[playtesting] sources of adversity - rethinking the Czege Principle

edited November 2010 in Story Games
Apparently it's pronounced "se-gah", by the way.
In any case, I've been overhauling my Dwarf Fortress tabletop design, and I'm pondering some... things.

For one, what are different ways of providing adversity? The Czege Principle, loosely paraphrased, states that it's unsatisfying for a player to both devise, and resolve, his own adversity.
How does it jive with the Principle if a player chooses to either a) do his chores or b) be responsible for a related shortage all players must suffer? What if that shortage manifests itself primarily as a background source of conflict (farmer skips the harvest; people go hungry; people give him a hard time)? Is that a weird set of incentives?

Secondarily, how does it jive if a player is rolling dice to settle the above a/b conundrum?

In part, I'm drawing heavily from a loose understanding of Apocalypse World, if that makes sense - particularly the Need: and barter rules. I'll be doing some close-reading, but that's a detail I would encourage y'all to keep in mind while thinking about this.

Since this is based on a work-in-playtest, I don't quite have any Actual Play examples yet. Thanks!

Comments

  • The way I've understood the principle is that it's unsatisfying for the Player to devise and resolve the same adversity, but the character's role is unspoken. Skipping one's chores and thereby causing problems for (others and) oneself is something the character does, and so has no bearing on the principle for me. The question is who came up with the thought "If Holmfridur doesn't harvest, everyone will go hungry". If that was the same player, and that same player then has to think up the solution, the the principle is broken, but if it's rules or a gamemaster then the player just makes a choice within the game.

    Summary: key words in the principle (the way I read it) are 'player' and 'devise'. Especially how it doesn't say 'character' and 'cause' (in-game 'cause' as opposed to ou-of-game 'devise').
  • Posted By: Zac in DavisApparently it's pronounced "se-gah", by the way.
    For realz?

    Dang, I've been pronouncing it "chegg" + "eeeee" since I heard an American dude pronounce it thus on some or other podcast. Damn colonials.

    Back on topic...
    Posted By: Zac in DavisThe Czege Principle, loosely paraphrased, states that it's unsatisfying for a player to both devise, and resolve, his own adversity.
    I find it really, get-up-and-leave-the-table unsatisfying to just plain devise my own adversity. The resolution aspect is the lesser part of that principle.

    It happened recently in Apocalypse World, and while playtesting Chronicles of Skin. In AW, we were at a con, it was an 8 hour slot (with a four hour break inbetween the two slots we were using) and while the game was fun, I'd already as a player narrated in the main adversary - a rival hardholder - and the reasons for his aggression, and bwah, it was just... unsatisfying.

    The GM ran with the adversity I provided - maybe I was wrong to do that, but it was a one shot and we were colouring in the world - and provided lots of other adversity all of his own making, but yeah, that aspect was hella unsatisfying.
    Posted By: Zac in DavisHow does it jive with the Principle if a player chooses to either a) do his chores or b) be responsible for a related shortage all players must suffer? What if that shortage manifests itself primarily as a background source of conflict (farmer skips the harvest; people go hungry; people give him a hard time)? Is that a weird set of incentives?
    That works for me, so long as the MC is providing the specifics of the shortage.
    Posted By: Zac in DavisSecondarily, how does it jive if a player is rolling dice to settle the above a/b conundrum?
    The resolution aspect doesn't bug me :: shrugs :: If I "chose" the results of the dice - "I've decided to roll 12 on this" - yeah, that'd harsh my balls.
  • I'm not sure the principle holds across all situations. In Fiasco, I set up my PC as a mean woman-hating bastard, he came more and more into conflict with a barmaid NPC and eventually I had her shoot him in the back and kill him. I didn't even need to roll. He was just dead. It really was very satisfying.

