zooming in via mechanics

Little thought experiment here, inspired by this thread.

Start very zoomed out, let's say Primetime Adventures, where the highlighted character's interests in a given scene are resolved with a single card-draw. We can play through the scene with a minute level of detail if we want, but we can also kind of skip ahead to resolution without many character choices. Once we know what you want and have any idea at all of how you're pursuing it, we can resolve. In my experience, play doesn't speed along with no detail, but it does sometimes jump to resolution as soon as we're clear on what's at stake, with whatever preceded that often being color or set-up.

Now zoom in a little more, let's say Apocalypse World. We're still looking at what my character wants and how they pursue it, but now we have some varied options or incremental steps that require decisions and can change the options before we answer "Did I get what I wanted and how'd that turn out?" For example, we can follow a sequence that's just like Dogs in the Vineyard -- start with manipulation, see how that goes; if not good enough, escalate to threats; if that doesn't work, break out the lethal force. If my character attempts to solve every problem with immediate murder, or if my character's so good at manipulation that they never need to escalate, then perhaps this doesn't play out very differently than Primetime Adventures. There's certainly the potential, though, that we begin roleplaying and the rules interject at a more minute level.

So now let's zoom in further still. What about good old fashioned skill checks? What about attaching probabilities to every minute task you might perform en route to your goal? I may come back to that, but for now I'd like to try a different angle. Let's take the same leap from PtA to AW, one where we break "get what you want" into smaller related chunks, and apply it to AW. Let's break Seduce/Manipulate and Go Aggro and Seize by Force into the interesting decisions that push us, tiny step by tiny step, farther into commitment or animosity or moral hazard.

Help wanted! Here's my very first brainstorm:

Negotiate - agree on the terms of a mutually beneficially arrangement
Deceive - convince them of untruths that will elicit your desired response
Toy With - manipulate their emotions to the point where they're desperate to do what you want

Threaten - imply or state that lack of cooperation will be met with ugly conflict (verbal at the very least)
Manhandle - push them, corner them, knock them down, grab them, hit them without intent to injure
Coerce - promise death or worse to them or their loved ones for non-compliance

Attack to Dominate - achieve complete control over them
Attack to Wound - hurt them but don't kill them
Attack to Kill - kill them

Thoughts?
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Comments

  • My first thought is that those sound like different approaches or different techniques, as opposed to different steps which elicit different decision points.

    Is that what you're going for? My impression from the rest of your post was that it was more about breaking down steps (like Dogs' escalation). I may have misread you, though!
  • I initially typed a bunch of basically useless stuff about breaking these moves down into OODA loops. The only really useful insight from that, I think, was that under high-stress situations broken down into short time intervals, you could make Observation and Action mutually exclusive, to an extent, such as making decent Observation an option on "choose n" moves.

    I think that making Go Aggro a distinct category of submoves is probably not necessary here? After all, it's just negotiation where your leverage is immediate violence. Fictionally, the main difference between Go Aggro and Seduce/Manipulate is that the target of Go Aggro can take immediate physical steps to negate your "promise" of nonviolence. If we're breaking that down into constituent components, then we already have the components of negotiation and violence from our breakdowns of Seduce/Manipulate and Seize by Force.
    My first thought is that those sound like different approaches or different techniques, as opposed to different steps which elicit different decision points.
    That was my first thought too, but I don't think it's necessarily true. It's easy to imagine an interaction where you'd Deceive as part of a Negotiation, or Manhandle someone to emphasize a Threat.
  • It's an interesting idea.

    But is it useful? The choice between viewpoints/view distance is normally a preference thing affecting the whole game.

    Switching viewpoints within a game is possible. Broad sweeps to tell a tale then zoom in on key scenes for example. But I don't, currently, see a situation where religiously "zooming in" "zooming in more" each key scene would solve a game design issue.

    I'd try picking a genre and writing a specific "example of play" using the technique. If you can, you might want to start designing the game.

    If not, stick it in a drawer for later. For me, game design is about coming up with the concept and then finding mechanics/structures to suit/emulate that concept. And, usually, we've got a load of random "stuff" in our drawer to pull out and rifle through for a good fit.

    It's a GOOD idea. File it. And then, one day, hopefully, you'll be desiging something and you'll say "that's a perfect place to use my 'zoom in' idea!"


  • I'd try picking a genre and writing a specific "example of play" using the technique. If you can, you might want to start designing the game.

    There's potential in, perhaps, making the offer of a zoomed-out or zoomed-in scene to a player when it's their turn. This would work in games where we're interested in both the character's day-to-day struggles and their broader impact on the world.

    I'm picturing an epic fantasy where the choice is between "Do we want to see if Lady Playercharacter convinces the Lord NPC to marry her, or do we want to see if Lady Playercharacter's army conquers this territory?"

    Gangster games would work well too. Basically: Interpersonal/Tactical Scenes vs. Political/Strategic Scenes.
  • Oh, and my main point - I totally forgot - is that we don't need to zoom in via mechanics.

