Monday Lab: [AA]IIEE[EE]!

Intent, Initiation, Execution, Effect – fictional things, probably the single most direct fictional content to be interfaced with real-people speaking and using rules, in the hobby. In a recent dialogue with Zac Porcu, he called it “the beating heart of role-playing.”

Briefly: design zone 1 is to establish a linear order and then to carry it out. It includes possible random factors for the order itself, and scattered patch-methods to include reactivity. Design 2 is to establish specific or general outcomes and then to narrate how it got that way later, including the order of what happened. That one includes possible mix-it-up means for who’s talking.

My own design work has touched both, but through an orthogonal or oblique vector, placing random factors and the role of (for instance) stating Intent into non-typical places. I wouldn’t mind seeing some other eyes on what I’ve done, and I don’t mind at all stating that most RPG design this very day has remained rudimentary, at best all too embedded in one of the zones and at worst simply bad. Let’s see if that gets the conversation going.

Here are the original threads from lonnnng ago: The four steps of action (for Ron) and What is IIEC? It was especially nice to have Manu, whom you’ll see in those, present in the recorded Lab conversation. Probably the most explicit application at the Forge came in Frostfolk, carrying on, beginning with the words COMPLEX CONFLICT in the middle of one of my posts.
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15 responses to “Monday Lab: [AA]IIEE[EE]!”

  1. How they sequence in the comics

    Granted comics are a completely different medium from table top roleplay, I thought it might be informative to look at how actions aree sequenced in superhero comic books.

    I had a close look how character action is sequenced in panels of two comic books from 1979: Avengers #89 and Uncanny X-Men #117. In a fight, panels almost always feature one hero attacking the threat — there's rarely a third part involved in a given panel. When a single big threat is introduced, each hero will have a go at it — one panel of initiating and one of result. This often results in the big threat stunning or knocking aside each hero in succession. Other villain minions then joined the fight and each heer engaged individually with each lesser threat, so we never got to see coordination against the big guy. There were one or two panels where, when you think about it, it looks like the heroes in the background are just standing in astonishement while a powerful opponent gets away or makes some progress in their plan. 

    That sort of thing just doesn't happen in the RPG I've played. If the players are a team, they are all  over an individual threat.

    If one were to recreate this sequencing in an RPG, I wonder if the players would feel it was too restrictive? 

    • And perhaps that isn't the question. Would it be worth playtesting a system that sequences like that? Does the Circle of Hands system produce that effect (it might, but I haven't played it yet.)

    • I made a video to reply: Champions Now Contingency. I was interrupted a couple times while filming, so brilliantly managed entirely to fail addressing your specific examples. I put in a note where I had them in mind to talk about … And it's more of a "well, here are the issues as I see them," rather than a definite answer. But the answer itself is a primary design consideration of the work in progress, and has been from the start.

    • X-men 117 is not actually a good example — my bad

      Just in case someone reads this and wonders. My mistake for not thinking more while I was writing. Avengers #89 though is where I got most of the commentary I made.

    • I was wondering about that.

      I was wondering about that. The violence in that X-Men issue is mainly Charles Xavier and Amahl Farouk sitting in a bar staring at each other. So good, I'm not missing something.

      editing this in: I'm pretty sure you mean Avengers #189, which is from 1979.

  2. Well heck! I thought I filtered for 1979 when I went looking for samples, but it looks like my Marvel online history says it was #89 from 1971. It's the issue where Vision and other Avengers at first run into the fugutive Captain Marvel, then help him escape the law. It shows the "each of us charges up to the opponent in sequence and gets beat down" pattern. As does #90 where they battle Intergalactic Sentry 459.

    • Oh well, guessed wrong, given your emphasis on the year.

      You're right considering the fight against Annihilus, but on the other hand, we're talking about a classic Arrogant Greater Being sequence of an overwhelming single foe. Yes, Buscema is making that happen simply by leaving out any pre-action "who can get there" positioning information, and showing effects. Even those effects are pretty vague, like what that chest beam actually does beyond throwing everyone around with grimaces.

      In this case, too, we're talking about two other relevant points: first, that Thomas' pet hero, the Vision, effortlessly beats Annihilus with his surprise-you intangibility; and second, that the entire point of the scene is merely to distract the Avengers so Mar-Vell can zoom off in the quinjet. In role-playing terms? A railroad. The parallel in media, down the very same techniques (confusion about positioning and timing) could not be more perfect if we tried.

      Speaking as a dedicated reader, I surmise that Thomas, like Claremont later, wasn't very interested in the fights-plus-drama as Lee was. Therefore the physical drama of his titles was mainly left to the artists' desires of the moment. His Avengers are kind of a textbook in this regard, moving from the reliably-storytelling but overbooked and therefore efficient Sal Buscema (whom I like, so don't misunderstand me about that) to the young, hungry, and ambitious Neal Adams just a couple issues later.

  3. (I’m catching up with older videos.) What impressed me about this discussion is how far IIEE goes – you guys ended up touching upon a lot of topics I never realized were related to, or part of it. Scene framing and the Bounce come to mind. I think it’s all very clear when Ron says “These old games do work, but take a look at how complicated they get.”

  4. The idea of using IIEE and positioning as railroading tools is interesting. I am not sure if I have seen it, but certainly worth observing next time I play something traditional at a convention.

    • I’ve been thinking about this too, having observed play in which the GM used primarily [I]+[IEE] and the players used (or were interpreted by the GM to be using) primarily [IIE]+[E]. Meaning, the GM could describe all sorts of prior action and contextual things after the roll’s effect is known, whereas the players were locked down into specific, unalterable activity prior to the roll and the roll only determined whether and how much the effect occurred.

  5. I have two techniques, or maybe it is a continuum, that I use with many games.

    1. With games that resolve a lot with a single roll I tend to assume charitably that characters can participate. Maybe with some penalty if it is reaching.

    2. With games that resolve smaller, more atomic actions, I notice myself going into a specific mode when things start happening – to the extent that characters’ positioning is vague, we find out of it, figure out where everyone is and what they are doing, and then the giant spider tries to bite the third in line.
    The purpose is not for the player to argue that their character is in this desirable position, but rather honestly consider their intuitive understanding of the fiction and declare what they see. If this does not work, we dice it out.
    After this process, we can then play the situation proper.
    If there is just three player characters, their positioning is often sufficiently clear, but if there is eight and a dozen mercenaries too, there is no way anyone is keeping track of that all the time.

    Ideally the second happens before the IIEE is engaged at all, when someone notices that something is about to happen and that positions are not clear, but everything does not always go ideally.

    • Now that I think of this, confusing these two once caused some friction. Burning wheel was the game and the other player was used to FATE. PVP and they narrated that their character has company with them, which, in Burning wheel, is relevant for what one can do, giving at least bonus dice, whereas in FATE it could have been more of a colour statement, I guess. I no longer remeber at what point of IIEE the soldiers were introduced, but I remember feeling kind of miffed at the move.

    • You might be interested in my recent comment at Johann’s post, which presents a more developed version of the concept. IIEE, as always, refers to the fictional components of any character doing anything, and in that comment (based on many comments which I’m not citing) I present a second set of symbols to show the real-person activities of resolving anything. The two sets work together very well to break down how consequential activity is conceived and played for a given game + group.

  6. One more comment, now that I listened to the entire thing: the point about a static turn structure not really allowing interfering with others, and thereby making complex situations with many actors and goals much less interesting, is really good. Something to pay attention to, for sure.

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