How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Sword of Spirit
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How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby Sword of Spirit » Sat Feb 08, 2020 3:36 pm

When I first started running Torg (using the Day 1s, in case that is relevant) I was pretty generous with awarding Possibilities, with probably the average player getting, say, 2, or even 3 per session. They used them to do cool stuff, not just to Soak or improve essential rolls. However, I eventually discovered that it seemed to dis-incentivize players from playing cosm cards that granted Possibilities at a cost--which makes up a large number of cosm cards. Why take those risks and penalties when you get enough Possibilities anyway that you might be mechanically better off not bothering with them?

Important Sub Point: I have to digress here to bring up a point that seems to apply across the board--Possibilities at a cost that have a set reward (ie, 1 Possibility per player) seem undesirable compared to those that have a variable reward (1-3 Possibilities per player). I'm not sure I've ever, regardless of how stingy or generous I was with Possibilities, had a player play the set reward kind.

I drifted into awarding less Possibilities, ending the Day 1s probably handing out more like 0-1 per player per session. The problem I saw then was players hoarding them for Soaking and important rolls, and not using them for "cool". Now, granted, part of that hoarding is that the Day 1s got more deadly (and I let the players know about this), and my most dominant player was committed to having everyone survive each Day 1. For Tharkold, they actually even played a random encounter for the Possibilities at the beginning as they were driving towards town, even though they really didn't want to slow the session down. So at that point, the Possibilities for (variable) cost cosm cards seemed to be working as intended. But players weren't spending Possibilities to be cool anymore.

So play is either:
-Generous with Possibilities = Players spend Possibilities to do cool stuff, but cosm cards that grant Possibilities at a cost go unused
-Stingy with Possibilities = Players sometimes use cosm cards that grant (variable) Possibilities at a cost, but don't spend Possibilities to do cool stuff

Despite the apparent design intent that the rate of awarding Possibilities be pretty flexible, it seems that if you want players to both spend cosm cards that have a cost, and spend Possibilities just to look cool rather than hoarding them for survival and important roles, there is some sort of delicate balance I haven't hit upon.

There is some basic psychological economics going on here that the rarer getting Possibilities is the less you are going to spend them on non-essentials. One thing that is good is that my players aren't going to hoard Possibilities to the extent that they end the Act with unused extras. They are going to customize their expenditure to the quantity they get. I think that probably is playing as intended, so at least it isn't my players' "fault" here.

If it were to shift to awarding 1-2 Possibilities--right in the middle of my extremes--what would that do? I suspect it might get things a little closer to where the intended balance point is. (Although it wouldn't do anything to help the subpoint of set reward cosm cards not being desireable.)

If I were to allow all cosm cards that grant Possibilities at a cost to be discarded for a single Possibility (to the discarding player only), that would cause them to get some "use" by discard. I think it might even cause variable reward cards to get more intended use, since (assuming I balance the variable reward so it is always worth significantly more than a discard) the choice of greater reward versus lesser would probably be more psychologically compelling than the "card used" versus "card just sits there" choice. The better the balance point for handed out Possibilities, the better this would work.

But even doing that would still leave the subpoint problem of set reward cosm cards just not being appealing.

Here's an idea that just maybe could address that. What if I doubled the Possibility reward of all cosm cards that provide a reward at a cost (variable or set)? Now using the variable reward ones seems like a great idea. Unless you have a reason not to, you'll probably want to use them. Keeping the discard for 1 idea I had alongside this is probably a good idea so that if you just don't want to mess with it you don't feel constrained to. Even the set reward ones are likely worth it at this point.

So the tentative solution I'm now mulling over is:
-All cosm cards that grant Possibilities at a cost (whether variable or set) grant double the listed Possibilities. (Customize the variable ones so they don't overshadow the set ones in value)
-All cosm cards that grant Possibilities at a cost can be discarded to grant a single Possibility to the discarding player
-Grant roughly 1-2 GM awarded Possibilities per player per session

The hypothesized effects:
-Players will usually spend cosm cards that grant Possibilities for a cost, but won't feel constrained to because they can always discard them
-It should still work out even if the GM is more generous or stingy with awards Possibilities, because...
--If the GM is more generous, players will spend less cosm cards, but will still benefit sufficiently that they'll play the ones that interest them
--If the GM is more stingy, players will be even more likely to spend cosm cards, and will rarely just discard them for a Possibility

My questions for the group are:

Does this analysis fit your experiences?

If not, what factors do you think make it different than mine?

Does this solution seem like it would generate the hypothesized effects?

What other solutions have you thought of? What's the most elegant one you can think of?

What other solutions have you tried, and how did they work?

ZorValachan
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby ZorValachan » Sat Feb 08, 2020 4:15 pm

My experience is that each of my players has their own way to gain/spend possibilities. It's definitely not done as a group.

I have players that will play every single Cosm card that gives any amount of Possibilities as well as spend them for less-than-ideal rolls (like just trying to get a failure to be a success). or playing them at the worst possible time just to see what happens (ok, Pierre just rolled a mishap on a spell and summoned a demon, let me play a Cosm card to bring more threats in. That sounds like fun!". Others will hoard them and only use them to soak.

I have 7 players in my main group and I never just give out Possibilities as suggested, it just really gives the group too many to work with. I also have a house rule that Cosm cards give the Possibilities of the Cosm for the ones we already have. They start with normal Possibilities, but if they are in LL and play a LL card, they get LL possibilities. The Destiny cards like Romance, Nemesis, etc. give normal Possibilities.

