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Review Aliens RPG Post Mortem

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@Ovinomancer I don’t disagree with what you’re saying for the most part. I think the skills are a little broader than you’re saying, but I agree that they’re designed toward a specific scenario type that aligns to the movies at least somewhat.

I also think that the rules are mostly presented in a traditional play mindset. The Analysis Talent displays that pretty clearly; it lets you ask the GM questions, and they must answer truthfully…but then it goes on to explicitly say thecan be vague in order to not spoil the scenario.

It’s pretty hard to read that in anything but a traditional mode.

I know @Manbearcat wants to approach the game from a more Story Now direction. I’d like to hear an example of what you want to do with your scientist in play that has needed to be decided on the fly, as you suggest. I’ve no doubt that’s the case, but without the details of the situation, it’s hard to comment any further.

You mentioned experiments and gene-splicing…maybe an example related to one of those?
In the first session, I had used analysis on a sample of native algae that was attacking the airlock seals in the habs. Okay, cool. I then wanted to release MY version of the algae, that I had been working on splicing onto terran stock, and hope that it could outcompete without the negative side effects. I don't know what move to make here. We ran it as another Wits/Observation check, I got 3 successes, and it worked without issues. But, even here, I had 2 past the necessary and I don't know what I should be able to do with these extra successes.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
As @Ovinomancer sez, you can flex the rules, but it really isn't intended for much other than doing things with the looming threat of Very Bad Things being Damoclesian over your head--and there are some actions that are ... not contemplated in the game's philosophy, and therefore require a jarring amount of negotiation.
 

MGibster

Legend
Yes, there is a good reason to do the maintenance (beyond that the rules call for rolling it): it's one of the resources to manage in the trade-mode game. The quest for spares is a significant drive. (pun intended). And it's driven by the strong potential for breakdowns.
That's true. Odds are good I'll never run a campaign and simply stick to cinematic scenarios where weekly maintenance is unlikely to come up. And even if I were to run a campaign, I despise unnecessary bookkeeping and wouldn't bother with weekly maintenance checks because that's just not exciting. Though you're right; It's right there in the rules. It doesn't seem likely that routine maintenance would be done under high Stress situations even in campaign mode.
Essentially, ship travel in Alien RPG is never "routine".
I'm going to have to disagree here. When you're at the point where a bunch of rough neck "truckers" are hauling ore from point A to point B then ship travel is routine. Unless there's some extenuating circumstances, I wouldn't require a character to roll a Pilot check to dock their ship but I'd require one for landing on LV-426 with it's high winds and poor visibility.

Functionally, there is a huge bit of resource management in the game... easily more than in D&D or Traveller. It's a different mode, but it's still resource management.
This is true. Gumshoe is another system that is heavy on resource management. I find it adds some tension to the game but some people aren't in to that.

Panic results create incoherencies when applied outside of combat. This isn't just a fictional issue, but ties into the assumed action economy and also the nature of skills and talents and the combat system. It's not just the table entries.
I completely agree here. I had a player attempt to sabotage an airlock to keep another PC from getting back onto the ship. So I had the PC make a Heavy Machinery roll to do this and the Panic die came up and the result was that she fled to safety which just didn't make a lot of sense given the situation.
The skills and talents are extremely narrow and focused on a specific set of assumptions as to what play will be about. To me, this is as big an issue as the panic, because you have to do a lot of work to ignore these when applying them outside of pretty much combat or exploration of a combat zone.
And for me that pretty much works out just fine because I'm only running Alien with an extremely narrowly focused set of assumptions. Of course I'm only running in cinematic play rather than campaign and long term research and gene splicing just isn't going to come up in most scenarios.
 

In the first session, I had used analysis on a sample of native algae that was attacking the airlock seals in the habs. Okay, cool. I then wanted to release MY version of the algae, that I had been working on splicing onto terran stock, and hope that it could outcompete without the negative side effects. I don't know what move to make here. We ran it as another Wits/Observation check, I got 3 successes, and it worked without issues. But, even here, I had 2 past the necessary and I don't know what I should be able to do with these extra successes.

Yeah, it’s hard to say. The book gives advice for three campaign types and colony is one of them, but the bulk of what’s offered is random tables. Not much for the kind of “between crises” long term type things that would seem important to such a campaign. My guess is that they’ll create a colony campaign book which will expand on that much as the Colonial Marines handbook explored how to handle a military focused campaign.

