:

* What is the purpose of these rules in your game?

* What is the relationship of the player to their character, and how do you want to change it?

* What kinds of flaws are you interested in exploring?

There will be totally different answers to your design interests depending on your answers to these questions. For instance, is the player on the side of the character, trying to achieve the best outcome possible for them, or are they gleefully playing into their character's tragic flaws? Those will require completely different designs.

Arcandio

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2017, 02:13:02 AM »
* What is the purpose of these rules in your game?
Here are things that I think this adds to this particular scenario.
  • Heighten the tension with uncertainty in some situations.
  • The setting and characters become richer for it.
  • Introduces a concept analogous to Fate Core's Trouble Aspect.
  • Opportunity for more conflict.
  • Rules encode the themes of the game, and Moves can make a simple character element into a focal part of the game. This might be overstating things; it might be better to say I think it'd be weird to select a flaw and have the rules simply proscribe "alright, now roleplay that" when so many other elements are dealt with mechanicall, including things like sex, psychic harm,

* What is the relationship of the player to their character, and how do you want to change it?
You mean player character advocacy? Well, AW seems to straddle the fence on topic, allowing for players to both want their characters to succeed, but also enjoy getting into bad situations, so that's the way I intend to go for the moment. But now that you mention it, I think this probably does go a little more towards the narrativist side, my players will probably relish an extra opportunity to get into trouble.

The way I was envisioning these moves was inspired by the Harm move, which is sort of a thing that the player doesn't want to have to do (and in is hoping to roll the opposite way on than usual), but still provides interesting roleplaying consequences through mechanical action. I was also kind of inspired by a lot of the brainer moves that seem to offer a choice, do this risky thing, and maybe it will work, or maybe it will be turned against you. But this is why I'm asking the question of how to structure these Moves in the first place, because those Brainer moves are well-intentioned, the dangers are on the Miss side of the roll, unlike the Harm move.

* What kinds of flaws are you interested in exploring?
Phew, name one from a tragedy. My short list is:

- Vanity
- Hubris
- Lust
- Cruelty
- Envy
- Greed
- Pettiness
- Secret Keeper
- Idealist
- Impatience
- Always Too Late
- Pride
- Reckless
- Obsession
- Tsundere

These are the ones I think are likely to be most effective storytelling-wise.

Here's the deal though, this is also why I'm asking the question in the first place, would it be better to write a move for each of those (or integrate them as consequences of some other, positive move) or would it be better to have a "Succumb to Flaw" move that covers them all, using each as the flavor text for the move?

Paul T.

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2017, 07:37:36 PM »
Hmmm. That sounds challenging. You want the player to want to avoid the effects of the flaw (much like "harm"), as though it's something that's happening TO their character. However, the flaws you list are all things the character chooses.

I can see three possibilities (off the top of my head):

1. You've got to design your game so as to position the player against the character.

2. Alternatively, you could create such strong incentives to give in to the flaw that the player will be tempted to do it anyway.

3. Finally, you could put together the game so that we all buy in to celebrating those flaws together, and work together to drive the game in that direction.

None of these are obvious challenges, I think. They require some serious thought.

Munin

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2017, 08:18:00 PM »
If I were to do this, it would be a two-step process. I'd start by having a beginning-of-session move that generated some amount of hold, either for the player, the GM, or both. The pertinent parties could then spend that hold to bring the character's Fatal Flaw into play.

Each Fatal Flaw would then be its own custom move, which would get triggered when brought into play by spending the hold. Make the roll, apply the results, hilarity ensues.

Have the miss clause for the Fatal Flaw always confer XP.

So for instance (using AW attributes as a guideline), consider the following:

Fatal Flaw (Lust): When your Lust is brought into play, Roll+Hot. On a 10+, all 3. On a 7-9, pick 2. On a miss, pick one and mark experience:
  • You don't immediately try to seduce the object of your lust
  • You don't pick a fight with a perceived rival for your target's affection
  • You don't abandon your current activity to fawn over the object of your lust

This way, players are incentivized to pick Fatal Flaws that correspond to their lowest stats (i.e. the effects are much more likely to occur), but there's a baked-in limit to how often these moves can be brought into play (and thus how disruptive they are).
 