    Perhaps the principle works better if you're more strongly identifying with the character rather than the narrative.
  • edited November 2010
    Nevermind, I didn't think this through. Delete this post if you can.
  • edited November 2010
    Posted By: Jonatan Kilhamnbut if it's rules or a gamemaster then the player just makes a choice within the game.
    Jonatan, excellent point! That means we're fine, then - every season of play, profession X (ha, that's like Professor X) is in charge of preventing shortages in Y and Z. You can either flip the bird to your fellow dwarfs, or you can try to get your work done. You may still fail - or be forced to choose between getting it done and spending time with the people you care about - but you have to try at all to have a chance.
    Posted By: PeteIf I "chose" the results of the dice - "I've decided to roll 12 on this" - yeah, that'd harsh my balls.
    In a previous version of the game, I gave players some meta-points to change die results, and let them change results up or down. The idea was to prevent critical success, which has some additional fallout (it attracts attention to the fortress), but what it led to was the question of bidding wars, and whether players could a) sabotage each other mechanically, which was a-thematic, and b) make themselves have critical failures, for which I then supplied details, lest things get too blech.
    [edit] Now, though, you can only improve your results, and no messing with other people's die results at all, though I may devise some manner of mechanizing teamwork. Doubtful, but maybe.

    Steve, question for ya: how did you "have" the barmaid shoot your character in the back? How did the mechanics help make that happen?

    Overall, folks, thanks for the clarity! I feel pretty confident that this design I've got going steers clear of the problem outlined by the Principle, but feel free to further reflect on what I've said here; i.e. we can keep the thread going.
  • Posted By: GB SteveI'm not sure the principle holds across all situations. In Fiasco, I set up my PC as a mean woman-hating bastard, he came more and more into conflict with a barmaid NPC and eventually I had her shoot him in the back and kill him. I didn't even need to roll. He was just dead. It really was very satisfying.

    Perhaps the principle works better if you're more strongly identifying with the character rather than the narrative.
    What Steve said! I've played many games that were less character focused where we both devised and resolved our own adversity and it worked well. Especially using scene framing. Also in FATE it's not uncommon for players to Compel their own Aspects.
  • I'd agree that character monogamy (or lack thereof) is a big factor in this discussion.
  • I don't grok character monogamy as being a factor. Help?

    I like the conversation aspect of TT RPGs. If I wanted to concoct my own characters, my own adverse situations, and my own solutions to those same situations, I'd be a writer and not a role-player.

    I want the back and forwards of a conversation. Listening to myself both setting up situations and then resolving them - even if those aspects are interrupted by other players having scenes - is not really a conversation. Conversation is key.
  • A game with limited character monogamy (a la Fiasco, which I know you've played, Pete) has a bit of the writer's room feel to it, right? You aren't in complete control of your guy at all times. The very notion that he's your guy is something of an illusion. So when you create adversity for him, maybe by resolving with a black die, you should be violating the Czege Principle, but it is still fun and interesting. I'd suggest that this is because you aren't in complete control of anything.
  • But at least in Fiasco, I'm rarely the only person both generating and resolving the adversity. Some of it can come from the setup, and some of it comes from other players. And the decision to establish or resolve - that seems to me to be an explicit embodiment of the Czege principle. I can either set up the conflict in the scene, *or* decide how it turns out for me.

    Now, in practice, there is a lot of the writer's room feel, but that only helps, because it means that no single person is devising or resolving the adversity. If I want to establish, but I'm stuck for ideas, the other players contribute -- but that means that I'm not the only one generating the adversity. I'm probably deciding what's most interesting adversity to me, but that's not the same thing.
  • Sure, absolutely, that firewall is built in. But it often occurs that you resolve for your own guy, and you make bad things happen to him that don't directly emerge from the situation your friends created for you. You know it is a negative outcome, but you take a left turn and make it negative in an unpredictable way.
  • Posted By: cwilburAnd the decision to establish or resolve - that seems to me to be an explicit embodiment of the Czege principle.
    Yeah. When I played Fiasco, and Jason explained how you either establish or resolve, I remember thinking, "It's the Czege Principle: the RPG!"

    Matt
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