05 May, 2010

Vector Theory #15: A Better Look at Filters

Even with some new definitions in place, concepts like perfect and imperfect mirrors hold their own. A perfect mirror deflects a Narraton without announcing it;s presence to the particle, an imperfect mirror is seen for what it is and an appreciative audience will allow the Narraton to continue on it's deflected path while an unappreciative audience will look for justifications in the story twist or may even seek to resume their original path. Mirrors purely deflect a Narraton, taking the story toward a different potential set of scenes and conclusions.

But with our shiny new definitions, we can really start to look at other ways the story changes. Starting with filters (which we touched on earlier), these change the wavelength of the Narraton.

I'll pull an example from typical play.

A warrior strides into a fight. To overcome this fight and progress to the next scene, he has a range of tools at his disposal. To get through the scene, he needs to maintain his health (to resist his narraton ending it's journey here), and he needs to use one or more of his other tools to get past the scene.

Let's arbitrarily assign seven aspects to the fighter and give them some colour values.

Red = Weaponry

High score in this indicates a capacity to deal extra damage to an enemy, low score in this indicates a capacity to do minor damage to an enemy, no score in this indicates that damage can't be done to enemy.

Orange = Combat Prowess
High Score in this indicates good chance of striking enemy, low score indicates a poor chance of striking enemy, no score indicates inability to strike at enemy.

Yellow = Athletic Ability

High Score in this indicates good manoeuvrability and potential to get into positions of strategic advantage, low score might indicates slowness, no score indicates a complete inability to move.

Green = Health
High Score in this indicates a healthy physique, low score indicates frailness or heavy damage, no score indicates an inability to take any more damage at all.

Blue = Willpower

High score in this indicates a strong resolve and ability to overcome psychological threats, low score indicates fear or lack of morale, no score indicates no ability to go on at all.

Indigo = Mental Skill
High score in this indicates an ability to think around the situation and use unexpected advantages, low score indicates an inability to think straight, no score indicates a complete seizure of mind functions.

Violet = Trade Tools

High score in this indicates a range of useful equipment at your disposal, low score indicates a range of not-so-useful tools at your disposal, no score indicates that you are relying on your hands alone.

(I've basically tried to create a spectrum of aspects that might be useful in a fight, linking their adjacent colours to similar aspects).

Some game resolve combat very quickly, some resolve it step by step. Let's look at the ways filters apply in both examples.

Abstract Combat
When dealing with conflict resolution, it really doesn't matter if an individual task has been successful or not, al that really matters is which party achieved their goal, and how much did each party sacrifice in their attempts to achieve it. From the player character's perspective, they choose a part of their spectrum to work with and a part of their spectrum to resist with (some games allow more choice in this regard than others). Typically, each party declares how their attacks will work before the defending party chooses an appropriate means of avoiding the incoming effect.

Example 1
I attack with my masterful skill in fencing (combat prowess/orange).
I defend by getting out of the way (athletic ability/yellow).

Example 2
I shoot you in the f%^kin' kneecaps (weaponry-combat prowess/red-orange).
I'll take the hit, coz' you'll probably miss, you mother-f^*$er! (health/green).

Example 3
I'm playing mind games with you (mental skill/indigo).
You don't scare me! (willpower/blue).

Each player pushes their story through a filter. If they are successful, their story becomes enriched by that filter. If they are unsuccessful, their story is diminished by the filter.

Does my weapon break? If so, the red part of my spectrum is weakened. If all of my weapons are broken, then this cascades across to the orange part of the spectrum as my ability to fight becomes diminished as well.

Do I get a flash of insight? If so, the indigo part of my spectrum becomes intensified. If my flash is great enough I might even improve my resolve in the face of the current uncertainty (thus improving the blue part of my spectrum), or I might devise an ad-hoc tool that will help me (increasing my violet).

Do I trip and fall? Yes...my athletic ability (yellow) drops...and if it's bad enough, my ability to fight (orange) might be hampered and so might my general health (green).

I'm sure everyone reading has encountered games where modifiers start cascading across a character sheet. A good example is the synergies of 3rd Edition D&D (or even Rifts), to provide benefits across a spectrum.

Do I want to push myself beyond my limits...risk burning out my combat skills on this single fight? (Intensify my yellow now, but suffer a loss for it until I get the chance to recover).

Games like Amber include ideas like this.

Detailed Combat
In more detailed task resolution systems, the essence is much the same, but every action passes through a filter. One filter to move, one to attack, one to defend, one to resist the damage, maybe one to see if any psychological effects play out...then the next player pushes their Narraton through a series of filters.

Neither is more right.

Less filters might mean that game heads along with more predictability, but this might be compensated by having stronger filters. More filters slow the game down, but we really get to examine carefully the changes that happen along the way.

I may expand his idea further in my next post.
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