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Title: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 04:24:26 PM
Hooray! After an intervening family vacation and a couple of other interruptions, Dan and Christopher and I reconvened for our second session of D&D 3.25. (Definition: I have one of each book and don't really trouble myself to check which is which when I look up a rule.)

For those who didn't tune in last time, the first thread about this game is [D&D 3.0/3.5] The kid two houses down (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19311.0). And uh, I got all snotty and planned to gyp my players of some XPs for two hyenas they didn't fight. But I realized other people were right and I was wrong, so hey, each character got 375 for the last session.

So what now? Well, remember, I'd actually prepped both a fight and a social situation for the first run, but the session was cut short pretty early and we barely manage to finish the fight. I had all my stuff with me for the social situation and extended it a little more, again with Clinton's help, and also with the help of the handy (and almost certainly obsolete character creation CD that came with my copy of 3.0.

Here's the situation. There is a land near the elves' home, where the people are friends to the elves and the main god is Hieronymous. Lord Khoros rules there, but his wife, Lady Khoros, has just died. Corin's human mother knew her, and he's come to the funeral on her behalf along with her other son, the half-orc Forin. Also, two religious types from the church of Hieronymous are there as an official presence, Vall and Joshua.

Corin: half elf, 2nd-level fighter, first level sorcerer, skills emphasize stealth
Forin: half orc, 3rd-level barbarian, skills emphasize rude pushy stuff
Voll: elf, 2nd-level paladin, 1st-level cleric, skills emphasize nature
Joshua: human, 2nd-level fighter, 1st-level cleric, skills are similar to Voll's but not identical

After their puzzling fight with the hyenas, I had them run a few Wilderness Lore and similar skills to find that the hyenas were out of their usual range and acting funny. They headed on to the lord's hall, and I pulled out a map I found somewhere, which we used for the rest of the session, just open on the table.

First scene: meeting the lord's son, the impetuous and rather pushy young Hathic; and Hathic's trouble-making, smarmy friend Eladd who seems to run things. All sorts of Diplomacy vs. Innuendo rolling commenced. The following scene with the confused, sleepy old lord put the characters into a fun position, as they tried to match their Diplomacy and other skills to the various Innuendos, Bluffs, and Sense Motives going on.

I didn't fully translate the rules into "social combat," for instance I didn't use Initiative but just had everyone say what they were up to and roll. It went well, as I say. In a couple of cases, they got their asses kicked sideways, and the players buckled down to saying, "This Eladd guy is no good. What's up?" Oh, and the Hieronymous shrine is all screwed up; figuring that out was a fun case of Religious Knowledge. I basically found a way to hit nearly all the social and knowledge stuff on their sheets, eventually.

The best part was that the players did a great job of looking over their sheets and deciding how they should attack the situation. They started with Detect Magic, but Eladd was way ahead of them with Misdirection, which led to an embarassing interrogation with a totally innocent serving dude ... and thank goodness for Sense Motive, which allowed me to cue the players that yes, the guy really was innocent, and Arcane Knowledge (or whatever it's called, Spellcraft?) that allowed me to tell them about Misdirection.

So they shifted to some fun skulking about the castle, and the payoff was Dan's character's familiar, a weasel, who tracked Eladd and found out he was ripping off the temple. More scenes confirmed to them that the old lord was pretty much kept off his feed by Eladd, obviously a unscrupulous wizard, who'd also bilked the somewhat dense son. They also learned that Old Beezah, an exile from the castle, would know more about the lord's history. (As you can see, I'm being reeeeeal subtle, here. I know it's crude. Stay with me.)

Oh yeah, they did manage to get their gifts from the lord: a gem to break for a Bigby's Clenched Fist (one use), Rod vs. Traps & Snares, and Scroll of Protection vs. Evil. I didn't see any reason not to give them a little edge and have some fun with low-level magic items.

