Author Topic: Meaningful Strengths: "I Can" vs "You Can't"  (Read 55 times)


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Meaningful Strengths: "I Can" vs "You Can't"
« on: August 08, 2018, 12:57:27 AM »
So, with the Vytal Festival going on and a bunch of PvP fights taking place, I got to thinking about game design and interactions.  So, I figured I'd take an opportunity to share some of my thoughts and let other people decide if they're relevant. 

So to start off, I'm going to describe two encounters, one that I think is interesting and one that I find uninteresting.  The first encounter starts off with Character A and Character B controlled by Player A and Player B, respectively, and the following dialogue occurs.

Player A:  Character A does this!
Player B:  Well, Character B responds by doing that!
Player A:  Character A reacts to Character B by using his ability!
Player B:  Then Character B will use his ability to counter Character A!

In this scenario, both Character A and Character B act and react in response to their opponent, and have the means to do so.  Now let's look at the other scenario which looks very similar to the first on the surface.  There is still Player A and Player B controlling their characters, but their interaction is very different.

Player A:  Character A uses his ability!
Player B:  Character B responds by doing this!
Player A:  He can't do that, my character used his ability.
Player B:  Oh, well then Character B will do thi--
Player A:  Nah, can't do that either.
Player B:  Then maybe--
Player A:  Nope
Player B:  What can he do?
Player A:  Not much.  Run, maybe?

Now, of those two interactions, which one seemed like the more interesting one?  Because, from my point of view, the second one was bogged down by Character B's inability to meaningfully respond to Character A in any shape or form, while the first dialogue involved constant action and reaction taking place between the two characters.  Essentially, the first interaction was made more exciting by "I can" abilities while the second was ground to a halt by a "You can't" ability.  Obviously, this was taken to the extreme, there's almost always something that can be done most of the time; but I think my point is clear: "You can't" abilities rob agency from other characters and make interactions less dynamic as a result.

Now, to some of you, this may seem obvious, especially when given in a context like this.  But if you take a look through my characters' profiles, I'm pretty certain you'll see at least one "You can't" ability.  And if you look through the Vytal Festival fights, I'm sure you can find one fight where said ability made the fight uninteresting, if not two.  And the reason those fights are uninteresting is because that ability robbed the opponent of potential options.  Because said options were denied, they were put at a tremendous disadvantage. All because I pushed a button that did a certain thing. 

Now, does my character have weaknesses?  Of course!  A "You Can't" ability is not in and of itself almighty.  It simply lacks engagement.  They deny opportunities instead of creating new ones.  Similarly, "I Can" abilities aren't necessarily weaker than "You Can't" abilities.  But, "I Can" abilities give something to react to.  For instance, "I can shoot a bullet of ice that will freeze you in place!"  "Oh man, it hit me.  I try and break the ice with brute strength and continue my charge!" 

Anyways, I have more thoughts on the matter, but if I write any more, this'll end up being nothing more than a ranting stream-of-consciousness post.  So for now, I'll leave it here. 
Smokey Emberstone--1st year Beacon Student and the Immovable Gunslinger of Team BSSM"I've got more than enough firepower to beat you" "You've only got one bullet!" "Like I said, more than enough"

Aurelia Lumen Beacon 3rd year and the Warhorse of Team (TBD)  "Lay down your weapons, lest you wish to taste my steel!"


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Re: Meaningful Strengths: "I Can" vs "You Can't"
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 02:14:10 AM »
Both situations seem remarkably similar only situation 2 involves out of character bickering. The issue is in most situations 'Cans' imply 'Can'ts,' which may be a bit confusing so I'll try to use Calen and Smokey as an example, this isn't shade I'm just trying to point out the binary we operate in makes it difficult to value can>can't.

Action1: Calen activates his semblance to try to smash Smokey into the ice below them both
Action2: Smokey uses his semblance to negate the impact, physical force not damage, of the attack.

So you see how Smokey activating his semblance, something he can do means that Calen can't interact meaningfully retroactively.

Now the issue of too powerful abilities constraining play is something else which we also need to tackle.
No criticism is too harsh so hit me with your best shot.

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Re: Meaningful Strengths: "I Can" vs "You Can't"
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 09:50:06 AM »
You illustrate some really good principles on the mechanics of RP here. Fair warning, I may just borrow your terminology for future use!  ;D

Having a background in PvP RP (or Sparring as it used to be known) I know exactly what you're getting at here. It's part of the reason I ended up moving away from verses RPs and into more general / adventure focused RPs; it is just too easy for things to devolve into arguing, when realistically RP (even PvP RP) works best when treated more as a dance with cooperating partners rather than a duel between opposed forces. 'You Can't' abilities definitely steer things towards the latter.

I've always found that it's best to build characters with a counterbalance for every significant strength, especially anything that strays into 'You Can't' territory. A character with exceptionally high defense can, for example, have very low offensive capabilities or a condition / usage limit on their defense; a character with high attack can be balanced by having them focus their aptitudes towards either ranged or melee, and so one and so forth. Given that 'You Can't's are more frequently defensive than offensive, building in conditions and limiters really is a must to avoid godmodding / powergaming -- as in your example, if the other character's only effectual option is to run away when the ability is used then something is fundamentally off.
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Re: Meaningful Strengths: "I Can" vs "You Can't"
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 12:40:04 PM »
Player A is a cunt. Just throwing it out there.

I'd also like to state that I think the only reasonable way to use a you can't ability that I can think of would be a counter to an extremely niche ability (e.g. Sandy kinda fucks over anyone trying to use stealth) or at least needs to be difficult to excecute and be up to the opponent whether or not they take it. (e.g. Revya needs all 5 projectiles to connect before his paralysis will work.) or take multiple posts of set up so that the opponent has enough time to prevent getting something locked down.
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