Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Conflicts & Scenes

I have yet to see this in a game (though I'm sure it's out there, somewhere).

When I've played trad games without explicit scene-framing rules, I've noticed that theres little to no corrolation between scenes and conflicts. This is partly a function of task resolution systems (Storyteller, I'm looking at you...), and partly a function of there being no mechanical support for one way or the other.

Many Indie games, on the other hand, either call for or seem to imply one-conflict-per-scene play. Which is fine (it was my thought for Carry), but, in my head, is just starting to feel more and more stilted.

My thought: explicit mechanical support for seeding, entertwining and then resolving conflicts through a series of scenes. Something along the lines of a conflict pool that you can add and remove dice from depending on your characters stake in the conflict, which may not get resolved until many scenes after it begins.

F'rex: Jimmy and Danny are two sailors on a 16th century Ship of the Line. They run afoul of the mean-spirited Bosun (? i think). Jimmy's player seeds a conflict (writes down on a note card, or something) "embarrass the Bosun in front of the men." Danny's player seeds "get in Bosun's good graces." They both put some amount of dice on the conflict.

A couple scenes later, the situation comes up that Jimmy steals some grog, in order to bribe another sailor to help him set up the Bosun. Danny sees him, and reports him. Danny puts some more dice on his conflict, while Jimmy takes some off of his in order to seed "prevent Danny from becoming the Bosuns nark."

Whenever a player gets to a point that they think is appropriate for the conflict, or when they think they have enough dice, is when you actually do some rolling and resolve the conflict.

You could do all kinds of things with giving the right to call for resolution to different people around the table, as well as mechanical limits and rules for when and how dice are transferred. Also, lending (or stealing) dice to (from) others conflicts; people seeding conflicts for other people; and rollover from resolved conflicts into related ones.

I think this would be nice in terms of breaking conflicts out of the "one-roll" paradigm and enabling them to scale in terms of time and buildup, in addition to sheer mechanical size.

If there are examples of this kind of thing out there, shout out!

Comments:
It's thoughts like these that led to my article Sitch & Scene. The One Conflict = One Scene thing is what especially rankled me. To my mind, overburdened with literary theory, a conflict isn't resolved until the (near the) end of the narrative. If one scene resolves a conflict, or (as in John's diagram) one scene resolves multiple conflicts, then I wasn't getting any sense of the larger story made out of scenes was supposed to be. The answer for me was that each scene addresses the situation (composed of conflicts) and changes it one way or the other, and after many scenes, the narrative draws to an end by resolving the situation/conflicts.

Are your banked dice representative of real character actions, or of endlessly planning for the future resolution of the conflict? I think the link to real actions is essential -- it makes what you're doing in the here-and-now worthwhile -- but I'm skeptical of banking the efficacy of here-and-now actions for far-off results. I'd far more want to see something where I do something right now and I see a result right now, even if I have a much larger goal that this result is a part of.
 
Yeh. I feel like it may be valuable to distinguish between conflicts (the scene-by-scene struggles that drive play), and Conflict (notice the singular), the literary-style overarching narrative thingy.

In that sense, I see something like there are certain criteria for (say) dice you roll for conflicts that put them into your Conflict pool. So, say in a dice pool system with d10s, 7+ is a success. All 7+s count towards you efficacy in the conflict, and those d10s also go into your Conflict pool, which is subject to its own rules as delineated above.

I also see this as applying to a number of medium-scope Conflicts simultaneously, in that you may be resolved 2 in a 4-hour session, or something like that.
 
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