Monday, April 29, 2013

Reader feedback

Since I started this blog I have managed to coax enough interest out of some people for them to post responses to my ramblings. For the most part, these responses have come from the several Google Plus Communities that I have joined. I have discovered that I have not only found kindred spirits on this social media platform, but a large group of highly intelligent peers who share a passion for gaming.

Communities like Savage Worlds Fast! Furious! Fans!, Gamecraft, Role Playing Game Designers and Board Game Design are incredible resources for feedback on story and design ideas.  I am in your debt and hope that you all continue to follow Plus Ten to Awesome and all of our strange ideas and ramblings.

In this post is all about the evocative and thought provoking responses I have gotten on Google Plus to my posts.  The title will have a link to my post and below that will be a reply to my post then followed by my further thoughts.

Action Vs. Reaction: A discussion about martial arts mechanics in RPG's

+Mark Brown: Love the interview!!! Extremely informative, too!!! But I probably would fiddle with fighting in Savage Worlds too much though..

+Ten to Awesome: Mark, I can see what you mean. More to the point, Savage Worlds is a fantastic system that does a great job of creating a fecund environment for storytelling adventure. As much as I do not want to “fix what ‘aint broken”, it simply provides me with a basis to modify instead of generating something completely new. The Savage Worlds basic die step mechanic and more narrative mechanics like the Wild Cards and Bennies give me a basic framework to work with as I try to experiment with a new style of combat system. Most likely this will end up developing into something that is completely unrelated to Savage Worlds, but for now I will just tinker with it to develop my ideas a little more fully.
+Erik McGrath: The only RPG I have made that I could call complete has initiative in combat being very fluid. If you succeed in your action you have it so if your attack works you get another one but if you successfully defend you take the initiative until eventually you are out of dice and must reset. You can check out Celestial Warriors…

+Ten to Awesome: I didn’t want to share your link here since it’s really not mine to share, but having read through it I like how the combat is based on opposed rolls.  I also like the way you allot for distance, especially since its supposed to simulate those wonderful aerial combats like we see in the Wu Shu movies. You have your initiative as a simple Agility roll though and thats one of the things I want to expound upon.  I also want to have events dictate a change in initiative instead of a simple tick or action/reaction determiner.  All in all this looks like a fun game and I particularly liked your Pairing Method for dice resolution.
+Stephen Gunnell - +Ten to Awesome: Stephen, your response was amazing and exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for when I threw this out into the internet “ether.” Just to give you a little more background on Kay, he has been training primarily in Eibukan Goju-Ryu Karatedo and is an instructor 5th Dan. He is also a 1 Kyu practitioner of the Covina Kendo Dojo. Most of his training has been from close family. Since his practice of martial arts has always been from not only a Dojo perspective, but from a family perspective, his training has been extremely intimate and uniquely Japanese. That is to say that it has led not only to a practice of martial arts but very much a lifestyle within his close family circle.

Since this discussion was not originally intended to be a post, but was more of a discussion between a complete layman and his better educated friend, I had to edit it into something legible to a larger audience. Your response, was also very much in the same vain, so I had to do some working to continue as both a discourse and something digestible by the reader of this blog, so please bear with me. It is not my intent to create any kind of clash between Stephen and Kay, I just thought that the discussion was interesting and merited posting. (Besides these guys seem to know a lot more about this stuff than me and I wouldn't want to get caught between them.)

I won’t re-post your comment in its entirety here due to length, especially when I add +Kay Sakaue’s response, but will simply frame it in the same manner as the title of the post.

Action: Stephen

Very interesting. Your friend’s comments also match what I have heard from experienced SCA fighters. However there are some points to be aware of. Firstly is the difference between Kendo and Kenjutsu. Any Japanese martial art with a -do suffix is a display or sport skill. The movements of the sport skill are simplified and stylized over the corresponding -jutsu or combat skill. That said, over time the lines become less distinct as the top -do practitioners push the boundaries and the -jutsu practitioners are no longer honed by survival.

