AMA: GM Intrusions and Messing With Time

Surface Rlf says:
Hi Adam, very nice of you to provide this channel into your brain. :P

Gm intrusions... how about achieving them through gameplay itself. You mentioned a simple example of getting a sword knocked out of players hands so im going to stick with that (because its easy). How about it is done by some enemy or some monster in the game? Or an environmental event, or some artifact in another scenario or situation... and so on?

You also mentioned player being able to revert his latest action? Is that like some quick time travel backwards... like some kind of Prince of Persia sands of time mechanic - trick?
Just checking.

Great to hear that changing Foci will cost something - and even better hearing you dont like respecing... respeccing? (what an awful word too). I was afraid that might be included. 

GM Intrusions
A brief definition for those new to Numenera: GM Intrusions are a means for the GM of a Numenera game to spice up a situation by introducing a difficulty, without making the players feel like he's screwing them over just because. This is accomplished by giving players an out; if they accept the complication, they gain 2 XP, or they can refuse the intrusion by spending 1 XP.

In Torment, this is trickier to pull off because there is no GM and because intrusions have a way of reminding the player he's playing a game (a thing we'd rather not do in a CRPG).

Your suggestions, Surface, are pretty much along the lines of what we've been thinking. As I said in that interview, we haven't solidified how GM Intrusions will work in Torment yet, but we do have some goals that give us a framework:
  1. Intrusions should be cool (not "good," but cool), something the player wants to accept. Of course, giving them XP is a major part of this.
  2. Intrusions should change an encounter in interesting ways, not just make things harder for the sake of making things harder.
  3. Intrusions should be framed as complications arising from external events, not from the PC screwing up (pretty much what you said, Surface).
Some ideas we've had along those lines are things like: extra guards appearing, a bridge going down (changing the terrain and the tactics of an encounter), a Broken Hound confers a Diseased fettle in addition to their normal attack, an item turns out to have been misidentified doing something different from what the player thought it would, etc. Will these feel right? We won't know until we can prototype them and try them ourselves, but it's in the right spirit.

In my mind, the real hard part is not what the intrusions will be, but how they're presented to the player. We have yet to delve into that UI in depth.

Reverting an Action
(Surface's question here is in the context of the interview again, where I mentioned that the player might be able to spend XP to undo a recent action.)

The tabletop game doesn't explain how this mechanic works narratively, probably because it's easier to immerse yourself in a story told around a table. We haven't talked about how this will be explained in-game for Torment. It might not be explained at all, simply something you can do, just like how you can use "renown" in Banner Saga to purchase items and food.

But the way you describe is not out of the realm of possibility. Numenera does actually have an "Undo" ability that lets you do exactly what you describe, taking back a character's most recent action. For Torment, we're talking about additional abilities along these lines as well, ones that let you fiddle with time in interesting ways.

The Ninth World is a strange and magical place, where nanites live in the air and dirt, where mysterious forces can be called on by someone who knows what they're doing -- or even some people who don't. It's entirely possible that this XP mechanic is one such situation.

Got a question? Ask me anything.


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Um. Understood about a fifth of this. However, forwarded it to my resident gamer and fully expect him to geek out about it. :)

Sarah Ahiers said...

HAH! What Susan said ;)

Matthew MacNish said...

Can you work on coming up with an ability that allows me to "leap" through time until my work day is over? Or better, yet, a first draft?

Brice Chidester said...

One option for dealing with the possibility of intrusions reminding a player that they're playing a game is to detail *how* the player refuses the intrusion. In the tabletop game, it's pretty much "Yes, okay, I'll deal with it and take the XP" or "No, I'll spend an XP to avoid it."

But let's look at the example of extra guards appearing. The player could be presented with a choice:

"You see a set of guards crossing a rope bridge to join the fight. You know that fighting them will grant you more experience, but you could also spend an experience point to rush over and cut the ropes, taking them out of the fight."