Spwack

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2017, 07:57:43 AM »
Interestingly, the above would mean that weaklings would be the most violent, the socially awkward would be stricken by love or vanity, while the most reckless would be those with historically bad luck.

Munin

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2017, 03:54:39 PM »
Exactly.

Paul T.

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2017, 05:41:01 PM »
That's a pretty interesting take. It strikes me as a little heavy-handed (you don't get to choose when the move is rolled, and then, particularly on a 10+, you get very little say in what your character feels and does). If the player is really excited about the idea of having their character wrenched out from under them, they'll have fun. But, if not, it could feel pretty frustrating.

I'd like to point, once again, to the Mortal in Monsterhearts as a more nuanced way of doing the same thing: the moves all help to create a dynamic at the table, and create it between different players, without being quite so "on the nose" about it. Those problematic character desires are set up as advantages for the player, moves to choose and pursue, and they don't *directly* create the desired behaviour - they just invite us all to participate in it indirectly.

Or consider the 1st Edition Operator, and how their "thing" is their gigs (including romantic relationships!). It's not a clear advantage or disadvantage, but can act as either, depending on how things go. As a result, the Operator is dealing with this balance in play, always trying to turn it to their advantage - just the right dynamic. Something similar for a "fatal flaw" could work really well: positioning the player so as to struggle with it constantly.

I feel that in the spirit of AW and most hacks, more player agency would be called for. I would prefer an approach where the rules circle around the issue and encourage it, instead of hitting you in the face with it.

For instance, imagine a move where you, as the player, determine "romantic interests", and pursuing them (or fighting off rivals) may sometimes be rewarded and sometimes to your disadvantage, leading you to pursue a constant stream of others. The moves could be constructed so as to drive you towards those actions while also making you better at them, or rewarding you for pursuing them... but, when you do not do so, some other pressures come into play, encouraging you to seek them out some more.

Munin

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2017, 06:59:09 PM »
That's a pretty interesting take. It strikes me as a little heavy-handed (you don't get to choose when the move is rolled, and then, particularly on a 10+, you get very little say in what your character feels and does).
Paul, I think you've 100% misunderstood how the system is constructed.

The beginning-of-session move grants hold, which both the player and/or the MC can use. So for instance, the BOS move might be 10+ you hold 2, 7-9 you hold 1 and the MC holds 1, 6- the MC holds 2. Spend your hold one-for-one to bring your Tragic Flaw into play.

In this way, if the player succeeds, he or she gets control over how and when the flaw comes up, whereas if he or she fails, the timing of the flaw is in the MC's hands.

When it comes to the move for the flaw itself, read the options again: they all say, "you don't do X..." which means if the player rolls a 10+, they manage to resist their base urges. But they also don't get to mark experience. On a 7-9, they are forced to do one of the things on the list. On a miss, they are forced to do 2 of the things on the list, but they get experience.

Example: It's halfway through the session, and the MC is still holding 1 against Sir Ian the Chaste, who (incongruously) suffers from the fatal flaw of Lust. Heading into a new scene, Sir Ian and his compatriots visit the royal court. The MC sets the scene, and in doing so introduces a new NPC, Princess Miriam, describing her as a pretty, raven-haired, doe-eyed beauty. He also spends his remaining hold to invoke Sir Ian's lust, and names the poor Princess Miriam as the object of said lust.

