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Constellation of Complications

This has been a recurring conversation with myself and others:

"What constrains GM complications (in various games)?"

One game that has come up a lot as of recent is Blades in the Dark (due to some comments by a not-so-well-loved-by-ENWorld TTRPG analyst...whom I overwhelmingly agree with in their analysis but not in this case). So I'm going to focus on that game to start (drifting to others if the conversation on that game resolves or dries up). I'll get to a postmortem of a few excerpts of games I've GMed later, but first I want to lay out the intersection of action/conflict resolution + conversation structure + principles + best practices that work to constrain the GM "Complication Space."




GM Actions page 192

Tell Them the Consequences and Ask

This is basically the alpha and the omega. Pulled straight from Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World. It doesn't get more explicit then this. You're having a conversation. They open a book of prayers/hymnal of an ancient god looking for one thing or another. Alright cool...but worse Position and I'm bringing the supernatural/god into the scene if things go south. Sure you can make a sneaky run across the long corridor, but its a long run with eyes on it. Its going to be Limited Effect and you need Great to get across it in one go. Do you want to trade Position for Effect here...Set it up (etc)? Fail and I'm starting a Security Measures Clock and ticking it.

Whatever it is, you're having an explicit conversation about consequences and asking what they want to do.

GM Actions p 191

Telegraph Trouble Before it Strikes + Follow Through

When the action is underway, show them a threat that’s about to hit, then ask them what they do. Then it’s easy to know what the consequences are.

Without telegraphing the trouble and giving context to the action, the outcomes can seem murky. You might feel like you have to “invent” a consequence out of the blue when they roll a 1-3 or 4/5. If you strongly imply the consequences before the action roll, though, then it’s obvious what the consequences should be (she shoots you, your cover is blown, he escapes, you alert a sentry)—they
follow directly from the fiction as established.

This is the implicit part. On a large number of consequences, the consequence is straight-forward (eg you have no cover and you're shot so you take Harm = Position). Telegraph it sufficiently and you're good.

Once you've telegraphed it or outright told them the consequences, follow through.

GM Principles p 193

Hold on lightly. Always feel free to rewind, revise, and reconsider events as needed. This is not a “no take backs” kind of game.

Ok so you didn't outright tell them the consequences and ask. You telegraphed but the players don't feel the consequence was right/didn't understand the implications. Well, that is overwhelmingly going to get sussed out when you're setting Position and Effect (more on that below) because if the threat level suddenly doesn't match the fiction, then you immediately know something is wrong. But if the conversation didn't flesh out stuff sufficiently and the players feel like things are off because of it. No big deal. Rewind. Reset. Fix it. Play on.

Position p 19 and Effect p 24

Once the player chooses their action, the GM sets the position for the roll. The position represents how dangerous or troublesome the action might be - POSITION.

In Blades in the Dark, you achieve goals by taking actions and facing consequences. But how many actions does it take to achieve a particular goal? That depends on the effect level of your actions - EFFECT.

So this is going to shoulder the bulk of the burden of action/conflict resolution clarity and works in concert with the above to telegraph severity of consequence/new situation post action resolution.

You're at Desperate Position because you're in a duel against a dangerous foe? Well, Harm 3 is on the menu (or Harm 1 and another Complication like Reduced Effect or disarmed or a Clock and 2 Ticks etc etc).

You're trying to convince The Duskvol Times lead editor and a host of your best writers to run a piece that hasn't been sourced/is counter to their interests? She's higher Tier than you and they have Scale on you. Limited Effect.

Progress Clocks 14

Complex situation/obstacle? Bring in a Clock. Social conflict with back and forth against a deft opponent? Make it Tug of War (back and forth) and start it low (it fills, you get what you want...other way and you don't). Trying to disable a complex electroplasmic bomb with a short fuse? Make it Racing with 4 for Boom and 6 for Whew. As well as shapes, they come in lots of sizes (you're rarely using 10, but 4, 6, and 8 see a ton of use).

Position and Effect will tell you # of Ticks (but again, a GM can divvy out multiple Complications on a move...Risky position could mean 1 Tick + a Controlled consequence...Effect always tells you # of Ticks).

GM Principles 193

Let Everything Flow from the Fiction.

GM Best Practices 194-195

Help the Players Use the Game System

Keep the Meta Channel Open.

Play Goal-Forward.

Be Aware of Potential Fiction vs. Established Fiction.

You've got rich characters with goals. You've got thematically loaded genre touchstones. You've got setting and situation with all the antagonism required to distill the merit (or not) of the Crew and its Scoundrels. As play continues...you'll get more of that. Things will naturally distil. Stuff will melt away while other stuff comes in sharp focus.

As the conversation of play marches on, you build and offload a constellation of cause and effect. You clarify intent and goal. You winnow consequence of action. You're leading an interesting, clarifying, explicit or telegraphing, system-assisted conversation. If you're doing it right, openly, and with integrity...the consequence of singular actions + their mechanical results and the accretion of those actions/results will lead to a clear loop of "situation > action > consequence > new situation" until there is nothing left for play to resolve.





Alright, that is enough for now. I'll do some post mortem later.
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I think GM constraints come in roughly two flavors. There are constraints rooted in mechanics and there are constraints rooted in narrative/fiction. It's plausible those constraints ... mingle some.

A constraint rooted in the game's mechanics is going to be the game rules themselves telling the GM, "You can't do that." (or some similar thing) It could be "You cannot introduce a complication now." or "The complication must be [major/minor/looming]."

A constraint rooted in the narrative/fiction is going to be a sort of Chekhov's Gun going off. This thing has been lurking and looming and HERE IT IS.

Where they seem to mingle, maybe (at least to me) is around complications emerging immediately from failure/s. Where what is being attempted suggests (foreshadows, even) the results of failure. Maybe this isn't so much a mingling as an alignment of vectors.

I'm not entirely sure this is what you're looking for, alas.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Is the video fair game to discuss or link? I started to rewatch it, but I haven’t had a chance to finish it. The impression I got is that he was discussing the players and the constraints they create. Players don’t have the same list of principles. Nothing stops me from just inventing a reason why we can do what we want. We’ve done it repeatedly in our Scum and Villainy game.

I’ve completely screwed up the mission. I was supposed to get the codes by seducing someone, but I decided to go after someone else instead. I patched over it with a flashback. While the rest of our crew was getting out, I caused a ton of chaos (shooting the intercom worked about as well as it did in Star Wars), but we patched over it with a clever response. When the guards came, I jumped off the building because I could retroactively establish a safety net.

While the GM may have principles for how they go about their business, I don’t see how that can be used to create constraints from what the players do. It seems fundamental to the game that you can do whatever because that’s what a flashback is about. You didn’t plan properly, so make up how you can continue. In fact, the less fiction you establish, the better because the only constraint is that you can’t contradict established events.

When I reflect on our missions and the consequences our actions have had, they’ve always been reflected in the “super structure”. We got a ton of heat, or we pissed off some faction, or whatever. Last session, our ship got impounded because our mission to steal a drug shipment from the Cobalt Syndicate. We’ll get it back, and the exercise will be in determining how crazily that goes (but we will get it back, assuming we ever have another session).