    Find mechanics that work on different scopes (see the HQRPG thread for more on this) and let imagination rather than system facilitate the shifts.
  • Oh, and my main point - I totally forgot - is that we don't need to zoom in via mechanics.

    Find mechanics that work on different scopes (see the HQRPG thread for more on this) and let imagination rather than system facilitate the shifts.
    That's not universally applicable advice. Freeform is the ultimate mechanic, right? It works on all scopes and lets you do anything. But most of the time we don't play freeform games. We play game systems, and we do that for reasons which are beyond the scope of this thread, but I think you get my point. This principle is fractally applicable to different levels of detail depending on what exactly we want the game to be like.

  • Freeform is the ultimate mechanic, right?
    Well, no. Absence of mechanics isn't a mechanic. I'd argue that Freeform is an illusion, but that's another argument all together.

    I get your point but I don't like your reasoning. :)
  • edited August 2016
    Sorry, I'm up way too late and freeform isn't really a mechanic; that was disingenuous of me. But, like, 2d6+stat or something. You can use 2d6+stat for everything at all levels of abstraction, but if you want to play a tactical spatial combat game then you'll want mechanics that define how you can move and when you can and can't hit other things with your attacks. If you want to play a game where your character advances over time you need mechanics for gaining XP (or whatever) and what that does to you. That stuff is rightfully specific and probably not very "reusable" anywhere else in the game. Rolling 2d6+stat to see whether you level up isn't as engaging, not in the same way.

    Edit: Cross-posted with Potemkin. I don't like my reasoning either :)
  • … and I'm not trying to imply that the breakdown that David is proposing can't work with the same "core mechanic" and just have different moves, either, because it most likely can. I'll go to bed now.
  • My first thought is that those sound like different approaches or different techniques, as opposed to different steps which elicit different decision points.
    Then I have failed! Help me do better!

    In my defense, though, Manipulate/Aggro/Seize can be viewed as different approaches/techniques too. The key (for my purposes here, anyway) is that they represent different commitments/hazards.

    My thought was that someone might be willing to knock down an NPC and scream at them but not willing to promise to murder their daughter. Or willing to put someone in a choke hold, but not willing to slice them up. Or, on the other end, willing to lie to someone, but not willing to completely jerk them around like a plaything.

    To everyone:

    I did my best to find 9 meaningfully different levels of "will you go that far?" Can you do better?
  • It's a GOOD idea. File it. And then, one day, hopefully, you'll be desiging something and you'll say "that's a perfect place to use my 'zoom in' idea!"
    Heh. Totally. My file of such things is enormous but I keep forgetting about them. This thread is partly an attempt to develop this idea a little more so that it sticks in my head a little better. :)
    you could make Observation and Action mutually exclusive
    Hmm, yeah, "act instantly, or take in what's going on?" is an interesting decision which could be made at various stages of a conflict. I actually have a draft melee combat system where that's arguably the core mechanic. Re: zooming in, for now I think I'll consider action types and "act or assess?" as two different things and keep the focus on the former.
    I think that making Go Aggro a distinct category of submoves is probably not necessary here?
    Playing Apocalypse World instead of Primetime Adventures isn't necessary either. I love Primetime Adventures! But sometimes I'm in the mood for some system support/requirement on a more minute fictional scale. This thread is just about taking that one step further.

    Maybe I should add a post about why I think that's desirable? I haven't so far, because I don't want to get into some long series of "here are other ways to get what you want!" when what I really want to talk about is this one.
  • edited August 2016

    To everyone:

    I did my best to find 9 meaningfully different levels of "will you go that far?" Can you do better?
    Why do you think you need 9 meaningfully different levels of "will you go that far?"

    I feel like I could ask a player "how far will you go?" and we can probably work out the implications of their actions and what the character is now committed to. Sure, we can write mechanics for anything - we're clever people - but, should we?

    Anyway, aren't escalation and zooming two different things?

    EDIT: Urk, cross-posted with you, David.
    But sometimes I'm in the mood for some system support/requirement on a more minute fictional scale. This thread is just about taking that one step further.

    Maybe I should add a post about why I think that's desirable? I haven't so far, because I don't want to get into some long series of "here are other ways to get what you want!" when what I really want to talk about is this one.
    I think you'd answered some of my snarky questions, but please do post about why you think it's desirable. I'm not sold yet, but I'm in the mood for listening.
  • edited August 2016
    @Potemkin, I don't need 9. I want 9. I think if we get a good 9, I can churn out an example of play which will show why that's awesome. (Or 7... or 12... needn't be 9 on the nose.)

    Yeah, zooming does not require escalation, but it does require interesting/relevant differentiation, and I picked escalation as a coherent example of that. 9 different powers which spend 9 different types of mana, each with its own unique implications (for example), might be just as good, but that seems muddier to me.
  • Ah, crud - we're posting over each other now. Ha!

