Thursday, February 2, 2012

Privilege vs. Success/Failure

Did you have a good Wednesday? Mine was ok. Sorry about the late notice on no post. I completely forgot that I hadn't prepped something ahead of time until my head hit the pillow, and at that point I wasn't getting back up. It shouldn't happen again. At least, not without advanced warning. That said, did you do your homework? The book I picked up was the "Aegis Project" by John Wick. Yep, his new game. The "Wick Take" on 80's mecha games and military drama. However, as neat as the setting is, it isn't what I want to talk about. Today I want to talk about privilege vs. success/failure as the goal of dice rolling.

What Is Privilege?
Privilege is the "success" reward for winning a die roll in all of John Wick's new games. Basically it means that the person who has privilege gets to dictate the outcome of the action. So, if you make the die roll you get to choose if your character succeeded or failed. If you do not make the die roll, the GM gets to decide if you succeeded or failed. Otherwise, the game works pretty much like a normal RPG.

Why Would I Make Myself Fail?
If you're used to 'traditional' gaming and dice mechanics, this is probably the first question that crossed your mind as soon as you read what privilege is. The answer is, essentially, "because it can be more interesting to fail." The idea behind privilege is to actually change the reason that the game is played in a sense. It isn't about success or failure, it is about creating a fun and enjoyable situation/story with fun and interesting characters. If you fail the roll, you can still succeed if the GM thinks that would be more interesting. If you succeed at the roll, you can still choose to fail.

Often the books give examples of controlling the failure to make things more interesting. In Houses of the Blooded the example involves failing to clear a jump, but landing on the balcony that leads into the room of a woman the PC is having an affair with. In Aegis, the example is also failing a jump, but then finding a previously undiscovered control panel because of it.

GMs Need To Be Fast
It goes without saying that with this kind of control, the GM needs to be fast on their feet. If you thought players could derail a plot line fast when they rolled for success/failure, you have no idea how fast it can go when they can dictate terms. All it takes is a player to define "and she is secretly on our side" to throw a huge wrench into weeks of planning. Now, there are ways around this (as a rule, if something is defined it can't be changed), but you still have to be quick on your feet. Roll with it, and you get the strength out of the system.

The Wanker Rule
The last thing to cover is what Wick calls the "Wanker Rule." Effectively this rule simply states that the system gives the player a lot of power, and they need to not be a wanker about it. The point of the game is to have fun, not to have fun at everyone else's expense. So, in short, don't be a wanker about it. Play along, have fun, and try to make things narratively and dramatically interesting.

I've only tested out a system with this once before (Houses of the Blooded) and while I had fun, the game quickly turned into PCs throwing each other under the bus. Part of this was because it was everyone's first time with this kind of system, and part of it was because we weren't 100% sure what exactly we were supposed to be doing. I wasn't sure of myself as a GM with that sort of system either, and the end result was the group decided to shelve the game and never return.

The strengths are ones that I can see, and ones I've heard about. When the group is clicking with the system you can get some truly amazing moments. More to the point, the players can make things interesting for themselves. Someone who tends to roll lucky can make himself deal with the adversity of losing. Complex situations can come up, and everyone gets to have a say in what happens and how it goes. The end result? When done right you get a very strong and well put together tale that everyone can have fun with.

Harder For Vets
The last thing I want to mention is something I mentioned briefly above. The difference in rolling for privilege vs rolling for success/failure is a huge fundamental change. It may be easier to introduce people to RPing with this style than it is to bring people who are vet RPers to this style of gaming. If nothing else, it'll take the vets longer to come to grips with things because it is just so fundamentally different. Still, if trying to convert vets, try to keep them from thinking that it is bad/worse just because it is different. Though, despite that, it may just not be for them.

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