That way the player is presented with an interesting choice rather than just a mechanical one. It could even work with the dropped the sword example:

"The sweat from the exertion of the fight causes your sword to begin to slip from your hands. Do you:

1) Let it fall, knowing that the experience you gain defending yourself without a sword will make up for the danger you place yourself in.

2) Draw upon a maneuver you learned in a esoteric fighting manual long ago to throw the sword in the air, dry your hand, and catch it before it hits the ground, knowing that you will be losing some of your karma."

Frankly, I think karma would be a better term for this kind of system than experience points, anyway. You can't "spend" an experience you've had, after all, but if there was such a think as karma, it would make sense that you could use some of the good karma you've built up to get yourself out of a jam, or get more karma by overcoming bad things that happen to you.

Surface Reflection said...

Just to clarify my GM intrusion related post a bit more:
- I simply meant that since we cannot have a true GM in the game, no matter how you try to implement it - you may as well mask such "GM intrusion" content and options or skill checks behind different gameplay effects, creatures, specific skills checks and other features, already in the game.

Sort of as addition to ongoing event the player is already involved with at the moment.

So, instead of GM intervening to try to "knock the weapon from your hand" in the middle of some fight - that would be done by an enemy you are fighting at that moment. Or that monster would suddenly get that "move".

Or you would suddenly get an additional option in exploration, notice something shining in the sands, or get an option to study that thin crack in some big rock or cliff face...- which may turn out to be nothing or something more, depending on how much effort you chose to spend on it, etc.

- You could practically design premeditated "surprises" of that sort, apropriately linked to specific loctaion, combat encounters, item, Numenera artifact, book of spells, or dialogue choice in some specific situation. That would get activated by specific things or player character stats, or specific companions, or choices.


Im not sure about reversing or negating actions though... seems like it could easily become too much. Even if there is a cost to it, like effort or XP.

Would kind of work against C&C structure or one of main pillars. I guess?

And even if its a highly SF-fantasy setting, such as this, such a power seems almost omnipotent, so it shouldn't be easily available, while questions about why no one else has it would prop up too...

Surface Reflection said...

I mean to say thats my suggestion on how to present that kind of features to the player. Meaning, no special prompts or warnings, or any Ui alerts or specific Ui additional elements would be needed.

Just have it applied though the game content, as naturally, unobtrusively and indirectly as you can. That would increase the surprise and unpredictability factors, for the players and work well with the rest of C&C stuff.

I dont think such things especially need to be called out to the player, as maybe they are in PnP session - but rather have them just happen, instead.
And then let the player react through usual mechanics he already has at disposal.

- Anyway, great to see youre on the similar track and love those suggestions you threw in too.

Completely agree on listed goals, as cool, interesting and based on external events or entities.
That will be sweeeet.

Adam Heine said...

@Brice and @Surface: Those ideas are awesome. Filing them away for when I get back to designing these.

Surface Reflection said...


Thats the best idea i can come up with anyway.

Great to be able to help in any way.

Surface Reflection said...

Hey, glad i could help. To tell you the truth, ive started with Fallout (2 to be more exact), not with any PnP games and... over time ive come to see Fallout games (all two of them) as a certain point in the development and evolution of games, where... what was supposed to be an attempt to simulate PnP gameplay actually found its own place, its own value and ... home.
So.. i basically think that true cRPg games of this kind should rather try to expand on that, then still attempt to actually simulate PnP and its core, main feature of human gamemaster interventions.

That is simply not possible in computer games - and therefore shouldn't be attempted at all, in a sense of creating something that would affect the game in the completely same way a human game master would.

In other words, the game doesn't really need to actually simulate a human guiding it - because it literally and absolutely cannot.
Rather, it should use its own tools and expand on the mechanics discovered and created in Fallout games and Planescape Torment.
(all respect to some older games that discovered the same territory, but i think Fallout games and PST really opened up that frontier and whole new country)