gladiusdei
 member, 619 posts
Mon 12 Feb 2018
at 21:24
Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
I have a question for those who play and run freeform games.  How do you resolve skill/power level?  I see this as applying both in a more fantastic sense, and a more mundane sense.

If you have players with abilities, how do you determine who is better/worse?  What system do you use, and does it work well for you?

it applies both to pvp and pve.  IF you have two players that can sing, or shoot a gun, or sword fight, or ride a horse, who is better?  I understand that some games would simply avoid player versus player direct competition, but it may still come up.  But in the same context, if you have, say, a soldier who is a crack shot; is he a better shot than the enemy sniper?  or a knight in a fantastic setting.  Is he a better swordsman than other knights?  than the kings champion?

it becomes even more murky with fantastic powers.  If a player is a wizard, or sorcerer, or witch, or fantastic being with magical powers, how do you gauge just how powerful they are?  Magic can range from a simple spell to light a candle, to magic that curses or destroys entire peoples.

and do you have a system in place to allow players to get better at these abilities over time?

Just gauging how freeform players/gms handle this issue.  Trying to decide if freeform is best for a few game ideas I have, or if it would be better to find a system that fit them.
engine
 member, 553 posts
Mon 12 Feb 2018
at 21:39
Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
Thanks for asking this, I've always wondered.

Along those same lines, is there a general common standard freeform games use, just for player etiquette? How does one know from game to game what the experience is likely to be?

Edit: I'm finding that there's actually a lot about this topic on Wikipedia.

This message was last edited by the user at 00:01, Tue 13 Feb.

Big Brother
 member, 431 posts
 Who controls the past...
 ... Controls the future.
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 01:07
Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
I've been in a lot of FF games. That said, in my experience if the GM doesn't trust the players to be fair, it's hard to have a fair game. I would strongly encourage you to look up the rules on various Star Trek sim sites (not posted here 'cause it's against the rules - a few suggestions are Bravo Fleet and Frontier Fleet, both of which I've had dealings with in the past).

The idea is generally not to "win," though, rather it is to tell a story. So the question isn't "Who wins, the guy that's good with a sword or the girl swinging her axe?" it is, "How can we enhance the story through this battle?"

By the same token, the OP asks if a PC crack shot is better than a (presumably NPC) sniper. The answer is: the PC. Why? Because it's a PC. The only time there's an exception is when the story calls for the NPC to be better (and even then he wont kill the PC).

As far as powers, generally speaking there's no reason why they shouldn't always work (barring, again, story reasons). What purpose does it serve to have the magician fail at casting a light spell? If there's no benefit, why bother? If the benefit is a better story? Bam! Spell fails.

Players should just get better over time, and show the growth process in their writing.

Engine, same deal - look up Star Trek simulations. The rules they have tend to work pretty well.

The long and short of freeform gaming is - you need writers. If the players have no interest in writing, it's not going to be enjoyable for anyone involved. FF games aren't really designed for "John looked at her silently." "She shot the man. (I rolled a 6.)"

Edit: Also, the depending on the setting the highest ranking character (ie, captain, etc) is usually NPCd by the GM, which gives him/her a great deal of control over the game and how it proceeds, as well as in-character progression.

This message was last edited by the user at 01:09, Tue 13 Feb.

azzuri
 member, 264 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 01:48
Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
I have been the primary GM for one Freeform Game for about six years now.

In my view, these types of games are mostly about talk, and there is usually input from more than just one GM as to how plots start, develop, and work out. Then, there are 'initiatives' in which a group of player characters gather to do something along these same lines vs. NPCs.

Each day of game time takes three months of 'real time', so these both can get tricky.

Now there are some game systems that I really would like to try that have a hierarchy of abilities for character creation that would permit players to assign values to these in the Freeform format. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to do much on this; but it is on my list of wants here on RPol.

This message was last edited by the user at 01:50, Tue 13 Feb.

DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1277 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 04:38
Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
quote:
By the same token, the OP asks if a PC crack shot is better than a (presumably NPC) sniper. The answer is: the PC. Why? Because it's a PC. The only time there's an exception is when the story calls for the NPC to be better (and even then he wont kill the PC).


I really don't like this line of thinking. Why must the PCs be the best? Why should they be so much better than everyone else? Also, why should there be such an aversion to PC death? Many stories feature protagonists that are average people that succeed via luck, chance, or simply being in the right place at the right time.

Further, while narrative is nice, why does everyone shy away from more "pure" roleplaying, as in games where the players are not there to make a good story but rather are there to experience being the protagonists, to be able to say "I don't open the door cause I just know the monster is in there." All those scenes in movies where you groan at the stupidity of the characters, well now you get the chance to be that character, are you just as dumb? To me, this is my favorite way to play, yet it seem harder and harder to find people who get it and acknowledge it's validity as a style of play distinct from collaborative storytelling or narrative wargaming.


