[A Wicked Plague] Talk of Rules

edited January 2008 in Out-Of-Game
Vincent has predicted this game might "behave in some subtly strange ways online." (linky).

I'm not too worried. I think the game will play fine. We can, however, expect some rules discussion, so this thread is for that.

From reading the rule clarification questions that have popped up in places, I see some advice and feedback that I think will help our on-line play.

We should Describe Actions first; consequences are negotiated later. (Vincent, The Forge)

Be comfortable to back track slightly from described events. The above distinction (Action vs. consequences) might not be entirely clear at all times. If we find confusion, we might need to rewind a bit.

Be prudent with your narrative power. Unless another character "can and would try to interfere" with the stated concrete action, we don't roll dice.

Also, I'd like to put out some words of encouragement to keep the enthusiasm and posting pace going. Each post need not be some spectacular literary event. Any response is better than letting the game die. So don't hesitate to ask other players for input or ideas. Even just "dialing it in" on occasion to keep the story moving is perfectly fine with me.


  • I've been giving the IaWA rules quite a bit of thought lately, and I just wanted to run some ideas past the group in regards to in game statements that suggest stake setting or imply task resolution.

    ... either way, she succeeds, as her words remind Jesper to look past his immediate desires and notice just how pushy the lady's been. Connected with what Mahdi has just been implying, he is reminded that he'll be putting himself irretrievably in Kitsune's power, should he go along with what she suggests.
    I think putting these type of comments in as a clarification of what you want to see happen as sort of the implied consequences of your character's action is ok, but it should not be mistaken as pre-set stakes that must happen if it goes to dice.

    Think of these types of comments for enthusiastic promotions of what they envision the result of their actions. But, if you encounter these suggestions, you are in no way obligated to give into the suggested future outcome. Describe your character's actions as you see fit, and then it is the other player's choice to conflict with those actions via the dice mechanic. At which point you negotiate consequences, where one player has the threat of dice damage.

    If we look to the rules, they tell us to go to the dice when somebody narrates "some concrete thing and another character can and would try to interfere." (IaWA pg 12, emphasis mine).

    That single word implies quite a bit. To know what they would do means you need to know your character. Or at that point, you discover your character. The game requires pretty strong immersion for the mechanics to work fluidly. One must always ask oneself, "Would my character interfere with that action?" Also, one must ask: "What would my character do in this situation." Sure there are hoped for outcomes, but it is a question of action not tasks or stakes-- which, interestingly enough, is much like life. We act with hope of certain outcomes, but we never really know the result until it happens.

    As a curious wrinkle, traditional role-playing staples such as Sway, Fast Talk or Diplomacy, do not work in this system. You cannot, via the dice mechanic, guarantee that you've convinced another character of your point or manipulated them socially. You can have your character talk all they want, but until you see an action (and are logically able to interfere) nothing comes of it. Vincent has pointed out "negotiating future actions can sometimes work but usually doesn't." (Story Games).

    These are just some of my thoughts on the topic. I haven't peddled them at the Forge or Storygames yet, but they make sense to me.
  • Hey, this fits with my (untested) understanding of things as well. To be honest, I'm very interested in giving the conflict mechanics a try, as I've never been able to do so. So, expect me to take some strong action against Gathas here in the very near future. Besides, I want a shot at getting on the "we owe list" at the top. It's neat, the way the game drives you strongly toward conflict right away, and conflict that you're disadvantaged in.

  • Yeah, I agree. In a way, I think the very strict waythe mechanics work makes things like "her words remind Jesper..." more acceptable, since it's clear that Mahdi's player has absolutely no way to enforce it.

    I think it encourages good RP habits too, instead of just talking the other character into giving up, you need to DO SOMETHING to make it happen. I was totally expecting Kitsune to scratch Jesper with her hairpins or something.
  • Hey, I'm not sure if I'm disagreeing or not. I sounds like you don't consider persuasion/manipulation a 'concrete action'? Maybe I'm misinterpreting, though.

    The way I see it, Mahdi totally has an option to try to force that on Jesper ... I could say that Mahdi attempts to convince Jesper to flat out reject Kitsune, and I could go to dice over it. If I win, I can then state that as a possible consequence, wielding the exhaust/injure stick to encourage DannyK to accept that. (I don't see a need to do this, but I think I could.)

    I'm not sure if you're saying that this isn't possible, or if you're just pointing out that - like any other action in this game - you can never ensure that you're successful because the other guy can opt for exhaustion or injury.
  • I think the issue is whether any kind of character talking is a concrete action.