The final scene concerned Old Beezah, who used to be the lord's children's nurse, but was exiled when she protested against the lord abandoning his daughter for fear of a curse. Old Beezah was now kind of demonic and scary, as well as a bit bitter. She was all scarred and so on, and in fact, she demanded Forin play a blood price for attacking the fleeing hyena in the last session. She got to halve his hit points by drinking his blood, which is the sort of thing I like to throw into my D&D games to keep them from being all about killing kobolds. The players did a great job of working with their skills in this scene and managed to do well.

My tired brain betrayed me at this point. I didn't really cough up the information I should have about the old grandfather, how he's still running around as an undead, and how he's going to bring the curse home onto the daughter. They did figure out that the girl they saw with the hyenas was her (Raetha), but I just didn't manage to give'em all they got. I also should have had Forin make a Fortitude Save to keep from fainting. But all of this can be rectified retroactively pretty easily.

more in the next post


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 04:24:57 PM
I like the basic role-playing that's going on as the two players work with and develop their characters. We all have a stronger idea of who's who. Dan is enjoying both Corin as the slightly stealthy guy and Forin as the out-of-place, out-of-race bad-ass; he really likes gettin' his half-orc on, both in terms of effectiveness and in terms of having to pay the social piper later. Christopher busted out a couple of fantastic speeches laying out the group's moral position to Old Beezah, especially from an 11 year old, impressing both me and his dad. He absolutely rocks at the whole cleric thing. I think he likes the idea of the "deal" going on for a cleric. At one point, he realized the temple had been profaned when his prayers didn't work well, and at another, he was interested in the possibility that his character Vall's god might be annoyed with him later, because after Old Beezah was strengthened by Forin's blood, she healed Vall's injuries from the hyena fight.

Now, as a verbal kid who's worked professionally (acting, voice acting) and is used to adults treating him like an equal, he interrupts something fierce, much to Dan's parental irritation. I can see why he did that, because he's (a) into it but (b) it was indeed a talky session. I should always be sure that his characters are doing something, to occupy him, so he can imagine stuff when someone else is talking.

OK, here's an important point - I deliberately set up this family situation for them to choose sides in whatever way they'd like. Well, not with Eladd, because he's just a dick, but regarding the old lord and the curse and the two children. Whom they support, who they like, and how this whole situation is supposed to turn out for the non-monster characters is up to them. That's why I'm not concerned with my straightforward "go see Old Beezah" moment, because it was merely scene framing, not railroading ... they still get to choose all the important stuff, especially setting up which conflict will occur, where, and with whom, and about what. (Hey Buzz! See that? I can't plan for that! They do it!!)

So what about next time? It's up to them, but I'm anticipating some fighty-fight, whether vs. Eladd or getting closer to Raetha and the undead granddad. But also, a funeral.

And as before, I do have some questions and request some help, again out of laziness mainly and because you guys seem to like it. And because right when I had XPs all figured out for fighting monsters, now I have to figure them out for socially confronting NPCs! All right, they socially "fought" the following NPCs:

7th level adept
9th level aristocrat
7th level wizard (and this was serious, although not a combat)
5th level level aristocrat

I understand that all of them are to be considered as one level less than what's listed. Therefore, for four 3rd level player-characters, all of whom participated fully, how many experience points do they each get?

Speaking aesthetically, I think that the challenges they faced and the problems they solved and figured out were easily equal to or above the fight with the hyenas in the previous session, so I'm pretty curious to see how this works out in points.

More to discuss: spell resolution as opposed to skills, in this edition of D&D. Very interesting.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Callan S. on May 01, 2006, 07:47:25 PM
For those who didn't tune in last time, the first thread about this game is [D&D 3.0/3.5] The kid two houses down (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19311.0). And uh, I got all snotty and planned to gyp my players of some XPs for two hyenas they didn't fight. But I realized other people were right and I was wrong, so hey, each character got 375 for the last session.
Cool, man, very cool! :)

In the last thread you thought they wanted a light narrativist game. Play seems to be about discovery of the big issues at them moment. Rather than a 'here's all the pertinent facts, now make a hard choice' sort of narrativist play. When it comes to them making their choice, will play switch to more of a 'pertinent facts' mode? I'm thinking of other accounts I've seen, where hidden facts (like 'the gun isn't loaded') aren't known by the player. If your players don't discover everything about the big issues, how will that effect things?