In the absence of that, yeah, that kind of thing would be tough. To take your example specifically, were the stakes of failure established? I’d expect so, but curious. For your bonus successes, extra questions maybe? If any pertained. Or else additional instances of success (the whole installation versus one door, etc.) or doing it in half the time or similar. Those are what immediately spring to mind, but it’s possible none of them apply.

And this may be a stupid question, but was a roll even needed? Should you just succeed? Again, I think this is where the stakes need to be established.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, it’s hard to say. The book gives advice for three campaign types and colony is one of them, but the bulk of what’s offered is random tables. Not much for the kind of “between crises” long term type things that would seem important to such a campaign. My guess is that they’ll create a colony campaign book which will expand on that much as the Colonial Marines handbook explored how to handle a military focused campaign.

In the absence of that, yeah, that kind of thing would be tough. To take your example specifically, were the stakes of failure established? I’d expect so, but curious. For your bonus successes, extra questions maybe? If any pertained. Or else additional instances of success (the whole installation versus one door, etc.) or doing it in half the time or similar. Those are what immediately spring to mind, but it’s possible none of them apply.

And this may be a stupid question, but was a roll even needed? Should you just succeed? Again, I think this is where the stakes need to be established.
And all of your questions illustrate my point!
 


I completely agree here. I had a player attempt to sabotage an airlock to keep another PC from getting back onto the ship. So I had the PC make a Heavy Machinery roll to do this and the Panic die came up and the result was that she fled to safety which just didn't make a lot of sense given the situation.

To me, that reaction actually works: the person was so out of sorts that basically had a panic attack and had to leave. We're talking about a stress level of 7 or higher, which is where people start to get unglued. I can totally make up reasons why bugged out, even if for a minute. I imagine someone trying to sabotage the airlock, but they keep making little mistakes and suddenly they just get overwhelmed with emotion and panic: it's not getting done, they can't do it, they can't stay there if that person comes back...

I think it requires a bit more cajoling than in combat, but being a bit irrational is part of panicking and it's why I like it.

Edit: Sorry, forgot that fleeing was actually higher up on the chart.
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Ah, the Stress/Panic system, which seems carefully calibrated to be everything I hate in a Madness system. Not only does it end up with implausible results (both in general and specific to instance and character) and not only does it intermittently take control of your character; it actively keeps your character from being able to do anything while it spirals relentlessly tighter. I'm sure this is a reasonably realistic depiction of what it's like to be in a full panic--but it is, for me, pretty much the opposite of fun to play. (Note: I do not care for Madness systems in general.)
 

MGibster

Legend
To me, that reaction actually works: the person was so out of sorts that basically had a panic attack and had to leave. We're talking about a stress level of 7 or higher, which is where people start to get unglued. I can totally make up reasons why bugged out, even if for a minute.

That's a valid point of view. This was the first game of Alien I had run and I think I forgot about the roll once rule. i.e. You can't just re-roll the dice if you've already failed unless the circumstances have changed somehow. They barricaded the bridge and I didn't make them roll for that because they spent an entire shift doing it.
 

That's a valid point of view. This was the first game of Alien I had run and I think I forgot about the roll once rule. i.e. You can't just re-roll the dice if you've already failed unless the circumstances have changed somehow. They barricaded the bridge and I didn't make them roll for that because they spent an entire shift doing it.

Yeah. If someone has already pushed, you can't just chip away at it. But I can understand panic reactions needing a bit of experience when it comes to contextualizing them. It's really easy to think about it only in terms of combat or something, but I think all of them work well enough in non-combat situations as long as you remember that while the scene might be relatively calm, your PC is currently not.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah. If someone has already pushed, you can't just chip away at it. But I can understand panic reactions needing a bit of experience when it comes to contextualizing them. It's really easy to think about it only in terms of combat or something, but I think all of them work well enough in non-combat situations as long as you remember that while the scene might be relatively calm, your PC is currently not.
Yeah, but this is a problem because that level of stress isn't being represented in the fictional setup. When I play Blades, the situation is clear -- I know from what's already happened and how that has been framed how desperate our controlled the situation is. Stress here is not driving the fiction directly, it's a resource. Any conceited in Blades could take you out of the scene -- stress is a player- side pacing mechanism.

