IAWA and Red Box Hack - where are they now?

RyRy
edited July 2014 in Story Games
So, at one point, In A Wicked Age and Red Box hack were so hot that they basically took over Story Games. I had great satisfaction with this because I was completely part of the problem.

I still really love those games.

Does anyone play these days? Is the influence mostly felt in the following generation of games?

Comments

  • My impression is a solid "no".

    Although I have a feeling "Old School Hack" has taken over as the successor to RBH. (Personally, I think it's superior in many respects, but loses a lot of the charm that RBH originally had.)

    I'm really hoping to hear I'm wrong in this thread!
  • I haven't played IaWA recently, but I certainly don't feel done with it.
  • IaWA's cool but deeply flawed, as Vincent himself has acknowledged. Its main contribution to RPGs is that it was part of the inspiration for the Clouds and Boxes essay. :-)
  • RyRy
    edited July 2014
    Don't say "deeply" - it's just a little flawed. You do need a certain kind of social communication to get in tune with it, and that isn't in the book. But it is such a thing of beauty when you get to that.
  • I first discovered story-games.com around that time, and IAWA was the first indie RPG (well, alongside Mouse Guard) I got excited about, but I've still only played it a few times. It was a good experience, but for me I think the problem was that it seems like it should be a one-shot game but it's really meant to be played across several sessions, which I could never muster. When I discovered Fiasco it superceded it by offering something more in line with what I was looking for in terms of format. But IAWA just oozes wonderful sword and sorcery atmosphere, and I would love to revisit it sometime (or perhaps try the In a Wicked Archipelago mash-up).
  • Don't say "deeply" - it's just a little flawed. You do need a certain kind of social communication to get in tune with it, and that isn't in the book. But it is such a thing of beauty when you get to that.
    It's not about the communication, it's about the lack of fictional constraints on how to use the Approaches or whatever they're called. YMMV of course.
  • My group played IaWA three or four times in the last six months. It was successful and fun most of the time, and only occasionally did the engine stall and we had to get out, put the car in neutral, push, and then pop the clutch to get it started again. I'd say we probably still enjoy this game and now I'm itching to play it again but with different oracles. We only played with the book's oracles.
  • IaWA remains my backup game of choice. Perfect? No, but pretty darned good if you don't make an effort to go against the grain, and if someone involved has played in a working game at some point.
  • IAWA is my go-to game of choice for rules-lite PVP in settings of my own creation. Note that my current and previous and previous previous groups all hate PVP. Weeeak.
  • My feeling about IaWA is:

    I'll very gladly play it with any group of people who understand how it's supposed to go and what makes it fun. And then it's a fantastic experience!

    I wouldn't want to play with people who I wasn't sure "get it". Unlike many other games I know, it "fails" easily, if people don't approach it just right.

    But, yeah, it's awesome when it's working just right.
  • I just played IAWA yesterday. It is still my favorite fantasy game, because yes, so much action, so much intrigue in every game.

    I find it's still a pity that we don't have anything comparable on the market, not in english and certainly not in german (I'd do a translation in a heartbeat). Owe list? Unique. Scenario creation via oracles? Fiasco does it, but with less inspiring "oracles". Negotiation with a stick? Unique. "No you f***ing don't, a**hole!"? Unique. Best interests? Again, Fiasco does it, but not directly pointed at other characters.

    The other gamers at yesterday's game were new to IAWA and for them it took some time to grasp the flow of the game. But that's normal, IAWA and DnD are miles apart.

    To the flaws... the forms, they can be abused, but if you keep to "forms follow fiction" then it is no real problem. I often ask: "Hey, I don't see so much why this action is covertly. Can you explain?". Then there are these two-on-one conflicts I am not clever enough to orchestrate. So it's always one-on-one with lending particular strengths. My way of running IAWA has developed over more than a dozen games. I am sure a lot of things how I run the game are not in the rule book, but that's not really a problem for me.
  • These were the problems I had with In a Wicked Age:

    I was GMing and my NPC was a lady cursed to become a monster and she was after this amulet along with the her husband the barkeep played by another player. As I was GM I described the scene and stated that my character would grab and destroy the amulet. The other player objected to this and we initiated the conflict mechanics. We didn't set stakes, we just described who was on top in the struggle, I wanted to see if I could get the player to beat on his wife. At the end we'd been fighting and the amulet had gone back and forth. I was the last one to describe my character having it but the other player had won. The player tried to negotiate for the amulet but I was more than willing to accept injury. As I'd taken an injury and we'd established my character last had the amulet I said that my character would have the amulet and destroy it.