    Well, can you give an example of play with some place-holders? As a player trying to recall artificial increments in some kind of social combat is usually tedious and frustrating. Are you sure you need nine, couldn't five do it instead? Or three? Or two?

    Yeah, zooming does not require escalation, but it does require interesting/relevant differentiation,
    Does it? Or do you want it to? ;D
  • I like zoomed-in play. I like detail. I like attending to the small moments. Not all the time, of course, but most of the time when something important is going down.

    I can get there by freeform, just as any PtA or AW player can, but I also see some unique fun in getting there by mechanics. The prompting, the group buy-in, etc. -- sometimes getting those socially is more difficult than getting them from rules.
  • edited August 2016
    The prompting, the group buy-in, etc. -- sometimes getting those socially is more difficult than getting them from rules.
    Ok, now you have my attention.

    Let's look at this as a design problem: we need to get get into what zooming-in can do for us as players but without the designer heavy-handedly dictating what moves are viable. Imagining all the degrees of danger for the player kills something unique to roleplaying games, I feel.

    I like the idea of a prompt, a hook. Something that facilitates movement and engagement with what you want but without arbitrating too strongly.

    I'll get back to you.

    Although, maybe I'm just a big wishy-washy hippy who doesn't get these new-fangled countdown clocks and fractal character sheets...
  • I don't think you can even deal with zoom issues until you determine what the difference is between one action and multiple actions.

    For example, in most games, negotiation is one action, and combat is multiple actions. In Apocalypse World, every action is one action, and each move focuses on an important thematic transition. In 7th Sea 2e, the difference is entirely determined by the GM, and they can change it at any time. In Shadow of Yesterday, there's a specific mechanic called 'Bringing Down the Pain' which allows you to 'zoom in' after a failed ability check, which essentially turns one action into many.
  • In my experience, the best "zooming in" happens when there is a process in play which gets all the players interested in doing that. When it's driven by curiosity, essentially.

    Creating that in design? That can be tricky. There are portions of it in play in OSR gaming (get enough detail so you can stay alive!), Sign in Stranger (finding out more about what you're seeing is the name of the game), and Apocalypse World (the MC, in particular, must learn about the players and their characters to do her job). I'll think on it.

    Dave, your original categories are certainly not bad! I just feel that a lot of them supercede others. For instance, Negotiating and Deceiving are such fundamentally different approaches, I don't often see someone doing first one and then the other. (Also I certainly know some people who do that in real life!)

    Escalation-type mechanics in games I'm familiar with generally work by making themselves unnecessary (or at least seemingly unnecessary). I have a good sense that the first approach will work, so I don't need to jump to a more extreme approach right away. In a game like Dogs, there's also additional social/moral pressure to avoid certain approaches, which weights things towards one end of the spectrum.

    How would this design encourage me to "Negotiate" instead of "Threatening", for instance? I think the devil is in the details, here.

  • edited August 2016
    Imagining all the degrees of danger for the player kills something unique to roleplaying games, I feel.
    I would agree with you if I thought that were even remotely possible. But I don't. No rules will ever cover all the details. Zoom in as far as you can with mechanics? I can zoom in still further with talking.

    And that's part of the fun. If there's a rule which establishes whether I flinch when my opponent feints, then I can narrate how that happens and what it looks like -- the sense of dawning panic as I realize I've just been suckered and won't be able to parry the next blow in time.
    I don't think you can even deal with zoom issues until you determine what the difference is between one action and multiple actions.
    I'd say the conversation about mechanical zoom is inherently about units of action. The two are the same. To zoom in, I am proposing that (as an example) we take familiar single-action things and make them multiple-action things. Hopefully we can identify some cool new types of action that way -- the price-setting and leverage-establishing phases of a negotiation, perhaps.

    I started with "my 9 replacing AW's 3" because it seemed like a simple proof of concept, but it's certainly possible that I'm underselling the idea by not zooming in far enough. Negotiate, Deceive and Toy With could easily be broken down into 3 actions apiece themselves.
    In my experience, the best "zooming in" happens when there is a process in play which gets all the players interested in doing that. When it's driven by curiosity, essentially.

    Creating that in design? That can be tricky. There are portions of it in play in OSR gaming (get enough detail so you can stay alive!)
    I think "extra detail is vital!" is one of the clearest and easiest options. My thought here has been that all these little zoomed-in things you can do actually matter. Using my original brainstorm, dominating someone should have different potential outcomes and impacts on ongoing position than wounding them would, so it's an interesting choice about whether to stop at one or proceed to the next.
    Dave, your original categories are certainly not bad! I just feel that a lot of them supercede others. For instance, Negotiating and Deceiving are such fundamentally different approaches, I don't often see someone doing first one and then the other. (Also I certainly know some people who do that in real life!)

    Escalation-type mechanics in games I'm familiar with generally work by making themselves unnecessary (or at least seemingly unnecessary). I have a good sense that the first approach will work, so I don't need to jump to a more extreme approach right away. In a game like Dogs, there's also additional social/moral pressure to avoid certain approaches, which weights things towards one end of the spectrum.

