[World of Dungeons/Shadows] Why I can't go back

edited January 2013 in Story Games
On Saturday night, we decided to get a session going since one of our old crew was back in town for the weekend. The past few sessions we played we used World of Shadows (World of Dungeons done Shadowrun-style). Because I didn't have any WoS character sheets on-hand, we decided to play Shadow-hack (my Shadowrun mash-up with Old School Hack).

We made characters and that was pretty fun, and at the start of the actual gameplay, I was very excited. However, I quickly regretted the choice of Shadow-hack once we hit the first scene where the lead started flying around. I mean, on paper, Shadow-hack looks awesome to me. But, after playing World of Dungeons and World of Shadows for the past five sessions, I found Shadow-hack's antiquated systems to be really difficult to use. Here's why.

First, the fact that the game has a separate system for combat and non-combat scenes threw me off, and part of the that has to do with the way we play Shadowrun. I noticed that when my group plays Shadowrun, they really latch on to the "run" part. If I don't consciously push for a mission with planning and legwork involved (which means come prepared), it's basically one big constant blur of action, movement, chases, quick decisions, changing locations, and deadly but brief battles. The players VERY rarely find themselves in a stand-up fight in a stagnant location where they are trying to fight to the death (unlikein D&D). Instead, we get occasional shots fired back and forth, the single punch thrown, a bum-rush through a doorway, heated car chases, that kind of thing. Which, by the way, is awesome and is not a problem at all.

The problem was it felt like it would totally break the flow and the immersion of the fiction to suddenly change from free-flow narration to heavily codified and procedure-based combat. I couldn't bring myself to do it, so I pretty much threw out the whole combat system and based all of combat on single rolls. Which brings me to my next problem.

Shadow-hack uses an old-school style Target Number success system. In other words, if you roll equal to or over the TN then you succeed, otherwise you fail. Back in the day, this seemed to work fine. But this time around, I felt the constant need for a middle ground: the Partial Success. I totally did not like the "black and white", "yes or no" results of actions. It was just flat and uninteresting. It bothered me so much that just decided to slap together a quick system with the AW-style three-tiered success trichotomy and it felt better.

The point of this is... After playing games with the World of Dungeons engine, I don't think I can go back to games with combat systems that require a complete change of pacing or yes/no success systems. Anyone else feeling this?

Comments

  • Yup. Deciding when you are or are not in a fight is a pain, compared to judging specific fictional actions to see if a move has been made (which can also be tough sometimes, but is different).
  • Binary resolution mechanics are a dealbreaker for me personally, but that was true long before I found out about AW. Ditto combat as some kind of special exception to general scene mechanics.
  • My favorite games are either those with unified mechanics (GURPS w/o add-ons, Smallville, D&D4, etc.) or those with 1,000 different mechanics for 1,000 different things (pre-4e D&D, Deadlands, Savage Worlds). I'm pretty meh about games with one or two. Either keep it simple or go nutso.
  • @JDCorley, that's almost exactly my tastes, too. FATE is a good example of a game with a single mechanic, Aces & Eights is a recent all-out multiple mechanic system (which is really like three or four Wild West minigames).

    I ran Feng Shui a couple of months ago and it made me long for FATE where I could just.. do... everything... the... same without needing a list of specific rules for specific things all the time. Drilling down, it was having to set difficulties for stunts which did it for me, compared to FATE where the players can just Aspect the scene to their heart's content without me needing to think about how hard that acrobatic leap was.
  • Yup. Deciding when you are or are not in a fight is a pain, compared to judging specific fictional actions to see if a move has been made (which can also be tough sometimes, but is different).
    I mean, my inner-GM knew when I would normally call for initiative, but I didn't want to. The idea of suddenly jumping in to a whole other set of mechanics to deal with combat seem unnecessary and unwelcome. I'm actually not big fan of "moves" either, in the AW sense. World of Dungeons just hits a sweet spot with me in simplicity and usability.
    Binary resolution mechanics are a dealbreaker for me personally, but that was true long before I found out about AW. Ditto combat as some kind of special exception to general scene mechanics.
    What games did you play with non-binary systems prior to AW?
    unified mechanics ... D&D4 ...
    At the risk of opening up a can of JD, how on earth does D&D have unified mechanics? Combat works entirely differently then Skill Challenges. Sure, you got D20 vs TN, but that hardly bridges the gap.

