Third party judging 'drama' scene?

Ok, let's say player A is playing James Michael Stern, a railroad baron who secretly dons a suit of steam-driven power armor to clean up the mean streets of London as Ironclad. Player B is playing Julianna Graves, Stern's secretary. They have a scene that's just about the relationships between their characters. No dice or other mechanics are invoked in this scene, it's just a character bit. Player Z watches and, when it's over, makes some judgment calls, and mechanical changes re: the relationship are made to the character sheets based on Z's decision. Maybe he picks options from a menu, or he just says to add 1 to such-and-such, I dunno.

Ever seen anything like this? Where? How'd it work out for you?


  • edited December 2011
    I've played plenty of talky, mechanics-free scenes between my PC and another PC, at the conclusion of which one of the following happened:
    - the GM gave me XP
    - the GM gave me a new Trait or Key
    - the GM added points to my existing Trait or Pool

    This was usually the GM's call on whether I was roleplaying correctly and well, or performing certain behaviors that the game recommended rewards for. Like, if the game says, "Reward the players for getting their characters in trouble," or, "Whenever they demonstrate that a relationship is important to them, give them more points in that Connection."

    It generally worked out best when the principles behind the awards were as concrete as possible. Too much room for GM judgment let to wheedling, grumpiness, and a sense of randomness.

    Personally, I despise roleplaying toward mechanical rewards, and I dislike systems that incentivize that. Playing toward fictional rewards that are then tracked mechanically can work, but sometimes the tracking is a superfluous hassle. I think the key is to mediate between the fiction and the mechanical changes with something interesting and productive, not merely evaluative. Like, Player Z looks at two lists of adjectives, picks the most appropriate one from each list, then uses those as inputs to roll a result on a table. And then the table result adds something new into the mix, something that isn't just adj1 + adj2, and that new thing is what's incorporated into the mechanics.
  • A Taste for Murder.

    Two people enter the scene, they play it out. At the end any player who were not in the scene act as judges to determine if any (or even both) of them played well enough to get a bonus on their next conflict roll.

    It works out well, and gives the players on the side lines something to do.
  • edited December 2011
    Cool, cool. What about when it's not an award so much as a change? Specifically speaking, the possibilities here are a point or two going 'on the tab' for one or both of the characters, which will give a small one-time bonus in the event of that character getting into a crisis situation; an adjective or two gets put on the character sheet next to the relationship, to inform the players as they try to build the relationship subplot to crisis and resolution; adjusting the 'significance' score of the relationship for one or both characters by a point, up or down. That last one has some long-running impact on effectiveness, but should probably be the least common.

    It's not about judging whether it's good enough; it's judging what you demonstrated about the relationship in that scene.

    (Oh and I edited the first sentence of the OP because I had omitted a clause that left the sentence rather awkward. Posting from a phone is hard.)
  • I haven't ever experienced something like this, except when an audience member got narration rights in PTA, and that's way broader and more ill-defined than a change to a relationship. Cool idea.
  • Bliss Stage works like that. It works well.
  • edited December 2011
    Rafu, can you tell me more about that? I've never experienced this either, and it'd be nice to have a giant to stand on.

    Thanks, Jason! Y'know, it's funny, when I started this project, my mission statement was, It's not a comics game, it's a crime drama game in which one of the characters happens to put on a costume and have exceptional abilities. But as time goes on I'm finding myself making it more and more comics-like to make it work.
  • In Satanic Mills two or more players act out a scene and another player decides which character(s) are alienated by the scene. It worked fine. Satanic Mills is a game in which 'everyone loses' so there is no strategic reason for the observing player to make a 'biased' call.
  • edited December 2011
    Marshall, any thoughts on my points above? I have experienced all of your examples (one-time bonus, adjective, score change), and I think the key is not whether you do them, but how.
  • I dunno, David, I'm not thinking of it as roleplaying toward mechanical incentives. What I'm shooting for is two players demonstrate something about their characters in their roleplaying, and a third recognizes and acknowledges that contribution by giving it mechanical weight. Does that make sense?
  • We playtested a wrestling game where:

    - you cut a promo
    - people can interrupt and cut a promo on you
    - battle back and forth verbally
    - at the end of the scene, anyone who watched the scene grabs a token
    - at the count of 3 each audience member chooses one of the wrestler's traits to boost OR...
    - they can grab a blank index card, write down a new trait, and give it to one of the wrestlers

    The idea is that the audience communicates what emotionally compelled them about the wrestler's promo.

    The twist is that the more wrestlers involved in the scene, the more they have to compete for attention because each audience member can only boost or create 1 trait per scene, regardless of the number of wrestlers in the scene.

    But twist #2 was that anyone not in the scene counts as an audience member, even if they aren't playing the game with us! So if your grandma is walking by you can grab her and as long as she watches the scene, she can contribute. We once played in a public space and 1 player in their hunger for power kept grabbing more and more random people walking by. The security guards were not happy!