While I’m not as high on Scum and Villainy (or FitD systems) as others, but I’m also not as down on it as the analyst in said video. I’m fine with the caper being about how we make a mess of things for the rest of the game. I actually think the suggestion of just rolling for the caper (as is suggested) would be boring.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Is the video fair game to discuss or link? I started to rewatch it, but I haven’t had a chance to finish it. The impression I got is that he was discussing the players and the constraints they create. Players don’t have the same list of principles. Nothing stops me from just inventing a reason why we can do what we want. We’ve done it repeatedly in our Scum and Villainy game.

I’ve completely screwed up the mission. I was supposed to get the codes by seducing someone, but I decided to go after someone else instead. I patched over it with a flashback. While the rest of our crew was getting out, I caused a ton of chaos (shooting the intercom worked about as well as it did in Star Wars), but we patched over it with a clever response. When the guards came, I jumped off the building because I could retroactively establish a safety net.

While the GM may have principles for how they go about their business, I don’t see how that can be used to create constraints from what the players do. It seems fundamental to the game that you can do whatever because that’s what a flashback is about. You didn’t plan properly, so make up how you can continue. In fact, the less fiction you establish, the better because the only constraint is that you can’t contradict established events.

When I reflect on our missions and the consequences our actions have had, they’ve always been reflected in the “super structure”. We got a ton of heat, or we pissed off some faction, or whatever. Last session, our ship got impounded because our mission to steal a drug shipment from the Cobalt Syndicate. We’ll get it back, and the exercise will be in determining how crazily that goes (but we will get it back, assuming we ever have another session).

While I’m not as high on Scum and Villainy (or FitD systems) as others, but I’m also not as down on it as the analyst in said video. I’m fine with the caper being about how we make a mess of things for the rest of the game. I actually think the suggestion of just rolling for the caper (as is suggested) would be boring.
In thinking on this, something doesn't sit particularly straight with me, and that the claim that the players aren't bound by the fiction because they can always just flashback their way out. There's some truth to this, the flashback mechanic can be very powerful, but that's not at all something that I've really encountered with it. It's a very useful tool for helping get out a sticky situation, but it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card, either. And, I think that the difference from your description (and the longer one in PM) is that the GM is softballing a bit. By this, I mean the GM isn't playing things as hard as they should and has let off the gas. As we discussed in the PM thread, the stress costs of the flashbacks is around 5 stress or so, being somewhat generous (I still think flashbacking a solve of a major component of the plan is one of those rare occasions I'd be pushing 3 or 4 stress on a flashback as a GM). That you could freely burn 5 stress means that you weren't terribly concerned with stress in the mission, and that suggests that it wasn't being taxed hard, and that suggests the GM was softballing a bit. That you say you continually felt like it was trivial to just whistle up a flashback in other sessions, and also that it's a done deal to recover the ship leads to that same conclusion. A GM who is pushing hard, who holds the players up to their actions, will create a situation where the fiction isn't just binding on the GM, but binding on the players as well. I mean, pretty much every session we have a character do something that ends up binding others into having to deal with it as part of their action declarations.

To relate an example 2 sessions ago the party was infiltrating the temple of a cult that was causing us some problems (they wanted what we had and our crew reputations meant we were going to take that unkindly-like). The plan was to sneak in, steal/destroy some materials the cult was using for some rituals, and get out. Of course, it was chaotic, but, at one point, we were searching the nave and rolled rather poorly in a fraught situation (risky). The GM described how some of the hymnals started fluttering, opening and turning pages and whispering softly. My character tried to deal with this, and ended up botching that, causing the whispering to become talking and alerting someone upstairs who came to investigate. At the time, the third in our party, who was supposed to be causing a distraction next door, wandered into the front doors of the temple with two acolytes she had met and, ahem, "charmed" in tow (there are so many puns in here, but I am not going to explain them). So, we had a three way problem. The acolytes were discovering that this wasn't just their "lucky" night (god, the puns!), I was being possessed by some creepy hymnals, and our other member was the only one positioned to do anything at all about the guy coming down the stairs. Two of these problems are not accessible by flashback. Established fiction blocked any flashback with the two acolytes, because a whole scene had already played out, and there wasn't any real way to establish a flashback with the hymnals because awareness of them as a threat would also have been precluded because of the limited information gathering we had done prior to the mission. A flashback might have established that the guy coming down the stairs was in our pocket, but that would have been a flashback to deal with a desperate threat and so would have been costly in stress and had knockon effects due to the required roll that may not have helped at all. Besides, we run hot on stress already, and there was a chance to get out of that problem without spending stress with some clever maneuvering on the actions (the skulk managed to get a setup hide off well and delivered an increased effect sapping to deal with that).

So, yeah, the fiction absolutely constrained our solution space. Sometimes it's more open, but usually there's some pretty strong constraints as we play. This was the same when I ran Blades -- the space for play was constrained by what came before. And, largely, I think the major impact is actually the GM pushing hard on the PCs. Without that, yes, I very much see that things could be much less well connected to the fiction.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
In thinking on this, something doesn't sit particularly straight with me, and that the claim that the players aren't bound by the fiction because they can always just flashback their way out. There's some truth to this, the flashback mechanic can be very powerful, but that's not at all something that I've really encountered with it. It's a very useful tool for helping get out a sticky situation, but it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card, either. And, I think that the difference from your description (and the longer one in PM) is that the GM is softballing a bit. By this, I mean the GM isn't playing things as hard as they should and has let off the gas. As we discussed in the PM thread, the stress costs of the flashbacks is around 5 stress or so, being somewhat generous (I still think flashbacking a solve of a major component of the plan is one of those rare occasions I'd be pushing 3 or 4 stress on a flashback as a GM). That you could freely burn 5 stress means that you weren't terribly concerned with stress in the mission, and that suggests that it wasn't being taxed hard, and that suggests the GM was softballing a bit. That you say you continually felt like it was trivial to just whistle up a flashback in other sessions, and also that it's a done deal to recover the ship leads to that same conclusion. A GM who is pushing hard, who holds the players up to their actions, will create a situation where the fiction isn't just binding on the GM, but binding on the players as well. I mean, pretty much every session we have a character do something that ends up binding others into having to deal with it as part of their action declarations.

