PBTA: Opposing stat pairs and shifting numbers?

edited April 2016 in Game Design Help
A few RPGs have used opposing stat pairs before. Cthulhu with Sanity and Mythos, a gain for one is a loss for the other. Or the Shock version being something like Love / Hate in a pair.

And lots of games have shifting stats. WOD with its temporary and permanent Willpower, Glamour, Banality, etc which are mostly treated like resources, but sometimes also rolled. The recent Masks PBTA game has made shifting stats one of the center pieces of its design.

But I'm curious if any games, especially PBTA games have combined the two. Specifically an opposing pair of stats that shift based on play.

For example, if you were to do a PBTA back for Changeling the Dreaming, an obvious opposing pair would be Banality vs Glamour. Some moves would use Banality, other moves Glamour. But you can't have a high stat in both. Say a range of 3-0-3. Where a +3 to one would be a -3 to be other. During play and by making certain moves (or failing certain moves) you can shift that bonus one step at a time in either direction, but capped at +3. A score of zero would be balanced.

So...

Banality <-> Glamour
+3 +2 +1 0 +1 +2 +3

You start with a +2 in Glamour which is functionally equivalent to a -2 in Banality. So Glamour moves are easier, but Banality moves are harder. You roll a 6- on a Glamour move and your stat could shift down (Banality goes up), conversely when you succeed on a Glamour move your Glamour could shift up (Banality goes down). The reverse is also true. Banality makes you resistant to magic, Glamour helps you use magic. So they're both desirable, though possibly not the greatest example.

My initial thought was 3-4 of these pairs as the stats for a hack. Possibly a not-Changeling game, but not necessarily. I think it could generally work in a lot of ways.

Is this something that's been done before? If so, by whom? If not, does that sound like it would be an interesting mechanic at the table?

Comments

  • @liblarva,

    Take a look at the Angel playbook for Monsterhearts!

    Here's another example:

    The Ward

    It has a "heart" stat, which helps you with one move but hinders you in another.
  • Greg Stolze's A Dirty World has this as the core mechanic, actually! You can see the stat pairs on the character sheet. They don't start out butting up against one another, but as you improve stats, they quickly contact. Then, when you would improve one, you must decrease the other.

    This is most pertinent during combat, where taking hits can actually slide your focus from one half of a stat pair to the other. One called out in the book is Courage/Wrath: Courage is for fighting when outnumbered, but if all the Courage gets beaten out of you, then you've stockpiled loads of Wrath, which is for fighting people weaker than you. So if you were getting physically trounced by a stronger person, and your Courage got beaten into Wrath, you could pull out a gun, and (since you now have the overwhelming power advantage) start using that Wrath to fight back.
  • It's not shifting stats, but in Monster Force Terra, the only stat used is Size, which can range from -1 (a monster the size of a car) to +3 (a monster the size of a skyscraper.)

    You roll+Size for all the basic moves, but in half of them a 6- is a miss and a 10+ is a perfect success, whereas in the other half a 10+ is a miss and a 6- is a perfect success, e.g. a large Size is an advantage when you're attacking your enemies but a hindrance when you're trying to move unimpeded. So the idea of balance between opposed stats is actually baked into the moves rather than the stats.
  • I only am interested in this for PvP. (My ghost can't rest until there's a version of IAWA I can get people to play)

    What you do, you see, is you have the "Attacker" +Stat to roll on the one PC's character sheet, but the "Defender" move is on the other PC's sheet, calibrated up or down depending on how good they are at defending.

    So an attacker might be +3 but against a +3 defender they would still have to get:

    12 + Hit
    9-11 + Weak hit
    8 or less Miss



  • That's interesting, Ry. But isn't that the same as subtracting the defender's stat from the attacker's roll?

    That's good in principle, but it means you have to use a much smaller range of stats...

    (Totally in agreement with you about IAWA, I often think about it myself!)
  • I don't know. I don't like that operation. "What's my stat? What's your stat? Okay, so -1. Oh, wait, Do you roll or do I? So plus 1. Go ahead. Who has the rule book?"

    Blech. "I strike you!" (Roll, because we all know, and check table because we all know) "hahaha, I deflect it easily and cut you deep on the riposte!" "Nooooo!!"
  • Well, it depends on how many stats you have, how often they change, and stuff like that. My main point, though, is that you have to cut the range of stats almost in half for this to be terribly functional.

    I do have another way to do opposed AW rolls, but I don't think that's strictly relevant to this thread (since it has nothing to do with positive/negative stats), so I'll save it for another time.
  • I think the easiest most flowy way to implement opposing stats is just to have some moves roll +, some moves roll -.

    Stats with an implied opposite, rather than an explicit dichotomy. So much easier to track, and you're just dealing with a range of 0-3 on any given stat.

    When you reach out to grab someone by the throat, roll +violent.

    When you reach out to offer comfort roll -violent.
  • Wouldn't it just be six little tables across the character sheet ?
  • Have you guys seen Masks? The mechanics is all about sliding one stat up and another down, but there are only 5 and they aren't directly opposed to each other.

  • When you reach out to grab someone by the throat, roll +violent.

    When you reach out to offer comfort roll -violent.
    This is 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars to a tee. The two stats are Fighting Ability (for fighting) and Non-Fighting Ability (for everything else). Split 10 between them, minimum of 2.
  • I think the easiest most flowy way to implement opposing stats is just to have some moves roll +, some moves roll -.

