Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

Invert, Not Revert

Posted by Nathan P. on August 27, 2006

So I had an awesome revelation while writing up my carry demo materials. So, how stakes resolution works in the game is that all of the player involved set their stakes if they win the conflict. If the players have a conflict with each other, it’s easy, they either win their stakes or the other guy wins his stakes. The GM can throw extra counterstakes into this, if he wants. Now, if the conflict is against the GM, he sets counterstakes for if the players lose. The GM never sets positive stakes for NPCs, just negative stakes for PCs.

Now, the easy and logical thing to do is just reverse the positive stakes, right? So the player goes “If I win, I diffuse the bomb and we make it to the checkpoint.” Reversing this would be the GM saying “If you lose, the bomb goes off and you don’t make it to the checkpoint.”

Blah. How lame is that?

Now, whats awesome is when you invert the stakes. “If you lose, you diffuse the bomb, so everything thinks that you guys are home free – until you get captured by the VC patrol thats been trailing you.”

See? You don’t want to negate the positive stakes, you want to take the potential success and turn it into a failure/further complication. This is awesome, because it makes it really easy to bring in stakes about intention and about setting and situation authority. You can turn conflicts into conflict not just about fictional events, but about whether the establishment of the fictional event is a positive or negative thing for the characters. It also aids in the progressive movement of those fictional events.

So there’s one thing about how I play that isn’t explicated in the text.


4 Responses to “Invert, Not Revert”

  1. Paul Czege said

    Hey Nathan,

    From the GM advice chapter in With Great Power, p. 108:

    “Before you declare your stakes, remember that if you win the scene, the player automatically loses his stakes. Your stakes are what you gain over and above the player losing his stakes.”

    So is Michael saying essentially the same thing as what you’re saying, or do you think there’s an important difference?


  2. Heya Paul,

    Jeez. I think that, in carry specifically, the stuff that you are conflicing over is not the events that happen in the fiction. As the GM for the game, I don’t care whether the characters are succeeding or failing at individual tasks, except inasmuch as those successes or failures inform the interior issues of those characters.

    By literal definition, I am agreeing – either the player will win his stakes, or the GM will win his stakes. The stakes are always opposed. That’s how the stakes resolution mechanics in my game, and I think in WGP… (though I’m not sure) work.

    But! When you look at the events of play, what a character actually does can be the same in each set of stakes – it’s either what that action means for the character, or the consequences of that action, that are up for grabs.

    Also, I’m kind of curious as to whether you think there’s a difference, actually.

  3. That’s an elegant way of putting it.

    It’s also a good measure on whether the stakes are conflict or task related. In conflict resolution you can say “you succeed at the task, but still fail at the conflict”, but in task resolution you can’t do much more than negate the success of the task. If the player said “if I win I diffuse the bomb” there’s not much to revert, so the GM should rightly ask “why?”.

  4. Thanks Jonas. Good point about TR – there’s a reason why “whiff” is associated with a lot of single-roll TR systems, and not really as much of a concern in most CR systems that I’ve seen.

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