  • I am with you, I like the pace and feel of being in an all story game, and I suspect my players are being changed by the experience as well, there is a lot to be said about speaking what your mind fancies and not worrying about who is next, what die to roll and calculate a lot of modifiers, not to mention the deal breaker; roll initiative!
  • RE: Basic Moves vs. WoDu "Move." You and me both, really. I like designing custom moves for AW, but I often find myself still (after playing/running 40+ sessions of various AW hacks) occasionally missing the fictional triggers on some basic moves or just not quite engaging them correctly (calling for rolls when we need to interrogate the fiction more, etc.). I think that gets much easier when the fictional triggers are clearer (cf. the constant Go Aggro/Seize problem that people seem to encounter, at least at first) or fewer in number so you just have to be attentive for a few things. Going forward, I think there's room for some hybrid approaches where there are 1-3 basic moves and then a fair number of other moves (based on characters, situations, bits of setting, etc.) that are engaged with more infrequently.
  • edited January 2013
    I need a copy of this World of Dungeons! I guess its not available for the time being according to other posts I have read? It's not CC licensed? If it was I thought it might be cool to share it?

    btw - I love, some much damn love, Lady Blackbird.
  • There are some WoDu hacks that are freely available. I highly recomment Michael Wight's "World of Warhammer" hack, The Streets of Marienburg.
  • edited January 2013
    Yeah, Streets of Marienburg is like...amazing. Also, check out Dungeon Girls for an awesome AP. The reasons why I love the system so much are apparent in Blake's retelling of his daughters' adventures.

    I mean, I hate bandwagons, but I can't help but totally jump on the AW/DW/WoDu bandwagon. Damn you John Harper and Vincent Baker...
  • edited January 2013

    What games did you play with non-binary systems prior to AW?
    I played World of Darkness and other dice pool games (Shadowrun?) that count number of (binary) successes for weak/strong results. A lot of systems have botch/fail/succeed/crit, however *W finds its richness is in the ground between fail-succeed.
    I highly recomment Michael Wight's "World of Warhammer" hack, The Streets of Marienburg.
    +1. There are a bunch more floating around this site, usually with their own threads.

  • edited January 2013

    At the risk of opening up a can of JD, how on earth does D&D have unified mechanics? Combat works entirely differently then Skill Challenges. Sure, you got D20 vs TN, but that hardly bridges the gap.
    Skill Challenges are fights with 5 hit points and your skills are 1-point weapons. Failures do 1 point of damage to your 3-4 hit points. d20 plus modifiers, roll above a TN, and that's the system.

    PS "Unified" is at least partly in the eyes of the beholder. "AW isn't unified, the GM doesn't roll!"
  • What games did you play with non-binary systems prior to AW?
    Start with the James Bond 007 RPG (1983), also the Mayfair DC Heroes RPG, arguably West End's Ghostbusters with the Ghost Die, Shadowrun/oWoD dice pools have already been mentioned, Amber Diceless RPG, although again that's arguable since there's no randomizing. TSR's Marvel Super Heroes RPG, Mayfair's edition of Chill, first edition Conspiracy X, anything that uses the D6Legend mechanics (West End's DC Universe and Hercules & Xena RPGs).

    Explicitly tying the range to specific elements of the shared fiction is AW's little bit of genius, but range of results in RPG mechanics has been around for quite a while.

  • edited January 2013
    The point of this is... After playing games with the World of Dungeons engine, I don't think I can go back to games with combat systems that require a complete change of pacing or yes/no success systems. Anyone else feeling this?
    YES 7-9 is where the interesting stuff is

    I still play MH and DW quite a bit but every time I think of playing something new, it usually takes the form of either a WOD hack or a game like PTA or Fiasco. I really just want to "play stories" these days when I game.

    Not only do I find "playing stories" more fun, It's all I've really got time for with my group being rather fluid in membership and patchy in games actually going ahead these days. I can play a whole story in one evening with WOD/ a WOD Hack/Fiasco, if I play something more complex, I usually can't.

    I Oversaw a game of Michael Wight's "End of the World World" last Sunday and it was awesome. We had such a great time. (Summarised AP available on his thread about the game on the Storygames G+) The pick 3 backgrounds mechanic made for some very interesting character backgrounds. Great work Michael. (Glad I didn't have to print the thing though. It's beautiful but OMG the ink it would take...)

    I am backing the new FATE kickstarter because I have a nostalgic soft spot for it but when I started playing with it the other day, I ended up hacking aspects into my "Musket World" rather than making a FATE game. This actually works rather well if you take aspects down to a plus 1 and have Monsterhearts-level trait scores to keep the probabilities right.
  • I agree with simplicity. Got the old AD+D books for Christmas and looking through them I remembered how we just ignored the rules when we played the game. It was D+D so it was essentially all combat and dungeon exploration so combat rules were the game.

    Now I like social things to happen. And doing that is not like shooting someone.

    Isn't it horrible about how improving our games means loosing our old games.