    On page 12 it tells us not to “roll dice when two characters are having a conversation, no matter how heated it becomes; wait until one or the other acts.”

    I’m not sure I want to have to decide when a conversation is an action and when it is not. It’s just easier to look at the actions after the fact.


    Player 1: Daddy says, “You know, Billy, you shouldn’t mix wine with vodka, its bad for your health and you’ll get a horrible hang over.”
    Player 2: Billy replies, “Nah, I think you’re wrong.”

    At that point we don’t go to dice; it’s just a conversation.

    Player 2: Billy drinks a vodka wine mixer.
    Player 1: Daddy would try to interfere with that stated action. Let’s roll it off.

    The catch is, if Billy goes for the vodka/wine mixer in a scene where Daddy isn’t around (ie, he is not in a position where he “can and would try to interfere”)—Player 1 can’t interrupt.

    At no point do I see the the rules supporting Player 1's ability put it to a roll whether Daddy convinces Billy that vodka/wine mixers are bad and that he shouldn’t ever drink them.

    Maybe J.Harper said it better over on storygames:

    In Wicked, dice never answer the question, "But does it work?" You don't go, "I give a rousing speech," and then we roll "to see if that works." Not like that. The dice answer the question, "Do they stop you?" and then, "To what consequence?" If no one with an interest stands in your way, then yeah... the thing you do works. As V says in the book, you're not incompetent. Storygames

    I suppose the game places more immersive responsibilities on all the players than most other RPGs. Since you can, presumably, narrate anything you want as long as nobody’s character is in the scene willing to interfere with you, things could get quite silly. In traditional games we assume the GM must describe things with prudence and consistency. In this game all players are expected to play logically consistent with the character they have.
  • edited January 2008
    The Harper quote is addressing something else entirely, being whether you have to roll in the absence of opposition.
    At no point do I see the the rules supporting Player 1's ability put it to a roll whether Daddy convinces Billy that vodka/wine mixers are bad and that he shouldn’t ever drink them.
    That's also a different issue, being whether or not I can negotiate for future behavior (which I can't, really). That would be if, say, I wanted to roll dice over "Jesper no longer has anything to do with Kitsune."

    I'm not saying that. In this hypothetical example, I take a concrete action with results that apply only to the present, within Mahdi's sphere of influence: "Mahdi manipulates Jesper into rejecting Kitsune". He might regret doing so soon enough, but he does it now because Mahdi's right there in the room making him do it.

    A similar situation is in a book example: Shahu Seen makes Fa Il Shar attack Bolu Ta. Heck, Shahu Seen has a particular strength that's specifically about doing this kind of thing (and it's not far-reaching, so he's not doing anything that others can't do).

    Just having a conversation won't ever result in dice, because there's no immediate action. But there shouldn't be anything wrong with using a conversation to provoke something - "I try to goad him into challenging me to a duel" or "I attempt to trick him into embarrassing himself in front of his peers".

    Cutting out those kinds of things as possible actions seems artificial, and it screws a lot of character concepts that the game seems to want to support (the tempter demons and so on, in the oracles). If you want to rule against it, I can deal with it, though it does put Mahdi at disadvantage - if I can't do these kinds of actions, then there's very little I can do until she successfully breaks free.
  • edited January 2008
    Hey, actually, the top of that thread with the Harper quote is addressing this exact issue, and Vincent seems to ok it.

    "Negotiating future actions can sometimes work but usually doesn't. Negotiating an action right now usually works fine. "Go open the city gates" worked out, yeah?"

    And so on.
  • Here's how I feel it'd work out:

    Let's say that Mahdi attempts to convince Jesper to flat out reject Kitsune. Actually, they roleplay the conversation out. The dice don't come out, you don't roll for a conversation. You don't roll until someone is taking action. Jesper could agree, or he could not agree. He could be lying, or he could be telling the truth. That's completely up to Jesper's player, entirely, without question.

    Now, let's say that Jesper ignores Mahdi's attempts to convince him and goes on to talk with Kitsune. This is exactly when Yellowparis could go to the dice if Mahdi, according to the rules, is able to. She could even go to the dice completely verbally, at this point. This can happen because Jesper is trying to act and Mahdi is trying to, and able to, interfere.

    That's what's meant by never rolling when two characters are having a conversation, only when one acts.