    How would this design encourage me to "Negotiate" instead of "Threatening", for instance? I think the devil is in the details, here.
    Agreed. but I don't think the right details are too hard to imagine. Character builds which makes some folks better at Negotiations than Threats and vice versa, plus rules for character change which can shift that balance over time. Diverse situations which reward Negotiations over Threats and vice versa. Unclear situations wherein you don't know which will work, or you think one will work and then you discover you're wrong. Different rules outcomes for success and failure and fallout for Negotiations vs Threats. This all seems fairly familiar to me; I don't feel the need to prove it at this stage. I'd rather get some good ideas for zoomed-in actions flowing!
  • Zoom in as far as you can with mechanics? I can zoom in still further with talking.
    I'm imagining an AW hack… when you use a demonstrative pronoun, roll+deictic.
  • Character builds which makes some folks better at Negotiations than Threats and vice versa, plus rules for character change which can shift that balance over time. Diverse situations which reward Negotiations over Threats and vice versa. Unclear situations wherein you don't know which will work, or you think one will work and then you discover you're wrong. Different rules outcomes for success and failure and fallout for Negotiations vs Threats. This all seems fairly familiar to me; I don't feel the need to prove it at this stage. I'd rather get some good ideas for zoomed-in actions flowing!
    I agree with everything else you've said, but that bit above comes back to my original objection:

    All the stuff you're describing sounds like things which will make me choose A over B in certain situations (i.e. more choices) as opposed to *break down* a situation into more steps.

    Is that your goal, or not? We know how to create "situations which reward Negotiations over Threats", but that's different, perhaps, from going through the negotiation itself with multiple decision points.

    An example might really help here - how to envision your original categories being used in play?
  • edited August 2016
    I think "Negotiate" is just too broad a term. I don't see similar problems with the other 8 actions I wrote. I was thinking that "negotiation is not deception, manipulation, threats, manhandling, coercion or attack" would narrow it down, but I guess not. Let's replace "Negotiate" with "Haggle" for now.

    Once all your options are specific enough, choosing one or another instead of both isn't a problem on the zoom front. Simply "going aggro" in AW demands a more zoomed-in focus than "resolve the conflict" does in PtA.

    If my 9 options aren't clearly specific, here's another shot:

    Greet - begin an interaction with an attempt to make the other party comfortable
    Accost - begin an interaction that the other party is not prepared for
    Tell a Lie - make it convincing!
    Flirt - make them want you at least a little, without being obvious about it
    Further the Connection - make an acquaintance into a buddy, a buddy into an ally, a flirting-partner into a lover, a lover into a BF/GF, etc.

    Threat of Argument - perhaps with major social downsides
    Threat of Violence
    Push
    Corner
    Knock Down
    Grab
    Pummel

    Coerce
    Immobilize
    Injure
    Death Blow
  • Interesting! I may be looking at this the wrong way around. I find the second list more inspiring. I'll think on it further!
  • I find the second list harder to take in as a unit, and thus maybe harder to chat about. Individually, though, I find some of those actions more inspiring too.
  • edited August 2016
    Imagining all the degrees of danger for the player kills something unique to roleplaying games, I feel.
    I would agree with you if I thought that were even remotely possible. But I don't. No rules will ever cover all the details. Zoom in as far as you can with mechanics? I can zoom in still further with talking.

    And that's part of the fun. If there's a rule which establishes whether I flinch when my opponent feints, then I can narrate how that happens and what it looks like -- the sense of dawning panic as I realize I've just been suckered and won't be able to parry the next blow in time.
    David, David. Don't you see? It's not about whether "the rules" can codify all the details (they can't, you're right). It's about whether or not the player perceives them to restrict their choice as they input into the situation.

    The fun you describe happens specifically after this initial "what do you do" choice - we can roll to see if you flinch - but the choice about whether and how you even got into this fight should be yours to freely improvise.

    These lists are fun, but they need to be repurposed to be DM-facing so when the question is posed to the player "what do you do?" the DM can judge when do say "you ask too much!" or "that is not sufficient to get what you want."

    Or, maybe not! I am suspicious of PbtA and PbtA shenanigans, it is known. I can always take my criticality and ride off if I'm getting in the way of creativity. :)
  • edited August 2016
    Hmmm! I think an example here would really help. Dave? How do you see this working?

    Notably, how would it look different from, e.g., playing a game like GURPS or Pathfinder?
  • Skepticism is fine by me. I'm hoping it won't be the entire thread, though. I really want someone else to try their hand at a mechanical zoom-in and see what they come up with.
  • My angle would be to try to find ways in which "zooming in" gives someone an edge, and then align those incentives in the desirable way. As a silly example, in a sword fight with an opponent, you could keep asking questions about his stance and technique, and doing so would potentially help you find weaknesses you could exploit.
  • edited August 2016
    So, like, if you narrow your fictional focus to "taking specific advantage of an opponent's momentary stance", you'd like there to be a rule for that? Maybe a move or skill like "sweep someone who's in Crane stance" or something just a little less specific?
  • I can't think of too many examples from existing games, but two come to mind, at different ends of the spectrum:

    * OSR-style gaming, finding out more about the way a trap works so you can work out a way to bypass it without a roll. ("Oh, so the ceiling is 10 ft tall, but the blade is 8 ft long? Sounds like I could crawl through...")

