Protected: Hammering a Protagonist from Bronze

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Doing It the Easy Way

The two Companions of The BLOODY-HANDED NAME of BRONZE each have four actions they can take that allow them to make the world change according to their will. Other things they do — a Fated Hero bargaining for the life of a loved one, or a Namedealer following earnest passion for someone — are up to fate and the Will of the Names of the World.

All four of those actions are different between the two Companions, but each has an “easy one” they can use when they have too much to lose.

The Namedealer’s eay action is escape while the Fated Hero’s is coerce — even though coerce is written identically for each of them. They work differently because of ways they touch their different contexts and where they contact other rules.

Coerce reads like this:

Coerce

  • They do what you want; else, you may harm them
  • You are not harmed in the exchange
  • No other is harmed in the exchange

The biggest difference between the Companions is that a Namedealer can, at most, choose two of these outcomes, leaving at least one to the whims of the person they’re trying to coerce. On the other hand, a Fated Hero can achieve all three in a legendary feat of coercion, with only their relationship to the Great Name. That is, they can safely protect themselves and others while forcing someone else to do what they want, all the while forcing the gates of the city open with their hands and steam rises from their skin, leaving themselves with the initiative and their opposition harmed, dead, and/or resentful (though the Hero is likely at the mercy of their Great Name at that moment).

Coerce, for the Namedealer, is only like all their other actions — something they can do effectively, with a list of three consequences from which they can choose one or two.

The Fated Hero, on the other hand, has other actions with four possible consequences. Coerce is the easy one for the Fated Hero. But it doesn’t get them much. They don’t get followers, probably don’t get many destiny dice, haven’t impressed anyone. And, if they’re experienced, they probably have a ton of trophies, which means that their bullying had better be in line with the intentions of their Great Name. In short, it’s really only your best option when your Fated Hero is inexperienced and doesn’t know what else to do.

Escape

The parallel for the Namedealer, then, is not coerce, but escape. When I first designed it, it had only two consequences: 

  • You escape
  • Your escape is unwitnessed

Which means that you’d sometimes get one, occasionally both of these consequences.

But, unlike coerce, which leaves a resentful subject or at least a body to gloat over, escape left you with nothing to work with in a subsequent scene. Sometimes that’s OK — sometimes the last thing you want to do is sail downriver, gasping for air, clinging to the bottom of a reed raft, where the tale ends.

But a lot of the time, you just want to get out of the queen’s closet without anyone seeing you because you have other weirdo wizard business to attend to that doesn’t involve being stuck in a closet.

So I added a third option:

  • Seize one destiny!

Destiny is hard to come across for a Namedealer, so this is a pretty good enticement. It means that, when you roll, you might take that destiny instead of escaping at all because it’s funny — or because you wanted Babafesh to face you, and having them capture you suddenly appeals to you as the way to make that happen! Or you might escape, seize the destiny, and they see you on the raft, Looking like a drowned priestess, sailing away from them at the dock with both your middle fingers raised. Never mind that destiny die. You’ll come back for it later. Better to let them know what you think of them.

(True story.)

So: it’s still a choice of two, plus an enticement to do something different. It gives you a certain amount of editorial control (that’s why you use the actions at all, of course) and hands other players the levers they need to pull if they don’t have something else in mind.

Shock:2 Actions

So the question now is how to construct Shock:2 actions in a way that works to activate the best parts of Praxis. A lot of the fun of Shock: is the resounding irony of having to choose between, say, “Space Battles” and “Sex” to solve your problems. It’s fun to throw those down at the beginning, then see where they lead in play. It leads to unexpected, often funny places.

I’m not sure how to reconstruct this dynamic with actions — the irony comes from other places in Bronze, so maybe this just isn’t a place to find that anymore. Bronze’s Dice of Jet and Gold are almost certainly the place to find Audience interaction with carbon dice being allotted for stuff on your character sheet and orange dice coming from Audience, who then get to tell you what you need to do to use their dice after the roll.

Rather than trying to plot full structures out beforehand, I find I work best if I put these questions in my mind, then design a game and watch myself to see how (and if) I did it.

I’ve got a couple little games that have been bonking around my head for a while. I think I gotta try some stuff out! I think it’s coming time for some new μShock:s to see where the ideas lead!

I wonder what the traditions of hospitality in The Fifth World are. How do you feed someone you haven’t seen in a long time? Is it different when you want to ask them a favor?

Shock:2 Actions: Using “Offer Them What They Desire” as a Model for Design

In The BLOODY-HANDED NAME of BRONZE, the agency of companions — the characters you stick with throughout a story — stems from four actions you can take with your character to have an effect on the world. Those four types of action, designed and playtested over the course of game design, are the levers a character can pull when they want to do more than plead with the world. They set the moral framework in much the way Praxis does in Shock:Social Science Fiction by saying what you can do to affect the world and what kind of effects that action can have. The consequences have ironies built into them, giving players hard choices between effects they want and passing control to another character whose interests might not coincide: Coercion is liable to harm the aggressor or the aggressed; following your passion heedlessly is likely to make someone else jealous; offering someone something they want might leave you making promises you can’t make good on.

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Get Back to Frog

The street finds its own uses for things.

Pinterest has gone from being a decent image search engine to being an incredibly good image search engine — and, in the process, has attempted to seize permanent, sole possession of every image on the Web. So, while it’s good when you need to find an image, it’s awful if you need to use an image.

So let’s find some images! This game is called Get Back to Frog. Here’s how you play it.

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So Many Words, So Many Meanings

Joshua A.C. Newman at work on Beowulf

Frickin’ Beowulf is frickin’ 162 pages already. By the end, it’s gonna be fucking huge. Like, seriously, 250 pages.

It’s got the full text of the poem (Grummere translation — 1.0 may be a different translation if I can convince myself to typeset it again), an explanation by Dr. Michael Drout of the “Situation” (in Big Model terms) of Beowulf (Guess what! It’s about sex, families, and power!), a summary of the events of the poem, and a 27-page appendix explaining the various ways of dating the poem that come down to the reason I’m including the essay:

Let me give an example closer to home: in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” we read of Giovanni’s feelings about Beatrice: “Least of all, while avoiding her sight, ought Giovanni to have remained so near this extraordinary being that the proximity and possibility even of intercourse should give a kind of substance and reality to the wild vagaries which his imagination ran riot continually in producing.” The date of the production of the text is very significant for our interpretation of the meaning of “intercourse” in this sentence, and we might interpret that passage very differently if we thought that a 20th-century reviser/editor/copyist would have felt free to change Hawthorne’s text for one purpose or another.

That is, the inclinations of the reader — traditionally, a single, horny dude with a political mandate in a scriptorium — matter at least as much as the putative intentions of the poet himself. In this case, it’s the intentions of the player, not our ideas about history; our own moral stance, not the “what would a 6th century dude think,” that makes a difference.

Because when you draw from the Runes, and they tell you, “A young woman, rune-rich, vying for glory despite her sex.” you’re going to read it with your Postmodern eyes, through a Feminist filter, through a filter that forces us to wonder what “glory” is to us, through eyes that see the word “hero” used speciously to describe anyone who was killed for the acts of their government.

Far as I can tell, Beowulf is only about ten degrees deeper than Conan, but because of the incredible history of the text, it makes an excellent canvas upon which we can cast our tale of blood, glory, and remarkable circumstance. And all the questions we ask when we experience such a tale.