In Aliens, though, stress drives outcomes but often isn't present in framing. So a situation that is framed in a controlled manner can go suddenly of the rails and that is jarring. You have to go back at recon the framing to make sense or else have characters that are highly volatile.
 

Yeah, but this is a problem because that level of stress isn't being represented in the fictional setup. When I play Blades, the situation is clear -- I know from what's already happened and how that has been framed how desperate our controlled the situation is. Stress here is not driving the fiction directly, it's a resource. Any conceited in Blades could take you out of the scene -- stress is a player- side pacing mechanism.

In Aliens, though, stress drives outcomes but often isn't present in framing. So a situation that is framed in a controlled manner can go suddenly of the rails and that is jarring. You have to go back at recon the framing to make sense or else have characters that are highly volatile.

I don't see how the stress isn't driving the fiction: if anything, the stress should be a consideration in everything you do, driving your actions. The more stress you get, the more you'll want to find a place to lose that stress, to avoid having to make rolls where you are going to fall apart, or at least manage them so that if you do hit one of those results, it'll be in a controlled setting rather than in a dangerous one.

Like, I don't really see the difference in what you're talking about. Maybe you can be more specific about BitD, because to me it seems more like you're just treating it as a resource, rather than recognizing it as being something more.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I don't see how the stress isn't driving the fiction: if anything, the stress should be a consideration in everything you do, driving your actions. The more stress you get, the more you'll want to find a place to lose that stress, to avoid having to make rolls where you are going to fall apart, or at least manage them so that if you do hit one of those results, it'll be in a controlled setting rather than in a dangerous one.

Like, I don't really see the difference in what you're talking about. Maybe you can be more specific about BitD, because to me it seems more like you're just treating it as a resource, rather than recognizing it as being something more.
Let me try again, because I don't think you're seeing the point. Let's say I have 0 stress and attempt to sabotage the airlock. That's going to be assessed as a STR/Heavy Machinery check (most likely). The GM frames in the airlock and you make the check.

Now say you have 8 stress. Same airlock, same attempt, same circumstances. The framing is the same as the 0 stress attempt, but now there's a chance of a result that causes a character to flee from the situation. Why? Because the only thing different here is that the character is carrying the stress with them, but that's not being reflected in the framing of the challenge -- it's not fictionally more difficult for them to complete the job, if anything it's easier, but there's not a chance that this airlock sabotage will terrify the character into fleeing.

This discontinuity between the character's likelihood of a stress reaction and the framing of the challenge is, well, off. If we imagine trying to shoot a xenomorph, well that framing is carrying the weight of the entire potential panic results -- xenomorphs are terrifying, and low stress is just being cool in horrible conditions. The airlock, though, is being fragile and volatile in the face of a mundane challenge. There's no threat at the airlock, no chance that this harms you, so the only explanation for the reactions isn't being overcome by the terror of the moment, but rather a mental breakdown. I dunno, I have no problem with playing characters that have mental breakdowns in the face of the terrifying and overwhelming, but I'm a bit off in having an experienced mechanic suddenly having a mental breakdown during a routine operation. There's ways to justify this, sure, but it's all post-hoc and not at all tied into the fiction as it's being presented. This is the discontinuity.
 

Let me try again, because I don't think you're seeing the point. Let's say I have 0 stress and attempt to sabotage the airlock. That's going to be assessed as a STR/Heavy Machinery check (most likely). The GM frames in the airlock and you make the check.

Now say you have 8 stress. Same airlock, same attempt, same circumstances. The framing is the same as the 0 stress attempt, but now there's a chance of a result that causes a character to flee from the situation. Why? Because the only thing different here is that the character is carrying the stress with them, but that's not being reflected in the framing of the challenge -- it's not fictionally more difficult for them to complete the job, if anything it's easier, but there's not a chance that this airlock sabotage will terrify the character into fleeing.

This discontinuity between the character's likelihood of a stress reaction and the framing of the challenge is, well, off. If we imagine trying to shoot a xenomorph, well that framing is carrying the weight of the entire potential panic results -- xenomorphs are terrifying, and low stress is just being cool in horrible conditions. The airlock, though, is being fragile and volatile in the face of a mundane challenge. There's no threat at the airlock, no chance that this harms you, so the only explanation for the reactions isn't being overcome by the terror of the moment, but rather a mental breakdown. I dunno, I have no problem with playing characters that have mental breakdowns in the face of the terrifying and overwhelming, but I'm a bit off in having an experienced mechanic suddenly having a mental breakdown during a routine operation. There's ways to justify this, sure, but it's all post-hoc and not at all tied into the fiction as it's being presented. This is the discontinuity.

