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Review Aliens RPG Post Mortem

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.

I don't play BitD, so I have no idea what you are talking about and it's why I initially said

Maybe you can be more specific about BitD

because you repeating this does nothing for me.

But I do get it now: the idea that the swing between the dice is so wide that you feel that it can't be represented without massaging the narrative after the fact. To which I say

maybe-heavy.gif


To me, the need to massage such extreme results is not really a big deal because it's not going to be particularly common. I mean, you're going to lose your roll 2/3rds of the time to a bad panic roll in that scenario. And if you pull through with fantastic results... you're Hudson at the end of Aliens, sucking it up in the moment to come through despite sweating buckets and looking on the edge of crying moments before.

I did not. I used the instant example of fixing an airlock with high stress, I never extended this to a larger pattern.

I mean, you did:

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.

That argument is not about cinematic play, but campaign usage. Unless you are talking about an adventure with a lot of dramatic airlock repair...

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 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.

And I don't necessarily think it disproves your greater thesis, either: obviously the feedback loop is meant to be a possibility of cinematic play. But given the constraints they describe for more mundane stuff and how you get rid of stress, I don't see that as a problem for campaign play.

There are a lot of rolls in that scenario. It's kind of a fast-play one, where you're meant to basically toss the players in and they start doing things really quickly, partially because of the narrative and partially because of they want you to learn the system through doing. I intend to run it this weekend with one of my groups, so we'll see how it goes.

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.

I know what dying on a hill means, I just don't understand why you think my intention is to do that sort of thing. Your whole attitude comes off as unnecessarily combative.

As to dramatic play, I think other issues discussed regarding the breadth of skills rings feels more pertinent. With stress, I feel like the opposite would be true in dramatic play: it wouldn't come up all that much unless you are doing a "crisis of the week" style game.

Rather, you'd almost get a narrative game with some skill checks along the way and maybe a smattering of stress dice and an occasional low-end panic test. And while I get the appeal of that, without some big talent and mechanic expansions I'm not sure that's for me.

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.

Yeah, I understand that now and I think that it doesn't really need you to, that in those extreme edge cases pulling through doesn't need a justification beyond someone having their narrative moment where they succeed despite being on the very edge of collapse.

At any rate, I'm running it this weekend, so I'll see if my players have a similar reaction to you.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I don't play BitD, so I have no idea what you are talking about and it's why I initially said



because you repeating this does nothing for me.
I had missed that, actually. I hesitate to say this, though because you seem to be rather pleased to have imagined my intention to be purposefully irritating about it.

There are a number of threads around discussing the play approaches of Blades. The overall operation of the system is unimportant to my point, though, which was that this system definitely contains the scope of outcomes in it's framing in a way that Aliens does not. The point being that it's definitely possible to have a game that does good fictional framing of the scene and where the outcomes of the fiction flow, even when things can happen that represent very bad outcomes and total character freakouts. If you are interested in Blades, I recommend the thread about Apocalypse World as it does a good job, from multiple posters, in explaining the core gameplay concepts that undergird both PbtA and FitD games like Blades in the Dark. If you're especially curious, Ironsworn is a similar style of game, is free online, and offers solo play so you can engage the gameplay on your own.
But I do get it now: the idea that the swing between the dice is so wide that you feel that it can't be represented without massaging the narrative after the fact. To which I say

maybe-heavy.gif


To me, the need to massage such extreme results is not really a big deal because it's not going to be particularly common. I mean, you're going to lose your roll 2/3rds of the time to a bad panic roll in that scenario. And if you pull through with fantastic results... you're Hudson at the end of Aliens, sucking it up in the moment to come through despite sweating buckets and looking on the edge of crying moments before.