    1. Mahdi and Jesper converse and she tries to convince him to reject Kitsune right now. He agrees. No dice are rolled.
    2. Same beginning. He disagrees and moves to talk with Kitsune right there in Mahdi's presence. Mahdi goes to dice to give him consequences, even just through conversation.
    3. Same beginning. He agrees, but is lying. Later, while Mahdi is still in jail, he meets with Kitsune and agrees to help her. No dice can be rolled.

    So, the dice aren't rolled, ever, to see if Mahdi convinces Jesper or not. They're only rolled to see if Mahdi can cause consequences to Jesper for not being convinced. And even then, they're only rolled when she can apply those consequences.

    Does that clarify things at all?

  • Thanks Daniel, that's much clearer than I put it. Its pretty much spot on as I understand the rules.

    I have an idea about negotiating future consequence and enforcing future consequences.
    Lets say, we negotiate and I agree to have my character do something in the future instead of taking dice damage.
    Later, I totally betray that negotiation. I have my character do that thing I said I they wouldn't do. Right then, I take the dice damage.

    Its just an idea, maybe I'll float it over at the Forge.
    What do you guys think?
  • Rugrsi,

    That's really interesting. I don't see why it wouldn't work as long as everyone's willing to do the recordkeeping. Sounds maybe a little like oaths from Poison'd?

    You should post on it and see!

  • Ok, I posted at the Forge.
  • Vincent quickly put the smack down on my idea. :)
  • And unlike some game designers, lumpley really does have armed men enforcing fidelity to his designs! They call themselves "Dogs".

    I think it might work as a Particular Strength -- particular strengths seem to get to break the rules in certain ways, and I'm not sure where the limits are. If "a spy network" allows you to mess with your opponent when they're a kingdom away from you, and "exorcism" allows you to tangle with spirits, then "sanctified oaths" might work with a delayed power. I dunno, it remains to be seen. Sometimes rules experiments like that seem harmless until you realize in retrospect that they're sucking the life blood out of your play.
  • edited January 2008
    'Far-reaching' simply extends what conflicts you can narrate yourself into - it doesn't change how conflicts work. Something that applied conditional consequences would do just that. If you want that, sure, but it's a different game.

    As to the issue of social conflicts ... no, that doesn't make sense to me at all. Less sense, really - you're saying that I can interfere with an action verbally, but I can't make an action verbally. No such distinction exists in any other kind of conflict, so why's it there?

    Really, I totally don't get where you all are coming from, on any of this. There's nothing in the book saying you can't use social influence. Heck, there's an example in the book of it, and Vincent explicitly OK-ed it in that thread you pointed out on Story Games:
    Negotiating future actions can sometimes work but usually doesn't. Negotiating an action right now usually works fine. "Go open the city gates" worked out, yeah?

    "I'm intimidating you" is an action, sure. He's like looming over him, lowering his voice, repeating himself with barely-controlled rage, maybe shoving him around a little. (Best if you ask the player: "cool, what intimidating things are you doing?")
    Right there, two situations where social influence is being applied to force someone to do something (something right now, not in the future). All that's saying is that someone you can talk to is as much in your sphere of influence as someone you can reach with your sword, and that it's handled the same way.

    So ... I have no clue where you're pulling this from. You seem to be drawing on the 'a conversation is not a dice roll' statement, and on the fact that you shouldn't negotiate for future events, but those are a different issue, as I've tried to point out.

    But, like I said, I can deal with it, though I'll have to play Mahdi differently if you're going with that. I am rather concerned about what will happen if she fails to escape prison, since the inability to use social tricks severely limits what she can do, if she's behind bars.
  • Yellow,

    Here's what I don't think you're getting. Applying social force IS making an action. You don't roll dice for making an action, you roll dice for interfering with an action. If nobody wants to interfere with it, you succeed.

    If Mahdi wants to influence someone verbally from her cell, you say she wants to influence so and so to do such and such verbally. If they choose not to interfere, no dice are rolled. If they choose not to interfere then, and choose to betray their trust to Mahdi later, she can try to interfere.

    So, sure, intimidating someone is perfectly acceptable in the right context. Here's the right context:

    Me: My guy is shoving past your guy.
    You: No! My guy is using his intimidating presence to stop your guy! Let's go to dice.

    Here's also the right context:

    Me: My guy is intimidating your guy to shut up.
    You: Cool, my guy shuts up. We don't need dice.

    Here's also the right context:

    Me: My guy is intimidating your guy to shut up.
    You: Screw that, I'm still talking!
    Me: I'm interfering by using my intimidating presence. Roll dice!

