Star Wars/Genesys Dice Fatigue

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Star Wars/Genesys Dice Fatigue

Post by EvilJohn »

@Jared Rascher and I talked last night about the Star Wars FFG dice system. While we both appreciated what it was trying to do, we both made similar comments about how taxing the dice system could be. Specifically, the amount of creativity the GM must exercise to translate threats, advantadges, triumphs, and despairs to an immediately actionable became harder and harder as the game went on. Personally, I can't always find an innovative or exciting threat or despair outcome the nth a PC negoiates a price with a random shoper keep on Backwater IV.

Indeed, having fewer dice rolls could help this, but the amount of skills in the game and the system's reliance on dice rolls to generate story action doesn't mesh with the 'less is more' tactic.

I wondered if anyone had insight into how to deal with this when story dice systems act more like creative vampires than create muses.
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Jared Rascher
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Re: Star Wars/Genesys Dice Fatigue

Post by Jared Rascher »

There is part of me that really feels that maybe just a shift in how the rules are presented would help with this. The biggest problem I have is that, as written, the rules seem to present that different amount of threat and advantage need to provide different narrative weight and that both of those, regardless of number, need to feel like they scale, but never push into the territory provided by triumph and despair.

I feel like in cases where you can spend narrative currencies on specific things, this is fine (for example, in combat when you can trigger different effects). But in more common use, like repairing a speeder or asking around about where to buy something, this becomes more cumbersome.

One solution that presented itself to me via looking at other games like 2d20 is to give things like skill checks an "additional information" spend. You want to know a specific thing, and you get that on a success. You get to ask additional related questions by spending advantage. But that doesn't address modularity in threat. While you can use threat to just whittle away at the PCs stress, that doesn't always feel like a satisfying way to apply threat to the situation.

I think the main thing is that the examples given are vary chart driven and very circumstance driven, but all of that feels like you should always have some idea of how to provide "tiered" results.

I love the idea that despair and triumph live in a separate space than advantage and threat, but it's also tricky sometimes to position those results in a manner that doesn't negate the result of the actual roll. In other words, a triumph is really damn good, but you still failed, so the result can't be that you didn't fail, or that you got the exact same thing that you would have gotten if you did fail.

I love the system when the results come in a narrow range . . . one or two threat or advantage, triumph and despair coming up rarely. But the longer characters advance, and the more complicated the actions they are attempting, the more likely you get lopsided, scaling results, like a success with seven threat and a triumph.

Honestly, the more I think about this, I don't even know if its the numbers or the system that are the problem, but that as presented, the turns "feel" like other RPG turns, where characters make a check, figure out the outcome, and then do the next thing. I think outside of combat, the system should almost be more like Forged in the Dark games, where the check represents something that might take an extended period of time, and you carefully negotiate each part of the result.

Okay, we're going to save the success or failure for the end, let's take this one step at a time . . .
  • What happened to create threat? Does that feel like what you just said spent all of that threat?
  • What happened to create a triumph?
  • How did this finally play out, successfully, incorporating all of those things?
So, making this more of a structured negotiation where the player character has input, we could see something like this:
  • Han rolls two threats and a despair when talking to an officer on the Death Star.
  • Han's player says that one reason they generated threat is because the communications panel broke during the conversation. The GM agrees, but points out that since they still have their own comlinks, this is really only worth one threat.
  • Han's player then says that Han is pretty frazzled, so they will take stress from having this conversation. The GM agrees that sounds reasonable.
  • For the despair, the player says that troopers will show up right away, but the GM argues that feels like the normal consequence of failure. Instead, the GM proposes that there is only one way out, and it's not immediately evident to the players. The players agree that this sounds like a good despair result
Once all of this has been negotiated, Han's player narrates it all together and works in the detail that the communications console stops working because Han lost his cool and blasted it himself.

None of this goes against what was presented in any of the Star Wars FFG rulebooks, but, the game kind of glosses over what a back and forth negotiation looks like with the narrative elements. Games like Fate, for example, spend a lot of time explaining that part of play is having the conversation about how something resolves, and that it isn't a roadblock to how the game plays out, but part of the play experience. The FFG books don't spend quite as much time with this, and that tends to communicate that the pacing of out of combat skill checks should be similar to in combat skill checks, which in effects makes you feel like you have to rush the resolution of what you want to do.

In some ways, it reminds me of 7th Sea 2nd edition. I really like the game system, but in many cases, it doesn't provide a zoomed out, slowed down example of how to resolve the things it tells you to do. Once you read enough of the supplemental books, it gets easier, but up front, it's a lot of cognitive load without a lot of help to explain what pacing should look like, or where the game expect you to spend time narrating and how.
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