Quote
Oh yeah, they did manage to get their gifts from the lord: a gem to break for a Bigby's Clenched Fist (one use), Rod vs. Traps & Snares, and Scroll of Protection vs. Evil. I didn't see any reason not to give them a little edge and have some fun with low-level magic items.
Just a 'I like it' note: I think one shot items that have a punch, add a great dimension in terms of tension and strategy. Good stuff!


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 08:14:57 PM
Hi Callan,

Quote
Play seems to be about discovery of the big issues at them moment. Rather than a 'here's all the pertinent facts, now make a hard choice' sort of narrativist play. When it comes to them making their choice, will play switch to more of a 'pertinent facts' mode?

Play is just a bunch of interaction, at the moment, some of it violent. What I don't think you're seeing is that the "pertinent facts" are showing up as they're discovered, in whatever order they're discovered. It's not a matter of me providing them all in a chunk, or trickling them out one by one. I'm holding them at the start of play, but I'm neither bestowing nor withholding them. The players are finding them out, that's all.

They found out about Eladd's treachery through their own efforts. They found out about Old Beezah through their efforts. They won her respect and found out about Raetha through their own efforts. I had prepped all this information, yes. But I do not bestow it and I do not withhold it. They win it, you see, just as they might win fights. But don't mistake me, as I'm certain 99"% of those reading this will. The information is not treasure, but as actually the opponent, in the form of the NPCs who benefit from it where it is. You win the information, like you win a fight. It's not the prize. It's the arena, and the foe.

Play will continue in this fashion. More informational and statust-based conflict will occur. Fights will occur - some pre-programmed, some arising organically. With whom? Will all these conflicts clear the way for the ghast and his zombie hyenas finally to visit the curse on everyone? Or will they strengthen the alliances and make the big bad's situation harder? I will not adjust the ghast and his zombies in response to these questions. He is what he is. However, everything they do will adjust the eventual arena of confrontation with him.

Really, it's so easy. It has nothing to do with pre-determining the timing of information flow. Nor does it have anything to do with walking them through fake-fights or planned step-by-step sequences of scenes. This way, they actually got a lot more info in that run than I anticipated, or more accurately, would have anticipated if I'd wasted the mental energy to do any such thing. Why you guys suffer and crack your brains trying to grasp "fun story, high risk, lots of strategy" is beyond me. How else would you do it? (rhetorical) And godamighty, why would you do that, when it flounders so badly? (ditto)

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on May 01, 2006, 09:10:49 PM
I have a question, actually: when are you playing more? Did you resolve the issue of taking play-time seriously, the one mentioned in the earlier thread?

I enjoy this thread very much. It sounds like you're running exactly the kind of D&D game I ran in 2002-2004. That one was extremely rules-modded (I couldn't participate in the discussion about xp or spells based on that, for instance) and benefited enormously from your essays and the Forge discussion I was internalizing around 2002. I find it interesting that the faux-D&D gamemastering I did based on your essays resembled your current techniques so much.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 02, 2006, 06:17:32 AM
This session showed me that the social context of the game is now on track.

I think Dan must have taken the step to clear game-time and set up standards for the family. We were at his house this time, and his wife and daughter went to a movie when we played. They returned just about when we finished and the daughter asked permission before barging into the game-area. I could be wrong, but they seemed relieved that we weren't going to sit down there all damn evening (play lasted two hours even, as planned).

To their credit, Dan's wife and daughter were interested in how the game went, what happened with the characters, and so on. The  daughter's first question: "Are there any girl characters?" I said I played some but the players (shooting an accusatory glance at Dan and Christopher) hadn't made up any, although they could have.