    And then everyone was upset because I won twice in a single loss.


    Another time I was GMing a scene where a necromancer was preparing a sacrifice of children and another player wanted to jump through the window and kill him. The necromancer's player won the conflict and negotiated for "You get driven off and the necromancer gets to complete his task." The other player agreed to this outcome. But then as we descirbed the necromancer doing his deed the player wanted to jump through the window and kill him. The player said that there was no reason to stay away once the necromancer had stopped paying attention to him. I said that was not what they agreed. He said there was no way he wouldn't try again once his character had left the room.

    The player was upset because he thought I was dictating his character's behaviour, when he'd already said what the character would do.


    In the same session two players wanted to convince a ghost of a priest that I was GMing to betray the necromancer. I said that they couldn't just negotiate to initiate the conflict mechanic. They had to take some kind of action. IT had to be physical.
    They told me they couldn't fight the ghost as he was a ghost. I said that it needn't be violence, merely something the NPC would try to oppose. I suggested they damage his church tower as an action that would work.
    The players then didn't want a conflict saying they just wanted to negotiate without mechanics but everything they suggested was against the ghost's best interest to grow his glostly congregation. They knew the necro guy was promising to add to his flock by trapping souls but nothing they said improved the ghost's situation.

    And then they were upset because they had an impossible opponent.


    I think I was wrong in the first problem but not in the other two. I asked for advice online at the time but I don't think I was understood. I've not been back to IaWA since.
  • IAWA is my go-to game of choice for rules-lite PVP in settings of my own creation. Note that my current and previous and previous previous groups all hate PVP. Weeeak.
    By "own creation" do you mean custom oracles, or...?

  • TotallyGuy,

    Those are some good examples of the way IaWA can go wrong sometimes! I've definitely seen those things happen.
  • I love IaWA -- my group played it for a few months and those were some of the best sessions ever. It's definitely flawed, but I loved coming up with a world and a set of relationships and then playing them out. Yes, Fiasco is similar that way, but it didn't feel the same.

    I really like Old School Hack, but I got my group to try it for one session but then no one else seemed interested in continuing. Too bad; I liked how it had the old D&D feel without the awful old D&D mechanics.

  • By "own creation" do you mean custom oracles, or...?
    Yes, swords & sorcery is boring dumb stuff for babbies. Play my Vista Heighs Oracle instead.
  • I'm still in love with IaWA. Unfortunately, as an (ideally) long-form fantasy/swords-and-sorcery game, it sits squarely in my "games I can't get my partner interested in playing long-form" box, and I end up only playing it in abbreviated form at gaming conventions.
  • I've had a lot of success playing IaWA without an oracle on hand: just pick a genre and have each person write up a couple of oracle elements (or even one each). Works pretty well.

    If you do this long-term, keep writing up more elements than you need, and put all the unused ones into a bowl (or list or whatever), so gradually you build up an oracle defining this particular genre you have going. This way there's a chance for recurring elements and so on.
  • In my limited experience with the game, it's only REALLY good after a couple of sessions.

    It's kind of like a much slower and more intense version of Microscope: over time, this whole image of a world and its history forms.
  • My first experience with IAWA was with an experienced group that already played well within the restraints of the game, so I had no problems getting into that headspace. My second experience was yesterday as I started GMing a campaign.

    I love it, I think it really brings to the table a brutal S&S world. Yesterday, I also saw how it can easily drift into muddy territory as people are not used to just saying what their characters do. Negotiating on future actions is also another tendency that needs to be corrected. Regarding the forms, everybody has been trying to follow the fiction, I don't see how they get abused.
  • This thread had me musing last night on some slightly different Forms. Instead of tying them entirely to motivation, tie them to possible arenas of conflict. Something like this:

    * With steel and blood
    * From the heart, with love for others
    * At the helm of a multitude
    * In the intimate embrace of the night
    * The eyes are the window to the soul
    * With mighty forces beyond ken
    If your character is a warrior who leads men into battle, you might be strong "with steel and blood" and "at the helm of a multitude". A god-being who is powerful beyond mortals, but insecure in his stature as a god, might be strong "with mighty forces beyond ken" but weak when dealing with a crowd ("at the helm of a multitude"). But a young, lost, innocent maiden's strengths might be face-to-face, one-on-one ("in the intimate embrace of the night", and "the eyes are the window to the soul"). She can win a passionate conversation by the riverside under the moon, but not a battle against the King's guards.