    [...]

    When you reach out to grab someone by the throat, roll +violent.

    When you reach out to offer comfort roll -violent.
    It's a great idea, but requires some mangling of the usual AW stat numbers, since positive and negative numbers aren't "mirrors" of each. (For instance, someone rolling at +2 has a decent chance of hard failure, but someone rolling at -2 will almost never roll a strong success.)


  • It's a great idea, but requires some mangling of the usual AW stat numbers, since positive and negative numbers aren't "mirrors" of each. (For instance, someone rolling at +2 has a decent chance of hard failure, but someone rolling at -2 will almost never roll a strong success.)

    I guess it depends a lot on how thematically appropriate those probabilities are.

    Could also shift the result ranges on the roll- moves. Since, in my above example, the highest bonus you'll ever end up with when rolling -violent is 0.

    When you reach out for their throat, roll +violent,
    On an 10+, great result,
    On a 7-9, mixed result,
    On a 6-, bad result.

    When you reach out to offer comfort, roll -violent,
    On an 8+, great result,
    On a 5-7, mixed result,
    On a 4-, bad result.

    I'm actually really surprised how closely most pbta games have hewn to the 6-, 7-9, 10+ result ranges. With the granularity of moves, it would be way easy to change it up on move-move basis without any additional number parsing on the player's part.
  • I agree: fertile ground!
  • edited April 2016

    I'm actually really surprised how closely most pbta games have hewn to the 6-, 7-9, 10+ result ranges. With the granularity of moves, it would be way easy to change it up on move-move basis without any additional number parsing on the player's part.
    I agree: fertile ground!
    Shh! I'd been mulling over this thread in silence, fingers arched, waiting for the right time to slam down some definitive thought on sliding result ranges as part of an "atom splitting" move.

    I'm not sure that time has been reached yet, but I should let you in on what I was thinking:

    Sliding ranges as represented by tokens on a numberline* denoting the failure DC and the great success DC.

    These ranges then change based on either rolled success and failures - perhaps a choice on failing a roll is to avoid consequence but increase the difficulty on the sliding range - or external fronts (such as going deeper into the dungeon, or whathaveyou).

    This idea, for me, could be used to enhance party/team experience in play as the whole party is shooting for the same DCs, Lacuna Part 1. style.

    So, fertile ground but I've not quite managed to grow anything yet. Curse you all for forcing my hands.




    *(or just, I dunno, in your head, you savant)
  • Very interesting!

  • It's a great idea, but requires some mangling of the usual AW stat numbers, since positive and negative numbers aren't "mirrors" of each. (For instance, someone rolling at +2 has a decent chance of hard failure, but someone rolling at -2 will almost never roll a strong success.)

    I guess it depends a lot on how thematically appropriate those probabilities are.

    Could also shift the result ranges on the roll- moves. Since, in my above example, the highest bonus you'll ever end up with when rolling -violent is 0.

    When you reach out for their throat, roll +violent,
    On an 10+, great result,
    On a 7-9, mixed result,
    On a 6-, bad result.

    When you reach out to offer comfort, roll -violent,
    On an 8+, great result,
    On a 5-7, mixed result,
    On a 4-, bad result.


    I'm actually really surprised how closely most pbta games have hewn to the 6-, 7-9, 10+ result ranges. With the granularity of moves, it would be way easy to change it up on move-move basis without any additional number parsing on the player's part.
    There's a huge mnemonic advantage to having the result ranges be the same for all moves, though. Players only have to remember the results (which are fairly distinct and thus easily remembered for different moves), not the range numbers.

    If you were going to have some moves be +stat and some -stat, it would make sense for the result ranges to be symmetrical around 7, so they'd be 5-, 6-8, 9+. Everything would then be "one easier" than AW for positive stats, so maybe cap stats at +2 instead of +3, and start with +1 instead of +2 for "prime requisite" stats.
  • In Urban Shadows you shift your Faction stats in this way over time. Masks too - and when you get too extreme, it hurts. Because that's how teenaged life is.

    I agree that A Dirty World is the implementation of this which is the most well-developed example. Forget PBTA, get your ass to A Dirty World. PBTA is over.
  • PbtA centered around 7 would be better, but also wonky (unless you make all 7-9 results a mixed bag, instead of being generally good, but with complications).

    JD,

    Read a review of A Dirty World. If it's an accurate review, that sounds fantastic!
  • edited April 2016
    A Dirty World (and Better Angels) is so far the best implementation of sliding traits I've come across, but the new Unknown Armies is following in its footsteps (no surprise here, as both are Greg Stolze's designs).

    Another cool take on this idea can be found in a FAE game called Gods & Monsters. They renamed the 6 Approaches for flavour, and then paired them in 3 opposing axis: Bold x Subtle, Clever x Mighty, Wise x Swift. Each of these 3 poles get a gauge with 3 tiers in every Approach centering at zero. Each gauge has a token marking where in the progress bar the character's is at.

    Everytime a player spends a Fate point, that token in the gauge with the Approach used moves one step up. So, ideally there will be a lot of moving around since once an Approach reaches tier 3, it'll only take one more step to turn that character into a Monster (usually an NPC).

    An intention gauge should look like this:

    BOLD [ ] - 3 - [ ] - [ ] - 2 - [ ] - 1 - 0 - 1 - [ ] - 2 - [ ] - [ ] - 3 - [ ] SUBTLE
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