I mean, you did:



That argument is not about cinematic play, but campaign usage. Unless you are talking about an adventure with a lot of dramatic airlock repair...
No, that was a comment that things can go well, and well, and then not go well, which is a feature of the panic system. It wasn't a literal statement about adventure design being nothing but airlock repair/sabotage, but rather than checks work this way in this system. I see where you're coming from, though.
And I don't necessarily think it disproves your greater thesis, either: obviously the feedback loop is meant to be a possibility of cinematic play. But given the constraints they describe for more mundane stuff and how you get rid of stress, I don't see that as a problem for campaign play.
If the stress system is not a problem in campaign play, then why is it included for campaign play? All parts of the system should be online for play, yes?
There are a lot of rolls in that scenario. It's kind of a fast-play one, where you're meant to basically toss the players in and they start doing things really quickly, partially because of the narrative and partially because of they want you to learn the system through doing. I intend to run it this weekend with one of my groups, so we'll see how it goes.
It doesn't say anything about it being especially dense with checks, but rather just the third act of a normally three act adventure.
I know what dying on a hill means, I just don't understand why you think my intention is to do that sort of thing. Your whole attitude comes off as unnecessarily combative.
Ah, I believe we may have found the correct hill just now. ;)
As to dramatic play, I think other issues discussed regarding the breadth of skills rings feels more pertinent. With stress, I feel like the opposite would be true in dramatic play: it wouldn't come up all that much unless you are doing a "crisis of the week" style game.

Rather, you'd almost get a narrative game with some skill checks along the way and maybe a smattering of stress dice and an occasional low-end panic test. And while I get the appeal of that, without some big talent and mechanic expansions I'm not sure that's for me.
I would hate that as well. Perhaps, then, there's a different approach that might work here and that might be what's being attempted? I mean, if all you can imagine is a terrible game, that's not very flattering.

Yeah, I understand that now and I think that it doesn't really need you to, that in those extreme edge cases pulling through doesn't need a justification beyond someone having their narrative moment where they succeed despite being on the very edge of collapse.

At any rate, I'm running it this weekend, so I'll see if my players have a similar reaction to you.
I doubt they will, because I'm going to assume, given this conversation, you're intending to run within the expected genre-emulation scope and probably use the cinematic version of the system. This would mean you have an adventure prepared, and decently prepped. I doubt you'll have any issues at all, as this is exactly what I believe this system is meant to do.
 

I had missed that, actually. I hesitate to say this, though because you seem to be rather pleased to have imagined my intention to be purposefully irritating about it.

There are a number of threads around discussing the play approaches of Blades. The overall operation of the system is unimportant to my point, though, which was that this system definitely contains the scope of outcomes in it's framing in a way that Aliens does not. The point being that it's definitely possible to have a game that does good fictional framing of the scene and where the outcomes of the fiction flow, even when things can happen that represent very bad outcomes and total character freakouts. If you are interested in Blades, I recommend the thread about Apocalypse World as it does a good job, from multiple posters, in explaining the core gameplay concepts that undergird both PbtA and FitD games like Blades in the Dark. If you're especially curious, Ironsworn is a similar style of game, is free online, and offers solo play so you can engage the gameplay on your own.

If you missed it, fine, but I just wanted you to explain it in practice so I could get a read on a comparison. That's all. It's frustrating to have a comparison given, not explained, and then given again.

No, that was a comment that things can go well, and well, and then not go well, which is a feature of the panic system. It wasn't a literal statement about adventure design being nothing but airlock repair/sabotage, but rather than checks work this way in this system. I see where you're coming from, though.

I understand that's not a literal comment adventure design, I just thought it was a bad example.

If the stress system is not a problem in campaign play, then why is it included for campaign play? All parts of the system should be online for play, yes?

When you mean included, do you mean taking it out or that within a campaign game it generally just doesn't appear as much of an obstacle because conditions generally allow you to bleed it off in a way that it never builds up, thus never reaching the heights of what the system is intended?