Oh no no no, I see where the disconnect between us lies now.

You see the panic attack as being related to the door, that the running away has to have some direct relation to the what's being done. I get it now: you see the framing as the task. Thanks, this clears a lot of things up! Sometimes I'm dumb and just miss what people are saying. ;)

I see the framing as the stress. The stress itself is what dictates the action, since you rolled a 1. It's not like with a Xenomorph, where you might have to roll a panic test automatically because the situation is naturally frightening. What is happening is specifically because of the stressed-out state you are in.

That person is not panicking because the door is frightening. That person is panicking because their entire mind is starting to fall apart under the unreleased tension and anxiety they are carrying. They are cracking from the fear and emotion they've been holding back since this whole affair started minutes or hours ago. Now they are trying to do something simple, and do you think their mind is truly on that task? No, it's putting together how close they were to death, how close they currently are to death, how hopeless this all is, how none of these damn wires are twisting the way they want to and how everything is going wrong... and suddenly, they just can't be there anymore. They need to be somewhere else. Somewhere small, closed in, safe, like a closet, a locked bathroom, underneath a desk. Stress is not something that kindly waits for a big monster to suddenly appear and trigger it; stress is a reason unto itself to break down.

Trust me, I know from experience. I've been close to having a panic attack for much less than whatever goes on in the average ALIEN RPG game. I've seen a friend break down while trying to make dinner because of everything going on around them. And let me say, at 7-8 Stress dice, no task is routine anymore. The person from your example has a just-under 13% chance of going berserk on a random nearby person. That person is one stress die away from having a just-over 13% of falling comatose trying to do something. That person is not just having a bad day, that person is having the worst, worster, and worstest days of their life simultaneously.

So to me, that's completely coherent. I totally get someone having a breakdown doing a mundane thing if they haven't been able to properly destress. If you're holding onto an insane 8 Stress dice, that person should be a danger to everyone around them until they are able to find a way to release some of that (and preferably not on someone else's face). Now if you don't find that heroic, I can totally get that. To me, it feels very gritty and real, which syncs with what I want from ALIEN.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh no no no, I see where the disconnect between us lies now.

You see the panic attack as being related to the door, that the running away has to have some direct relation to the what's being done. I get it now: you see the framing as the task. Thanks, this clears a lot of things up! Sometimes I'm dumb and just miss what people are saying. ;)

I see the framing as the stress. The stress itself is what dictates the action, since you rolled a 1. It's not like with an Alien, where you might have to roll a panic test automatically because the situation is naturally frightening. What is happening specifically because of the stressed-out state you are in.

That person is not panicking because the door is frightening. That person is panicking because their entire mind is starting to fall apart under the unreleased tension and anxiety they are carrying. They are cracking from the fear and emotion they've been holding back since this whole affair started minutes or hours ago. Now they are trying to do something simple, and do you think their mind is truly on that task? No, it's putting together how close they were to death, how close they currently are to death, how hopeless this all is, how none of these damn wires are twisting the way they want to and how everything is going wrong... and suddenly, they just can't be there anymore. They need to be somewhere else. Somewhere small, closed in, safe, like a closet, a locked bathroom, underneath a desk. Stress is not something that kindly waits for a big monster to suddenly appear and trigger it; stress is a reason unto itself to break down.

Trust me, I know from experience. I've been close to having a panic attack for much less than whatever goes on in the average ALIEN RPG game. I've seen a friend break down while trying to make dinner because of everything going on around them. And let me say, at 7-8 Stress dice, no task is routine anymore. The person from your example has a just-under 13% chance of going berserk on a random nearby person. That person is one stress die away from having a just-over 13% of falling comatose trying to do something. That person is not just having a bad day, that person is having the worst, worster, and worstest days of their life simultaneously.