I think Christopher's mom was surprised that this session didn't involve fighting and killing at all, and she was obviously pleased when Dan and I described how Christopher had taken a very moral, responsible stand as an author. She was also interested to learn, in response to Dan's comments, that play did not really involve "acting out" one's character unless a person felt like it at a given moment.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: James_Nostack on May 02, 2006, 06:24:40 AM
I have a question about how this is adjudicated in play.  Do the players roll for all this detective work, or do you say, "Hmm, you asked the Magic Bullet question to this guy (or close enough) and now he'll reveal a clue"?  If it's rolling, what are the consequences for failure, and when are such consequences discussed? 

Like, that whole "accusing the wrong dude" scene sounds like it was the result of a failed roll, but did the players know it could happen ahead of time?  What if they'd blundered any subsequent rolls?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: James_Nostack on May 02, 2006, 06:40:17 AM
Regarding Experience Points -- well, the 3.5 DMG's advice is basically to ad hoc it.  If this had been a series of combat encounters, each character would have earned 3263 XP.  But the DMG suggests that non-combat encounters are a bit fuzzy, and require some guesstimation.

For social encounters, it advises only to give XP where something significant was at stake.  In such situations, you have to eyeball whether or not this was a respectable challenge for the group with serious risk.  If so, it's probaby a Challenge Rating equal to the Party Level.  (Sounds like that 7th level Wizard was a bad-ass, even if they didn't beat up on each other directly.)  If not, it's going to be a little less.  (Maybe those dudes who were lying, but not putting them at grave risk.)

With this in mind, maybe you've got 3 less-challenging encounters, so say, CR 2 for 150 XP each.  And 1 pretty serious encounter around CR 3 or 4 for like 300 XP each.  Thus, each character would get 1050 XP for the whole shebang.

At least, that's my understanding of how it's done.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 02, 2006, 06:51:54 AM
Rolling dice! Rolling dice! This session was a constant rattle-rattle of dice, for every dialogue, for every unit of confrontation.

Now, spells don't require rolls, except Saves in some cases which didn't really apply much here. Detect Magic "failed" because another spell, Misdirection, trumped it. And the Familiar weasel of course was already present.

But otherwise, yes, the dialogues and discussions were all rolled in terms of consequence. Negative consequences were severe - for instance, Eladd has cemented his dominance over Lord Khoros due to the characters' social failure to reveal his treachery. That's why they turned to Old Beezah, and quite likely why ousting Eladd is going to turn nasty now. Only their successful Diplomacy with Hathic got them the gifts, which Eladd was having withheld. What, did you think I just gave them that stuff?

I take social conflict in role-playing very seriously, and have done so for many years. "Roll vs. role" was always an evident bullshit dichotomy in my eyes; I dodged that particular nest of cognitive dissonance that seems to have captured practically the whole hobby. The players role-play as they see fit. That sets up social conflict. Conflicts are resolved in consequence through rolling. Role-playing fuels the roll, the roll's outcome fuels the role-playing, absolutely and inextricably intertwined; neither can occur without the other. This Sorcerer/Dogs philosophy of such things is very old, but did not enter texts until recently.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 02, 2006, 06:56:23 AM
Whoops, forgot ... yes, James, that sounds exactly right! A couple of the encounters involved risk - the guards in the case of Eladd, the hyenas in the case of Old Beezah. The other encounters were all consequential, but not really hit-point threatening in the immediate future. So your adjustments seem like they're in the right ballpark.

It's cool that a straight-up even-matched fight got them 375 points each, whereas a consequential but only mildly dangerous series of social conflicts got them three times that amount.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Will Grzanich on May 02, 2006, 07:07:56 AM
She was also interested to learn, in response to Dan's comments, that play did not really involve "acting out" one's character unless a person felt like it at a given moment.

To my dismay, I have known DMs who would be "interested" to learn this, as well.

I enjoyed this thread (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.frp.dnd/browse_frm/thread/aa16b3c5e23a87d1/1f8481e4eecf16d5?lnk=st&q=role+playing+play+acting+introvert+group%3Arec.games.frp.dnd&rnum=1&hl=en#1f8481e4eecf16d5) from rec.games.frp.dnd some time ago; it really highlights the whole "roll-playing vs role-playing" problem, and how the requirement of in-character dialogue and so forth can really hurt.