Sir Ian, not the most socially adept, is Hot-2. He rolls, and unsurprisingly gets a 5. He is now faced with a choice; Sir Ian's player decides that maybe trying to lure the Princess into a nearby alcove and have his way with her right here at court might be more trouble than it's worth (especially since he's so socially maladroit), so he chooses "you don't immediately try to seduce the object of your lust" for his one pick. But that means that he does forget all about whatever it was he was here to do (spy on Baron von Hagen, who the PCs are pretty sure is "Up To No Good (tm)" - which is problematic because Sir Ian has the highest Cool in the party, and thus the best chance at being a successful spy), and he does pick a fight with a perceived rival (the dashing but confused Sir Humphrey, who unbeknownst to Sir Ian, is as queer as a three-sided gold-piece and actually has no interest whatsoever in the princess).

I'd say that it's up to the PC just what "picking a fight" looks like (perhaps he engages Sir Humphrey in a battle of wits or social graces, or maybe he just straight up challenges him to a duel!), but the point here is that he's trying to make Humphrey look bad/stupid and score points with Miriam. But note that nowhere is it mechanically encoded or enforced that winning (or losing, for that matter) this fight has any tangible effect on the object of one's lust - even if Sir Ian the Chaste is successful in making the poor Sir Humphrey the butt of his jokes, Princess Miriam might view Sir Ian as the worst sort of boor for doing so. But that's OK, because these are tragic flaws.

And best of all, Sir Ian the Chaste's player is mechanically rewarded (he gets to mark experience) for his flaw.

Does this make more sense?

Munin

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2017, 07:24:16 PM »
As an example of the player spending their hold, the party might be walking down the street and pass a bordello, the catcalls of the ladies on the balcony carrying down to the street. The party is headed to the docks to see if they can catch the smugglers red-handed, but Sir Ian's player has some hold. He decides that now is a good time to use it, and as the PCs pass the bordello he says, "Uh, guys, I just remembered; there's um, there's this important thing that I...um, I need to take care of. Right away. It's very pressing." The rest of the party roll their eyes and carry on without him.

Sir Ian's player uses his hold to invoke his Fatal Flaw, naming a particular courtesan as the object of his lust. The player rolls+Hot and nets an 8, meaning he picks 2 things he won't do - pick a fight and fawn over the object of his lust. Thus, he will immediately attempt to seduce the courtesan - but hey, this is a situation where the barter moves are appropriate, so Sir Ian's player drops 1-barter (or whatever the equivalent thereof is in the system in question) to hit a 10+ on the seduction roll.

Thus, he enters the bordello, pays the courtesan for her services, and indulges in his tragic flaw. He'll show up to the docks shortly (because he hasn't elected to spend all afternoon mooning over the courtesan), but that might be after the rest of the party is already in some trouble.

Also, it should be pointed out that this system has potential for inter-party comedy gold. In the example with Princess Miriam, before Sir Ian's player made the roll for his lust move, one of the other PCs could have elected to help or interfere with his roll - either "Keep it in your pants, wonder-boy, we have a job to do" or "Sir Ian, don't look now, but I think the princess is making eyes at you!"

The important part is that the players get to pick their tragic flaw - if they want one that's going to complicate their lives regularly (and thus generate experience regularly), they'll pick one tied to a low attribute. If they want to be more virtuous, they'll pick one that's tied to a high attribute (but they'll advance more slowly).

Paul T.

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2017, 09:36:04 PM »
My apologies, Munin!

I did completely misread your post somehow, and it is, indeed, much better than I thought. Nicely done!

I think my observations still hold, but in much milder form. In particular, having the GM tell you that you feel something and then rolling a miss could feel frustrating under certain circumstances, but the experience helps with that. My "complaint" (as mild as it is) is that it's somewhat like a Compel (from Fate games), except you don't have the choice of "buying it off".

An interesting variant might be one where the hold can be spent by the MC *or* the player, making them likely interested in getting it out of the way - itching to indulge their lust while they're still in control.

An excellent design in a lot of respects! I like that move, and it's cleverly designed.

Overall, though, I'd prefer a version where the player has more interest in engaging the mechanic. In your example, the player visiting the brothel could come to feel a bit like a chore, particularly if other matters are pressing.