    I'm not sure this is a *good* idea; it was just something that came to me during the night.

    In any case, I do think that IaWA would still be a fantastic game if we replaced the conflict resolution mechanism with just about any other method (e.g. even Fiasco's black and white dice), so long as the Owe List still functions.

    (If someone feels otherwise, I'd love to hear why, though.)

  • Oh I'd really like to hear the conflict resolution system you think fits the best! I was thinking about this a long time but couldn't find a good one. DRYH seems to be a good point of departure, in my opinion.
  • In any case, I do think that IaWA would still be a fantastic game if we replaced the conflict resolution mechanism with just about any other method (e.g. even Fiasco's black and white dice), so long as the Owe List still functions.
    IaWA conflict resolution is terribly wonky, but it does such wonderful things. I love using the forms because this is a world where a toddler could take down a god. If they were statted out for Strength, Dexterity, etc. it wouldn't even be a fight. I also love the back and forth and switching momentum of the advantage die. I just wish everything weren't so fiddly. I have put much thought into how to keep the good stuff and lose the bad stuff and here's what I've got: nothing.

    Although a new though appears. What if each Form was a deck of cards you got to build. You're good in "For Others" so you put mostly Aces and face cards in there, but also a few lower cards so you can add some of the higher ones to "With Love" because that's also a place you see yourself as strong. "With Violence" gets 2s, 3s, and 4s; you know if the knives come out you're undone, anyway.

    That may actually make everything worse, but it's an idea I had. I was also wondering about bidding and seeing and raising. I'm all over the place over here.
  • edited July 2014
    Which parts do you find fiddly, Keith?

    IaWA conflict resolution seems like one of the simplest, most elegant systems I know (although it takes some people a few moments to grasp it, once you've got it it's very sleek).

    You could do away with the Forms, I suppose, but just having a pool of dice. You secretly decide how many dice to roll from your pool. Whoever rolls the least dice goes on the Owe List. If you lose, "injury" means you lose the dice you rolled.

    Particular Strengths aren't necessary to play, as we know. If you need them, they can just work as a bonus die to roll in. (You can bring back some Forms this way, too.)

    That's a bit simpler, and has most of the features still in play.
  • I do think it's kind of insane that IAWA has a bidding mechanic, and requires a deck of playing cards, but doesn't actually use the playing cards for the bidding mechanic.
  • Ooh... yes.
  • @Paul_T The rolling and re-rolling can get to be a bit much, and I've seen several players struggle with when they're supposed to hold their dice or pick them up. Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of what IaWA conflict resolution does, but it often jolts us out of the fiction while we're pushing dice around.

    The real issue is when it gets to a conflict with more than two participants and you need to start deciding who has to answer and who gets an advantage die and those polyhedrons are flying all over the place. This could be a lack of understanding on my part, but I have seen some others who struggle with it, as well.


    On a different note, why do others think IaWA is flawed? Why does Vincent think so?
  • Keith, you named it! The rules are designed to jolt you out of the fiction. Inadvertently, but nevertheless.

    -Vincent
  • Me and some buds were trying to put together an EVERWAY campaign, using the spherewalkers source book (the setting book but its set up like an encyclopedia with alphabetical entries) to play a game of in a wicked age. We'd use the the rotatng gm mechanic, oracles, and on going play building up characters and the storyline over many sessions ( the we owe list et), in addition to the oracles, i was going to build a table that randomly references a single entry from the spherewalkers source book that had to be included. Everway vision cards were thrown in and instead of the dice mechanic from wicked age, we'd use the tarot resolution mechanic from Everway. It neve really got going more because of personal life stuff, but i keep wondering about it, because they are both games that i want to explore more and this seemed like an interesting way to do it.

    what is the archipelago mash up that was discussed above?
  • My favorite part about IAWA is probably how it only works by answering the "what do you do?" classic question in a direct and explicit manner. Direct as in not filtered by the GM and explicit as in locked to a specific action in the fiction, it's not a declaration of intent ("I want to..."), a generic approach (ex: "I attack.") or an attempt to use a skill (ex: "I roll to sneak").
  • Indeed! That's a great observation.

    (Although I've always felt that the negotiation portion of the conflict resolution takes away from that. There's often this thing where you say what you do, and you win the dice... but then we still need to talk it over, and, more often than not, it turns out that something else altogether happens.)