Interesting game, Ron...keep up the good work.  :)

-Will


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 02, 2006, 08:00:09 AM
This is a particularly timely series of threads for me, as I'm prepping to be a GM for the first time in, oh, ten years, and in a willfully generic high-fantasy setting, no less. (The Shadow of Yesterday, though, not D&D: D&D makes my head hurt).

Christopher busted out a couple of fantastic speeches laying out the group's moral position to Old Beezah, especially from an 11 year old, impressing both me and his dad. He absolutely rocks at the whole cleric thing.

What made the speeches so cool? What was the group's moral position? (And are you planning to push them on it -- the "even now? even now?" process, to use Vincent's phrase). You've really made me curious.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 02, 2006, 12:46:42 PM
The most dramatic moment for Christopher was approaching Beezah, with his cleric Vall, and saying, in effect - we don't have any obligation on you and are not hostile to you if you don't want to help us. We have a problem, and don't know if you want to be involved. But let us lay it out for you, and let there be peace between us.

Not in exactly those words, but certainly in words which were well above what most 11 year olds could say, I think.

As far as a specific moral position is concerned, the real ethical core of the scenario hasn't quite developed into a conflict yet. But the characters were concerned not just with "catching a thief," but looking after Lord Khoros' welfare, and both Dan and Christopher are actually taking the funeral of Lady Khoros very seriously. It strikes me that I ought to provide her with some history and some interesting features, so that scene has some weight.

In other words, I'm seeing the characteres step into the roles of, well, Dogs to some extent. Since Dan's characters are a little more rough-and-ready, it's nice to see Christopher leading the way in this regard with his clerical ones.

Since neither player is so experienced with D&D to have internalized the classic [cleric = medic] equation, it seems normal to them that if clerics are like priests, why then, they should have a certain religious and ethical authority among the group as a whole.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 02, 2006, 01:00:52 PM
Cleric = Dog. I love that.

I also love the implicit Magic Power = Moral Obligation = Legal-Political Authority, which is pretty much ignored in standard D&D (what the heck's a "magic user," anyway?) but seems to be central both to most mythology I've seen and to more interesting fantasy settings like HeroQuest.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Callan S. on May 02, 2006, 08:15:04 PM
Hi Ron,

I'm not worried about information hording or such and I do understand they are gathering the pertinent facts at the moment (that's what I meant, clumsily, by discovery mode - what else are you discovering but the juicy pertinent details! :) ). A quick example: A man is waving a gun at the PC's. They fail their spot roll and don't know it isn't loaded. They address the scene with the pertinent facts they know, ie, a gun was being waved at them.  Imagine they passed the spot, they address the scene with the pertinent facts that an empty gun was being waved at them.

So, I think, information found or not found ends up helping to stimulate different addresses of premise. If play gets to a point where a juicy address could be made, but they haven't found all the pertinent facts yet, would you go with that? I'm interested in the structure that determines when you switch from discovery of pertinent facts mode to 'We know all we we need to know, time to make a choice!'.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ben Lehman on May 02, 2006, 11:07:40 PM
Hey, Ron, out of curiousity, were those NPCs at maximum skill rank in the appropriate social skills (Diplomacy, Bluff, Sense Motive, whatever)?  As in: Was the 9th level aristorcrat rolling d20+12 versus their skills?

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 04:39:27 AM
Hi Ben,

The higher-level NPCs, Beezah and Khoros were pretty frightening in their bonuses, although my notes show more +9's than +12's. Lord Khoros' Sense Motive and basic stubbornness (compounded by the Charm Person and Sleep that Eladd used to manipulate him) smacked them. Overall, the characters' weeny Diplomacy failed so badly. They did better when they found end-runs around the situations their poor skills (with one or two lucky exception successes) landed them in, specifically when they prompted scenes in which their skills would be useful.

