The Dog of Tichu

Oh the ever loyal Dog.  Your simple function is to pass the lead to your partner.  Of course you must first have the lead.  Below are a few stratagems, many of which are rather self-evident.  After all the Dog is not that complicated of a card.

Never…

  • Pass the Dog to your partner if your hand is terrible.
  • Play the Dog if your partner has not called (Grand) Tichu and has yet to play a card.

Always…

  • Play the Dog if your partner has called Tichu.
  • Keep the Dog if your partner has called (Grand) Tichu.
  • Doggedly fight for the lead against your opponents if your partner called Grand Tichu and you have the Dog.

Consider Carefully…

  • Before you play a card and have received the Dog from your partner…
  • for your partner may be wishing to call Tichu
  • Before you play a card and have passed the Dog to your partner…
    • for your partner will be assuming that you will call Tichu
  • Before you pass the Dog to the opponent who called (Grand) Tichu…
    • for your opponents may go out 1st and 2nd.
  • Before you leave the Dog as your last play…
    • for what looks to be a “lay down hand” may be undone by a well timed bomb.
  • When you receive the Dog from an opponent…
    • for they may be working to weaken your hand.

    Apocalyptic Casting of the Pods

    I’ve decided to again start listening to game-related podcasts. Last week, I listened to a Dresden Files playthrough and an Apocalypse World playthrough by The Walking Eye.  I’m splitting my attention between the remaining Walking Eye podcasts and the backlog of Fear the Boot podcasts (I had previously stopped around episode 38).  I’ll probably cycle in some of the PodgeCast.

    I found the playthrough games by the Walking Eye to be extremely engaging.  Each system is given five sessions of approximately 2 hours each.  In both cases, both Apocalypse World and Dresden Files has a well defined “First Session” for character creation.  The benefit is that, as a listener, I’m drawn into the collaborative story.  They proceed to play 3 sessions followed by a final episode in which they review the game.  And as an added perk, they are usually able to interview the game designer as a bonus episode.

    Listening to the Apocalypse World character creation, play through, review, and interview helped me better understand the buzz around Apocalypse World; Not just because of its “harsh” language and definition of the effects of sex with other characters, but because there is something ingenious within the pages of this game.

    D. Vincent Baker, the designer of Apocalypse World, has meticulously deconstructed the meta-roles of a role-playing game (i.e. GameMaster and non-GameMaster Player) and constructed a system that explicitly states exactly what each player can and must do. Thus the GameMaster can unabashedly cheer for the players while also being informed, by the rules, that it is their job to make hard moves against the players.

    Let’s look at the following player move:

    When you try to seize something by force, or to secure your hold on something, roll+hard. On a hit, choose options. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 2:

    • you take definite hold of it
    • you suffer little harm
    • you inflict terrible harm
    • you impress, dismay or frighten your enemy

    The player chooses the action to initiate, then based on success gets to choose a few options, but not all of them.  On a 6 or less, the GM gets to make one of their moves, which will develop or advance the various threats.  Take a look at Conflict Rez: Lightning Fast from Thinking Outside The Red Box Set.

    All of this got me thinking about what the probability curve is for the various actions. So whipped up the following chart:

    Apocalypse World Probabilities for -3 to +3 bonuses

    So go ahead and give a listen to the Apocalypse World sessions by the Walking Eye, and listen to the corresponding interview with D. Vincent Baker.  It’s good stuff.

    Index for 2011 A to Z Challenge

    I finished the A to Z Challenge for April, and below is the index.

    Recapturing that Old Gaming Magic

    With the completion of the A-Z April Blogging Challenge, I find myself waxing philosophical about gaming. In particular I’ve been thinking about those fond memories of my first gaming sessions, and why they seem so magical.

    …but Jackie, I have a +5 Holy Avenger

    I always thought that I’d see an episode of “That 70s Show” where Kelso said “…but Jackie, I have a +5 Holy Avenger.” Granted, I haven’t seen every episode, but it was something that I thought would happen.

    This imagined excitement of Kelso reflects my early excitement about role-playing games; They were a means of stepping beyond my humble small-town and going on a grand quest.  My exposure was also at a time before video games, in particular the first person perspective games, were prevalent. In this way role-playing games were the only game in town.

    The games were something that I could fixate on, both while playing and not playing. While playing, I could immerse myself in the character I had created (or the story I was creating) and demonstrate my technical mastery of the rules. While “not playing” I could read into the surrounding fiction of the world (or build the world in which the story would happen) as well as delve deep into the rules.

    Which brings up the two components of role-playing: the Rules and there was the Narrative.

    The Rules

    The rules provided the constraints of what how things are framed and resolved. That is, how is a scene setup and played out to a point of resolution.  In most cases, there is a whole lot more to the rules (i.e. a character’s attributes and abilities).  The rules are where the mechanical complexities lie.  Will I choose the right tool for the job? Can I possibly overcome this obstacle?

    The Narrative

    The narrative component of the role-playing game is the part where sense of danger, wonderment, and humor reside.  Are we trying to prevent the army of the Red Hand from marching on the Nentir Vale?  Are we on the run in a stolen spaceship trying to eek out our place amongst the stars?

    Merging the Two

    The rules provide the skeleton on which the narrative can be fleshed out.  The rules model the world in which the narrative will occur.  If you want your story to have blasters, then you best make sure there are rules concerning blasters.  Conversely,  if there are rules concerning blasters, then it is a safe bet that there will be blasters in the story.  In this way, we have a feedback loop.  If there are rules for “leveling up a character” (i.e. the training montage) then you can bet there will be tougher and tougher adversaries. These two components are not necessarily at odds, but the rules system will steer the setting and style of play.

    Conclusion

    What I’m after in role-playing games is to recapture that sense of narrative immersion, but also the exploration of the underlying system on which the narrative was formed; What it was like to roll up my first character, then for better or worse, play the role of that character.  I want to participate in the collaborative story-telling process. Excitement is not found in rolling a dice, it is instead found in the narrative build up to the dice roll as well as the resulting consequences of the roll of the dice.

    This is why I’m so very excited about Diaspora, and it’s sibling Fate-based games (e.g. Dresden Files RPG, Legends of Anglerre, Starblazer Adventures, and Spirit of the Century).  The rules are very solid, but strongly encourage collaboration both in character building as well as during play.