Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Gentle Art of Deal-Breaking

More than 8 years ago James McClellan (aka Legbiter) wrote this insightful piece on the making (and breaking) deals in VtES. The original piece appeared in the Gangrel Antitribu Newsletter October 2000, and it was later republished on Xian's VtES website.
The Gentle Art of Deal-Breaking by James McClellan

A recent topic of conversation on the newsgroup was all about making and breaking deals, the extent to which retaliation was wise and should be taken, and so on. I don't think any real consensus was reached but some quite interesting points were raised and an entertaining time was had by all, or at any rate by me, especially when I came across the post which said that sometimes deal-breaking should be mandatory. And since the not-so-gentle Rob Treasure has been talking about the related matter of agitation in his excellent Ventrue Newsletter I thought I would just say a few words more about how to make and break deals in VTES.

I'd better preface my remarks by saying that this is one area of the game where not only do I lack the basic skills but I even know that I lack them. I well remember being dealt out of victory in the first final my ToGP deck got to when Rob, my predator, somehow persuaded Pierre, his predator, that his [Pierre's] interests would best be served by a cross- table rush against me. I think even Rob felt a bit guilty about that one and in fact we tied the final, Rob winning the tournament overall on his performance in the heats. However, not being able to do something is no excuse for not commenting on it, as any follower of English cricket or football or whatever is well aware, so here is what I think about making and breaking deals.

Never make a deal that isn't going to give you a solid advantage. Usually this will mean an advantage in the game, and by VTES rules it may not involve non-game components, which basically means no bribery, but there are solid reasons for making deals which give you no VP for the game. The best example of a deal of this kind is one which buggers up a deck you can't deal with so that, for instance, it doesn't get to the final. There are others, but I'm not making this point to go over the ground of what isn't or is a legal deal in Jyhad: I'm making it because if your deals aren’t good for you then you are being stupid, and that means you will get used by more-skilled players. If your deals always blow up on you then don't make deals at all; the other players may think you are stupid not to make any deals, but if you make crappy deals then they will know you are stupid, which is much worse. A good way to do this is to pretend that you have forgotten how to speak whatever language you normally use; alternatively you may find that you urgently need to go to the bathroom whenever the subject of deals comes up. Learning an uncontrollable stammer, brought on by the stress of deal-consideration, can also be a good tactic.

Never break a deal unless it gives you the game right away. Again, I'm not making a moral point here, and in fact I'm not even making a new point. If you break a deal but leave your opponents alive they will get a chance to retaliate, which will bugger you up and, much more seriously, make you look stupid. If you break a deal and win you will get some sour looks and may lose important chances to copulate with attractive members of the individually-preferred but usually opposite gender, but nobody will think you are stupid for breaking the deal. In short, your reputation as a Good Player will be enhanced, and this may actually make it more likely that people will deal with you in the future - or as Machiavelli put it, it is better to be Feared than Loved. All of which leads on to the final point I want to make:

Be wary of making deals with stupid people. If somebody is a poor deal-maker it's quite likely that they are also a poor card-player and deck-builder, which means that even with the best will in the world they may not actually be capable of fulfilling their side of any proposed deal. On the other hand, you can sometimes make quite spectacularly brilliant deals [for you, anyway] with people who are poor at dealing, especially if they have cross-table abilities like politics or combat in their deck, and even more so if they think VTES is an RPG in the same sense as VtM. As Rob hints in his newsletter, the way to do this is often to start off by coaching them [in-game, of course] on how to play their deck properly, and then once you've helped them to some modicum of success you propose or even better acquiesce to some utterly ridiculous deal.

In summary, therefore, I suggest that making and breaking deals is a skill. Deploying this skill is part of your growth as a VTES player, and you need to do it right, or not at all, because your reputation as a skilled player is of tremendous long-term value to you.

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