Which, as I see it, is analogous to the fighty/room situation in a dungeon. If the monsters are just too bastard-like in a given series of rooms, and if the players can come up a reasonable, unexpected way to deal with them or get around or under them, then cool! Given, of course, a few bloody noses along the way as they figure out the first part.

Callan, I gotta say, your questions are the weirdest things I've ever seen since Jesse's "long dark night" with Sorcerer.

Quote
So, I think, information found or not found ends up helping to stimulate different addresses of premise.

Squinting. Yes. Ignorance of a particular piece of information is just as wonderful and powerful for this purpose as knowledge of it, especially with a lot of author stance going on.

Perhaps I'm reading what you wrote differently from what you meant ... information found or not found ends up helping stimulate ...

See what I mean? What they know and what they don't know affects developing Premise. Just like what they know and what they don't know affects an upcoming Challenge in a more straightforwardly Gamist context. Exactly like that, in fact. The fun part for me as GM is that I do not have to "make sure" they know this or that, but rather make sure that I'm not blocking them from finding stuff out.

Even that's not saying it right. It sounds as if I'm withholding information and doling it out, and that's not what's up. I dunno man, your questions and statements are so vague that I'm not seeing how to respond well.

Quote
If play gets to a point where a juicy address could be made, but they haven't found all the pertinent facts yet, would you go with that? I'm interested in the structure that determines when you switch from discovery of pertinent facts mode to 'We know all we we need to know, time to make a choice!'.

There. What do you mean by "go with that"? Concretely, for GM behavior, what exactly do you mean, "go with that"? And similarly, by "you" and "switch," I assume you mean the GM. What exactly do you mean by the GMing "switching"?

Be specific and draw upon real, actual play examples for your answers. No more vague abstractions. People, game, characters, situations, behavior. What do you mean by those phrases?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Larry L. on May 03, 2006, 06:45:08 AM
Ron,

This seemed a bit weird to me:

and in fact, she demanded Forin play a blood price for attacking the fleeing hyena in the last session. She got to halve his hit points by drinking his blood, which is the sort of thing I like to throw into my D&D games to keep them from being all about killing kobolds.

Could you elaborate how that whole "blood price" thing played out? I don't understand what beef Old Beezah has about the hyenas. This seems like, uh, GM disapproves of player's actions and deals out arbitrary penalty. But I'm probably missing something.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: JamesDJIII on May 03, 2006, 10:21:25 AM
Ron wrote:

Quote
Really, it's so easy. It has nothing to do with pre-determining the timing of information flow. Nor does it have anything to do with walking them through fake-fights or planned step-by-step sequences of scenes. This way, they actually got a lot more info in that run than I anticipated, or more accurately, would  have anticipated if I'd wasted the mental energy to do any such thing. Why you guys suffer and crack your brains trying to grasp "fun story, high risk, lots of strategy" is beyond me. How else  would you do it? (rhetorical) And godamighty, why would you do that, when it flounders so badly? (ditto)

I'm beginning to sense another chasm between my understanding and experience, and your understanding and experience. I don't think you don't know why people "do that" - I mean, c'mon, that's just how "everyone" does it, and as we have seen and keep seing, people mimic this over and over, game after game.

While I am not interested trying to convert or teach or anything like that for anyone else, I am extremely interested in how to make this happen for games I play and run. For myself at least, this gets right down to very specific steps, attitudes, and actions that I have either never understood or applied successfully at the table. And it's the most frustrating experience I have ever had.

The way you describe your tactics - not witholding anything, not preplanning ourcomes - it sounds as if this worked really well. I'm up against 22 years of doing it one way, despite a lot of tries at altering what turns out to be superficial garbage. How much of this particular game's sucess comes from the fact that your participants haven't been playing with "20 minutes of fun packed into 4 hours" for a long time? How different far does your experience running this game, moment from moment, from running, like, say Sorcerer? Are you still hitting the scene framing and hard core cut power with the same intensity?