To relate an example 2 sessions ago the party was infiltrating the temple of a cult that was causing us some problems (they wanted what we had and our crew reputations meant we were going to take that unkindly-like). The plan was to sneak in, steal/destroy some materials the cult was using for some rituals, and get out. Of course, it was chaotic, but, at one point, we were searching the nave and rolled rather poorly in a fraught situation (risky). The GM described how some of the hymnals started fluttering, opening and turning pages and whispering softly. My character tried to deal with this, and ended up botching that, causing the whispering to become talking and alerting someone upstairs who came to investigate. At the time, the third in our party, who was supposed to be causing a distraction next door, wandered into the front doors of the temple with two acolytes she had met and, ahem, "charmed" in tow (there are so many puns in here, but I am not going to explain them). So, we had a three way problem. The acolytes were discovering that this wasn't just their "lucky" night (god, the puns!), I was being possessed by some creepy hymnals, and our other member was the only one positioned to do anything at all about the guy coming down the stairs. Two of these problems are not accessible by flashback. Established fiction blocked any flashback with the two acolytes, because a whole scene had already played out, and there wasn't any real way to establish a flashback with the hymnals because awareness of them as a threat would also have been precluded because of the limited information gathering we had done prior to the mission. A flashback might have established that the guy coming down the stairs was in our pocket, but that would have been a flashback to deal with a desperate threat and so would have been costly in stress and had knockon effects due to the required roll that may not have helped at all. Besides, we run hot on stress already, and there was a chance to get out of that problem without spending stress with some clever maneuvering on the actions (the skulk managed to get a setup hide off well and delivered an increased effect sapping to deal with that).

So, yeah, the fiction absolutely constrained our solution space. Sometimes it's more open, but usually there's some pretty strong constraints as we play. This was the same when I ran Blades -- the space for play was constrained by what came before. And, largely, I think the major impact is actually the GM pushing hard on the PCs. Without that, yes, I very much see that things could be much less well connected to the fiction.
It’s possible the GM wasn’t pushing things as hard as he could be. He mentioned early in the campaign that his other group hadn’t used taken a Devil’s Bargain. We’ve used them several times, and I tend to push things fairly hard as a player. However, I’m a bit confused about the costs you’ve discussed.

You mention a few times tying the cost to the effect they have on the score. As I understand it, the way Scum and Villainy (and BitD) describe flashbacks is that their cost is based on what you did. If a major component or desperate threat can be addressed with just an unlikely opportunity, then I’d expect it to cost only 1 stress regardless of the effect it had.

From what I recall, our flashbacks usually cost about two stress. We have had some single stress ones, but I don’t think we have had any (if more than one) that cost no stress. We don’t use them a lot, and we had one session where we didn’t use any, but there are usually different people involved. Just because I had the idea doesn’t mean I’m the one taking the action. I might suggest a flashback that someone else would actually do, and then they take the action and resolve it.

For example, you mention that the acolytes couldn’t be the subject of a flashback due to the prior scene, but I don’t agree. Someone just needs to flashback before that. Perhaps one of the other members of your crew slipped them something “fun” ahead of time, and it just so happens that it’s useful for dealing with those hymnals. It’s like the example in the book where you couldn’t assassinate the inspector, but you can subvert the reason why they’re there.

It may be that there is an element of how hard the GM pushes, but I think there could also be an element of how hard the players push. I tend to play hard, and I’m very comfortable improvising, so I feel not entirely but mostly unconstrained. That means things can get crazy sometimes, and that can definitely have consequences, which is the “superstructure” stuff.

And as far as assuming we will get our ship back, I look at that as a consequence of the job-based structure. We have a score, and the session is about how that plays out. Yes, it is possible we could actually fail. We could give up on the job. I don’t intend to give up on our ship (though since I will be playing a new character while my other one is out of action due to overindulging his vice, who knows), so it’s just a matter how much trouble we make for ourselves.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It’s possible the GM wasn’t pushing things as hard as he could be. He mentioned early in the campaign that his other group hadn’t used taken a Devil’s Bargain. We’ve used them several times, and I tend to push things fairly hard as a player. However, I’m a bit confused about the costs you’ve discussed.

You mention a few times tying the cost to the effect they have on the score. As I understand it, the way Scum and Villainy (and BitD) describe flashbacks is that their cost is based on what you did. If a major component or desperate threat can be addressed with just an unlikely opportunity, then I’d expect it to cost only 1 stress regardless of the effect it had.
Here's a thing, though, if the current threat is desperate, then the opportunity to affect it was not trivial, but similarly hard. A situation that can is desperate is one that is very fraught, and not easily overcome (ie, even a 4-5 will result in some nasty consequence). So, yes, having opportunity is definitely a factor, but the idea that you had easy or moderate opportunity to sidestep a desperate threat is one that doesn't jive with the fiction established. This guy is a serious threat coming down the stairs, so it would not have been anything but an elaborate action to neutralize it beforehand.

I guess a way to look at it is like this: it's established that the guy coming down the stairs is a serious threat. He's going to be a threat because he's a serious defender of the cult and has the tools/abilities to do that. Getting to this kind of serious threat isn't going to be a routine easy task, it's going to have been a serious and complex effort. We could flashback it, sure, and that flashback could establish all manner of helpful things, but saying that it would have been an easy or moderate effort is arguing with the fact that this person is, right now, a highly dangerous threat -- the fiction isn't aligning at all.
From what I recall, our flashbacks usually cost about two stress. We have had some single stress ones, but I don’t think we have had any (if more than one) that cost no stress. We don’t use them a lot, and we had one session where we didn’t use any, but there are usually different people involved. Just because I had the idea doesn’t mean I’m the one taking the action. I might suggest a flashback that someone else would actually do, and then they take the action and resolve it.

For example, you mention that the acolytes couldn’t be the subject of a flashback due to the prior scene, but I don’t agree. Someone just needs to flashback before that. Perhaps one of the other members of your crew slipped them something “fun” ahead of time, and it just so happens that it’s useful for dealing with those hymnals. It’s like the example in the book where you couldn’t assassinate the inspector, but you can subvert the reason why they’re there.
Again, no, by the time we were at that point in the score, there wasn't any flashback available to either the acolytes or the hymnals -- the established fiction precluded both. The idea that you just have to flashback further seems odd to me, and makes me think that you're not establishing fiction strongly during the freeplay/information gathering phase. We had investigated the church, made our decision, and started things. One of the things established was that the cult has a small following that was deeply devoted, and we didn't get any ins there. This meant that this was off the table for flashbacks -- we couldn't rewrite that and say that one of the members wasn't devoted or that there were more laity available because the fiction was already constrained.
It may be that there is an element of how hard the GM pushes, but I think there could also be an element of how hard the players push. I tend to play hard, and I’m very comfortable improvising, so I feel not entirely but mostly unconstrained. That means things can get crazy sometimes, and that can definitely have consequences, which is the “superstructure” stuff.
Oh, trust me, we play very hard. I'm chuckling thinking about the antics and crazy stuff we get up to. At one point, while trying to take down a rival gang with a seriously hard leader (Ulf Ironborn, in fact), my character had infiltrated the bottom of the fortified building the gang had hunkered down into (we had to root them out for reasons) with a nice and nasty bomb with the intent to plant it and bug out. But, turns out there was an innocent there, and I got to find out if my character was okay with that. He wasn't. So, we got to a moment where I took the bomb out and threw it into the room while taking refuge behind the bar, using my "emergency" (a flashback from another player) blast plate hidden in the bottom of the crate I brought in to shield the innocent. Crazy awesome, rolled a 5, blew the hell out of the gang so only Ulf was left upstairs, ventilated the entire bottom floor, saved the civilian, and promptly stressed out on my resist roll as I was blown out into a canal. This is how I got my trauma of reckless.