So to me, that's completely coherent. I totally get someone having a breakdown doing a mundane thing if they haven't been able to properly destress. If you're holding onto an insane 8 Stress dice, that person should be a danger to everyone around them until they are able to find a way to release some of that (and preferably not on someone else's face). Now if you don't find that heroic, I can totally get that. To me, it feels very gritty and real, which syncs with what I want from ALIEN.
No, you've missed it again. I'm saying that nothing in the fictional framing of the situation has anything to do with my character's stress level. That the framing for the airlock is the same no matter how I'm approaching it. Thus, results from stress have to be tacked onto the scene, or the GM has to be minding my character's stress level at all times and adjusting the fiction to match.

And, the issue with stress extends past this. I don't earn stress because my character has an anxiety disorder -- this is not the story this game is attempting to tell. I earn stress because I see dead people, or aliens, or other people freak out around me. The nature of earning stress is actually directly tied to the fictional framing and situation. It's the resolution of stress that isn't related at all to the fictional framing of the game. Again, in the normal mode of play, this is fine because the situation is always charged and so always is presenting framing that could drive the stress reactions (although, not always, there's still some weird feedback loops that can occur very rapidly). It when you move away from the cinematic version of recreating the movie (at least in scope and genre) that issues arise. I can be fixing airlocks all day and end up running away from one -- this switches from freaking out because the fiction presents horrific things in a constant barrage to 'I have an anxiety disorder" cosplaying.
 


No, you've missed it again. I'm saying that nothing in the fictional framing of the situation has anything to do with my character's stress level. That the framing for the airlock is the same no matter how I'm approaching it. Thus, results from stress have to be tacked onto the scene, or the GM has to be minding my character's stress level at all times and adjusting the fiction to match.

No, it's not because you're not the same person when you approach it when you're at 8 Stress compared to when you are at 0 Stress. The fact that the situation and the conditions are the same matter less than the fact that the state of the character is completely different.

And, the issue with stress extends past this. I don't earn stress because my character has an anxiety disorder -- this is not the story this game is attempting to tell.

Nor was it what I was trying to say. I don't have an anxiety disorder, nor does my friend. That's not what I'm talking about at all when I was relating those stories. Rather, that regular people under stress can break down while trying to do normal tasks.

I earn stress because I see dead people, or aliens, or other people freak out around me. The nature of earning stress is actually directly tied to the fictional framing and situation. It's the resolution of stress that isn't related at all to the fictional framing of the game.

Except that you can totally earn stress from mundane stressors as well. One of the biggest ways you can earn stress is from pushing a roll, which does not need to be in some hyper-terrifying or hostile environment: it could be something that needs to be done where failure is an option. Trying to convince someone of something and pushing the roll could get you a Stress.

Again, in the normal mode of play, this is fine because the situation is always charged and so always is presenting framing that could drive the stress reactions (although, not always, there's still some weird feedback loops that can occur very rapidly). It when you move away from the cinematic version of recreating the movie (at least in scope and genre) that issues arise. I can be fixing airlocks all day and end up running away from one -- this switches from freaking out because the fiction presents horrific things in a constant barrage to 'I have an anxiety disorder" cosplaying.

No, it doesn't. You're missing two big points here that are outlined in the book.

The first is that they specifically say that you shouldn't roll too often, exactly for those reasons. You should save rolling dice for tough situations or dramatic ones. When you are doing your day job, you wouldn't be rolling for every door you are fixing, or at least you shouldn't be. Hell, for regular maintenance of a ship it's a single roll a week. So you wouldn't be creating these feedback loops because you wouldn't be making all these rolls to begin with.

The second half of that is that in a regular situation, you would be able to destress. It only takes 5-10 minutes of rest/relaxation in a safe space to lose a point of stress. A 15 minute break could lose you 2-3 Stress dice alone. To build up 7 stress dice to even be able to do what you're talking about wouldn't make any sense unless you are constantly forcing your players to roll every mundane thing, and be unable to rest at all or not feel safe.

So no, the situation you describe of "fixing airlocks all day and end up running away from one" doesn't work because to do so would go specifically against the guidance of the rulebook. That's just not how the rules are supposed to be run, so of course you'll get some weird feedback loops. They tell you that outright.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
And we've moved to fisking.
No, it's not because you're not the same person when you approach it when you're at 8 Stress compared to when you are at 0 Stress. The fact that the situation and the conditions are the same matter less than the fact that the state of the character is completely different.