Reaction: Kay

I’m not sure how traditional you want to get. Yes… there is a big difference between Kendo and Kenjutsu… however I’d like to point out a flaw in his thinking about the suffix “do”. “Do” or the “Path” is comprised of two different characteristics. 1) Longevity and 2) Neck. Combine those two characters together you get the kanji “Michi” or “Do.” “Do” is the same for Tao in Chinese. It is to symbolize the dedication for your art. You would practice in the “do” but when it really needs to be used it is considered a jutsu. Longevity stands for just that…. And neck stands for your resolve. Meaning that you are willing to follow the path with your neck on the line. It’s not as simple as it seems. In Kendo’s sake the “do” came after the jutsu because of peace time. If no wars are being fought then there is no reason for actual use. People would get hurt… which is why Kendo was developed. I understand where he is coming from by talking about jutsu… but I think he’s looking at it too literally. While Kenjutsu is definitely older than Kendo… Kendo is not only practiced as a sport as the reply alludes to. It’s not only the point sparring… but there are definitely some areas that are derived from Kenjutsu. My style of kendo from the Covina Kendo Dojo practices Kendo with roots from the Hokushin Ittou Ryu Kenjutsu (Mori Torao├áHori Sensei├áM. Sakaue/K. Chinen). Stephen needs to understand that regardless of it being Kendo or Kenjutsu… the art is alive and it continues to grow and mature as any living being. There always will be a question between the sport aspect and the “jutsu” aspect but believe me when I say this… there is no difference between the “do” and the “jutsu”, they are definitely interchangeable especially looking at it from a spiritual and philosophical view. (most kenshi spend hours working on Iai and Kendo Kata which is pulled from their kenjutsu roots.) The difference is definitely understood. Off note… there are definitely some Kenjutsu senseis left out there but most of the legacies have passed on to either Iaido or Kendo… their “jutsu” lives on. Just because there is a “do” doesn’t mean that they do not practice the “jutsu.”

Action: Stephen

The movements of the sport skill are simplified and stylised over the corresponding -jutsu or combat skill. That said, over time the lines become less distinct as the top -do practitioners push the boundaries and the -jutsu practitioners are no longer honed by survival.

Reaction: Kay

In Karate, what the replier is alluding to is more definitely realized. I have conversations and debates over this issue constantly with other practitioners over the world as well as people here in the US. (Goju Ryu Network) What he is saying is true… in sport, technique is flushed out, smoothed out, and speed becomes the driving force. However, speed is nothing without technique. Where is technique flushed out? Traditional training. Martial combat in the form of Martial Art… there is a balance of both. A true practitioner understands this and doesn’t debate the effectiveness until faced with it him or herself. I think this is what Stephen was alluding to… not between the “do” and the “jutsu.” If the above statement were true then juijutsu would have never lost out to Judo. Again… the evolution of martial arts.

Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo declared that he would not lose to Jiujutsu. In a demonstration in front of the Emperor, Judo went undefeated against some of Japan’s best jiujutsu fighters who clung on to the classical training feeling that their techniques were unbeatable… again… the confidence that “jutsu” would never fall to a “do” (not exactly… but only using those terms to show the difference in stylizations) Yes… the root of the techniques are from jutsu… but they failed to realize that jiujutsu has evolved. Regardless to say we may have seen another paradigm shift in jiujutsu and judo with the evolution of MMA.

Action: Stephen

Secondly in Kendo and Karate the user completely dominates the "weapon" whereas with pole-arms or two handed swords the weapon dominates the user and the wielder must adapt all of their actions to the dictates of the weapon.

Reaction: Kay

We have to be clear of what Stephen is alluding to here. If we are going to lump in Katana and Nunchaku with Broadswords and Lances… then we are completely comparing apples and oranges. Looking at this from a eastern philosophy… yes… in Karate, better yet Kobudo, and Kendo… the karateka and kenshi is measured on the control of their weapon. Attacks are precise and calculated. Western philosophy is completely different as strategy and tactics were different. Both philosophies have polearm disciplines… again apples and oranges if you compare a Naginata or a Yari to a Halberd or a Lance. While they are all polearms they had complete different uses. One thing I do have agree with Stephen… for both Eastern and Western philosophies… the wielder is at the mercy of the weapon regardless of mastery.