    (Hmmmm. I wonder if the game would be improved if we just agreed NOT to do that. Assume success in the action declared when the dice say so, in other words. I'm not 100% confident that's a good idea. What do you think?)
  • S'all about IIEE. Make sure the negotiation step and the negotiation step alone, resolves the second E.
  • Ah, so people do actually play it this way? In other words, Execution is always part of the resolution, before negotiation starts?

    I've definitely seen people break that in play, pretty much every time I've played IaWA. And it bothered me; it seemed to distort the effect of the conflict resolution to make it almost pointless. (Although, now that I think about it, this also happens in the rulebook. I'd have to review it to make sure, though.)

  • I think it's probably the best way to do it: make sure during the conflict itself that you don't narrate anything that would imply the end result of the whole conflict.

    Dogs works this way too, you'll note, because of the uncertainty of Fallout.
  • I feel it's a bit different, because Dogs has a Stake/stakes.

    So, let's say you have a nice doll I want. I say I take it from you; you say, "No way!"

    We roll some dice, and we fight for a while. We get to the third round, and I say, "I pull out my dagger and slit your throat!"

    We roll and I win. Now, in my experience, most players say something like, "Ok, fine, I give you the doll, if you don't actually slit my throat." "Fine, but you still lose a die from Form X."

    That often feels like the player's action stopped after the second "I", although the line's a bit blurry because of the way the action was declared. (I find that, in Dogs, Raises tend to stop a little short of Effect, while in IaWA, people tend to make stronger statements.)

    Is there a better/ideal way for this interaction to go? How do you think it would run at the ideal IaWA table?
  • I dunno, "I pull out my dagger and hold it to your throat"?
  • Hmmm. Not convinced!
  • So, let's say you have a nice doll I want. I say I take it from you; you say, "No way!"
    From this moment on, the only way to get the doll is by negotiating and still you may not get it. Same goes for slitting that throat. The other side can always just get hit with the stick and nothing else happens besides getting exhausted, injured or shamed.
  • I do think it's kind of insane that IAWA has a bidding mechanic, and requires a deck of playing cards, but doesn't actually use the playing cards for the bidding mechanic.
    I would like to have cards for each of the forms instead of character sheets. That way, everybody can chose their forms simultaneously. Anybody wants to do that for drivethrucards? :)
  • Speaking of IAWA oracles, I made a pretty web-based oracle last year, largely as an excuse to fool around with webfonts, CSS, and mobile-optimizing a site. It's not functionally any different than the oracle on Abulafia, but it's very attractive looking, especially on a phone. Also, on iOS you can use the "bookmark to home screen" function [in the Share menu] to add an icon for it, after which it pretends to be an app.

    I also made an incomplete Lovecraftian oracle which goes even nuttier with the fonts/CSS. It's intended to spew random lore that might inspire events in a game like Call of Cthulhu.
  • edited August 2014
    From this moment on, the only way to get the doll is by negotiating and still you may not get it. Same goes for slitting that throat. The other side can always just get hit with the stick and nothing else happens besides getting exhausted, injured or shamed.
    This is what I'm trying to "fix", in a sense. Is there a way of running IaWA conflicts that makes the actual fictional actions taken more meaningful/sticky? Deliverator seems to be saying that he's seen it played where people are pretty strict about actions being carried out (Execution). But I find this to be a pretty major sticking point when it comes to making the system feel good at the table.
  • Is there a way of running IaWA conflicts that makes the actual fictional actions taken more meaningful/sticky?
    The way I see it, you do what you say you do, but the consequences of those actions may be put into question. As much as possible, what you do is exactly what happens, no more nor less. To me, this does not necessarily feel good, but it works well with brutal sword & sorcery. Nobody cares what you want or are trying to do, unless it serves their best interests. If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. Whatever you achieve may crumble and disappear in the blink of an eye.
  • Ricardo,

    So, when you play IaWA, what happens if a player says, "I chop your head off!" and then doubles you on the first roll?
  • Ricardo,
    So, when you play IaWA, what happens if a player says, "I chop your head off!" and then doubles you on the first roll?
    As much as possible, the character does what the player says, but the consequences can be challenged. In this case, one character takes an axe to the neck of another character. If there is no negotiation, that character is injured. Yes, you cannot kill another character unless that players says yes or you negotiate for it. Yes, that means you probably want to have best interests that are more interesting than "I just wanna kill X".
  • Gotcha, thanks. That seems to me like the best way to play this game, as well. The problem I often see is players discarding that actual fictional action when it comes to the negotiation phase - sometimes going so far as effectively replaying the scene (or at least that last action).
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