Actually, this is another good point. There wasn't a good flashback out for this. My fellow player managed to get in a "I slid a reinforced plate into the bottom of the chest in case it was needed," but that was about all that could have been done because I went 100% off-plan and did something reckless in the moment. This isn't something that easily gets done in a flashback because it's violating the fiction being set down. In the fiction, I went radically off plan and did something wholly unexpected. The flashback for the plate was great, because it fit that character's drive to protect friends. Their roll wasn't great, so it only protected one, and I choose the civilian. But we couldn't have just flashbacked an entire plan where I was supposed to throw the bomb because we had already established the plan in the fiction through play. Flashbacks are limited here.

And, this kinda goes to why I find your example of going off plan in your heist and then just handing your main role off to a flashback to rub the wrong way -- this seems to violate the fiction you've put down already. Essentially, you chose to ignore your own fiction as established and leveraged a flashback to solve the problem but then said that it was the flashback that let you ignore the fiction. Kinda goes in a circle, there.
And as far as assuming we will get our ship back, I look at that as a consequence of the job-based structure. We have a score, and the session is about how that plays out. Yes, it is possible we could actually fail. We could give up on the job. I don’t intend to give up on our ship (though since I will be playing a new character while my other one is out of action due to overindulging his vice, who knows), so it’s just a matter how much trouble we make for ourselves.
Failing scores is something that should always be on the table. If it's not, if you don't feel it's a possibility, then I think this is another pointer towards the GM easing off the gas a bit. Some of our scores I'm not sure of, and many times during play I've thought, "how in hell are we gonna pull this off now?" So far, we've gotten lucky. Ish. We've had a few scores where we didn't get exactly what we wanted.

Oh, and I also wanted to ask another question -- how many things from your scores start clocks after the score? This is another one of those feedbacks that's not so easy to catch, but if you do stuff and it makes sense someone would do something about that, a clock should start. For example, we got tied up with the cult because we took some turf -- an ancient gate to the Deathlands -- off of some other folks, but it's very nearby the cult who had an interest in it and this was established during our info gathering for that score (a negotiation that went well for us). So, after we took it, the cult started a clock to take it away from us, the new owners. The very score I'm using as an example was because we were trying to shut down that clock. Right now, glancing at my tracking sheet, we have a ton of clocks we have to pay attention to, and they're all either creating scores and establishing fiction for those scores and/or direct results from even successful scores. Turns out crime pisses people off, who knew?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh, and thanks for the conversation. Please don't take anything I've said in a negative way -- just trying to tease out the difference in opinion.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
A constraint rooted in the game's mechanics is going to be the game rules themselves telling the GM, "You can't do that." (or some similar thing) It could be "You cannot introduce a complication now." or "The complication must be [major/minor/looming]."

Speaking generally, not about BitD..

We can add to that how the GM is usually constrained to not directly negate the intent of player success. Say a character is trying to sneak into somewhere, and gets a "success with complications" result. It is really bad form (or outright prohibited) for the GM to say, "You sneak past the guards but there are cameras that you didn't know about, so you are seen anyway." The player's intent was pretty clearly to enter unnoticed, and they got a success result - the GM can't turn that into failure.

Where they seem to mingle, maybe (at least to me) is around complications emerging immediately from failure/s.

In Fate, there's effectively a mingling that doesn't have to do with failures. If the GM Compels a character, they are invoking an Aspect that's already in play (on the scene, or on the character's sheet) against them. The narrative Checkov's Gun is lurking, and the GM is mechanically bound to invoke it, rather than make something completely new up. The effect is that if the GM is going to make a character's life more complicated, it must be in a way that is narratively relevant.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Here's a thing, though, if the current threat is desperate, then the opportunity to affect it was not trivial, but similarly hard. A situation that can is desperate is one that is very fraught, and not easily overcome (ie, even a 4-5 will result in some nasty consequence). So, yes, having opportunity is definitely a factor, but the idea that you had easy or moderate opportunity to sidestep a desperate threat is one that doesn't jive with the fiction established. This guy is a serious threat coming down the stairs, so it would not have been anything but an elaborate action to neutralize it beforehand.
I think we’re looking at the costs differently. The way I parse it, the stress cost is based on the opportunity in the flashback.

I guess a way to look at it is like this: it's established that the guy coming down the stairs is a serious threat. He's going to be a threat because he's a serious defender of the cult and has the tools/abilities to do that. Getting to this kind of serious threat isn't going to be a routine easy task, it's going to have been a serious and complex effort. We could flashback it, sure, and that flashback could establish all manner of helpful things, but saying that it would have been an easy or moderate effort is arguing with the fact that this person is, right now, a highly dangerous threat -- the fiction isn't aligning at all.
If I were earlier able to skulk a weapon into the room that lets me take the guy out (to use an example from the book), why wouldn’t that cost 1 stress? I wasn’t in a desperate position when I set that up, but I am now, and if my shot misses, I expect I’ll take a bunch of harm.

Again, no, by the time we were at that point in the score, there wasn't any flashback available to either the acolytes or the hymnals -- the established fiction precluded both. The idea that you just have to flashback further seems odd to me, and makes me think that you're not establishing fiction strongly during the freeplay/information gathering phase. We had investigated the church, made our decision, and started things. One of the things established was that the cult has a small following that was deeply devoted, and we didn't get any ins there. This meant that this was off the table for flashbacks -- we couldn't rewrite that and say that one of the members wasn't devoted or that there were more laity available because the fiction was already constrained.
I was guessing at possible options based on your innuendo since I didn’t know the parameters of what kind of “charm” and “luck” they were in for. However, you’re also right. I had a bit on that in my post, but I took it out. The gist of it was I intentionally leave the fiction malleable to make sure I have tools I can use during the score. We had a session where we didn’t do that, and reflecting back on it, I think that’s why we didn’t use any flashbacks (so we had to solve the problem with detonators …).

That session was our stairs scenario. When one of our guys opened his mind to the Way, he took a Devil’s Bargain, and I suggested that someone noticed. The GM put a clock down that the Nightspeakers were coming. The clock ticked over, and I threw a detonator at the Nightspeaker that showed up. We were badly outclassed, but we rolled really well. I don’t recall our position, but he said it would have been bad if we hadn’t gotten lucky.

What we had done in the prior session is go talk to a bunch of people about the place we would be going. This locked down lore and knowledge about it as well as our limitations. Because most of our infiltration involved overcoming obstacles as we pushed further, it wouldn’t make sense for us to have put stuff there ahead of time for when we encountered a problem. This was problematic later when we encountered an old computer we didn’t know how to use, but since we established what we did during our research, we couldn’t flashback to get the requisite knowledge.