    * The 'read a sitch' move in AW. Spend some time to study a situation, get more information, get a bonus if you act on it.

    In either case we don't necessarily need more rules about specifics, just a process which encourages us to get more detailed about the content. I like that better!
  • That's cool, but re: mechanical zoom-in, I think that just counts as more skepticism.

    Don't anyone wanna show some love for rolling to blink or flinch or other millisecond actions?

    Separately, I always found that the list of "questions you can get answered on a good roll" for Read A Sitch made zooming in pretty darn optional. The AW MC is more likely to say, "Best way out? Behind those pillars at the back." The OSR GM, not bound to give a similarly guaranteed useful answer, is more likely to give a bunch of details and let the players interpret that for themselves. Props to the AW move for ruling out that situation where the GM goes on and on and doesn't usefully convey anything, but I certainly wouldn't consider it a paragon of zooming in.

    One simple tweak to Read A Sitch to zoom in more would be to replace all the questions with more detailed ones, like "What information can I use to determine the best way out of here?" or "What way out of here is most obvious?" or "What here escapes quick and easy parsing?" etc. Not sure if those'd be satisfying for the current "read a charged situation" trigger, though.
  • Ok, It's taken me awhile to parse what you're getting at here, and I'm not sure I have it right, but I think it's true, as touched on above, that a couple things are being conflated here that I think could be separated more neatly, namely (1) granularity of focus and (2) granularity of the steps of escalation.

    For granularity of focus, Where Dungeon World has hack and slash, you could instead write a set of moves or actions, all related to "sword dueling to the death" like:

    Rest your hand on your sword hilt, ready to draw
    Draw your sword
    Make a quick thrust
    Take a defensive stance
    Feint
    Goad your opponent into rash action
    Let loose a reckless series of blows
    Turn aside a blow
    Circle your opponent, looking for an opening
    Try for a killing blow

    And you could give them each non-overlapping triggers so they exist as sort of a constellation, without hierarchy. You don't have to do one before the other, in other words. You could also a sort of semi-hierarchical constellation, where success on certain actions provides bonuses to others.

    Also, the granularity of what specific action is happening is not necessarily the only vector on which you can "zoom in." Like, you could zoom in on motivation (lash out in anger, lash out in fear, lash out with malice, lash out to protect) or on some other piece of context (fight someone with blond hair, fight someone with brown hair, fight someone with blue hair) without getting into what a specific action looks like "on screen." And I think that's an equally fine focus, just pointed at a different thing.

    Or you could have a set of moves, like in Dogs, that represent a hierarchy of escalation, like

    When you want something, ask for it
    When they won't give it to you, charm them
    When they won't be charmed, lie to them
    When they don't believe you, threaten them
    When they don't fear you, beat them up
    When they stand resolute, take their life in your hands

    You could also place certain of those moves on the same level with other, hierarchically, like a flow chart:

    When you want something, ask for it
    If they say no, charm them OR lie to them OR threaten them
    If they still say no, punch them OR shove them OR grab them
    If they still say no, take their life in your hands

    Still really not convinced I'm actually responding well to your premise, sorry if I'm missing something.
  • edited September 2016
    I like a lot of those ideas, Dirk! Perhaps my premise is too open-ended, as I view virtually all of those things as potential options. For now, I'll just focus on my favorites:
    Rest your hand on your sword hilt, ready to draw
    Draw your sword
    This is exactly what I had in mind with this thread. These are both times when we could say, "Okay, whatever, now what do you do with your sword?" but instead, we don't -- we look at the tiny little moments and see, not just what they look like, but also how they matter. Are there stakes in "rest your hand on the hilt?" Yes, yes there are, if you look closely enough. Who notices? How able are you now to draw before anyone else does?

    I'm tempted to call "Reach for a Weapon" a core basic move right here and now. :)

    I'm also partial to Shift Stance, Feint, Quick Thrust, and maybe Attempt Kill depending on the type of game. Perhaps the other stuff on that list too, if worded a little differently.
    Also, the granularity of what specific action is happening is not necessarily the only vector on which you can "zoom in." Like, you could zoom in on motivation (lash out in anger, lash out in fear, lash out with malice, lash out to protect) or on some other piece of context (fight someone with blond hair, fight someone with brown hair, fight someone with blue hair) without getting into what a specific action looks like "on screen." And I think that's an equally fine focus, just pointed at a different thing.
    Motivation isn't what motivates me here (har har) but I certainly wouldn't mind it being mentioned in the course of minute description. Visual detail is much more my preference -- I would hope to know at some point what my opponent's hair color is, and if some rules remind us to mention that, I'd consider that value added.
  • Ok, cool, glad I'm in the right area.
    ...but instead, we don't -- we look at the tiny little moments and see, not just what they look like, but also how they matter. Are there stakes in "rest your hand on the hilt?" Yes, yes there are, if you look closely enough.
    So, perfect, yes. The function of the zoom is not necessarily to give higher resolution on something we're already looking at, it's more to call out a detail that we'd otherwise breeze past. I'm totally into that.

