The Magic of 7-9: Paul Holds Court 2/3
In post 1/3, Paul Taliesin asked for specifics about my comment on “the magic of 7-9,” which apparently Judd Karlman thinks is now a Paul B cliche (it is). Here are my current thoughts on why I say that.
First off, 7-9 “yes but” results don’t start magical. Not at all. They’re just procedural, a nifty way to produce mixed outcomes. It’s good basic tech, and if your craft doesn’t extend beyond procedural mastery, sweet, you’re still good to go.
But in my games, at some point they become magical. Like, they show up at just the right time for maximum impact. And I can totally disclaim that impact! Look, it’s not me delivering the killing blow. It’s the dice. Such magic. Wow.
I think what’s actually happening, if you want to get really boring and deconstructionist about it, is that I’m setting situations up so that when a 7-9 comes up, I’ve got an amazeballs outcome that goes well beyond the procedure itself.
I think another thing that makes 7-9s magical for me is that I love me a good O. Henry style ironic twist. Why beat down the players with punitive 6 misses that feel like failure when I can let them feel like, oh wow, you almost got everything you want but fuuuuuck you.
Hey, look, the dice. It’s the dice.
Don’t blame me.
In our haunted carnival AW game, the heartbreaking, perfect 7-9 was the battlebabe making a mad dash, literally acting under fire, to reach his lover Mice. He gets to her! And one of their more likeable NPCs is the one who shoots her dead upon his arrival.
I mean it came as no great surprise. Mice’s hardhold and her gang, the Patriots, have been ambushed and outmaneuvered by Hugo and his brutal alliance of scavenger gangs. She’s on the run: another roll, a miss in fact, put her at the Driver’s main ride, gun out, first demanding a ride and then happily accepting the Driver’s show of friendship.
And that came as no surprise because I’d asked the Battlebabe all kinds of leading, investing questions along the way via Open Your Brain (which will be post 3/3 in the Paul B Holds Court series, coming next).
So what I’m basically saying is, I lay lots of groundwork leading up to the brutal delivery of a 7-9, and just waited until the roll happened. Because they roll a lot of dice in my game. The odds are entirely in my favor that a timely roll will give me my 7-9 and I’ll have already paved the way toward executing it.
I also like 7-9s more than misses because it feels like you got so close to everything you wanted, you know? A miss is a miss. I’ve been working hard at backing off the sting of a miss, because gosh it’s easy for me to treat them like FAILURE. Which they don’t have to be. So my “MC punches you in the gut” moments land on 7-9s, not 6es.
Keeping my powder dry for the 7-9s is what I mean when I say I use them to “close a thread” in the previous post. It’s not a good phrase because obvs nothing is “closed.” What I really meant was what I said above: dreaming up the best, most wrenching twist and filing it away.
Make sense? I feel a little like I’m explaining not just the punchline, but the craft (timing, reincorporation, repeating motifs) involved in delivering it for maximum effect.
Next: The Maelstrom