Actually, this is another good point. There wasn't a good flashback out for this. My fellow player managed to get in a "I slid a reinforced plate into the bottom of the chest in case it was needed," but that was about all that could have been done because I went 100% off-plan and did something reckless in the moment. This isn't something that easily gets done in a flashback because it's violating the fiction being set down. In the fiction, I went radically off plan and did something wholly unexpected. The flashback for the plate was great, because it fit that character's drive to protect friends. Their roll wasn't great, so it only protected one, and I choose the civilian. But we couldn't have just flashbacked an entire plan where I was supposed to throw the bomb because we had already established the plan in the fiction through play. Flashbacks are limited here.
I see. You’re using “went off plan” to mean that you’ve established in the fiction that no other planning was done. Does that exclude “I lied. I actually did do something and didn’t tell you.”?

And, this kinda goes to why I find your example of going off plan in your heist and then just handing your main role off to a flashback to rub the wrong way -- this seems to violate the fiction you've put down already. Essentially, you chose to ignore your own fiction as established and leveraged a flashback to solve the problem but then said that it was the flashback that let you ignore the fiction. Kinda goes in a circle, there.
Not necessarily. My character was conceptualized as a cross between Captain Sternn and Zapp Brannigan (unethical and lascivious). It wouldn’t be out of character for him to get the code ahead of time and use the mission (which was during a party) to screw around (rather literally).

Failing scores is something that should always be on the table. If it's not, if you don't feel it's a possibility, then I think this is another pointer towards the GM easing off the gas a bit. Some of our scores I'm not sure of, and many times during play I've thought, "how in hell are we gonna pull this off now?" So far, we've gotten lucky. Ish. We've had a few scores where we didn't get exactly what we wanted.
Our GM really likes the Mr Johnson format. Most of our scores have had us stealing something or delivering something for someone. Some have gone down loudly while others have gone more quietly. Only one of them had a hard requirement that we couldn’t be discovered at all. That one was a lot of fun (don’t ever trust Totally Legit Inspectors Inc). We’re on hiatus currently, but I’ve been trying to push back against the format because I find that constraining.

Oh, and I also wanted to ask another question -- how many things from your scores start clocks after the score? This is another one of those feedbacks that's not so easy to catch, but if you do stuff and it makes sense someone would do something about that, a clock should start. For example, we got tied up with the cult because we took some turf -- an ancient gate to the Deathlands -- off of some other folks, but it's very nearby the cult who had an interest in it and this was established during our info gathering for that score (a negotiation that went well for us). So, after we took it, the cult started a clock to take it away from us, the new owners. The very score I'm using as an example was because we were trying to shut down that clock. Right now, glancing at my tracking sheet, we have a ton of clocks we have to pay attention to, and they're all either creating scores and establishing fiction for those scores and/or direct results from even successful scores. Turns out crime pisses people off, who knew?
We had no where near enough clocks. The GM said he doesn’t like faction clocks because he thinks they’d be completing them all the time and make the game chaotic. However, that seems like “superstructure” stuff, which wasn’t being contended as constraint-free.

@Ovinomancer I think you’ve convinced me that it is possible to create constraints if you do things that eliminate the option of using flashbacks. However, it doesn’t seem like that’s the only way to play. I’m not sure whether one way or the other is better, though I obviously lean towards the latter.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think we’re looking at the costs differently. The way I parse it, the stress cost is based on the opportunity in the flashback.


If I were earlier able to skulk a weapon into the room that lets me take the guy out (to use an example from the book), why wouldn’t that cost 1 stress? I wasn’t in a desperate position when I set that up, but I am now, and if my shot misses, I expect I’ll take a bunch of harm.
Yup, sure thing. This isn't directly solving the problem, but is more of a setup to help address the problem. You still have to deal with the desperate situation, but maybe now you have greater effect or scale or what-have-you. This can definitely turn a Desperate/Limited situation where the threat is coming at you and all you have is whatever is at hand to Desperate/Standard or even Desperate/Great, depending on how the setup works. This is 100% kosher. I was speaking to resolving the actual problem via flashback -- that's going to be constrained by how the problem gets established in the fiction. If it's hard to deal with now, it was hard to deal with then, or we wouldn't be here now. That kind of thing.
I was guessing at possible options based on your innuendo since I didn’t know the parameters of what kind of “charm” and “luck” they were in for. However, you’re also right. I had a bit on that in my post, but I took it out. The gist of it was I intentionally leave the fiction malleable to make sure I have tools I can use during the score. We had a session where we didn’t do that, and reflecting back on it, I think that’s why we didn’t use any flashbacks (so we had to solve the problem with detonators …).

That session was our stairs scenario. When one of our guys opened his mind to the Way, he took a Devil’s Bargain, and I suggested that someone noticed. The GM put a clock down that the Nightspeakers were coming. The clock ticked over, and I threw a detonator at the Nightspeaker that showed up. We were badly outclassed, but we rolled really well. I don’t recall our position, but he said it would have been bad if we hadn’t gotten lucky.

What we had done in the prior session is go talk to a bunch of people about the place we would be going. This locked down lore and knowledge about it as well as our limitations. Because most of our infiltration involved overcoming obstacles as we pushed further, it wouldn’t make sense for us to have put stuff there ahead of time for when we encountered a problem. This was problematic later when we encountered an old computer we didn’t know how to use, but since we established what we did during our research, we couldn’t flashback to get the requisite knowledge.
Yup, this is exactly what I'm talking about.
I see. You’re using “went off plan” to mean that you’ve established in the fiction that no other planning was done. Does that exclude “I lied. I actually did do something and didn’t tell you.”?


Not necessarily. My character was conceptualized as a cross between Captain Sternn and Zapp Brannigan (unethical and lascivious). It wouldn’t be out of character for him to get the code ahead of time and use the mission (which was during a party) to screw around (rather literally).
Interesting. No, it doesn't preclude it, but then we're back to talking about the costs of this -- if everyone in your crew thinks this is hard enough for a complicated plan, then the flashback has to also be a complicated plan and so costly. Half a score's worth of plan (well, the idea there was a plan) seems really costly to me. I see where you're coming from, but remember that there's a lot of stuff happening "off camera" that is still part of the fiction -- we're just discovering it now. Part of that is the shared understanding that everyone was in on the planning. So, a lot of "planning" went into your character's part and goal at some point. We don't bother with this on stage, but this, to me, adds to the complexity and challenge of a flashback that says you lied to everyone and had a different plan set up. I absolutely see the motivation, though. At least tell me you got XP for vice, right?
Our GM really likes the Mr Johnson format. Most of our scores have had us stealing something or delivering something for someone. Some have gone down loudly while others have gone more quietly. Only one of them had a hard requirement that we couldn’t be discovered at all. That one was a lot of fun (don’t ever trust Totally Legit Inspectors Inc). We’re on hiatus currently, but I’ve been trying to push back against the format because I find that constraining.


