Brand and I Talk about Wicked Age

March 1, 2008

Here’s excerpts from a conversation Brand and I had a couple days ago, stripped of everything but the stuff about In a Wicked Age and needless competition. Hope this is cool, Brand.

6:42 PM Brand: …Your point about how competitive fights fuck us is also true
6:43 PM As soon as we get over the idea you must 'earn' your 'win' so many new vistas open
me: yeah, that just hit me recently
that we conflate the experience of being the audience of a fight and being the performer creating it
Brand: I've been thinking on it for awhile. But the way you put it was like, so much clearer.
me: and that's true of a lot of roleplaying
the audience-actor unity fucks us a bit
6:44 PM Brand: Yep
As does the need to step on up
me: yeah
6:45 PM i often get sick of how much Gam gets in everything
it permeates all of roleplaying
Brand: The invisible law of dickwaving and puritanism
me: where inter-player conflict is always behind any inter-character conflict
6:46 PM Brand: and conflict is always the best way to get drama
me: like rolling dice in IAWA when people get pissed
6:47 PM like, that works for that game, sure, but EVERY GAME
Brand: The one I want to ask about IAWA, but haven't yet as others don't seem to be to the point, is do you roll dice between NPCs?
Not, mind you, should you by the rules.
But do you, or do you ever want to, in your games that you actually play.
6:48 PM me: i would question why you would want to
since the session is not about the NPCs
Brand: Because Vincent describes the resolution as being between characters, but many people treat it as being between players.
6:49 PM me: hmm… that's interesting
i think Vincent would tell you to do it if it's the right thing to do
but he's like that
Brand: And if a conflict of interests between characters prompts dice rollings, then how do you do NPCs?
See, I find Wicked interesting because I've never played it with a GM.
me: ha
6:50 PM i've never played Geiger with a GM either, but you definitely could
but if you have no GM then there are no NPCs
only PCs
Brand: And when you have no GM, the line between gets pretty thin
me: in 108 Bravos, which is probably GMless, i call them non-bravo characters 🙂
6:51 PM Brand: Like, when Mo and I play, we have our PCs and they usually are not NPCs, nor vice versa. But when we played it three handed (with Leo), the NPCs became PCs and vice versa all over the place.
me: and, yeah, they have lots of scenes to themselves, with no bravos around
Brand: Like, it started when Leo said at one point "I hate this character, I want a new one."
So that character became an NPC.
Who later I started playing as the focus of my "pc scenes"
6:52 PM me: don't you basically just get three kinds of conflict then?
NPC-NPC, PC-NPC, PC-PC?
Brand: Sort of. But who is which at any given point may be in flux.
me: which are all pretty similar, but kinda different
unless you dual-stat everyone
Brand: However, the thing about it is that I read other people's AP and have to force myself to remember that they aren't really doing what we're doing.
6:53 PM Cause I apparently can't play a game without borking it.
me: so what's the PC-NPC difference in your play?
Brand: ….
me: you seem to mean something besides how the characters are statted
Brand: I do
Though that's an interesting one too, and one we haven't addressed yet.
Okay, structurally first.
me: when is someone "being an NPC"?
6:54 PM Brand: Structurally, PCs have scenes framed around them. If a character is the character that a scene is framed to highlight, they're a PC.
NPCs do not get scenes framed around them, no matter how bad ass they may be.
me: interesting, that's pretty different from Bravos
Brand: When Mo and play together, this is never an issue. The PCs we chose at game start stay the focus characters.
me: so you don't have like the prelude from Jaws where naked innocent skinny dipper gets eaten?
6:55 PM Brand: In the three handed no-GM games, this rule got broken a lot. Or, that is to say, NPCs became PCs when their story became interesting to us.
The Jaws prelude might happen, but as a prelude. It'd be like, the sherif's scene. It happens just to lead into the part where he discovers the body.
me: right, so the skinny dipper isn't a character
6:56 PM Brand: Then, second, there is stat wise. In Wicked NPCs and PCs are statted differently.
Yea, the skinny dipper isn't even an NPC. She's a prop.
