Assassination

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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higgins
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Re: Assassination

Postby higgins » 04 Oct 2015, 03:53

Marras wrote:Could this be a sort of lever for the campaign that only sets the tone of the campaign but has no mechanical effects?
Well, that's the question about whether such a thing would be defined as a house rule or be part of the social contract. Levers are basically house rules that are written down and given a flavorful name. Not sure that using them would be applicable with zero mechanical effect. I'm open for discussion though.
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thirtythr33
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Re: Assassination

Postby thirtythr33 » 06 Oct 2015, 07:52

higgins wrote:it becomes simply a retcon safety net. First, it sounds artificial, and second, it'd be silly to apply such special rule on assassinations alone. If I can retcon a bullet to my brain, why can't I retcon... say... that really clever insult that made my character a laughing stock of the court?


But I believe you have almost already introduced this mechanic. It would only require a few key re-wordings to make it applicable. To quote you from the Story Aspects Basics Thread:

higgins wrote:BUT in addition, the SA points can be burned for narrative tasks such as establishing that there's a sword on above the chimney or to say "I know we didn't mention this, but of course we brought the rope" or reducing a lethal wound to a merely crippling one (my playtest game has that last one levered out for tone and feel). There's a lot of cool stuff to burn SAs on.


The case of downgrading a bullet to the brain is already taken care of, as are other forms of assassination that cause Wounds such as fires. SAs already let you "retcon" to get a rope offscreen, so why not other narrative things like assassinations that don't Wound?

All that would be required is a line to the effect of "Anything that would result in a player death without causing a Wound (ie Poison, Suffocation, Black Magic etc) may be altered to produce a different outcome by spending Story Aspect Points if plausible".

This couldn't be used to alter instant death things that deal wounds, for example falling from a great height. It also couldn't be used if it doesn't kill you (like a Noble's insult). It only covers the most "unfair" kind of character deaths and even has a plausibility clause. It does cover some strange kinds of assassination though; even something as abstract as pirates making you walk the plank. "You pass out for a time, but eventually you awaken face down on a beach you don't recognize".

Again, this should be levered in or out depending on applicability.
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Re: Assassination

Postby higgins » 06 Oct 2015, 12:24

thirtythr33 wrote:The case of downgrading a bullet to the brain is already taken care of, as are other forms of assassination that cause Wounds such as fires. SAs already let you "retcon" to get a rope offscreen, so why not other narrative things like assassinations that don't Wound?
Well, the fundamental difference between those two uses is that one is adding something plausible that wasn't previously established, whereas the other is changing something that was confirmed by an action or a roll. If you guys argued about bringing rope and everyone decided it wasn't necessary, then no, you can't retcon one in as you established that you didn't bring it.

The problem with cost-based "avoid certain death" type mechanics is that... technically, the GM can put death on every corner and bleed you dry from the points at will, so, it still essentially boils down to social contract, no?
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Re: Assassination

Postby Agamemnon » 06 Oct 2015, 18:40

higgins wrote:The problem with cost-based "avoid certain death" type mechanics is that... technically, the GM can put death on every corner and bleed you dry from the points at will, so, it still essentially boils down to social contract, no?


This is the big thing. As the game stands now, we have a "survive a deadly wound" mechanic built in to SA burning (that can be levered out). So the target can pay to survive what would have been a successful assassination attempt, but it's not treated any differently than surviving any other deadly wound. That said, the rule stipulates that you survive, not that you ignore the effect. If I put a bolt through your chest, yeah you might survive but it's still going to ruin your day. Even with the marginal safety net, a level 5 wound is going to put you down for a significant amount of time. Even a level 4 wound is going to cause you some problems until you're sufficiently recovered.

I could definitely see this being used in broader applicability though. The poison that should kill you, falling overboard during a storm at sea, etc.

I think the thing Higgins is stressing is that no matter what mechanical safety net you have, it still boils down to the social contract — an agreement between the GM and players about the nature of violence in the game and the stakes being played for.

Every death is going to feel cheap for the players if they believe themselves to be in much less danger than the GM has planned. Even with a safety net, random deadly-force moments (whether from poison, assassinations, or even weirder "your horse throws you, roll to avoid breaking your neck!") are going to suck both because they not only feel cheap - but they drain your SAs, which means you're not getting to use them for other cool stuff.

Thus, the most important crux of this conversation is making sure the players and GM are on the same page. It doesn't matter if we're talking about poison, traps, assassinations, or moody horses.
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Re: Assassination

Postby thirtythr33 » 06 Oct 2015, 23:03

Higgins, it seems quite strange to me that your argument against basically boils down to "If the DM wants to kill you he is going to kill you. So we shouldn't bother to have rules about how and when a character can die."

Obviously, if a killer DM has it out for you he has the tools available to kill you, be it poison, lightning from the sky, a dragon, an endless hoard of orcs or falling rocks. By the same token, he could repeatedly use Deus Ex Machina to save you perpetuity as well.