We had no where near enough clocks. The GM said he doesn’t like faction clocks because he thinks they’d be completing them all the time and make the game chaotic. However, that seems like “superstructure” stuff, which wasn’t being contended as constraint-free.
Oh. Well. That's really going to take a lot of the heat off, and make sure that you can do things like overindulge vice because you have the DTAs to do that. I've spent 2 DTA on vice exactly once in our game. I usually spend all of my coin on extra DTAs. We have a coin machine running now that usually nets us an extra 3-4 coin every downtime, and we, being ambitious, usually aim for getting paid well on scores, so we'll usually bring in around 8 coin per score for 3 PCs and we're almost always broke due to extra DTAs, which mostly keep the lid on the pot, so to speak. Heck, I have a playbook ability that gets me 2 stash per downtime and I've used that often enough by burning 2 stash for 1 coin to get a critical extra DTA. This aspect of the game is crucial for putting in the screws and establishing extra fiction that helps constrain lots of things.

Right now, our current clocks are below. The ones in blue are currently on pause, but still there.

The Lost -- Restraint vs Fervor -- racing 4 tick clocks -- the Lost are a small but fanatical group that fight for the rights of the downtrodden. They'll demonstrate and organize but also firebomb and riot, depending on who's voices are being heard. Right now, they're having an internal fight to see if the violent side violates the Truce in Coalridge. -- currently on pause due to crew actions, will restart in a loop or two.

The Lost vs Master Slaine -- racing 8 tick clocks -- Master Slaine was called in by management after they lost ground to the Unions on the labor dispute in Coalridge. He's a legendarily brutal foreman, and is here to make sure that the Unions get back to work. He is opposed by the Lost, and a brutal alleyway tussle and public opinion battle is underway. -- currently on pause due to the Truce.

Harker Recovers -- 6 clock 2/6 -- after Mister's (my PC) botch attempt to assassinate Harker, Harker escaped from Ironhook prison and is lying low, recovering from his wounds and gathering allies to pursue his revenge against Mister. If this clock completes, Harker will tier back up to 2W (currently 1S).

Spirit Wardens vs Geier Vampire Cult -- racing 4 clocks -- each completed clock tiers the opponent down -- The Spirit Wardens are at war with the Geier Vampire Cult. The crew uncovered the cult and dealt an opening blow but the Wardens have claimed the fight as their own. While the war continues, the Truce is in effect -- all major gangs in the city have pledged to keep violence down under threat of the Wardens and the Ministry becoming keenly interested. The gangs can collectively deal with this easily, but not individually, so each is keeping the Truce.

Deathland Scavenger Pardons -- 6 tick clock -- MUST be addressed every downtime or lose faction with DS. This is one of the results of our negotiation with the DS to gain access to the ancient deathlands gate. We're working as their agents in the city to gain pardons or papers for various members of the group so they can more easily move through Duskvol to sell their found artifacts.

Lure Darmot on the Train -- 6 clock -- Risk (our Lurk) wants to maneuver Inspector Darmot, a retired bluecoat with lots of friends, onto a train to another city so we can push him out. This is because Darmot is blackmailing Risk.

Red Sashes vs Lampblacks -- racing 8 clocks -- whoever completed first downtiers the other and wins the war. The RS and the LB are at war after the LBs shot down Enzio of the RS in duel. This has Crow's Foot in an uproar. -- on pause due to the Truce

Enzio's Revenge -- 4 clock - if filled, Enzio Harm 3 on Mister. Mister has picked up a ghostly possession by the shade of Enzio, who demands Mister avenge him against his killers. If this clock fills, Enzio will harm Mister greatly.

Lure Enzio's Killers -- 4 clock 2/4 -- Mister is working a plan to lure Enzio's killers to a place where we can eliminate them and then get them out of the city before they become a problem, thereby keeping the Truce (no ghosts, no problem for the Spirit Wardens).

1st Word Cult Attacks the Red Sashses -- 8 clock, 4/8 -- on our raid of the 1st Word, we may have left evidence behind pointing toward the Sashes as possible perpetrators. Oops. Now the 1st Word is attacking the Sashes.

1st Word Plague in Nightmarket vs Stop the Spread -- racing 8 vs 6 clocks -- after being raided, the 1st Word has launched their plan to spread the word, causing a supernatural plague of tongues in Nightmarket. It's small now, but will grow if not dealt with, giving the 1st Word quite a bit of power in the process.

And that's our current deal. It's a bit full right now, but we've been busy getting new problems while some old problems are on hold due to the Truce. And, right now, we're trying to determine if the Truce is still helping us or if we'd be better off without it. The Truce was the Warden's push, but our crew helped get it in place, negotiating with some of the gangs that were on the fence. There's still fallout from that waiting to hit (we owe a favor to both the Lampblacks and the Red Sashes). The terms of the Truce are no creation of more ghosts in the city through violence, which is effectively a ban on killing. If not treated, a person that dies creates a ghost in Duskvol. The Wardens usually deal with this, but they have their hands full with a powerful vampire cult and taking the extra work off their hands helps, well, everyone. As bad as the Ministry can be, vampires in charge would be worse. So, the Truce. Luckily, we are well placed to offer convenient services to move the recently deceased out of the city before they become ghostly. Like I said, the crew reps are Ambitious and Daring. Also Haunted, but that one doesn't apply.


@Ovinomancer I think you’ve convinced me that it is possible to create constraints if you do things that eliminate the option of using flashbacks. However, it doesn’t seem like that’s the only way to play. I’m not sure whether one way or the other is better, though I obviously lean towards the latter.
Wasn't exactly my goal, but glad to hear it! And, yes, I absolutely see how your view of the game can be obtained. It's not exactly clear that you have to press hard as a GM on all facets of the game for it to work well. Let off on one or two places and you do end up with a game where there doesn't feel like there's a lot of pressure on the fiction and therefore constraint by it.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Yup, sure thing. This isn't directly solving the problem, but is more of a setup to help address the problem. You still have to deal with the desperate situation, but maybe now you have greater effect or scale or what-have-you. This can definitely turn a Desperate/Limited situation where the threat is coming at you and all you have is whatever is at hand to Desperate/Standard or even Desperate/Great, depending on how the setup works. This is 100% kosher. I was speaking to resolving the actual problem via flashback -- that's going to be constrained by how the problem gets established in the fiction. If it's hard to deal with now, it was hard to deal with then, or we wouldn't be here now. That kind of thing.
Oh, okay. I think I understand the distinction now (see further reply below)

Interesting. No, it doesn't preclude it, but then we're back to talking about the costs of this -- if everyone in your crew thinks this is hard enough for a complicated plan, then the flashback has to also be a complicated plan and so costly. Half a score's worth of plan (well, the idea there was a plan) seems really costly to me. I see where you're coming from, but remember that there's a lot of stuff happening "off camera" that is still part of the fiction -- we're just discovering it now. Part of that is the shared understanding that everyone was in on the planning. So, a lot of "planning" went into your character's part and goal at some point. We don't bother with this on stage, but this, to me, adds to the complexity and challenge of a flashback that says you lied to everyone and had a different plan set up. I absolutely see the motivation, though.
I’m not sure I’d give them equal weight in the plan, but I understand what you’re saying. By saying we were going to do do X and Y for the plan, then replacing one of those with a flashback should require a similar amount of complexity in the flashback. Yeah, maybe I got away with pushing that one a little too much. That was our (the players) first major score. The GM probably should have pushed back on that a bit more.