    Here's not the right context:

    Me: My guy is intimidating your guy to shut up. If I win, you do. If you win, I don't.

    Make sense?

  • Further, it does apply to every kind of conflict evenly.

    Me: My guy is shoving a sword in your gut.
    You: Okay, we don't need to go to dice.

    Me: My guy is shoving a sword in your gut.
    You: I'm interfering by running away! Roll the dice.


  • edited January 2008
    Ok ... your example accepts this:

    • Mahdi attempts to manipulate into Jesper rejecting Kitsune, but he does not. He goes to talk to Kitsune, and then Mahdi can interfere (going to dice).

    However, what I'm going for was:

    • Mahdi attempts to convince Jesper to reject Kitsune. DannyK could accept that (and immediately do that thing), but he doesn't want to. So, he opposes her action (going to dice). If he fails, he might immediately reject Kitsune (or another consequence, or exhaust/injure).

    Are you in agreement with that, as well? The way you're structuring your examples suggests to me that you aren't, but that might just be my reading.

    Using the simpler example:
    Me: My guy is intimidating your guy to shut up. <-action</b>
    You: Screw that, I'm still talking! Roll the dice. <-interference</b>

    That is equal to this:

    Me: My guy is shoving a sword in your gut. <-action</b>
    You: No you're not, I'm running away! Roll the dice. <-interference</b>
    Me: My guy is intimidating your guy to shut up.
    You: Screw that, I'm still talking!
    Me: I'm interfering by using my intimidating presence. Roll dice!

    That is equal to this:

    Me: My guy is shoving a sword in your gut.
    You: I'm running away!
    Me: I'm interfering by stabbing you with my sword. Roll dice!
  • Yellowparis,

    I completely accept that under this caveat. Jesper rejecting Kitsune has no lasting obligation and, in fact, doesn't even need to be honest. The part there in italics is based on one of two things; DannyK's decisions on how to play Jesper or your ability to have Mahdi interfere in the future. Here are some possible outcomes assuming Jesper attempts to interfere with Mahdi's convincing and that he loses the resulting dice game:

    1 - DannyK says Jesper rejects Kitsune's words and storms out of the office. You agree with that. No exhaustion or injury, Jesper storms out, and from that point forward DannyK is free to have Jesper reconsider or do whatever he wants as long as Mahdi can't interfere the next time. There is no lasting consequence.

    2 - DannyK says Jesper rejects Kitsune's words, but that it's a lie just to placate Mahdi. You guys negotiate back and forth for a little while, but DannyK isn't budging from his view of how his character will act. Fine, you choose to Exhaust Jesper. That's the end of Mahdi's ability to influence Jesper, even though you won the dice game. If Jesper and Mahdi continue to butt heads at this point, in this space, they can immediately go into conflict about this again.

    3 - DannyK says, "Screw that, Injure or Exhaust me. Then, Jesper and Kitsune leave together to continue this conversation where that meddling Mahdi can't interfere." You choose whether he's Injured or Exhausted and they either a) leave Mahdi's sphere of influence to further affect the conversation or b) Mahdi interferes with them leaving.

    So, yeah, I agree with you as long as you don't feel it should have any lasting consequence on Jesper unless she can continue to exhert her influence over him in the future.

    Are we basically saying the same thing to one another? I feel like we're almost seeing eye to eye, but not quite.

  • Daniel, that's my understanding of how it works, too.
  • Absolutely - all of those things should be assumed about any conflict.
  • edited February 2008
    When a particular strength is consequential, and it's used against an NPC, who picks which die loses a die size? With exhaust/injure, it's always one off of each die, so there's no choosing. When something's consequential against a PC, there's also no choosing. But when it's consequential against an NPC ... ? I don't think this question's answered in the book (I even text-searched the pdf).

    It seems to me like it ought to be the winner who picks, since a winner also picks whether normal dice damage is exhaust or injure, and that's the closest thing to a precedent in the book. That's not a very good precedent, though. Want to ask Vincent?
  • yellowparis,

    - Pg. 18 under "Exhausted & Injured".

    - I'd just always take it off the highest die, myself. But it doesn't appear to be explicitly stated.

  • RusRus
    edited February 2008
    I'll ask.
  • Interesting. I guess both dice is how it reads, it just seems strange that it would be more effective against NPCs than against PCs. But I suppose that's what we get for second guessing the text.

  • He answered for Exhaust and Injure, but not Consequential. I asked for clarification.
  • Victor chooses.
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