    Chris Engle
  • Start with ... Explicitly tying the range to specific elements of the shared fiction is AW's little bit of genius, but range of results in RPG mechanics has been around for quite a while.
    I've played quite a few of those games but still consider them to be binary by nature. Even old school D&D had critical failures and critical successes. But, they're ultimately just extreme versions of yes/no. I agree with Cneph...
    A lot of systems have botch/fail/succeed/crit, however *W finds its richness is in the ground between fail-succeed.
    That's the difference. AW is the first game I've personally ran across that has an explicit Partial Success. So instead of NO/no/yes/YES, you get no/sorta/yes (and of course the 12+ critical success of some moves/games). That "sorta" is a big deal in game.
    PS "Unified" is at least partly in the eyes of the beholder. "AW isn't unified, the GM doesn't roll!"
    Agreed. 'Nuff said.
    Isn't it horrible about how improving our games means loosing our old games.
    Not particularly. At least IMO.
  • I can't go back to Apocalypse World or Dungeon World after playing World of Dungeons.
  • I can't go back to Apocalypse World or Dungeon World after playing World of Dungeons.
    I mean...yeah. That. I keep trying to interest myself in different mechanical systems and games, but they all feel like they're overflowing with superfluous crap I don't care about. So, I just keep working on World of Dungeons hacks...
  • WoDu hacks are dangerous, dangerous things. I just got pulled into another one, to do punk-rock tramp freighters in space.
  • Indie/Forge/story games have been exploring non-binary resolution for a long, long time now. (And I agree, by the way, that it's hard to back to games that tie you into yes/no for most resolution. Partial success is where the interesting story lies.)

    Some examples:

    * Otherkind/Otherkind dice (lots and lots of games are based on this, including Psi*Run, Ghost/Echo, Annalise, and Apocalypse World itself)
    * Polaris
    * Any game which uses "Yes, but" as a resolution method (there are a bunch out there, e.g. the current version of Archipelago)
    * In a Wicked Age... (where partial success comes about through negotiation between the players)


    Lots of other games use more involved conflict procedures to create "success with complications", like:

    * FATE (you may accumulate consequences even as the winner)
    * Dogs in the Vineyard (yes, you can get what you want, but only if you kill the bastard)
    * Various Burning Wheel games (the winner often has to make concessions)
    * etc.

  • WoDu hacks are dangerous, dangerous things...
    Yeah but they're the shit! :D


  • * Otherkind/Otherkind dice (lots and lots of games are based on this, including Psi*Run, Ghost/Echo, Annalise, and Apocalypse World itself)
    * Polaris
    * Any game which uses "Yes, but" as a resolution method (there are a bunch out there, e.g. the current version of Archipelago)
    * In a Wicked Age... (where partial success comes about through negotiation between the players)

    Lots of other games use more involved conflict procedures to create "success with complications", like:

    * FATE (you may accumulate consequences even as the winner)
    * Dogs in the Vineyard (yes, you can get what you want, but only if you kill the bastard)
    * Various Burning Wheel games (the winner often has to make concessions)
    * etc.

    I had lurked and occasionally participated in the Forge discussions around 2005-2007, but was dense and wouldn't let go of my traditional-gamer points of view. There were multiple times Callan_S tried to drill some intelligent design into my trad-knock-offs, but I wouldn't hear it. ("What do you mean why does this rule exist? Because all of the other games I'm used to have a rule like that! GAWD!") As a result, i didn't start actually appreciating the brilliance of indie games until late 2009. So much wasted time...
  • edited January 2013
    There are also a lot of non-indie games with partial successes. That's important to AW and it's hacks, but it's not really the main driver of awesome, I don't think. Even on a 10+ on Seize by Force, for example, you can't pick all the results. There are interesting choices happening even when you don't roll 7-9.
  • There are interesting choices happening even when you don't roll 7-9.
    Correct, and that was just a reference to binary vs non-binary. It's not the only driver of fun. However, when I went to a system that has plenty of interesting choices but a yes/no resolution system, it quickly became apparent to me Partial Success is an extremely import part of my gaming style now. It's like a good bass line in a song - when it's there you almost don't notice it, but when it's gone the song sounds hollow.

    As for non-indie games with partial success, I vaguely remember a few traditional games that offered varying degrees of success, but it's been so long that they don't feel the same. A lot of them relied on things like "if they miss the Target Number by x, let them barely do it" type of thing. Have an explicit range of values for a Partial success and specific directions on how to react made a difference.
  • The thing is not the degree of success, which doesn't have to be binary but it's still boring.
    It's about multidimensional degrees of success, where each dimension impacts the fiction in different ways.

    Think about Shock resolution. It is binary for a single participant, but multidimensional when you consider that both players can win or lose different stakes.
  • Kids these days. I tell ya.

    Talislanta (1984).
  • The thing is not the degree of success, which doesn't have to be binary but it's still boring.
    It's about multidimensional degrees of success, where each dimension impacts the fiction in different ways.

    Think about Shock resolution. It is binary for a single participant, but multidimensional when you consider that both players can win or lose different stakes.
    Otherkind and Ghost/Echo, too, which does happen to be multi-dimensional for a single participant. A basic roll has two dimensions: the outcome of the goal, and the outcome of the danger.
  • One Roll Engine generates the speed, location (if necessary), and effectiveness of an outcome with, uh, one roll.
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