However, it seems like one could also argue that we shouldn’t have been that specific with our plan. For example, if we had just committed to infiltrate the party and steal the item, then seduction for codes or having bribed someone for them are just different ways we could approach the problem. To take it to the extreme, we could flashback to the seduction since actually the target is in on the plan because she’s going to profit too. One might ask why we’re even bothering to infiltrate, but we have to maintain the facade for her insurance fraud to work.

At least tell me you got XP for vice, right?
I think it was for expressing his beliefs, drive, etc. Our GM can be a bit miserly about giving out XP for vice. When I took myself out last session, he was hesitant to give XP for that even though it’s literally the example in the book.

Oh. Well. That's really going to take a lot of the heat off, and make sure that you can do things like overindulge vice because you have the DTAs to do that. I've spent 2 DTA on vice exactly once in our game. I usually spend all of my coin on extra DTAs. We have a coin machine running now that usually nets us an extra 3-4 coin every downtime, and we, being ambitious, usually aim for getting paid well on scores, so we'll usually bring in around 8 coin per score for 3 PCs and we're almost always broke due to extra DTAs, which mostly keep the lid on the pot, so to speak. Heck, I have a playbook ability that gets me 2 stash per downtime and I've used that often enough by burning 2 stash for 1 coin to get a critical extra DTA. This aspect of the game is crucial for putting in the screws and establishing extra fiction that helps constrain lots of things.
We’ve got a module for our ship which lets us spend one DTA and a cred to let everyone indulge vice, so that helps a lot. That’s usually all we need to clear enough stress between scores. I overindulged because I was trying to take myself out, and I burned cred to make it happen.

Right now, our current clocks are below. The ones in blue are currently on pause, but still there.

The Lost -- Restraint vs Fervor -- racing 4 tick clocks -- the Lost are a small but fanatical group that fight for the rights of the downtrodden. They'll demonstrate and organize but also firebomb and riot, depending on who's voices are being heard. Right now, they're having an internal fight to see if the violent side violates the Truce in Coalridge. -- currently on pause due to crew actions, will restart in a loop or two.

The Lost vs Master Slaine -- racing 8 tick clocks -- Master Slaine was called in by management after they lost ground to the Unions on the labor dispute in Coalridge. He's a legendarily brutal foreman, and is here to make sure that the Unions get back to work. He is opposed by the Lost, and a brutal alleyway tussle and public opinion battle is underway. -- currently on pause due to the Truce.

Harker Recovers -- 6 clock 2/6 -- after Mister's (my PC) botch attempt to assassinate Harker, Harker escaped from Ironhook prison and is lying low, recovering from his wounds and gathering allies to pursue his revenge against Mister. If this clock completes, Harker will tier back up to 2W (currently 1S).

Spirit Wardens vs Geier Vampire Cult -- racing 4 clocks -- each completed clock tiers the opponent down -- The Spirit Wardens are at war with the Geier Vampire Cult. The crew uncovered the cult and dealt an opening blow but the Wardens have claimed the fight as their own. While the war continues, the Truce is in effect -- all major gangs in the city have pledged to keep violence down under threat of the Wardens and the Ministry becoming keenly interested. The gangs can collectively deal with this easily, but not individually, so each is keeping the Truce.

Deathland Scavenger Pardons -- 6 tick clock -- MUST be addressed every downtime or lose faction with DS. This is one of the results of our negotiation with the DS to gain access to the ancient deathlands gate. We're working as their agents in the city to gain pardons or papers for various members of the group so they can more easily move through Duskvol to sell their found artifacts.

Lure Darmot on the Train -- 6 clock -- Risk (our Lurk) wants to maneuver Inspector Darmot, a retired bluecoat with lots of friends, onto a train to another city so we can push him out. This is because Darmot is blackmailing Risk.

Red Sashes vs Lampblacks -- racing 8 clocks -- whoever completed first downtiers the other and wins the war. The RS and the LB are at war after the LBs shot down Enzio of the RS in duel. This has Crow's Foot in an uproar. -- on pause due to the Truce

Enzio's Revenge -- 4 clock - if filled, Enzio Harm 3 on Mister. Mister has picked up a ghostly possession by the shade of Enzio, who demands Mister avenge him against his killers. If this clock fills, Enzio will harm Mister greatly.

Lure Enzio's Killers -- 4 clock 2/4 -- Mister is working a plan to lure Enzio's killers to a place where we can eliminate them and then get them out of the city before they become a problem, thereby keeping the Truce (no ghosts, no problem for the Spirit Wardens).

1st Word Cult Attacks the Red Sashses -- 8 clock, 4/8 -- on our raid of the 1st Word, we may have left evidence behind pointing toward the Sashes as possible perpetrators. Oops. Now the 1st Word is attacking the Sashes.

1st Word Plague in Nightmarket vs Stop the Spread -- racing 8 vs 6 clocks -- after being raided, the 1st Word has launched their plan to spread the word, causing a supernatural plague of tongues in Nightmarket. It's small now, but will grow if not dealt with, giving the 1st Word quite a bit of power in the process.

And that's our current deal. It's a bit full right now, but we've been busy getting new problems while some old problems are on hold due to the Truce. And, right now, we're trying to determine if the Truce is still helping us or if we'd be better off without it. The Truce was the Warden's push, but our crew helped get it in place, negotiating with some of the gangs that were on the fence. There's still fallout from that waiting to hit (we owe a favor to both the Lampblacks and the Red Sashes). The terms of the Truce are no creation of more ghosts in the city through violence, which is effectively a ban on killing. If not treated, a person that dies creates a ghost in Duskvol. The Wardens usually deal with this, but they have their hands full with a powerful vampire cult and taking the extra work off their hands helps, well, everyone. As bad as the Ministry can be, vampires in charge would be worse. So, the Truce. Luckily, we are well placed to offer convenient services to move the recently deceased out of the city before they become ghostly. Like I said, the crew reps are Ambitious and Daring. Also Haunted, but that one doesn't apply.
That’s a lot of clocks! We’ve only had a couple at most, and those were player-initiated projects. We started off with someone’s wanting our Snarf, but that faded away when we outran their ship. Like I said, we seem to be stuck in an episodic format because that’s what the GM likes.

Wasn't exactly my goal, but glad to hear it! And, yes, I absolutely see how your view of the game can be obtained. It's not exactly clear that you have to press hard as a GM on all facets of the game for it to work well. Let off on one or two places and you do end up with a game where there doesn't feel like there's a lot of pressure on the fiction and therefore constraint by it.
Cool. This conversation has helped me understand BitD a bit better.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh, okay. I think I understand the distinction now (see further reply below)


I’m not sure I’d give them equal weight in the plan, but I understand what you’re saying. By saying we were going to do do X and Y for the plan, then replacing one of those with a flashback should require a similar amount of complexity in the flashback. Yeah, maybe I got away with pushing that one a little too much. That was our (the players) first major score. The GM probably should have pushed back on that a bit more.

