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.