Anyway, for me, the entire point of using any kind of system is to resolve the very questions the OP asks. The system measures these things, acting as a way to describe what a character is capable of which aids in maintaining character consistency and communication about the characters and world, not to mention how it helps the inclusion of a random element which has benefits of it's own.

My experience with freeform is limited, but that is in large part because freeform lacks any play aids for these things, which for me has led to inconsistent characters and settings, poor communication and confusion.

This message was last edited by the user at 04:44, Tue 13 Feb.

engine
 member, 555 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 17:37
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
Thanks for the explanations. As a fan of improv theater, I like the idea of freefrom in general, but I think I'd have to work with a group to narrow down a theme we'd stick to.

DarkLightHitomi:
Many stories feature protagonists that are average people that succeed via luck, chance, or simply being in the right place at the right time.

Would this result in the PC still being "better" (as in, succeeding over the NPC) but for a diffrent reason than pure skill?

DarkLightHitomi:
All those scenes in movies where you groan at the stupidity of the characters, well now you get the chance to be that character, are you just as dumb? To me, this is my favorite way to play, yet it seem harder and harder to find people who get it and acknowledge it's validity as a style of play distinct from collaborative storytelling or narrative wargaming.

I'd say the simple answer is because, as dumb as it might be (and some movies and stories are better at this than others) not opening the door is boring. Extend that out to the rest of the story. Why go to the haunted house in the first place? Why become a paranormal investigator? Those choices, in so far as they're likely to lead to even the opportunity to make a dumb choice, are also dumb. Anything other than just living a normal, uneventful life, is likely to be "dumb."

Granted, there are some people who like to roleplay normal, uneventful lives. More power to them, I say. But generally, doing the thing we wish the characters in the stories would do is going to lead to, if nothing else, shorter stories. Is that what we want? Do we want the marines to be able to take off and nuke the site from orbit, or are we glad when events conspire to prevent them?

There are shows and stories that I enjoy only by deciding, yeah, okay the details surrounding the trouble they're in right now are ridiculous, but I want them to be in trouble, so something had to give. I can often even imagine what that something might have been, so that, to me, it's still plausible for them to be in the exciting situation and for me to still think of them as smart.
icosahedron152
 member, 845 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 19:06
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
Roll Play and Role Play are at opposite ends of a spectrum. It is difficult for either type of player to see what works for the other. Some of us stand between the two and can see both sides.

As Big Brother says, Freeform requires an entirely different mindset. You are not there to win a game, you are there to tell a story together.

It's like asking who is the best, you or your wife? If you're even asking that question, you're in the wrong relationship. You're not there to compete, you're there to collaborate.

If you're writing a novel, how do you determine whether the protagonist or the antagonist is the better sword fighter? The character who wins the fight is the one whose winning will best enhance the story. They may not always win. They may win now only to be defeated later, but these twists are included because they make the story better.

The skillfulness of a character will be determined by the story as it is told, not decided by a roll of dice at the start.

@ DLH, this story is the occasion when the PCs were in the right place at the right time, that's why they win. There wouldn't be much point in telling the story if the bad guys wasted them in Chapter One, would there?

@ Azzuri, I'd be happy to discuss light rules systems for midway games, if you're willing.

Games in the middle ground can often include Character Sheets that define the character up front, and simple dice rules that are only used for combat. The rest of the time, the game is about personal interactions.
azzuri
 member, 265 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 19:27
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
icosahedron152:
@ Azzuri, I'd be happy to discuss light rules systems for midway games, if you're willing.

No.
gladiusdei
 member, 620 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 19:32
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
I understand the desire for creative writing, and of cooperative writing.  I fully understand that the goal of most freeform games is to create an enjoyable story together.

But I also know people are competitive by nature.  People also disagree on what us fun, and what makes a good story.  So you will inevitably end up with situations where, say, several knight players go to war and all want to defeat the enemy champion.  Or two players compete to win the affection of one NPC.

How do you decide who wins?  I understand some players would be willing to lose to another to make a good story.  But many other players wouldn't be happy with that.

So in your games how has this been resolved?  Has it always worked for you?  Have you had problems?

How do you resolve situations where a player believes his character should be able to accomplish something, but others disagree?

You are explaining freeform games in broad strokes, the philosophy behind it.  That I already understand.  I am asking for examples of how this was resolved in practice.
engine
 member, 556 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 20:02
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
gladiusdei:
How do you decide who wins?  I understand some players would be willing to lose to another to make a good story.  But many other players wouldn't be happy with that.

If the ground rules for the game is that character can die at another player's decision, then everyone involved should be the kind of person who is happy about it.

Here's one such set of ground rules I found:
http://www.imaginechat.com/creed.shtml

gladiusdei:
How do you resolve situations where a player believes his character should be able to accomplish something, but others disagree?

I haven't done any free-form, really, but I could imagine one approach would be "If it has been stated, then it has happened." Others can "disagree" but they can't prevent it after the fact. If they wanted to be in a position to prevent things, they'd have to be able to point to something they had stated that would prevent it. If X wants to prevent Y from shooting B, X needs to say "I position myself to be able to stop Y from harming B." If X has superspeed or a magic spell, maybe that "position" is on the other side of the football field, or in another dimension, but the point is that they've established their "fictional positioning" and it can probably be generally agreed that if Y tries to shoot B, X will be able to intevene in some way.