I mean, I assume the latter. To which, I suppose a longer campaign game is meant to be in contrast to the terrifying big crisis events, though the Marine Campaign book gives a decent amount of scenarios to hit those thresholds. Obviously those don't really work for space truckers, but maybe they'll expand on that later on. I can think of easy ways of maintaining long-term stress within the system, like having a corporate investigation of your actions hanging over your head meaning you can't bleed off two stress until the situation is resolved, but that's currently in a rule.

Again, I think definition within the skill system is really a larger issue. That's something that can maybe get filled in with talents, but we'll see what the next release looks like.

It doesn't say anything about it being especially dense with checks, but rather just the third act of a normally three act adventure.

Nor did I say it explicitly says this, but the scenario is designed as a starter and the way the Observation checks are done seems clearly made to get people rolling dice quick. I find it as an implicit part of the design, to get people into the mechanics quickly rather than roleplaying out the preamble of things.

Ah, I believe we may have found the correct hill just now. ;)

lol

I would hate that as well. Perhaps, then, there's a different approach that might work here and that might be what's being attempted? I mean, if all you can imagine is a terrible game, that's not very flattering.

Odd. I don't remember where I said it'd be a terrible game, just not for me. But I suppose we both can imagine intent ;).

I doubt they will, because I'm going to assume, given this conversation, you're intending to run within the expected genre-emulation scope and probably use the cinematic version of the system. This would mean you have an adventure prepared, and decently prepped. I doubt you'll have any issues at all, as this is exactly what I believe this system is meant to do.

I feel like the problem you describe of requiring narrative massaging in results should really apply regardless of situation. You can be a badass-under-fire 6 success person or a complete flop whether or not you are in cinematic or campaign mode, right? Or is your critique on that solely limited to a longer-term campaign game?
 
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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.)
You should, then, Avoid both ALIEN and Twilight:2000 4E... and, of course CoC, and anything labeled Warhammer.
 




Failing at an adventure and the world (the game world, to be clear) not ending. Everything that had happened, everything we'd done, turned out not to have had any real stakes at all.

I could see how that could do it. Was it just a case of the GM not following through? Like a bad fit in the sense that he couldn’t pull the trigger? Or more to it than that?

I see some significant overlap with CoC and Aliens. Some key differences, too, but there are a few challenges I see common to both games.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I could see how that could do it. Was it just a case of the GM not following through? Like a bad fit in the sense that he couldn’t pull the trigger? Or more to it than that?

I see some significant overlap with CoC and Aliens. Some key differences, too, but there are a few challenges I see common to both games.
It was, best I was able to tell, the way the published adventure was written. I figure any adventure written not to be an entire campaign in length (so, not one of the big hardcovers like Masks of Nyarlathotep) might reasonably be written not to end the game world (and thereby the campaign).

Thing is, from what I've been able to tell without reading them, the big hardcover adventures don't typically end the game world, either (I'm willing to be wrong about this). There's often/usually a sense that the world is worse off than it was, but it's still going ...
 

It was, best I was able to tell, the way the published adventure was written. I figure any adventure written not to be an entire campaign in length (so, not one of the big hardcovers like Masks of Nyarlathotep) might reasonably be written not to end the game world (and thereby the campaign).

Thing is, from what I've been able to tell without reading them, the big hardcover adventures don't typically end the game world, either (I'm willing to be wrong about this). There's often/usually a sense that the world is worse off than it was, but it's still going ...
Of the four big ones I've run (not mentioning names for spoilers) three definitely would have ended the world on failure. One "just" lets an evil entity free in the world with the assumption that it will keep getting worse, but not world-endingly so.

I would absolutely not plan to have any follow-up adventures with the same characters!
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Of the four big ones I've run (not mentioning names for spoilers) three definitely would have ended the world on failure. One "just" lets an evil entity free in the world with the assumption that it will keep getting worse, but not world-endingly so.

I would absolutely not plan to have any follow-up adventures with the same characters!
That's good to know, actually, that the stakes are more or less what the big advantures say they are. I've talked with people in my gaming circles about the ones they have. It's possible there was miscommunication. Thanks for clarifying!
 

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