Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Modeling Conflict: The Role of Will

A little bit ago (as this was supposed to go up last week), Rob Donoghue posted bit on Why Anime Conflict is Hard. And while I responded there, it did get at something I've been looking for in games since I was introduced to the idea that something beyond mere skills and natural abilities might affect a conflict.

The earliest incident that I was introduced to was probably White Wolf's willpower. Where your drive to succeed, you will, could actually make you better at a skill. Heroquest for all that it is a horrible system for what I actually want out of a game, is wonderful in the conceptualization - where Death Ray at 16 is just as useful as Love for my Family at 16. Where what you might feel for a person, place, or thing might be as useful as what you know what to do, or what natural ability you were born with. Unknown Armies had the three passions - Fear, Anger, and Noble. So on and so forth.

But to bring this back to the post - how do you quantify Will? How do quantify someone wanting something more (and it still, maybe not being enough).

White Wolf probably has it best - Willpower gives you more dice to throw, which generally changes the odds. A trick might be to adjudicate how many willpower points you are willing to spend. Normally you can only spend 1 willpower; however, if something you care about (like your life) is threatened you can spend 2 willpower; and ultimately, if it is something that you are willing to die to protect, you can spend 4 willpower. 

Fate allows something similar, where you can always spend a fate point for a +1; but if you have an aspect related, you can get a +2 or a reroll.

The other alternative is "What are you willing to risk?" If a mechanic could somehow push the results up a notch, but let you keep trying to succeed. However, that gets back into conflict resolution on a scene level; where the conflict is resolved and you get to determine how you succeeded. And unfortunately, that's why a lot of books/anime/movies are best resolved at the scene resolution level rather than on a task by task basis, because it is so very hard to come up with a system that can do this sort of thing on a task level.

So what's my ideal? A system that factors in the why as much as the what. That normally, everyday things are just some roll of the dice. However, when things really, truly matter, then you can accomplish amazing feats. However, especially in the nature of fighting anime, I still want someone who is merely rolling base dice, if they are good enough, to be able counteract all that will; it should not be will alone.

White Wolf's Willpower allows for some of that; unfortunately, the pool refreshes too slowly/is to limited for much of what I want. Something to ponder as I continue working on things in my brain. Because yes, of course, I am trying to build the perfect system for me.


  1. I feel the same way about this. In the system I'm tinkering with I have a concept of "things a PC is invested in" which can affect resolution when those things are involved. It has repercussions for other parts of the mechanics as well.

    But I'm with you. I've always wanted to be able to model that "something" in stories that lets the younger, less experienced hero win out just by sheer will and determination. But since I'm less "mechanics for stuff" inclined I've struggled with the issue.

    WW style Willpower isn't bad -- you're right that it refreshes too slowly and too awkwardly -- but it's still a simple, straightforward bonus with the fluff of being Will.

    I'm sure there is still a better way. Now, just to find it...

  2. Unfortunately, all my solutions are mechanics, but well that's how I think. :)

    I think my additional issue with willpower is that 1) it isn't reliable, not a huge deal, but I like the idea that is at least semi-reliable.

    I think, using WW as the analogy, what I would have would be the standard Willpower stat generated the usual way giving you a number between 2-10; as well as each of your relationships/connections giving you additional willpower points to spend, cumulative, when that connection is engaged, whether by threat or by direct challenge (Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.)