For instance, if a possible outcome is that you get a *bonus* to seducing someone, and then mark experience if you succeed, that would feel very different from the player's perspective. It's less a problem and more an ability or power your character has which brings benefits. To make it tragic, you bring in some other way to complicate the situation, whether it's that there is a roll and you sometimes get a much worse outcome, or by designing the fiction and MC moves around the whole character concept in the first place. (A simple example would be a story about a married man who is tempted by his urges - he may indulge in his urges as successfully as he likes, but he'll never be able to fully celebrate it because it will complicate his life and his relationship with his wife. And that's what really makes it tragic - not that he's a moron who does things in a stupid way, but that his interests are incompatible, and indulging in them threatens to bring about his ruin.)

Dealing with it as a benefit to the player (albeit one which is likely to cause tragedy, like the Operator's gigs or the Hardholder's control over the holding) also changes the focus of the rule. Instead of dreading the Hold being hung over your head - and likely refusing to enact the flaw at all once it's spent, at least if stakes are high - the player will keep seeking out opportunities to bring it into play.

That's another important question: is this the kind of game/story where the tragic flaw rears its ugly head to provide character colour, but, ultimately, we expect to see the character capable of throwing it away when things are truly on the line? Or is it one where the flaw lurks underneath and hits hardest precisely when we wish it didn't? The "spend Hold" formulation, to me, leans more towards the former. (Although the possible combination of low stat + experience gain leans in the direction of the latter.)

In any case, your take on it is remarkably good, especially given who concise your move design was. I'm just talking a little about my personal preferences, without contributing much, so don't mind me! :)
« Last Edit: March 23, 2017, 09:55:46 PM by Paul T. »

Arcandio

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2017, 12:30:40 AM »
Boy, I'm gone for like a day and the conversation sprints right past me.

Awesome take, Munin, that's the sort of thing I was trying to wrap my brain around, I just couldn't figure out how to make something like that work. Along Paul's point about the impetus for using the Move, it would be interesting to see a formulation where the move is useful in some outcomes, but dangerous or negative in others, something like:

Lust:
* 10+ You control your lust, take +1 forward on [something related, perhaps protecting the object of your affections?]
* 7-9 Both.
* 6- You fail to control your urges, and begin to Seduce the object of your affections

That way, you'd be encouraged to make that interaction either way, but you might be able to stave off the immediately problematic parts of it.

On another note, I really like the idea of incentivizing the Move with experience somehow, I'm just don't think it would be strong enough to make it the main XP mechanic. Though, in this setting I'm not sure what else the main XP mechanic should be, since that usually (AFAIK) hinges on the core concept of the game setting.

I still like Munin's version. Am I wrong though, that Munin's Lust would be more enticing to players with high Hot? So the diplomat is more likely to take Lust than our chaste knight? OHH right, because it's a trade off, because then you would never mark experience. Hmm. I guess it seems like allowing the player to take their own advancement speed into their hands, thus changing from the other players' could be a problem over time.

Munin

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2017, 01:59:50 AM »
Speed of advancement isn't usually a problem in a PbtA game. Nor is uneven advancement. I have players who will do whatever they can to earn XP and others who just don't care. I haven't found it to be a problem either way. Besides, with the limited number of possible advances in a given playbook, all that advancing faster does it speed a character on its way to retirement or a playbook change.

FWIW, the reason I constructed the flaw move the way I did was because it was originally described as a tragic flaw - that is to say, not something from which the character typically benefits. But in order to make such a system attractive (rather than purely punitive), it needs to have some incentive. If that incentive can't be a bonus (because it's a flaw, after all), then the next obvious choice is XP, which in turn is great because XP is the fuel upon which the furnace of character development runs. If you avoid your flaw, you're not getting XP. If you give in to it, you are. It puts the choice in the hands of the player.

