I am wondering how useful flags might be in a 1v1 game. From what I’ve been reading, flags are primarily meant to encourage interaction between players and characters. Do you suppose there is much to be gained from the GM invoking flags for a solitary player, via NPC and followers?
I don’t entirely agree with the assessment that flags are there to encourage interactions between players and (other players’) characters. In fact, my original exposure to the concept (aside from reading Tenra Bansho Zero) was probably Bankuei, here or here or one of his related posts on the topic, where they are presented entirely as cues for the GM to use crafting the game. While other players CAN use the information contained in flag mechanics (and it will generally make the game better if they do) they are not ‘primarily’ intended for use by other players, who in general have less ability to steer the game.
So yes, I think they’re quite valuable, because they provide a clear way for a player to steer the game in the direction they want it to go. If the GM sees a character show up with a flag-type-thing that says “I have sworn never to kill again.” then it’s probably a safe bet that that player is looking to get that character into situations where they might be tempted to kill. That’s guidance for the GM.
Yeah, I’ll second Airk here. A flag is a clear way to communicate things between players. But, you might say, can’t a 1-on-1 player-GM setup just involve regular communication? Sure, but sometimes communication is hard, and flags make it much easier. They prod you to define things clearly and concisely, and can get you thinking about the things that you want.
One point that stands out to me is that flags don’t really approach inter-character history, as with bonds.
For example: I dont see how the bond from the Bard, “I sang stories of _______ long before I met them in person”, is addressed by any of the flags.
I can see the role of flags, if you’re looking for future opportunities. However, it seems to me the durable value of bonds lies in building pre-existing ties between characters. If you have players looking for reasons to build connections, it seems to me that bonds are the better place to begin.
Does that mean that flags should not be used? No. Perhaps the question should be, “at what point do I leave bonds, having established inter-character ties, and move on to flags?”.
Bonds and flags are mostly unrelated. It looks like you have a very specific situation where they intersect, something like “how come the party still hangs together after the home village of X has been saved”. In any case, flags are always valuable (and I think in the first article Bankuei goes too far ruling out skills as flags, invoking a no true scotman X no perfect-solution argument, namely that when flags don’t resolve all difficulties in communicating agendas, they are not flags, which he needed to avoid flaggoid proliferation but is in fact invalid).
I can’t really agree with skills as flags. There are too many reasons someone might decide to take a high skill in a thing. It’s not “one true Scotsman” to say “You can’t really tell why someone decided to take a high skill, and the whole point of flags is that you can tell what the player wants.”
@QiMike – I don’t think it’s that clearcut. Flags absolutely CAN be bond type things. "Fierce rivalry with " is an absolutely legit flag in many games. Heck, in TBZ, which is one of my original experiences with flags, everyone is almost required to make up a flag like that early on. I’m tempted to say that bonds are a subset of flags, but some bonds don’t actually tell you much about anything, so that doesn’t really work, so I guess I’m going to agree with DeReel that they’re basically unrelated and serve different purposes overall, though they can overlap.