Action: Stephen

The final outcome of a one on one battle can often be decided at this time before any blows are struck. Important questions are answered (or not) at this time. Does my opponent have restrictions about how they can move? Do they know their kill zone? Do they know my kill zone? Do I understand their weapon and its kill zone? Are any apparent weaknesses real or false? Can I sucker them with a false weakness? Can I maneuver to a position of advantage? I see this as a straight skill vs skill with bonuses for perception and style/weapon familiarity.

Reaction: Kay

I’m not sure if he knows… but he may already have an understanding of Zanshin. All the questions above are about Zanshin.

Action: Stephen

I don't yet have a good mechanism for reactive combat and I haven't described closing to effect, reversals, charging and other actions. My thought is that a single good strike will end a combat and the combat is about denying your opponent the opportunity to make that strike while setting up your own opportunity

Reaction: Kay

Reactive combat in game situation is hard to see because it’s a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation and how can you put that on to paper.

Summation: Kay

Overall… I understand what Stephen is saying however, I hope he understands that there is a place for the “do” and the “jutsu” Oh… and the argument of which is more effective for Kendo, traditional vs current… wish I could tell you… there haven’t been any sword carrying a-holes around so I haven’t been able to test my skill. For Karate… a balance of traditional training an evolved training has yielded the best results for me.

Helping PC’s create characters for an evil game

+David Berg: I dig the advice about identifying motives and traumas! I actually use something similar in my own supervillain RPG (if you'd like to read/play, just lemme know!), but I've found it handy to start with a Want, and then identify how the villain Suffers from not having what they want (needn't be trauma-based, but many players opt for that). So then it's easy to connect the dark psychological stuff to concrete actions (pursuit of the Wants).

Have you played any games using the approach in your post? If so, how'd it go?

+Ten to Awesome: David, you never sent me your info on the Supervillain RPG you have. Our next Gamex convention coming up here in a few weeks is comics superhero themed and I would love to maybe even run a one shot as one of our RPG events!

I tend to look at character creation from the point of view of an actor. Not that I am an actor per se, (not everyone from Los Angeles is an aspiring actor) but I have had some training in Drama. From that point of view I can tell you that there is some difference between a Want or a Goal and a Motivation. They both drive a characters actions but “Wants” can be more easily resolved than Motivations. When a character wants something, they can actively go out and try to attain that goal. A Motivation is much more internal. It’s an emotional lens by which you interpret interaction.

For example, if a character is motivated by Lust, it will taint their interaction with every person they meet. Can this person be seduced? What are these people’s proclivities? Can I manipulate them to sate my desire? Something like this cannot be a goal because there is no end to it. Unless they deal with the central reason as to WHY they feel this emotion they can never remove that motivation from their actions. They why can be a trauma or variable other reasons. If players develop a motivation behind a want, it gives the characters action greater gravitas.

If a player simply states that their character wants to have sex with every person they find interesting or attractive, it is a far more two dimensional statement. Without some sort of rationalization as to why they seek this “carnal knowledge” it becomes a robotic response to stimulus without any underlying motivation behind it.

I played an Aeon character that was a shape shifter, but the side effects of her powers were that her real physical appearance was hideous. Her primary motivation was to be appreciated for her physical beauty so much so that it became an obsession to find her “perfect form”. This took some villainous overtones as she became very similar to a Snow White Queen type character. When she started to fall in love with another PC, she started to lash out at him because he was getting to close and may actually ask what she really looked like. There was some intense roleplay as the two characters struggled to love each other despite her insecurities and hatred of herself. It was pretty intense and one of the most rewarding RP experiences I ever had for several reasons. I was really in her head and felt the way she felt because I identified with her motivation!

Damage Location Track for my King of Monsters vs. League of Righteousness!

+Mike McGannon: Is that the main board for the game or are there other monsters as well?

