Monday, August 22, 2011

The Kybosh house rule

A friend is playtesting TOEM in a classroom setting. He came up with the term PROCON to identify the phase in which all are invited to provide PROs and CONs to an argument. More interestingly, there are a few innovations that are worth thinking through further. One of them is what I'll call the Kybosh rule:

The Kybosh house rule
Following the submission of an initiative, the referee tallies the number of PRO and CON that are rejected. When three such PROCONs are rejected, the PROCON phase terminates and the initiative is resolved.
This rule tackles the problem arising with hair splitting for PROCON.  The most significant PROCONs are more likely to be itemized first. When the PROCON devolves into a laundry list of unacceptable facts/arguments, this is probably because nothing of value will be added to the discussion.

How to break the game with this rule

  1. The conch holder proposes an initiative with a number of PROs and three lousy CONs. The result is that no one gets to contribute valid CONs.  
This can be circumvented by letting everyone talk and resolving all PROCON as a batch. A complete PROCON brainstorm ensures that all who wanted to talk either have talked, or intentionally passed. 

Final draft of proposed house rule
A full round of PROCON implies that all who wanted to contribute are given the chance. First, all PROCON from the conch holder and considered. Then, the referee tallies the number of PRO and CON from other players that are rejected. When three such PROCONs are rejected, the PROCON phase terminates and the initiative is resolved. Further rounds of PROCON may be allowed otherwise.


  1. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to hide the resolution mechanism once Fran├žois and I do a live session in class. On one hand, the resolution mechanic seems simple enough to understand. It adds a gamist element that is usually highly motivating. On the other hand, some people--those not carrying the gamer gene--get lost really quickly. As always, the expressions on the faces of any flag officers present is pretty important, too.

    In any case, I anticipate having to motivate PROCON rigorously. This will require some pedagogical finesse, especially if I strike down a PROCON out of hand. I'm thinking that I'll mine the situation for all that it's worth and then I'll raise the possibility of striking anything obnoxious to the central argument.

    Can we please call this final discussion "NOCON"? (I kid, I kid).

  2. Hidden mechanics was the original motivation as I started to use a related system in SadrCity MBX. I guess that fully blackboxing would mean that you ask a player for an action and an outcome, open the floor for discussion (PROCON), then silently strike off PROCONs, perform the dice roll and use the "Blame rule" as much as possible to provide feedback on the impact of PROCON on the outcome. Paring down the PROCONs out loud help the players in understanding what you are looking for... but yes, it may be asking for too much in some cases.