And, if this needs it's own thread, well... I'm sure we'll get there.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on May 03, 2006, 11:53:31 AM
Ron, I have to confess I'm a bit bewildered by the statement James quoted. I think maybe I'm just having a hard time parsing it. So let my try to break it down a bit for myself, and you can correct me on any point I get skewed or just plain miss. So first, are the "it" in "How else would you do it?" and the "that" in "why whould you do that" the same or different? It doesn't make mush sense if they're the same, but that's the most obvious grammatical reading. So, assuming they're different, I'll hazard that "it" refers to the play style you're describing, the "not withholding, not preplanning" as James put it. And "that" refers to "Suffer and crack your brains"? That seems to make the most sense. I'll also assume that the "fun story, high risk, lots of strategy" Holy Grail you mention is synonomous with the aforementioned play style. And with that out of the wayI guess I'm wondering what you mean by "suffer and crack your brains." Do you mean just generally, "why do you puzzle over it when its so obvious?" Or do you mean something more specific, perhaps the antithesis of your abovementiond style, e.g. "witholding information, preplanning outcomes"?

If I haven't gone off thew rails anywhere up there, I think I get what you're saying, and the style you're using sounds like it works very well. Sorry I'm being so dense on this, but for some reason that paragraph is really uphill work for me comprehension-wise. And instead of continuing to speculate on whether I've got it right, I thought, hey, I'll just ask.

Regarding the thread in general, I don't have much to say except that it sounds like super-fun play, especially as interested as I am right now in trying games with roleplaying virgins. I think it's interesting, and certainly against type, that the kid is playing the more cerebral type character, while the dad has the market cornered on punchy scrap-fighter territory. And damn, I wanna meet this 11-year old, not to mention play with him!

Peace,


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Bankuei on May 03, 2006, 12:49:58 PM
Hi guys,

Real quick- this thread is wavering due to simple misunderstanding.

1. Ron's talking about Vanilla Narrativism:
 
"Narrativist play without notable use of the following Techniques: Director Stance, atypical distribution of GM tasks, verbalizing the Premise in abstract terms, overt organization of narration, or improvised additions to the setting or situations."

2. Callan's fishing for "How do these techniques of play -engineer- hard Nar choices/Addressing of Premise?"

3.  Ron's like, "It's Vanilla Nar, how else -would- you make it work in straight up D&D?"

(and yes, a new thread to clarify Vanilla Nar for those who are interested is a good idea)

Chris


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 01:13:00 PM
Joel, "yes," especially to the part where you paraphrase me as saying

Quote
"why do you puzzle over it when its so obvious?"

Chris, you're right on too, with the addition that a bit more violent conflict is built into my expectations/prep for this game than it might be for, say, Shadow of Yesterday.

James, the last time I tried to explain the chasm of understanding that you're talking about, I got accused of calling people rapists. People are probably still shitting little green apples out there in the blogspace about it. Until a more adult and thoughtful culture surrounds my on-line points, I'll have to say, "Keep working on it." Maybe some drills will be invented that can help you out, that's my best suggestion for now.

You asked,

Quote
How much of this particular game's sucess comes from the fact that your participants haven't been playing with "20 minutes of fun packed into 4 hours" for a long time?

I don't know. I do think that the 20 min/4 hours phenomenon is destructive to the default creativity of the human mind, and quite likely to other parts of it as well. I also think both Christopher and Dan are imaginative, fun people, and that they care a lot (in ways appropriate to their ages) about emotional responsibility in all aspects of life. It doesn't surprise me that they can play solid verbal content for Lawful Good and Chaotic Good characters without being smarmy or preachy.

If any of you are smacking your head and saying "spoo! Ron says alignment can be used as a Narrativist flag!" then you're right. The entire conflict about the ghast and the granddaughter is based on a personal failure of ethical judgment and the subsequent breakdown of law. If they'd made neutral evil characters, I'd have come up with a completely different scenario.

Quote
How different far does your experience running this game, moment from moment, from running, like, say Sorcerer? Are you still hitting the scene framing and hard core cut power with the same intensity?