me: rpgs don't handle prop characters well, we don't even talk about characters that way
Brand: Also, we do that. There are people in the game who aren't characters at all. Like, not even NPCs. They are window dressing.
Finally, there is… and this mixes in with number 1, interest wise.
6:57 PM Like, if an NPC becomes more interesting than a PC, we may just dump the PC.
It becomes less that PCs are interesting because they are PCs and more that they are PCs because they are interesting.
6:58 PM
me: this is what Vincent created the crutch of the We Owe list to do, but you do it already without the crutch
6:59 PM Brand: Oh, and prop NPCs often get used as agents of someone else's will. Like we had an NPC that was like the Pope, and one of the PC's was the Pope's killer whore. But the Pope betrays her, tries to have her killed. When the assasins came we didn't stat them, we just had the Pope roll against her.
me: do you use the WOL?
Brand: Which I think Vincent might not do. I think he might have made the assasins NPCs.
We do use the WoL.
Though I think we use it differently.
me: why?
don't interesting characters move to the forefront already?
7:00 PM Brand: It still gives bonus dice. It also does show which characters will come back — which does have an effect on what we do with the game.
They do, but sometimes the preasure of the system puts a constraint on that that gives us a "oh, lets take a different look at that character, and see what is going on there" preasure we wouldn't otherwise get.
me: cool
Brand: Though, predictably, Mo wants to ditch it.
7:41 PM …Oh, there was one thing I forgot — way up at the part about character vs player in Wicked. When we say "no you don't asshole" its a character thing. The character is saying "no you don't asshole" — frequently the player wants the character to lose, but we go to dice anyway.
I don't know how common that is with other people.
me: hmm, i bet not
because "say yes" is definitely a player-GM thing
7:42 PM that's another good issue to bring up
actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure what Vincent's point in "Say Yes" is
Brand: Also, I think a lot of people think "say yes or roll the dice" as being something that is for all games. In Wicked there really is no "say yes or roll the dice" in the same way. It is "the character must say yes or roll the dice"
me: i always assumed it was to encourage people to freeform agreement about non-controversial actions
7:43 PM Brand: In Dogs I often use it to avoid boring conflicts.
Like, when the Dogs go to kill a minor character no one really cares about — he dies. I just say yes.
me: but i sometimes think that finding where the interesting conflict lies can be thorny
Brand: In Wicked, I wouldn't do the same thing (unless the character is a prop rather than a character) because no way is the character going to say yet to being killed.
me: because sometimes you can push and push and the players can keep saying yes
7:44 PM Brand: Yep
me: and the world is an apocolyptic wasteland and the players still want more
Brand: Yep
me: so there's something to be said for Knowing When To Stop Saying Yes
Brand: I totally agree.
7:45 PM Its like a conversation we had in another game recently, where one of the players had a problem because she was tired of everyone making their own character lose all the time.
She said something like "I know characters need to fail sometimes to get good drama, but goddamnit they need to win sometimes too!"
She had a point.
7:46 PM me: sure
7:47 PM i think indie games train us to be masochists
especially Polaris
and the other tragic TPK ones
Brand: Yep
Plus, there is something else, like…
In a lot of games if you want to win something, you have to fight for it. But if you want to lose, you can do that at will.
7:48 PM So if you try to win, you might fail and lose control of where the story goes. But if you conced and monkey stomp your own character, you keep control.
me: right, you don't have to fight to lose
that's more of the Gam getting in our Sim-Nar
7:49 PM Brand: Yep

One Response to “Brand and I Talk about Wicked Age”

  1. Claire Says:

    Yes. Yes yes yes.

    I’ve worked out I dislike competition so much I’m not even sure I could enjoy playing board games with friends who take it at all seriously. Which makes me struggle with games that are supposedly Nar but support and even require competitive play.


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