What wouldn't work would be for Y to shoot B and then for X to say "But I was in a position to stop that" when X didn't specify that. Maybe X has superspeed and is standing right next to B, but without that positioning X is out of luck. (Probably, any character with superspeed would have had some overarching description relevant to the story that always lets them react, but without that, well, I guess they're just not quite super enough).

So, basically, it could be (roughly) about precedence.

Which doesn't necessary leave X entirely at Y's mercy. X has narrative power too, and can potentially add to Y's fiction. Unless Y has established that they're a crack shot with an intimate knowledge of anatomy, there's potentially room for X to state that that the shot, while injurious, hasn't killed B outright. It probably depends on the game whether or not and what X can add on to Y's fiction. But that would be my preferred flow of things: you can't block fiction, but you can add on to it.

An exception I would make would be if a PC were taking action against another PC. In that case, my preference would be to let the targeted PC decide the outcome of that action. If the outcome somehow redirects it back to the first PC (or some other PC), that PC gets to decide the outcome. In theory, one could extend this to aspects of the game beyond one's own character. If, in the above example, B is somehow crucial to X, X could get to decide everything about how Y's action played out - until Y would be suffering the consequences.

Obviously something like that could be gamed by a dedicated person, or could lead to oddness even between well-meaning people, but I think the overriding expectation is that players will sort things out among themselves.
Togashi Kenshin
 member, 56 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 20:05
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
I've found that conflict in Freeform often boils down to GM fiat. Now legitimizing the ruling is the tricky part.

Some games I have been in have fallen down to secret ballot. Each of the players involved (but not the competing pair) send a vote in to the GM(s) by PM with their reasoning.

Players who want to accomplish something need to explain how, exactly, their character is capable of that.

I have played in games where the GMs ask PCs to quantify skills with an adjective. They can only have so many superlative skills after all. If you have a rank system that goes, say, Untrained-Apprentice-Journeyman-Expert-Master-Genius-World Class then the PC will have to understand that even a Master Swordsman is not defeating a World Class swordsman anytime soon. The old White Wolf system of giving a short descriptive paragraph to denote general ability can be helpful.

Some GMs I have played with have basically gone with pure fiat justifying it that they go with logic first, narrative second and hilarity third. This has caused problems though when the GM has a posse that goes from game to game. Newcomers might not even try or become quickly disheartened because all of us are only human.

For example I was in a House of Cards style RP where I was tasked with playing the lead villain. His job was to put up obstacles in front of some of the other PCs. Problem was that this involved manipulating the President who was a GM NPC. Normally quite doable for most freeforms. The trick was that the head of the Democratic Caucus (the main PC) was also a GM who played the President. So I am effectively asking him to rule against himself. So when arguments could not be won, the President would simply ignore my character, be called away for meetings or just be unavailable.

Ultimately if you have plenty of players who are trying to "win", then the freeform game can quickly become untenable. This usually requires swift action by the GM. For example by introducing new love interests, making the PCs natural allies as a third force appears to muck up their plans or simply embroil them in events bigger than themselves so that they can have victories without stepping on the toes of other PCs.

Truth be told, two or more players who must win at all times for any reason will quickly break a freeform game. When other players are writing nuanced, fallible characters and they are playing Wesley Crusher and Ensign Mary Sue things can get out of control fast. At that point the GM has the option of containing them, kicking them out or pray that the other players are remarkably mature.

Ultimately clarity and communication is the key. Why exactly did the GM make this call, how can the player justify that his character is capable of accomplishing this feat. If the players are second guessing themselves all the time then it will have a chilling effect on the game. This is especially true if the GM has ruled against something that is genre convention. In a Batman game, ruling that people can't traverse by using whips and grappling hooks will have the players look at each other in puzzlement and be quite unsure of what their characters actually can do for example.
gladiusdei
 member, 621 posts
Tue 13 Feb 2018
at 20:19
Re: Question for Freeform gms and players- resolving power level
I wasn't just talking about PVP.  I'm talking about disagreeing on where the story should go.  Unless you guys are playing games where the entire character arc is agreed upon before the game begins, you're inevitably going to run into a situation where a player or players want to do something that the gm or other players don't want.  If one layer's whole goal in joining the game is to play out a story of a lonely knight finding redemption and marrying the widowed queen, and another player wants to overthrow said queen and rule the land, one of them is not going to get what they want.  So how do you decide which story to follow? Who decides what makes the best story?

If it is simply GM fiat, has that worked for freeform gms in the past?  have they had players complain, or quit?  How have you managed through it?

Togashi, you posted while I was writing my response, but your answer is much more of what I was looking for.  so perhaps use a system where everyone gets a certain amount of, say, good skill points, so they can only be so good at so much?  something like that?