+Ten to Awesome: The main board of the game is actually a 4x6 table with 20mm scale buildings and a 1.5 foot tall Godzilla model representing the monster. Like in most Kaiju or Giant Monster films there is one singular monster, although I do plan on expanding the game to have a Giant Monster vs. Giant Monster element like in Godzilla vs King Kong. The Damage Location Track, which is what I posted here is a big 24 x 36 poster with a metal back so I can place the damage cards directly on the board with magnets on an easel. I could have easily made it much smaller or used a dry erase board of some sort, but I wanted everything about the Monster to be on a large scale. You can see the eight “Superheroes” cards which I have on a 6x3 inch handout card.

Breaking into narrative systems

+Stephen Gunnell: I've seen games flounder because half the players became too narcissistic and failed to make any attempt to drive the game forward. The GM and those of the players who did want to solve the problem got bored and the whole thing ground to a halt.

On the flip side of the coin most good GMs have the sense to let the physics slide in favor of progressing the story.

Narrative driven and physics driven rulesets are largely equivalent in the hands of a good GM.

+Ten to Awesome: I am quickly becoming a fan of Stephen Gunnell. If you are ever in L.A. look me up and I will buy you a beer. Truer words have never been spoken. It’s the GM that sets the tone for the game. Being a rules arbitrator and storyteller only skims the surface of the art of GM’ing. The real art of it comes in the careful balance of player needs, mechanical adjudication and being at the helm of the narrative. No one aspect can overcome the other or it will spell disaster. The most brilliantly concocted ruleset will never compensate for a poor GM, but a good GM can turn a game of Gangbusters into Shakespearian tale of triumph and woe.

+Shawn H Corey: Narrative games will not take over the industry. They appeal only to one segment of it. There are people who prefer the more mechanical versions.

+Ten to Awesome: I agree with you Shawn, but that really isn't the purpose of my post. +X2A isn't a proponent of any one style of play. What we are about is promoting the idea of exploration. If there is some element of a game style or system that would make you shy away from trying something new, we are all about providing ways for you to simply explore and see if that’s the kind of thing you would like to dive into more seriously. The game industry is constantly in flux and at the mercy of fad as any other, but as long as it evolves and provides new and interesting things to do, it will always keep the interest of old and new players alike.

+Winchell Chung: +Shawn H Corey more to the point, the majority of players would rather passively consume entertainment generated by the game master, only a few want to be narrativist and actually generate their own entertainment.

In fact, very similar to the proportions of people want to be game masters vs. people who want to be players

+Ten to Awesome: Many would say that this disparity is only right since you only need one GM per 1-6 individuals. I prefer to have the attitude of challenging people to do more. At the heart of every cynic is a disappointed idealist. Please don’t kill me, it’s just my opinion.

+Shawn H Corey: "Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty." -- William Archer

I would say some people prefer more anticipation and others, more uncertainty.

+Ten to Awesome: You can't have Drama without tension and you can’t have tension without some kind of unforeseeable outcome. Yet, I would rather have the unforeseeable outcome have meaning, unless the whole point of the story is that the outcome is meaningless, but I never got fully into nihilism.


  1. Hey Jim! This is David. Thanks for the response, and the offer to consider my supervillain game for Gamex! I'd be happy to send you the play materials if you let me know what email address I should send them to. If you'd rather not post that here, feel free to contact me at bobsurface at the good ol'

    As for the difference between Motivations and Wants, I think we're actually coming from a fairly similar perspective, but with different emphases suited to different play situations. I'd say that mine is more focused on giving players something concrete to do quickly with their characters (as befits a one-shot) while yours is more suited to extended arcs of exploration, of the sort that can occur organically in the course of a good campaign. Emphasis aside, it seems we both agree that identifying an inner drive is vital.

    1. For your purposes Wants serve in a better capacity. It's like a jump start motivation. Now that I have checked out your blog it becomes more clear.

      Please do send me the materials and I will run a game at Gamex and happily provide you with all the feedback I can. I will also pimp your blog at the event.

      Looking forward to checking it out.

      Best regards,
      Jim Sandoval