    The question it raises for me, though, is do we want that fine a focus every time someone draws a sword? I can imagine that working in certain more stylized forms of storytelling, but it seems like it would really suck the magic out of those subtle moments if we zoom in every time it happens.

    Is there a way to attach some toggles to the zoom? An idea:

    A deck of cards with moves on them for really zoomed in shit:
    Look someone meaningfully in the eye
    Lay your hand on your sword hilt, ready to draw
    Tell a lie to a stranger
    Watch someone from a distance
    Search an area, hastily
    Etc, etc, maybe 15-20 of them

    At the start of each session, draw three of them. Those are the ones in play. When you trigger one, do what it says, then discard it and draw a new one. Maybe some kind of tangible reward for triggering them.
  • I'm torn.

    On the one hand, I am a fan of varying the zoom as per the momentary interests of the play group. I made a pacing dial years ago for just that purpose.

    On the other hand, if I have a super-zoomed-in ruleset, I might wanna just run with that and normalize minute description and see what that's like. Extremes can be really cool. Every time I play Puppetland and I'm not allowed to speak out of character for an hour, I love it.

  • On the other hand, if I have a super-zoomed-in ruleset, I might wanna just run with that and normalize minute description and see what that's like.
    Me too! I'd love to play with this and see how it feels. Hit me up if you ever want to brainstorm or playtest some zoomed in rules over hangouts, that sounds pretty fun to me.

  • On the other hand, if I have a super-zoomed-in ruleset, I might wanna just run with that and normalize minute description and see what that's like.
    Me too! I'd love to play with this and see how it feels. Hit me up if you ever want to brainstorm or playtest some zoomed in rules over hangouts, that sounds pretty fun to me.
    The last few posts have really helped me see what this thread's been about.

    I love the idea of highly zoomed-in (really, slowed-down) details and pacing - I recall Archipelago has a "more detail" move that is similar to what's being drawn out here.

    This is where we can have fun with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly showdowns and meticulously imagined brinksmanship.

    But it's only fun on two conditions: first, we need a method to find and speedily transport us to these moments where tiny details matter; moments where the outcome of gestures is crucial. We simply can't travel in slow-mo, no matter how interesting the scenery. Secondly, the conclusion needs to be satisfying. Either both parties back down and we continue to ratchet up the tension toward another moment of conflict, or the conflict is decided with a suitably meaty outcome - who could stand a mexican stand-off where everyone walks away with a few bruises?

    If someone wants to float a Seven Samurai scenario, I'll definitely come play.
  • I just wanted to stop in and say that this thread kind of demonstrates what I was trying to get at in the other thread (and was having trouble articulating). Maybe mechanics shouldn't be what we use to get more detail out of a zoomed in scene. Maybe there needs to be an emphasis on helping people describe the scene. The argument for mechanics in the other thread seemed to be a discomfort in the GM deciding too many things on the fly. I'm not sure that's necessarily a true problem.

    I will say this though, I think there might be a non mechanical but procedural method to come out of this. Many of the specific mini-actions could become prompts, or questions to tease out more details without having a roll for each one.

    Sorry if this off topic, just been looking at this occasionally.
  • Dave,

    Have you seen Vincent's "question-based" minigames, from the swashbuckling game he was putting out through Patreon? That's also an interesting "zoom in" technique.
  • David, couple more thoughts:

    For zooming techniques, I would also take a look at Microscope RPG. I found it very inspiring in terms of game design. It's impressive how you can jump between centuries and very detailed dramatic scenes.

    A "zoom-mechanic" I use often: during game-play, each player may propose a "zoom-out/in". If the group accepts, the game-play takes place at a finer/coarser granulity. Example:
    1. PCs are attacked by a group of mooks. A player suggests to zoom-out. The scene is decided by a simple resolve die. GM/players narrate outcome of scene accordingly.
    2. PCs try to break into a vault. GM wants to resolve this with a simple dice throw. A player suggests to zoom-in and "wait, let's play this scene out in detail". Group agrees and first need to tackle the guards, then the security system etc.