Nor was it what I was trying to say. I don't have an anxiety disorder, nor does my friend. That's not what I'm talking about at all when I was relating those stories. Rather, that regular people under stress can break down while trying to do normal tasks.
I'll take both of these together. I see what you're saying, but you're missing what I'm saying. You're saying that the character is different in these situations, and I'm asking how that's actually represented in the fiction -- in the fiction, this is a null. The challenge doesn't change based on your stress level -- the difficulty of the task to sabotage the airlock, the sequence of steps needed (presumably fictional and assumed rather than explicit), etc, do not at all change from 0 stress to all the stress. The only difference is how the mechanic works. And that's always going to be post-hoc ergo proctor hoc -- after the fact therefore before the fact.

Let me present a though experiment here -- the airlock sabotage. Case 1, character has 8 stress, attempts the sabotage. The scene is described, the player rolls, and rolls a 1 on the stress die, the character panics, and gets a "run away" on the table. This then gets retconned to explain that the character was very jittery from all the stress accrued, loses it, has a panic attack, and runs off from the airlock. Cool.

Case 2 is the same character. Everything is exactly the same, except that this character doesn't roll a 1 on the stress die and gets 5 sixes! Now this character sabotages the airlock, does it in half the normal time, does it in a way that totes shows off and impresses others, breaks it forever and ever, and now can break any other airlock without having to roll. This is the SAME character in the SAME situation.

The stress reaction is always post-resolution and, if the situation isn't already fraught and tense and scary, requires post-hoc retconning of the framing and character to make the resolution make sense.

This is why I say this system works great for the intended genre emulation, but not really outside of that narrow scope.
Except that you can totally earn stress from mundane stressors as well. One of the biggest ways you can earn stress is from pushing a roll, which does not need to be in some hyper-terrifying or hostile environment: it could be something that needs to be done where failure is an option. Trying to convince someone of something and pushing the roll could get you a Stress.



No, it doesn't. You're missing two big points here that are outlined in the book.

The first is that they specifically say that you shouldn't roll too often, exactly for those reasons. You should save rolling dice for tough situations or dramatic ones. When you are doing your day job, you wouldn't be rolling for every door you are fixing, or at least you shouldn't be. Hell, for regular maintenance of a ship it's a single roll a week. So you wouldn't be creating these feedback loops because you wouldn't be making all these rolls to begin with.
The feedback loop is if you are doing a series of dramatic things, or if you're together with others. I do something, panic, induce stress, and now the other characters have to make a check because they see me panic, they've gotten more stress from that, and now they panic. This can absolutely create a feedback loop that can up stress by 3 or 4 points and have everyone panicking in short order.

The first can easily happen in an adventure where there's not enough downtime between rolls to reduce stress (due to pressure) but you're constantly doing things like searching areas. I mean, I'm not deviating at all from the pacing of the sample adventure when I say this.
The second half of that is that in a regular situation, you would be able to destress. It only takes 5-10 minutes of rest/relaxation in a safe space to lose a point of stress. A 15 minute break could lose you 2-3 Stress dice alone. To build up 7 stress dice to even be able to do what you're talking about wouldn't make any sense unless you are constantly forcing your players to roll every mundane thing, and be unable to rest at all or not feel safe.

So no, the situation you describe of "fixing airlocks all day and end up running away from one" doesn't work because to do so would go specifically against the guidance of the rulebook. That's just not how the rules are supposed to be run, so of course you'll get some weird feedback loops. They tell you that outright.
It doesn't at all because there are situations where that can easily happen that aren't violating the way the game plays. Yes, there are other ways it can't happen, but the existence of one way that can't happen doesn't blanket disprove that it can also happen.

Look, I think this is a great game, so long as you stick to the genre emulation it's clearly meant to do. There's no hill to die on to defend it. Games don't have to be perfect to be good. I can critique the other games I play just as easily -- for me, this is very important so that I fully understand exactly how a game works so I can stay within the assumptions and get the most out of it. I don't play every game assuming it does everything -- I pick a game to play to do the thing I want. This game has some issues that prevent it from being as flexible as I (and the group I am playing with) thought it was, and as the guidance for the GM suggests. I now view that guidance through the lens of the genre emulation assumption, and I think it works fine there. Not as much outside. That means that if I want to do more in this universe, I need to hack this game or find a different one that also works in the genre. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to running a few cinematic one-shots for my home group. I don't plan on houserules.
 

And we've moved to fisking.

