A player's issue with Risk

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A player's issue with Risk

Postby Charlie_EN » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:56 pm

I'm starting a game of Houses with my group. We started without Vassals, Regions and Blessings as I thought it might overwhelm the more timid players. The first session was a Christmas themed story with the initial hook being, "A giant white-bearded man in a red suit is causing Trouble". We ended up with a fire-breathing mecha-Santa controlled by evil orks and a good time had by all, so I thought. My flatmate, a player, was really thrilled as he finally got the idea of Aspects, of adding Aspects to scenes. He didn't 'fail forwards' much, but that's fine, he didn't have any Style at the end as even though he was doing awesome things, he wasn't complicating his life too much and the system worked for him. I thought my other players enjoyed it, but there was a HEATED debate, primarily by two players at me during our Christmas meal. I had drunk a lot and wasn't up for a maths talk, as that's what their main concern was. I finally e-mailed one of them, J, and asked what was the whole issue they had with the system. I received this in return:

It is unusual to have more than 4 dice. To get 5 dice you ned to do one of the following: min-max stats (gets you 5 dice on 1/6 rolls - slightly higher in reality as there are some stats that come up more often than others); spending style (costs you a resource and is situational based on your aspects, others aspects or your name so maybe 3ish times per session?)

Otherwise you can't get 5+ dice.

So why am I stuck up on 5 dice? This system is a system where you always want to make at least 1 wager. If you don't make wagers you have little narrative control and you might as well be playing any other system. The point of houses is to take narrative control. So I've spent one dice on wagers. Now I need to hit 10. If I have 2 dice left (I.e. 3 dice to start) I have a 1-in-6 chance of passing. Not good. If I have 3 dice left (I.e. 4 dice to start) I have a better than 50% chance of hitting 10. Not bad, but if I care about the result I will want to improve my odds, so shouldn't make that wager. Which is against the game system.

5 dice allows you to make a wager and have a good have of succeeding or make two and take the 50:50 risk.

Now not every roll should have 5 dice, but happened once to my character in that session. And I passed and chose to fail.

Also if I min-max I will nearly never 5 dice on my non-main stat. So in a game designed to give narrative control to players it rarely happens. If I don't min-max I get two fours, which you can argue is better. (as a side note, my current character *has* min-maxed on beauty, but that was because I didn't originally and ended up with nearly the same stats as A, so decided to make us more different).

So my solutions to the problem? Well I have two suggestions.

1. The meta-solution aka the A solution. At character creation choose optimally. Cover your bases, choose things that give 4-5 dice often. I don't like this, I want to build a character not a character sheet.

2. Lower the 'hit' number from 10. This shifts the odds to make it more likely to pass if making wagers. In the extreme, if this were 7 you would have a 50:50ish chance of making a wager and succeeding with 3 dice. This seems too low, but illustrates the point. I suspect 8 or 9 is the right number - not sure which though. 9 gives a 28% chance on 2 dice and 74% on 3.

8 gives 42% on 2 and 84% on 3.

For comparison: 10 is 17% on 2 and 63% on 3.

I think 9 looks right.

The aim of this is to give people more incentive to make a wager, buy in to the system and ultimately have more fun.


This player, "J", and the other one mentioned in the message, "A", are the ones who have this problem. They were backed up by a former group member, who would house rule Snakes and Ladders if he had a chance.

This has put me in an awkward spot, they like to use logic, a sense of balance and fairness in things, or at least a rules-based sense of fairness. Their 'get' from a game tends to be more about mastering the rules than telling a story. The other three players, "S", "L" and "Rainbows" have all said that they do not feel like they lacked agency in the game. They were able to be good at handling risks their characters felt good at, and didn't believe that not getting Privilage removed valuable Style points from them.

So are "J" and "A" being wankers? Did I do something wrong with this game which is noticable by their reaction? The errors I felt I made with the game was charging people one Style instead of two for creating an Aspect, and giving a few less Style than I probably could have, but still maybe one to three a person. They're all a bit shy about suggesting that I give Style to people if they feel I dropped the ball, even though I've suggested that they should.

My current defence are the following points:
* There are many ways of getting Style, so keeping the Style treadmill going isn't just about getting Privilage and choosing to fail, after all, you might fail your failing and not deserve a Style point.
* There are other things, Vassals, Blessings, Items, etc, which can provide dice bonuses.
* Most dice rolls shouldn't just be a Virtue. Aspects are lovely and should be used, ideally, at least once a Risk. Invoke your own if it works, and for the important rolls, hopefully it will. Tag your foes. It'll be easy enough to poke them out of people, especially for J's Beautiful Fox and A's Cunning Elk. If you don't have anything on an opponent to tag, then make something in the scene.

I hope that's all right and good. I've had wanker behaviour from these guys before, as well as some really great behaviour, but I feel the bad has made me too biased to make a simple judgement call. More than that, I hate that I've had to spend time thinking about the maths, and not the names and truths of the court they're all about to enter. I like it when my players shout at me about the war their characters are about to enter, about their plan to assassinate a king, about them thinking about entering a doomed player character love triangle, seeing their massive whiteboard workings out about a fantasy game I'm running. I love that, not an argument about maths. This is not only out of my wheelhouse by a way, but my instinct is to say that John Wick picked TN 10 for a reason, moreso than mainstream games with multiple designers and intentions. I'm loathe to futz with the system for the sake of placating a couple of players when I'm not seeing their problem as one which has popped up for other players here or online (as far as I can see).

Any advice would be great.
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Re: A player's issue with Risk

Postby wastevens » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:07 pm

Several of my players had an issue where too often they had too few dice. Or, at least, felt they did.

One thing I tried, which was pretty effective, was to let the players 'buy' trouble. Basically, they could get extra dice on a roll, by giving the Narrator additional Facts, added in alternating order with the player (if they're successful), or to elaborate on the disaster (if they aren't). They couldn't rise above 4 dice by buying trouble in this fashion.

A player with zero dice could buy 4 dice of Trouble. They roll and succeed!

But now the narrator has four facts to make them wish they hadn't.

My group fairly well liked that.
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Re: A player's issue with Risk

Postby Astelle_Mwwr » Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:15 pm

I would point to your third defense just as a knee jerk reaction. Aspects are there to be tagged. So are artifacts. The system has ways for you to get more dice for your risk, so just be open to finding those advantages within reason. Are you trying to find out what your opponents are up to? Use Cunning (3) plus "I prepare for trouble" and your handy Mirror, you have at least 7 dice depending on the rank of your Mirror.
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Re: A player's issue with Risk

Postby Nihilistic Mind » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:46 pm

Another option is to allow a 6 to "explode".
John started implementing it in a few games he had run to try something new, probably to resolve that "not-so-uncommon issue".

The rule is that when you roll your dice, if one of them is a 6, you can re-roll and add that to your total. You can only "explode" once per roll, even if you rolled more than one 6.
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Re: A player's issue with Risk

Postby wunderworks » Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:37 pm

Actually there are a lot of different ways to get more than Five dice. Go look through the stickied topics. I know there's one about where you can get dice from.

The easiest is Tagging a scene.
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