I have found my players are more willing to spend the various cosm possibilities more than the standard ones. And although I allow the Act "reset" to keep cosm Possibilities, I've never had anyone actually keep them, they always resent to normal ones.
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Kuildeous
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby Kuildeous » Sun Feb 09, 2020 9:31 am

The players' personalities can play a role certainly. I have one guy who plays his cosm card every time he draws one, regardless of how bad it'll get. The others are more conservative than that to varying degrees.

Player count is probably also a factor. The Possibilities-per-player cards are way more powerful in Leamon's 7-player table than a 4-player table.

While I used to hand out metacurrency or XP in games past for players being witty or clever, I don't do that so much anymore. While we often try to avoid favoritism, we all have unconscious biases, and that can bleed through into the game. It becomes an unconscious game of "Did the player play the game my way?"

It's similar to the "best roleplayer" award that some conventions do. In my 30 years of convention play, I've noticed that the winner of this type of award is often the player who was most outgoing and funny. The player of the drunk bard might be crowned as best roleplayer, but that overshadows the player of the brooding elf ranger who doesn't talk much.

That could apply to giving out Possibilities for fun stuff in the game. It's fun to reward Alice as she goes all-in with the Living Land and plays up her character going native with her ripped clothing and inability to formulate a complex plan, but by doing so, maybe we accidentally overlook Bob who plays his corporate executive differently. His character fears losing control, so he fights the Living Land urges and plays up a stoic exterior who averts his gaze when clothing gets ripped and never does an all-out attack. There's an underlying message that we reward Alice and not Bob, we tell Bob that he's not playing the game correctly.

So in my games, I rely exclusively on cosm cards for additional Possibilities. But also Inspire and subplot cards are good for that. In a demo game, I'll play fast and loose with Possibilities. In my campaigns, not so much.

I do wonder what it would be like to space out the Possibilities at reliable intervals. Like, say, you reset each act with 3 Possibilities. Then you give out 1 Possibility at the beginning of each dramatic scene. No conditions. Yeah, each PC ultimately has 4/Act, unless you decide to start them with 2 instead, but sometimes you may never get a dramatic scene.

But if you have a guaranteed Possibility award for each dramatic scene, that keeps the Possibilities flowing in a consistent manner. If the players want Possibilities before that happens, then they have to play cosm cards. And if they run out during the dramatic scene, they'll have to consider the cosm cards as well.
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Atama
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby Atama » Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:12 am

ZorValachan wrote:I have players that will play every single Cosm card that gives any amount of Possibilities as well as spend them for less-than-ideal rolls (like just trying to get a failure to be a success). or playing them at the worst possible time just to see what happens (ok, Pierre just rolled a mishap on a spell and summoned a demon, let me play a Cosm card to bring more threats in. That sounds like fun!"

That sounds like me. :) I’ve played Cosm cards that I knew were bad just because I wanted to see what would happen. The only time I don’t play them is when there doesn’t seem to be a situation where they would apply.
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pkitty
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby pkitty » Tue Feb 11, 2020 10:51 am

I try to hand out Possibilities very freely, and players use them freely as well. Yet this hasn't stopped them from playing Cosm cards to get more, because more is better. So the analysis isn't accurate as far as my group goes, but obviously every group will vary. I think my players also enjoy plot twists and having some control over the narrative, even if it's for the worse -- especially since they can save it for when they feel like the extra challenge wouldn't be too overwhelming.
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Zackzenobi
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby Zackzenobi » Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:29 pm

ZorValachan wrote:
I have 7 players in my main group and I never just give out Possibilities as suggested, it just really gives the group too many to work with. I also have a house rule that Cosm cards give the Possibilities of the Cosm for the ones we already have. They start with normal Possibilities, but if they are in LL and play a LL card, they get LL possibilities. The Destiny cards like Romance, Nemesis, etc. give normal Possibilities.


Love this idea! Stealing.

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Greymarch2000
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby Greymarch2000 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:49 pm

Generally I don't reward possibilities unless players do something that makes me weep with joy. Keeping the bar high stops things from getting out of control, and aside from the last Act in Revenge of the Carredon my group usually ends up with surplus possibilities at the end of an Act anyway.

I should add, my players love playing cosm cards, especially ones that make things more difficult for the other players. It's kind of turned into a game of oneupsmanship now.

Sword of Spirit
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Re: How do you balance GM awarded Possibilities with the value of Cosm Cards?

Postby Sword of Spirit » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:25 pm

Thanks all! Hearing the different ways it works in your groups really helps.

One thing that occurred to me is that the fact we've been doing the Day 1s probably has a big effect for one particular reason: The premade characters. Since the characters start as regular people, they aren't created with as much efficiency as a typical Storm Knight that a player will create. Also, my group is really good with cards. So essentially, while my players are good role-players, when it comes to the mechanics, they aren't playing the character sheets--they're playing the cards and Possibilities. They know that they can't count on the numbers on their sheet to do them much good, so it's Possibilities and cards for the win. This means that they need those Possibilities to pay the cost of cosm-cards that grant Possibilities. So for them, playing one of those cards is a risk that they might actually end up with a net negative effect.

I'm not totally comfortable with my idea of doubling the number of Possibilities that cosm-cards grant. Based on the experiences I'm hearing, I'm thinking I should probably just avoid giving out extra Possibilities (really make them work for them), so that they will rely on the cards more. Assuming they'll be playing with more mechanically efficient characters (and they will), they might start finding out that cosm-cards really are worth it.

And then, maybe, once they've mentally adjusted to the idea that cosm-cards are to be played, I can start being more generous with extra Possibilities.


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