This is how I normally post, actually. When there are specific topics, I like to break these down. This isn't me trying to get aggressive, it's just me trying to organize my thoughts on longer posts. Is this a bad thing now?

I'll take both of these together. I see what you're saying, but you're missing what I'm saying. You're saying that the character is different in these situations, and I'm asking how that's actually represented in the fiction -- in the fiction, this is a null. The challenge doesn't change based on your stress level -- the difficulty of the task to sabotage the airlock, the sequence of steps needed (presumably fictional and assumed rather than explicit), etc, do not at all change from 0 stress to all the stress. The only difference is how the mechanic works. And that's always going to be post-hoc ergo proctor hoc -- after the fact therefore before the fact.

Let me present a though experiment here -- the airlock sabotage. Case 1, character has 8 stress, attempts the sabotage. The scene is described, the player rolls, and rolls a 1 on the stress die, the character panics, and gets a "run away" on the table. This then gets retconned to explain that the character was very jittery from all the stress accrued, loses it, has a panic attack, and runs off from the airlock. Cool.

Case 2 is the same character. Everything is exactly the same, except that this character doesn't roll a 1 on the stress die and gets 5 sixes! Now this character sabotages the airlock, does it in half the normal time, does it in a way that totes shows off and impresses others, breaks it forever and ever, and now can break any other airlock without having to roll. This is the SAME character in the SAME situation.

The stress reaction is always post-resolution and, if the situation isn't already fraught and tense and scary, requires post-hoc retconning of the framing and character to make the resolution make sense.

This is why I say this system works great for the intended genre emulation, but not really outside of that narrow scope.

... why is it after the fact? The roll is simultaneous, done as part of the skill resolution in the same die pool. The progression to me is Declare Skill Attempt ---> Attempt Fails due to Stress ---> Resulting Panic is rolled. I see that as linear. The idea that this is some sort of "retcon" is utterly dissonant to me.

Edit: I suppose I don't get the idea that they were jittery in one situation but not the other. They can be jittery in both, but in one they power through while the other they breakdown. You don't need to go past the moment of the roll itself into the past to justify this. If you succeed spectacularly at a Stress test, that doesn't mean that you were always going to be a badass the past fiction needs to change, nor if you failed does it mean that before the roll this was always going to happen. If that's how you develop your fiction, fine. It's just not how I do in mine.

The feedback loop is if you are doing a series of dramatic things, or if you're together with others. I do something, panic, induce stress, and now the other characters have to make a check because they see me panic, they've gotten more stress from that, and now they panic. This can absolutely create a feedback loop that can up stress by 3 or 4 points and have everyone panicking in short order.

The first can easily happen in an adventure where there's not enough downtime between rolls to reduce stress (due to pressure) but you're constantly doing things like searching areas. I mean, I'm not deviating at all from the pacing of the sample adventure when I say this.

Yes, but those situations don't sound like what you initially described when I talked about not rolling everything: you referenced fixing a bunch of airlocks and ending up running away from one. I feel like this is completely removed from what I started the conversation with.

I will point out, though, that the amount of Observation rolls for searching in the starter scenario (Hope's Last Day) is about searching entire blocks for anything you can find, and isn't a real regular use of the skill. That sort of d20 Search usage isn't present in other adventures.

It doesn't at all because there are situations where that can easily happen that aren't violating the way the game plays. Yes, there are other ways it can't happen, but the existence of one way that can't happen doesn't blanket disprove that it can also happen.

Look, I think this is a great game, so long as you stick to the genre emulation it's clearly meant to do. There's no hill to die on to defend it. Games don't have to be perfect to be good. I can critique the other games I play just as easily -- for me, this is very important so that I fully understand exactly how a game works so I can stay within the assumptions and get the most out of it. I don't play every game assuming it does everything -- I pick a game to play to do the thing I want. This game has some issues that prevent it from being as flexible as I (and the group I am playing with) thought it was, and as the guidance for the GM suggests. I now view that guidance through the lens of the genre emulation assumption, and I think it works fine there. Not as much outside. That means that if I want to do more in this universe, I need to hack this game or find a different one that also works in the genre. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to running a few cinematic one-shots for my home group. I don't plan on houserules.

Look, I didn't come into this thread trying to start a fight, I just responded to someone trying to help them look at a result they didn't think meshed with their internal fiction in a different way. I wasn't trying to dismantle your critique or anything, so don't mistake me for dying on any sort of hill. As far as I know, I'm not even not actually fighting.

