Stakes Aren’t Broken…

…but some players are.

(Crossposted to: http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=1312)

I was incredibly underwhelmed by the recent stakes-discussions. I saw a lot of problems that some people were having, that I weren’t. So I didn’t get anything out of them. If you did, that’s groovy by me.

So anyway, today I sat down to play the Mountain Witch with a GM I’d never gamed with before, and two people who I’d only gamed with once. (So there’s definitely some unfamiliarity here.)

“This game doesn’t use stakes,” one of them said.

“Bwuh?” Was my response. “This is a classic example of a stake using game.”

“Ah, but according to Important Sounding People On The Internet
*, you’ve been doing stakes wrong.” (*It is unlikely that these were his exact words. But the accusation was there: that *I*, specifically, was unenlightened about the true nature of stakes, because I hadn’t read some threads on the Forge/Story Games, even though I had but that’s not really the point.)

He went on to explain something that wasn’t stakes at all as an example of what he thought I had thought stakes might be, and that it was wrong*. And I said, “yeah, I know. Stakes are just the outline of what you want.” (*He didn’t use the term, but his point could have been reduced to ‘This Game Doesn’t Use Hedged Stakes.’)

“An Important Indie-Industry Person* says you should think of them as ‘goals,’ not ‘stakes'” another one suggested, as if the word we used made any difference. (*Again, probably not an exact quote.)

So no, I am not brain-damaged about stakes. I have read the rulebook, I know what is permitted, and I realize that some people out there, who aren’t me, are getting a little gonzo with their stake-setting and its eating into the narration. I don’t appreciate blanket accusations that stakes are bad. (Not to imply that this is the point of many people involved in ongoing stake-threads, but its a perception that seems to have gotten picked up.)

And the guys? We went on to have a stake-filled session. (And apologies if any of you feel that you’re unfairly portrayed here, it was a fun time. I kid because I love.)

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4 thoughts on “Stakes Aren’t Broken…

  1. Daniel says:

    The problem with stakes isn’t so much how they’re used, but with how they’re often described. I mean, the thing you do in Dogs is stakes and it’s well described, but boy did my players fuck it up for a while at the beginning. I think a lot of that is because they didn’t read the same book I did (I was teaching them the procedures of play) and because I wasn’t comfortable enough telling them to shut the fuck up.

    So yeah, I don’t think anyone’s saying “All stakes are bad, down with stakes!” (Well, maybe some people are, but that’s not what’s important.) What’s important is that the concept of stakes, regardless of what you call them, needs to be explicitly described in the games using them so that people don’t fall into the trap my players did and make the game less fun.

    I think that maybe a couple of the people in your discussion group (maybe including you) were reading too much into that Story Games thread. And it sounds like someone might have been wrongfully pointing a finger at you. I’ve never seen you use stakes (or whatever the hell we want to call them for this discussion) poorly.

    Regards,
    Daniel

  2. Tim says:

    This was the conversation that happened while I was at the front door getting the pizza, right? lol

    I think I came in at the end and told Len, the GM, to think of stakes as goals, if the term “stakes” was vague or confusing to him.

  3. Victor says:

    On some level, all games have stakes. In D20: If I make this roll my sword hits and then I get to roll damage. Or, if I make this roll, the GM has to give me some information I’m looking for. It’s just spelled out in the rules every time.

  4. Rahvin says:

    I too didn’t get anything out of that Forge discussion and I couldn’t help but wonder if my “stakes” and their “stakes” were the same thing, because I don’t see the problems they do.

    Their examples in the discussion with either ludicrously extreme or else irrelevent.

    I learned stakes from Burning Wheel (thanks to Willow), and so I can’t help but wonder if maybe their discussions don’t apply to me since they were mentioning games made prior to Burning Wheel.

    The most ingenious discussion of stakes in Burning Wheel comes from asking, “Why do you want to do that?” to get players away from task-oriented thinking. That’s just genius. I use that far more often than “What is your intent?” or “What are the stakes?”

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