    I LOVED it!

    But players who don't enjoy competition or acting didn't enjoy it. So we took a page from real life wrestling and allowed shy players to recruit a manager to talk for them while they looked menacing in the background. Worked great!
  • I swear I have played or read a game that does exactly this, quite recently, but I absolutely cannot put my finger on it. In said game two players play out a scene and the audience decides what sort of relationship the characters have, or maybe decides if an existing relationship value has been demonstrated sufficiently? I can't remember. Damn, this is going to bother me. But it's definitely workable technology.

    Ummm... maybe it's that Left Coast game? Arrrrgh, stupid brain.
  • Seriously, just go play Bliss Stage. It does this and it rocks socks, every time.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsWhat I'm shooting for is two players demonstrate something about their characters in their roleplaying, and a third recognizes and acknowledges that contribution by giving it mechanical weight. Does that make sense?
    Makes total sense! I think it's as easily said as done. The tricky part is what you hope to get out of it. Whatcha going for with this?

    E.T.A.: Sorry if this isn't helpful. You asked for folks' experiences, and the first thing that came to my mind was, "Here are some potential pitfalls you might wanna try to avoid." On a more positive note, I will say that the ability to give a player an active role at a time when they might not otherwise have one is sweet. I like spectating for judgment (as in Paul's game Land of Nodd) better than spectating for nothin'.
  • In The Trouble with Rose; the player frames a scene, throws down a domino, acts/narrates/soliloquizes their way through the scene based on the pips, and at the end the audience scores the scene (to earn your pips.) And, optionally the audience can do a "yes, and" or "yes, but" action to embellish the scene. That method of story telling and 3rd party scoring has worked out very well.
  • Here's another example of this kind of mechanic, from Apocalypse World of all places.

    It's what happens at the end of a session: you have to look at each other and say, "whose character do you feel got to know yours better?" And then that person gets a bonus (+1 Hx).

    This one seems to work pretty well, so long as you're very much in the mindset of "no matter what you choose, that's right", as opposed to trying to look for some kind of "objective" answer that's inarguably true.
  • Thanks guys, this stuff is pretty helpful.

    I'm definitely going for "whatever you choose is right" rather than some sort of objectivity.

    I've never been able to get into the whole mecha thing, so I'm not really interested in playing Bliss Stage. Don't know anyone else who'd be interested anyway, so playing just to try this out isn't really an option either.
  • Bliss Stage is a very innovative game - it was pretty much the first explicit attempt at this sort of thing, for instance. I know not what this "doesn't play mecha" thing is, the game's about cybernet hackers after the Skynet took over.
  • In My Life With Master, you get dice for Sincerity, Intimacy and...another thing, based on roleplaying.

    (That's where I stole the idea for A Taste For Murder.)
  • I get that Bliss Stage is innovative and important, but I just can't get into the Color. Giving it a Terminator spin doesn't help either.
  • True, true. We're just throwing out that the mecha part is really an optional description. It's is just a dream warrior against dream invaders. Use ghost walkers, dream weavers, dimensional dopplegangers, the fey realm, Na'vi (Avatar), etc. you can put quite a bit of spin on it. It's not like you're playing Bliss Stage and then jump into a Mekton Zeta or BattleTech mini-game. [Although I'd be cool with that.] :-)
  • edited December 2011
    [Bliss Stage]
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsRafu, can you tell me more about that? I've never experienced this either, and it'd be nice to have a giant to stand on.

    In Bliss Stage, each player may play one or more characters, some characters may be more important/focal than others, and it's mostly relationships between characters [which different players portray] that get numerical Values (also, the level of psychological trauma characters of one specific kind suffered, which is used to track how close they are to death/leaving play and, indirectly, how close the endgame is).
    Leaving aside Missions (which is when you roll dice and stuff), there are various kinds of scenes you can play, and each scene type has a specific mechanic effect (such as: increase Intimacy of a Relationship by +1, decrease Stress on a Relationship by 1, heal 1 point of Trauma, etc.).
    The way it works is that you cast and frame a scene, putting a bunch of characters together, but you don't declare in advance which kind of scene it is. Instead, you pick one player (one otherwise extraneous to the scene) to be the referee for that one scene: they do nothing but observe, while you roleplay character interactions. In the end, when the scene is over, the referee has to assess which kind of scene it was based on the fictional content of it (which they observed as audience). Mechanical consequences of the scene follow more or less automatically from this assessment, and changes in Values are thus recorded.
  • Left Coast does something a little bit like this: after a scene has finished the GM and audience (people who weren't playing characters) decide if an NPC or relationship need to get added to the huge relationship map / Setting Chart that gets created through play. At the moment, it doesn't allow for 'redefining' an existing relationship but I can totally see how it could.(*)

    (*) And I'm rewriting the game at the moment, after three really productive and challenging playtests, so I'll add that idea into the mix.
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