Friday, September 22, 2023

The Culture: Solo Play Proving Its Worth Yet Again

Last night, Jon Mollison did another solo session.

The value of playing solo shows itself here.

You are compelled to play the game exactly as it's written because otherwise you don't have a game- you have a Wish Fulfillment machine, a Mary Sue generator.

You will screw up. That's fine. This is the dojo; you screw up in the dojo so you don't screw up when it counts. You screw up, you review your performance, you find what you did wrong and how, you fix that, and improve your skill at the game.

Jon's doing this an hour at a time, here and there; this is by no means an all-consuming pursuit. You can do this after dinner in the evenings while you wait for the game to come on, or your show to come up, or the laundry cycle to finish, or whatever.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Culture: The Bros Have An Anthem

The Bros have an anthem. It's as glorious as Trollopolous, BROventloft, and Macho Mandalf.

Yeah, it's a musical shitpost, but while its style is unserious its content is quite serious. Cargo Cultists and Tourists got the mockery and disrespect they've showned returned to them.

And remember, BROvenloft 2023 is due to arrive in about 10 days. Let's see what serious shenanigans go down this year.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Culture: Macris Talks Timekeeping, Part Two

As promised last week, Macris posted the follow-up.

As I said last week:

I expect to hear a novel, yet practical and easily implemented, alternative solution come next week. I am willing to entertain that solution in good faith if it delivers on that promise.

Next Monday should be interesting.

Here's the follow-up.

My reaction, summarized.

That's a lot of ways to avoid playing the game as it is written.

It is this simple: "You can't contradict what is already done."

Jeffro's "Always On" is how the game is written. Macris (correctly) notes that the full power of this rule could not be had prior to the Internet and easy connectivity to faciliate such a massive Braunstein game without it being a job unto itself- but it could be done locally and it was.

Why does Jeffro have it correct? Simple. Agency, believe it or not, has limits. The party that went ahead, did the thing, and is now on mandatory downtime due to Strict Timekeeping gets to have that win because they risked it and bought it fair and square- that victory IS THEIR PROPERTY!

They took the one thing you can't get back--Time--and risked it on an uncertain investment (the expedition) in the hopes of attaining a superior Return On Investment than any other option. That risk worked out in their favor, and they got the rewards that they sought. They broke it, they bought it, so now they own it. Now they have to pay off the debt, measured in Time, that they took out to make that happen- that's what mandatory downtime is about. Because they bought it, it's theirs. Simple as.

Every other proffered alternative violates this most basic principle.

Does this come down to the Referee saying "No, you don't." Sure, it does, and that's not only acceptable it's part of the job description for the Referee to do that; players do not get to act on information that their man could not have, and this entire scenario is predicated on exactly that sort of cheating. That is the limit to agency here, folks; you don't get to steal another's wins out from under them using "but Muh Temporal Paradox" as an excuse- What's Done IS DONE.

Only "Always On" works for this reason, and it's why Strict Timekeeping also means Strict Maptracking; you may not be able to undo the win, but there's nothing stopping you from being like Rene Belloq and ambush your rival after the fact to take what you can off him.

There is no viable alternative to what the Bros recovered from the Memory Hole.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Business: Your Product Deals In Agency, So It Is Not Allowed To Suck

Taken from one of Macris' posts on Twitter is this image:

Agency is a very fancy way of saying "It's on you to make things happen, not someone else." This is beyond "choices matter"; this is "No fate but what we make" territory.

Agency is fundamental to fantastic adventure wargaming because, as a wargame, the player is required to exercise agency to win. He can be forced to contend with all sorts of disfavorable circumstances, but it is his decisions in dealing with them that matter and those consequences have permanent impacts upon the campaign's milieu- forcing other players to deal with that in turn. (e.g. If Bob creates the T-Virus and lets it loose, he exercised agency.)

A hobby product whose rules and procedures do not answer questions that someone exercising agency needs answered is a shit product that has no right to exist.

What questions? They include:

  • "How fast can (X) move upon/communicate with (Y)?"
  • "How long does it take to recover/heal/repair/build (X)?"
  • "What do I encounter if I go into this unknown area?"
  • "Can I surprise/evade/pursue/escape (X)?"
  • "How many can I lead, and how strong is their morale?"

All of those questions are as applicable to the tactical as to the strategic, to the individual as to the institutional, from dudes throwing rocks and swinging clubs to vast intergalactic empires chucking black holes at each other, and from literal warfare involving lethal force delivered nose-to-nose to metaphorical warfare fought with financial fuckery and cultural subversion campaigns- including everyone's favorite Deadly Decadent Court Intrigue Melodramas straight ouf history and myth.

Oh, and all of those questions matter because Player vs. Player conflict is always on the table. It's a wargame; that's presumed.

It's one thing to act like Siembieda, Colville, or some other Cargo Cultist (or Boomer) and just go "LOL make it up!" when it's just the One True Party doing what the Referee wants of them. Retards objecting to the entire subject (as seen in Jeffro's recent exchanges) fail to grok that proper products have to account for this PVP dynamic- and no one in PVP accepts "LOL just make it up" because that becomes the Referee picking winners and losers and that violates agency.

It's what those objecting to the Bros do not comprehend; the opposition to your man's adventuring can--and, in time, will--be the direct or indirect result of another player's actions. This includes that other player directly confronting your man in the field. No one accepts "LOL just make it up!" when that goes down. Yet agency demands that this be on the table at all times.

And that means facing the possibility that what otherwise can be taken as the Referee just shitting on you for no good reason turns out to be the result of another player's damn good gameplay in setting up an ambush that results in your man getting ganked with no possibility of reprisal- or even escape. (Assassins are dangerous for a reason.)

Because that's on the table, the rules under which that agency gets exercised has to be complete, comprehensive, and competently-done or there's going to be needless acrimony as a result of the Referee having to do the designer's job for him. If players can't show receipts demonstrating that the rules of the game allowed for that outcome, and that all of them were properly executed (and thus force the player with a dead man to admit that he got outplayed fair and square), that leaves room for resentment to poison the well- and it will happen.

This is why I shit on bad hobby products now. Life is too short to tolerate tools that are unfit for purpose and, like some Mainlander Tofu-Dreg project, fall apart under intended use.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Business: The Problem With Palladium

This past week Jeffro began digging into RIFTS and Palladium, as did JD Sauvage.

They are now experiencing the issues that I've long had with Palladium, and are having that "Great ideas, but man that execution" feeling I've dealt with for decades.

I won't go over what a good manual needs--I did that last Sunday--but I will spell out things Palladium's ruleset is missing.

Not Even Half A Game

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Culture: The Value Of Solo Play

The other night Jon Mollison did another solo session live.

And Jeffro's solo session of RIFTS (mixing Invid-era Robotech) continues. It didn't go as planned. Jeffro also ran first-hand into my consistent criticism of Palladium's lack of attention to detail in its game design. This omission of critical rules and procedures to address what happened had him looting Gamma World to find a suitable jury-rig to hold him over.

In both respects, what we see here is the value of solo gaming in a two-fold manner. The first is the primary reason: to go hands-on with a product to see how it works when it is used as the manual says it is to be used to see what the experience of play is. The second is derived from doing so in a public manner, which is to show others what you found.