A rule like the one I proposed would impact the game in a few ways that goes beyond the social contract.

1) Without this rule, if a player is abandoned at sea or badly poisoned, the DM has to make an arbitrary decisions as to whether the character lives or not. This is a no win situation for the DM. Either he uses Deus Ex Machina to save the character and now his threats are left feeling toothless. Or he takes the hard line and kills the character which can lead to player resentment for arbitrarily killing their character. By introducing a game mechanic for making this decision you are absolving the DM of the responsibility of the choice. He simply says "thems the rules". His threats still have gravity and there can be no appearance of playing favorites.

2) This gives the DM more tools at his disposal. As you indicated earlier, without a rule for this situation the DM basically has the options of a) no assassinations targeting players at all b) murder characters frequently and arbitrarily enough to set a precedent and not have it feel targeted or c) blatantly telegraph the attack such that it can be foiled every time. These options leave no middle road. By allowing SAs to be spent on altering these situations there are two more options d) Attack frequently to tax the players resources (might be appropriate for a survival horror type game) and e) Intermittently use these attacks when they are appropriate for the plot/story while maintaining a threat without being lethal.

3) Less random accidental deaths. Another safety net means less random deaths; assuming the DM hasn't just ramped up his threat level in response.

4) By having it written down in the rules, this is effectively externalized and now an objective version of the social contract. If it's in the rules it can happen. If it's not, it's not. This is useful since most groups aren't actually going to sit down before play and explicitly talk about what gentleman's rules are in play and what stakes are being played for. This will avoid misunderstandings where people had different unspoken ideas about what they assumed was in the social contract.

The reason under all of this that we need to have a discussion on Assassinations (or arbitrary deaths in general) is because we acknowledge that it feels really shitty when a character is arbitrary killed. So the question should become "What rules should be put in place that allows for legitimate threats and doesn't result in arbitrary deaths?"
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Re: Assassination

Postby Marras » 07 Oct 2015, 04:35

higgins wrote:Well, that's the question about whether such a thing would be defined as a house rule or be part of the social contract. Levers are basically house rules that are written down and given a flavorful name. Not sure that using them would be applicable with zero mechanical effect. I'm open for discussion though.

True, it doesn't have mechanical effects so it might not fit the idea behind levers. I am leaning towards social contract as a way to handle such things. Still, maybe this could be added, maybe even as something written to rulebook to things that are included in pre-game setup? It is possible that some people never even think of how assassinations affect the campaigns (I am one of those people) before the time comes but perhaps there could be sort of dials for different flavors of campaigns, sort of like soft levers, code among bastards that are established prior to game or at the very least at the first session. Maybe even add a sheet with some checkboxes to fill that can later on serve as a guideline on what to expect and what to do and it serves both the GM and players.

To me, this would be semi-mechanical way to handle situations like that.

Another, more mechanical way to handle this is more or less ripped from Mutant Chronicles 3rd edition that might be possible to adapt to situations like this. In MC3 it is called Dark Symmetry Points, in BoB it might be called Bastard Points (that I will use in the example).

GM starts with a small number of Bastard Points, a sort of meta-currency, that he can use to justify the use of really underhanded tactics (like assassination, stubborn horses, etc.) that might result in less than glorious death of a PC. So, a use of sniper (sort of activation cost) is 1 Bastard Point. Of course the sniper might miss or the result is not fatal, but the BP is lost.

Every time PCs use similar tactics, they add 1 BP to GM's pool. In this way players are not restricted how they want to play their characters but those actions have consequences, actual mechanical consequences. So, the worse you act the worse things might happen to you or people near you. The most unfair thing in this system is that the GM can use BPs on any PC regardless on how that PC has acted but I suppose they get tainted by the actions of other characters they associate with.

I would not refresh the BP pool between sessions as this pool should not see too much use (unlike in MC3). So, if after session 1 the Bastard Point pool is 3 (it started at 2) at the start of session 2 it still is 3 and didn't revert back to 2 because the actions of PCs have not gone away.

This mechanic might have a lever that affects the starting BP pool from 0 to whatever might be appropriate.
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Re: Assassination

Postby higgins » 07 Oct 2015, 06:29

thirtythr33 wrote:Higgins, it seems quite strange to me that your argument against basically boils down to "If the DM wants to kill you he is going to kill you. So we shouldn't bother to have rules about how and when a character can die."
You misread me. I'm not saying we shouldn't bother. As you pointed out, we already have such rules in effect. I'm merely saying that such a rule without a social contract to complement it does not fix the problem.

That said, I don't really see a massive issue with expanding that rule to cover all death other than suicide. Although PvP death is also a tough call to make.

Marras wrote:Bastard Points
That's a neat idea. We'll mull it over :)
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