Your critique is your own. I don't really care, it just doesn't really mesh with how I observe the fiction of the game. The way you perceive the rolls just are not the way I do, so I really don't see much else to discuss.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This is how I normally post, actually. When there are specific topics, I like to break these down. This isn't me trying to get aggressive, it's just me trying to organize my thoughts on longer posts. Is this a bad thing now?



... why is it after the fact? The roll is simultaneous, done as part of the skill resolution in the same die pool. The progression to me is Declare Skill Attempt ---> Attempt Fails due to Stress ---> Resulting Panic is rolled. I see that as linear. The idea that this is some sort of "retcon" is utterly dissonant to me.

Edit: I suppose I don't get the idea that they were jittery in one situation but not the other. They can be jittery in both, but in one they power through while the other they breakdown. You don't need to go past the moment of the roll itself into the past to justify this. If you succeed spectacularly at a Stress test, that doesn't mean that you were always going to be a badass the past fiction needs to change, nor if you failed does it mean that before the roll this was always going to happen. If that's how you develop your fiction, fine. It's just not how I do in mine.
Because in one the character has a breakdown while in the other the character is awesome beyond normality, but nothing in the scene or fiction provides for either event until after the roll is made -- there's no lead in fiction to either. These outcomes cannot be framed into the fiction prior to the roll. This means you have to either frame every single roll in a way that invokes high risk/high stress and then deal with the awesome outcomes that breeze through it (which is maybe a better feeling outcome, if just as odd and disconnected) or you go with neutral framing and deal with the extremes at both ends being jarring. I don't think the former approach works, in that constant high-tension framing loses something rapidly.

Again, I reference the stress mechanic in Blades to show the difference between games that frame the situations and risks in the fiction prior to the roll. Contrast this with Aliens were you cannot except to keep things at a high ratchet. However, this will still create problems with exceptional rolls. The spread on the resolution in Aliens goes from failure with consequence (serious depending on the panic check), to fail forward failure (no successes, no panic), to success (1 success, no panic) to holy sheet batman success (multiple sixes). None of this can be framed into the situation -- it's all post resolution justification in the fiction.
Yes, but those situations don't sound like what you initially described when I talked about not rolling everything: you referenced fixing a bunch of airlocks and ending up running away from one. I feel like this is completely removed from what I started the conversation with.
I did not. I used the instant example of fixing an airlock with high stress, I never extended this to a larger pattern. Regardless, even if I had, disproving that one example would not blanket disprove the idea that you can have stress feedback loops that happen quite suddenly.
I will point out, though, that the amount of Observation rolls for searching in the starter scenario (Hope's Last Day) is about searching entire blocks for anything you can find, and isn't a real regular use of the skill. That sort of d20 Search usage isn't present in other adventures.
I am aware, however it's another roll that doesn't allow for downtime to alleviate stress, and that builds on whatever else is going on. Pacing wise, there are a lot of rolls pretty quickly in that scenario. That will average out to okay, but you get some very nasty events possible that aren't too far into the tails of the distribution.
Look, I didn't come into this thread trying to start a fight, I just responded to someone trying to help them look at a result they didn't think meshed with their internal fiction in a different way. I wasn't trying to dismantle your critique or anything, so don't mistake me for dying on any sort of hill. As far as I know, I'm not even not actually fighting.
Dying on a hill is just an expression. I'm very comfortable with the game doing what it says on the tin. It will generate weird cases from time to time even then, but that's okay and tolerable because most of the game generates the intended play well. It's only if you try campaign play and/or to flex the game into a bit more of a drama that the issues become glaring.
Your critique is your own. I don't really care, it just doesn't really mesh with how I observe the fiction of the game. The way you perceive the rolls just are not the way I do, so I really don't see much else to discuss.
As you want. It might be interesting for you if you consider that I know how the game works and I might have a point, though. I get where you're coming from, and how it's perfectly fine from that point of view. I'm not trying to challenge your play. I'm saying that if you do look at how the game functions purely from the fiction generated, that the Panic system requires that you cannot adequately frame a scene in a way that encompasses all of the fictional outcomes the system can generate, and that requires you to retcon the scene after resolution if you get one of the outliers -- and that said outliers are not all that uncommon.
 

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