But if you had something else in mind, I'm sure there are other mechanics or incentives we could come up with that would fit what you envision a little bit better.

Arcandio

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2017, 02:31:59 AM »
Re: Advancement, I definitely see that it's not a super big deal in AW, because the Skill system is very close to flat. Part of what I've got for this hack is sort of more in the DW vein, where there's more linear advancement, room to grow your character from a weakling to a legendary hero (as per the usual Hero's Journey thing), so I expect advancement to be more attractive in this hack than it would in AW. On the other hand, if advancement IS in the player's hands, then they can use that to try to "catch up" to other PCs throughout the campaign by throwing themselves into the tragedy of their flaws.

With that assumption of advancement, I'm don't know if flaws alone are enough to produce useful amounts of XP, or if I should pull on AW's highlighted Skill and Hx system. I do like the idea of relationship scores, as much of the source material/mythology revolves around the relationships between characters and who they hate or love.

Re: Flaw design, yeah, I totally get you. And I still think that's the direction I'm leaning towards, where the flaw isn't really a boon to someone, it's something they either do or don't overcome through the course of the story, thus determining the outcome of whether the tale ends up being a tragedy or a comedy (working on the principle that a tragedy is when the hero succumbs to their flaws, and a comedy is when they overcome them, there may be better terminology for that, I'm not sure). Sort of a way to "Play to Find Out What Happens."

Pros of Flaw-Only XP: simple for players to remember/use. Completely absolves the GM of worrying about XP.

Cons: Forces flaws to be very, very foreground, once or twice or more per session. Potentially splits the group a lot for this reason. Removes the nice AW social/Hx angle.

I wonder what would happen if any attempt at using your Flaw move would mark XP. Clearly, you'd then be only interested in succeeding in all those rolls, because there's no more incentive to fail them than to succeed them.

Side note, what reasons are there to make the Flaw moves roll+stat? I guess the Suffer Harm move is roll+wound. Maybe most of them should be something like roll+(willpower or whatever)? Not that I have a willpower oriented stat, but I think that could be arranged.

But now, as I think about the structure of them, I'm reminded of the other direction I wanted to explore as well: the idea that maybe the Flaw is sort of a useful ability, but with potentially dangerous consequences, Like renaming Seduce/Manipulate to "Lust" with mostly the same abilities, except that misses tend to mean you get in trouble with someone about it. I guess this makes less sense with flaws like Cruelty and Pettiness, where it's not obvious what utility the would have for advancing a character's interests.

Paul T.

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Re: Tragic Flaws / Fatal Flaws
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2017, 03:02:46 AM »
Yeah, I started typing up a version of "Lust" along those lines, but it didn't quite work right, so I scrapped it. The idea, though, is that's triggered by something the character does, like other moves.

You, as the player, can "tag" any other character (PC or NPC) with a "lust" tag, which means you have the hots for them. That, in turn, gives you moves you can make against them, and ways to earn XP.

When you make a move on someone with the "lust" tag, roll+hot.

On a 10+, you're on fire! Take +1ongoing to any moves you make against this person, and mark experience each time you succeed in reaching a milestone with them (you could have a list, like going on a date, having sex, seeing them naked, marrying them - whatever is appropriate to your game's genre).

On a miss, you're on fire, and it burns. Until you have them, take -1ongoing, except to moves you make to win them over.

On a 7-9, there would be some kind of mixed option, with both good and bad. Maybe the object of your desire gets hold over you as per the "Hypnotic" Skinner move, or some other thing. You might erase highlights, mark experience, enable other moves...

You could design a whole minigame around it, too, if you want, where you have a Lust stat, and it goes up or down depending on how well you're doing or how many people you're pursuing, and how that pans out. For instance, if you can mitigate your problems by pursuing new objects of desire, it's easy to see a character digging themselves into a deep pit.

Take a look at how the Mortal works, as well as the Show (with the "leash") and the Hoarder. Designing a playbook around the idea of a flaw could be really effective here.