    Finally, classical RPG play already uses various zoom levels, i.e.:
    Zoom out: Downtime or between campaigns ("hey, let's go to Chicago", "in the meantime, Nancy got divorced and starts a new business").
    Zoom in: Social encounters in campaigns ("you encounter a group of travelers", "you negotiate with the local mobster").
    Zoom in more: Overcome obstacle ("you climb to the roof", "you find a buyer")
    Zoom in more: Move-by-move combat/conflict
  • edited September 2016
    Dave,

    Have you seen Vincent's "question-based" minigames, from the swashbuckling game he was putting out through Patreon? That's also an interesting "zoom in" technique.
    Seconded--was on the cusp of bringing this up myself, but got distracted by other ideas! The lists of questions do an excellent job of prompting and highlighting small moments, and it gives the player control over where/how much to zoom since they're the one picking the questions.

    (In summary, there's a script of questions for certain types of encounters wherein players take turns asking each other questions chosen from a list. For instance, in a sword fight: "I press in close, our blades pressed between our bodies; what do you whisper to me?")

    I think @Paul_T was the one to recommend this to me a couple months ago, and I found it very thought-provoking.
  • edited September 2016
    A Dogs in the Vineyard hack inspired by this thread:

    Add a new conflict type, "simple conflict." Build and roll your pools like in a normal conflict, but only compare the sums of the highest two dice on each side. If both sides are satisfied with this, the higher side makes a Raise and the other side Takes the Blow, conflict resolved. Narration should be in broad strokes.

    But if there's a tie, or if either side wants to, they can say "zoom in" and play with the normal conflict rules.

    During the normal conflict, after it has escalated at least once, either side can choose to zoom in further. If they do, both sides add and roll bonus Stat dice as if they were starting the conflict at the current arena. Actions from this point on must be narrated with a finer level of detail than previously. If you use a Trait you already rolled before zooming, you can use it again, but must go into more detail in your narration.
  • edited September 2016
    Kenny, by "the other thread", did you mean this one? A procedure without dice sounds promising! If you want to discuss it in that old thread or in a brand new one, I'm down. For this thread, I'm trying to stick to mechanics.

    @BeePeeGee I agree that's all good stuff. That's exactly what the pacing dial I mentioned is for!

    As for Microscope, having recognizably-labeled zoom levels is handy. I might wanna do something similar when integrating super-zoomed-in play into larger play.
    Archipelago has a "more detail" move that is similar to what's being drawn out here.
    Yeah! This thread is an expression of my fatigue with being the only one at my Archipelago table repeatedly hitting that button. :)
    This is where we can have fun with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly showdowns and meticulously imagined brinksmanship.
    And Tarantino stuff. Had some thoughts in the direction of "which line of dialogue will be the one that kicks off the violence?" in a Hateful Eight thread here a while back.
    we need a method to find and speedily transport us to these moments where tiny details matter; moments where the outcome of gestures is crucial.
    Agreed. My initial idea of chopping bigger moves into smaller moves probably didn't illustrate that very well; not every component of every action is equally interesting. That said, I don't expect that calling out the right tiny moments is hard. It may be as simple as representing them in the rules, and not representing other stuff.
    the conclusion needs to be satisfying. Either both parties back down and we continue to ratchet up the tension toward another moment of conflict, or the conflict is decided with a suitably meaty outcome - who could stand a mexican stand-off where everyone walks away with a few bruises?
    Not sure I follow you there. I figure the default output of a micro-moment is a relevant change in position. Which probably does serve to ratchet up the tension just by virtue of having the situation neither end nor turn static. But "meaty outcome" seems pretty zoom-independent to me, except perhaps that in zoomed-in play it takes longer to get to one. I am 100% cool with that, in part because of that building tension. Maybe we're on the same page? I'm not sure.
  • The lists of questions do an excellent job of prompting and highlighting small moments, and it gives the player control over where/how much to zoom since they're the one picking the questions.
    I haven't seen that project. A list of zoomed-in questions to ask sounds fun. Lemme turn some of our ideas into questions:

    - How close does your hand get to your sword hilt?
    - How do you phrase your threat, word for word?
    - As you peek around to glance over the room, what do you expect to see?
    - As you begin the seduction, where do your eyes go to?
    - What part of your body do you use most to sell your feint?

    Hmm, yeah, I could see a list like that being constructive. It allows the game designer to specify things like nuance and degree which are worth making it into the fiction but aren't traditional triggers for mechanics. Although, I guess an asked question from a list is in fact an opening to roll some dice. I wonder if it'd be fun to define outcomes relative to what's described?
    How close does your hand get to your sword hilt?
    Answer, then roll.
    Good roll: they think it's farther than that
    Okay roll: they see that
    Bad roll: they think it's closer than that
    Ugh, that's a weak example. Let's try again:
    As you peek around to glance over the room, what do you expect to see?
    Answer, then roll.
    Good roll: you notice features both more and less favorable than that
    Okay roll: you see that, to the extent that that's plausible
    Bad roll: you effectively see nothing, as the clash between reality and expectation is too jarring for a glance
    I dunno. Still seems like maybe "when you bring your hand near your sword" and "when you try to assess a space with a quick glance" would be better. What applicable upsides did you see to the "it's a question" aspect of Vincent's thing?
    "I press in close, our blades pressed between our bodies; what do you whisper to me?"
    I guess in a "tell a story" (as opposed to "embody a character") game I might like this. And I guess zooming in for detail could be a tool for that sort of game. So I'll try to keep an open mind. My first reaction, though, was "oh geez I hate that."
  • During the normal conflict, after it has escalated at least once, either side can choose to zoom in further. If they do, both sides add and roll bonus Stat dice as if they were starting the conflict at the current arena. Actions from this point on must be narrated with a finer level of detail than previously. If you use a Trait you already rolled before zooming, you can use it again, but must go into more detail in your narration.
    Ooh, that's a neat idea! "For a given resource, one spend per zoom level" is super interesting! It's effectively free points for zooming in, which is exactly the kind of mechanical incentive I hoped we'd come up with here.

