People vs. Furniture

Thursday, October 20, 2005

First, Stranger Things is late going into the edit phase. This is entirely my fault (though I do blame Blizzard somwehat). I'm going to send the current draft to Phil tonight. We're not going to hit my dream-date of Halloween for release, though. Oh well.

Now, to the point of the post. Ron has posted a very tasty little thing over in Vincent's forum on the Forge. I'll quote him here:
Basically, divide up everything the characters deal with into "people" and "furniture." The tricky part (to a gamer) is that sometimes things like "the door" or "the pit" or "the mountain" are people, and sometimes things like "the soldier" or "the messenger" or "the chambermaid" are furniture.

But once you have that distinction down, then it's easy: when a player-character has a conflict of interest with a person, then it's time for dice, or more properly, for resolution.

"We must get past this terrible mountain" is not a conflict ... unless the mountain is a person. Do we ever call it a person? Nope. But if it plays that role in our minds, then you're going to have great conflicts. If the conflict of interest with it can be thought of in human terms, as in "this mountain is a dreadful, ruthless place," then great! Or more subtly, if the mountain's features prompt what is called, in Primetime Adventures, character issues, then we're all good to. In play, you (we, I) should be asking the same questions of ourselves regarding the local lord in the local castle.

But if the mountain is furniture? Then it doesn't matter what you roll, how many times, or what risks to the character sheet's numbers it poses, applying the resolution procedures is horrible and boring for everyone. The same applies if we're talking about the local lord in the local castle - because he might be furniture, and if so, then I'd rather go wash the dishes or clean out the shower trap than spend one minute applying the resolution procedures to interacting with him.

If you're ever unsure about which might apply in a given situation during play, simply do a little Color for the relevant person or thing, and see what the other people at the table say. Their responses will tell you, straight-up, with no ambiguity.

Oh man... do I ever know what he means. I bet you do, too. How many games have we played in which our characters were forced to make endless climbing rolls just to get to the gorram adventure? Or wander around for hours talking to furniture NPCs? Yick. Thankfully, those days are pretty much over for me. I just don't put up with that kind of thing in my play anymore. But as a GM, I still have to really be on my A-game to keep this crap out of the game. A clear reminder like Ron's is like gold to me.

He also has a follow-up which is pretty good, too.

Labels: ,

13 Comments:

Blogger Tony says:  

That's a very useful distinction. I'm glad that he preserves the role of the mountain as a possible opponent.

Remember when they told you in middle school that stories have three kinds of conflicts:
- man vs. man
- man vs. nature
- man vs. himself

It's a little confusing to apply this here since what this calls "man" and "nature" are both "person" to vincent, but the point remains. Conflict with something that conflicts back is interesting. There is no "man vs. furniture" for a good reason (although maybe you could make a case for slapstick: "man vs. banana peel").

But I digress. So, is there any room for "man vs. himself" in conflict resolution gaming?



Blogger John Harper says:  

Man vs. Himself? Oh absolutely.

One of the examples in PTA is of a protagonist setting up an internal conflict with herself.

And Sorcerer's Humanity rolls are all about that too.

Pretty much all "stakes resolution" systems should allow for this kind of thing.



Anonymous Vaxalon says:  

Dogs in the Vineyard poses Man vs. Himself conflicts in the "Initiation" but... nowhere else.



Blogger John Harper says:  

Of course, they're allowed at any time in play in Dogs. You just roll vs. Demonic Influence and off you go.



Blogger Matt Wilson says:  

My personal favorite conflict as of late is "man vs. quesadilla."

I appreciate the sentiment of people/furniture, but the labels don't do it for me. I'd rather just ask "will this place or person provide adversity that leads the story somewhere, success or fail?"



Anonymous Vaxalon says:  

John, that may be so, but the rules don't make it explicit, not the way Sorceror or PTA does.

I agree that it wouldn't be hard to se t up, but it's kind of clunky.

I mean, look at the Initiation conflict rules. The GM (with his dice that look very much like demonic influence) plays the forces trying to change the PC, and the player plays the PC as he is.

So in a MvH conflict after the Initiation, which side does the GM take?

I think the whole thing is a lot cloudier in Dogs than it is in the other games mentioned.



Blogger Bankuei says:  

Really? I always saw Dog vs. him/herself as part of Vincent's Fruitful Void...



Blogger Joshua BishopRoby says:  

Tony, you forgot one: man vs society. See Otherkind for its casual assumption that a group of people count as one enemy for systemic treatement.

I don't like the labels, either Matt. I use "characters" and "props".



Blogger Matt Snyder says:  

So, is there any room for "man vs. himself" in conflict resolution gaming?

Yeah. Check out my game, Dust Devils, which is all about choices you make about your character's own troubled history.



Blogger John Harper says:  

Dust Devils!! Of course.



Blogger Tony says:  

Joshua, we were never taught that man vs. soceity was a valid conflict type for fiction. Perhaps that's because I grew up in the British Empire. :)



Blogger Joshua BishopRoby says:  

Superficial googling suggests that British academia considers "Man vs Society" as a subset of "Man vs Man". Interesting.



Anonymous Vaxalon says:  

I think British academia is assuming that societies are made up of men.

Man vs. Society is a subset of Man vs. Man the same way that Man vs. Wilderness is a subset of Man vs. Nature. There are endless varieties of all three types of conflicts.



Post a Comment



<< Home