However, it seems like one could also argue that we shouldn’t have been that specific with our plan. For example, if we had just committed to infiltrate the party and steal the item, then seduction for codes or having bribed someone for them are just different ways we could approach the problem. To take it to the extreme, we could flashback to the seduction since actually the target is in on the plan because she’s going to profit too. One might ask why we’re even bothering to infiltrate, but we have to maintain the facade for her insurance fraud to work.


I think it was for expressing his beliefs, drive, etc. Our GM can be a bit miserly about giving out XP for vice. When I took myself out last session, he was hesitant to give XP for that even though it’s literally the example in the book.


We’ve got a module for our ship which lets us spend one DTA and a cred to let everyone indulge vice, so that helps a lot. That’s usually all we need to clear enough stress between scores. I overindulged because I was trying to take myself out, and I burned cred to make it happen.


That’s a lot of clocks! We’ve only had a couple at most, and those were player-initiated projects. We started off with someone’s wanting our Snarf, but that faded away when we outran their ship. Like I said, we seem to be stuck in an episodic format because that’s what the GM likes.


Cool. This conversation has helped me understand BitD a bit better.
A couple of general thoughts -- the GM shouldn't be awarding XP, you should. If you feel you hit a thing, then mark XP and tell everyone. If it's something that's icky, then the table will side eye you and a discussion can be had, but at no point is your XP dependent on the GM awarding it to you. In this regard, they have no more authority than another player -- they can question, but that's it. From the Blades rules (and I imagine it's not any different for S&V):

Which events in the story match the experience triggers for character and crew advancement? Did you express your character’s beliefs, drives, heritage, or background? You tell us. The players have final say.
Emphasis in original.

And, yes, if you try to run a FitD game as a series of disconnected episodes, it's not going to work as intended because it's not going to be putting the pressure on the characters that's required. It sounds like your GM is also determining what the scores are going to be about? That's a no-no as well. They shouldn't be doing anything but reacting to the players' actions. This still leaves a huge space for the GM to influence the game, but we pick our scores (unless a complication shows up in which case we get a choice to resolve that as our next score or pay the price). This also puts pressure on the fiction, as it's the players' choices on how they do this and this establishes clear fiction as feed in constraints for scores.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
A couple of general thoughts -- the GM shouldn't be awarding XP, you should. If you feel you hit a thing, then mark XP and tell everyone. If it's something that's icky, then the table will side eye you and a discussion can be had, but at no point is your XP dependent on the GM awarding it to you. In this regard, they have no more authority than another player -- they can question, but that's it. From the Blades rules (and I imagine it's not any different for S&V)
Scum and Villainy doesn’t explicitly call out that the players have the final say. What section is that from in BitD? I only have access to the SRD, but I didn’t see it in the advancement section.

The way our end of session goes is people say what they think they did, and the GM gives a yay or nay. It sounds like you just say what you mark, and people can offer (non-vetoing) objections for things that seem questionable.

And, yes, if you try to run a FitD game as a series of disconnected episodes, it's not going to work as intended because it's not going to be putting the pressure on the characters that's required. It sounds like your GM is also determining what the scores are going to be about? That's a no-no as well. They shouldn't be doing anything but reacting to the players' actions. This still leaves a huge space for the GM to influence the game, but we pick our scores (unless a complication shows up in which case we get a choice to resolve that as our next score or pay the price). This also puts pressure on the fiction, as it's the players' choices on how they do this and this establishes clear fiction as feed in constraints for scores.
From what I can tell, he comes with a framework prepared that gets flavored into what we decide to do. I’ve been pushing back on this. Last session’s heist was my just asserting we would be jacking a drug shipment (after confirming our pilot still wanted more spacedrugs). We still ended up getting funneled through a fixer (even though I would have rather we kept it for ourselves), but it apparently took him bu surprise.

I’m not really sure how we would go about changing the episodic dynamic. Like I said, I’ve been trying to push back, but the other players don’t play their characters hard like I do mine. It’s one of the reasons why I think SWN would be a better fit for us (not that I have the power to get us to change or would be willing to run that on top of WWN).

We’re on hiatus now though, so I guess it’s moot. I don’t know when the player who took a break will be available again, and I have a feeling we might just start something new if/when he does come back.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Scum and Villainy doesn’t explicitly call out that the players have the final say. What section is that from in BitD? I only have access to the SRD, but I didn’t see it in the advancement section.
It's on page 6 of the rulebook -- the Core System.

It's also in the SRD, first heading under Judgement Calls, in the subheading The Core System under Game Rules (SRD).
The way our end of session goes is people say what they think they did, and the GM gives a yay or nay. It sounds like you just say what you mark, and people can offer (non-vetoing) objections for things that seem questionable.
Yup, that's how it's supposed to work.
From what I can tell, he comes with a framework prepared that gets flavored into what we decide to do. I’ve been pushing back on this. Last session’s heist was my just asserting we would be jacking a drug shipment (after confirming our pilot still wanted more spacedrugs). We still ended up getting funneled through a fixer (even though I would have rather we kept it for ourselves), but it apparently took him bu surprise.

I’m not really sure how we would go about changing the episodic dynamic. Like I said, I’ve been trying to push back, but the other players don’t play their characters hard like I do mine. It’s one of the reasons why I think SWN would be a better fit for us (not that I have the power to get us to change or would be willing to run that on top of WWN).

We’re on hiatus now though, so I guess it’s moot. I don’t know when the player who took a break will be available again, and I have a feeling we might just start something new if/when he does come back.
I couldn't say how to fix this, if it does even start again. I'm not sure that's a thing without a very serious conversation about the game and what everyone wants out of it with the table. It very well may be that the GM does want to play it another way, in which case 'fixing' is synonymous with 'stopping.' If the GM is already ditching faction clocks because he feels that makes the game too chaotic... I'm not sure they're going to be open to the chaos that a FitD game is really about to begin with. It sound like he's trying to manage the structure of scores as well, which again goes to trying to play S&V in a more traditional way instead of the way it's intended. Which is s'ok, if everyone's having fun.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
It's on page 6 of the rulebook -- the Core System.

It's also in the SRD, first heading under Judgement Calls, in the subheading The Core System under Game Rules (SRD).
Ah, there it is. Scum and Villainy does have that. That’s what happens when you don’t sit down and give a book a proper read through. 😬

I couldn't say how to fix this, if it does even start again. I'm not sure that's a thing without a very serious conversation about the game and what everyone wants out of it with the table. It very well may be that the GM does want to play it another way, in which case 'fixing' is synonymous with 'stopping.'
It’s definitely worth having a conversation about expectations and style should we start back up a second game. I’m not sure I would want to continue in the episodic format.

If the GM is already ditching faction clocks because he feels that makes the game too chaotic... I'm not sure they're going to be open to the chaos that a FitD game is really about to begin with. It sound like he's trying to manage the structure of scores as well, which again goes to trying to play S&V in a more traditional way instead of the way it's intended. Which is s'ok, if everyone's having fun.
From what I recall, people were having fun, but I think some of the shine was wearing off. Personally, I was starting to get frustrated by the things I’ve mentioned here.
 

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