    I think there might be a tricky balance here -- we don't want players taking on boring drudgery for the sake of success -- but as long as the "zoom for points" options are also enjoyable, then we're probably good.
  • I think there might be a tricky balance here -- we don't want players taking on boring drudgery for the sake of success -- but as long as the "zoom for points" options are also enjoyable, then we're probably good.
    It might self-balance. If a player cares enough about success to go through "drudgery" to get it, it's probably worth spending the time on. You could also require that everyone at the table agree to the zoom, and judge if the descriptions are adequate, so if someone else thinks they're cheesing it doesn't happen.
  • One potentially interesting way to handle that would be to make the "zoom in" an action which can happen more or less, depending on the participants wishing to make it so.

    For a simplistic illustration, you have four "levels" of zoom, and any given player can only "zoom in" by one level. So you only get the fourth level when three players all agree it's necessary.

    It could be more granular, though, like spending points or choosing game actions which add detail. Each player who does it "magnifies" the action view.
  • Dave,

    What was interesting about Vincent's questions was that you *had* to engage them in order to proceed through the scene or process. And you could effectively choose to "zoom in" by choosing certain questions. Each one adds detail to the fiction and then demands further detail. They were also always two-part - one player adds one thing, the responder adds another. So, that's nice for interaction.

    I'm totally with you about "being the only person to ask 'more detail, please', over and over again". I've been there!


  • edited September 2016
    You could also require that everyone at the table agree to the zoom, and judge if the descriptions are adequate, so if someone else thinks they're cheesing it doesn't happen.
    Not sure about requiring permission to try, but agreed on judgment. If a description isn't actually zoomed in, then you can't benefit from it. Cool.
    . . . any given player can only "zoom in" by one level. So you only get the fourth level when three players all agree it's necessary . . . It could be more granular, though, like spending points or choosing game actions which add detail. Each player who does it "magnifies" the action view.
    Hey! Idea! What if any action/question can be pre-empted by a more zoomed-in action/question? So as long as you can form a meaningful question to ask, or identify an action which can be rolled, you can continue to zoom in, in the hope of playing to your own strengths.

    My socially skilled guy and your combat skilled guy are about to have a knife fight.
    You: I try to stab you! I'll roll +Melee.
    Me: Wait! As you begin to move, you notice a fierce look in my eyes! I'll roll +Intimidate.
    You: Wait! My knife-drawing is actually faster than conscious thought or recognition -- I might complete the strike by reflex before I've even registered your glare! I'll roll +Speed.
    Me: Wait! In the microsecond where your hand grasps the knife, even though you don't consciously notice it, the aura I've brought to the interaction we just roleplayed is putting a tiny crimp in your usual fluidity. I'll roll +Charm.

    So then the Charm roll goes well, granting a penalty to your Speed roll. You now have to incorporate that into your narration.

    The Speed roll goes well despite the penalty, so you say, "As my left hand gestures while talking, my right hand slips unnoticed to my back pocket. My fingers clasp the blade's handle, but initially slip, and you see beads of sweat. This isn't normal! Clearly this interaction has me off balance. On the second effort, though, trained reflexes prevail, and the blade is out and moving forward faster than the eye can follow."

    So then I have a penalty to my Intimidate roll from your Speed. I roll poorly. I say, "There will be an utterly chilling look on my face, I assure you! But you won't notice it until you've completed your attack."

    Then, finally, you roll Melee -- unmodified, because my Intimidate failed, thwarted by your Speed. You roll well, and stab me, and you narrate that, and then you narrate how you notice my glare immediately thereafter.

    Could be interesting, right? We'd have to outlaw "before that" pseudo-zooms, though -- to pre-empt, you actually have to look at a smaller increment of time, not a prior increment of time. And to agree on what that means in context, we have to agree that "I try to stab you!" includes drawing a knife in the first place, etc. I think it'd probably come down to what's been narrated before the first action that proposes a roll. If we already roleplayed your quickdraw and my stare before you ever said "I'll roll +Melee for the stab", then maybe zooming in is no longer an option.

    Selene, I'm curious how close this might be to how you envisioned your shifts in zoom working.
  • edited September 2016
    Paul, Vincent's thing sounds neat! I think I like the question-response from With My Clutches better, though. :)
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