Scene framing is pretty easy with this group, especially in the castle situation. When I think the current conflict is done, I stop the scene, just as we might in playing Primetime Adventures. I start new scenes based on some consequence of what some NPC has done, or I'm moving to the logical interest-point posed by a player announcement ("Tomorrow, let's see this Beezah lady"). Alternately, when I sit back and ask, "So, how do you want to handle it?" I'm basically letting them start a new scene. As far as cutting is concerned, most of the characters have been together in the same places for most of the time (Corin's weasel scenes and Joshua's prayer scenes were probably the only exceptions). So not much cutting.

In raw technique, there's not much difference from Sorcerer play. In detail and consequences of the techniques, they differ a lot, because player-characters are often in very different places, facing different things, in Sorcerer play.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 01:20:18 PM
Whoa, forgot Larry.

Larry, the scene had nothing to do with GM punishment at all. Raetha is the "mistress" of the hyenas, and she has set a bunch of them to watch out for and hunt for Old Beezah. Old Beezah has some animal-friendly spells and can talk to them. They told her about the guys they fought and what they did, or perhaps Raetha (who saw the fight) told her.

Old Beezah chose Forin's blood to drink because Raetha is mad at him, and this is a way for her (Beezah) to get Raetha to call things even-stephen. Beezah knows Raetha needs these guys' help against the ghast.

Also, it's a straightforward consequence of Forin's unruly behavior, the sort of thing that Dan delights in (did I mention him getting his half-orc on?).* And since it had both an ethical and fair basis, the paladin and cleric were OK with it, as was Forin's brother.

They could have refused. Or they could have negotiated for someone or something else. Or whatever. It wasn't like I as GM told Dan as player, OK, now you lose half your hit points because I say so.

Best, Ron

* Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that the primary skill that did operate in the player-characters' favor was Forin intimidating the crap out of Eladd at their first meeting, with a high bonus for his level as well as a dynamite roll, when Eladd tried to get "this orc" barred from the castle. That's why Eladd never attacked them directly - which I might add, I was willing to do prior to that scene.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Callan S. on May 03, 2006, 07:43:11 PM
Hi Ron,

I'm going to use an unnessersarily negative example.

Discovery mode ticking along then...
Player A "What? Oh my gawd...after finding that out, I rush up and chop X's head off! He MUST die!"
Player B "Nah, DON'T! Let's discover more so we know exactly what's going on"
Player A "*splutter* But...but...he has to die! I can't just go on making little spot rolls and such...he has to die now!"
GM, who was encouraging discovery mode up until till and including, wondering just what he's encouraging right now.

I don't want to use a negative example, but it was clearly too vague before. I wanted to to get at the structure that ensures everyone goes onto address premise mode at the same time, particularly if another player apart from the GM, triggers it.

There's something amiss about our communication, so I'm leaving my input at this, for now.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on May 03, 2006, 09:57:43 PM
If any of you are smacking your head and saying "spoo! Ron says alignment can be used as a Narrativist flag!" then you're right.

Boy, can it ever, at least with my current D&D character. He's neutral evil, and currently up to his neck in a web of betrayal from which he could only now extricate himself by betraying the people he's betraying his friends to. Thing is, I actually used the alignment as a personal flag for what they guy's all about, which is a drastic switch from my usual tack of begrudgingly picking one because i have to. And I'm actually enjoying "playing my alignment". Whodathunk?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Valamir on May 04, 2006, 05:50:21 AM
Callan, I can completely see how Ron has no idea what you're talking about.

What the heck is "address premise mode"?  Do you have some vision that play looks like some kind of bog standard hunt the widget get the Macguffin for some period of time and then at some magic point BANG the switch gets flipped and everybody starts "playing nar"?  That's about the only thing I can figure you must be thinking with your worrying about how to get everybody to switch on at the same time.

If that is what you're envisioning actual play to look like then I don't really know how to respond since no nar play I've ever seen, heard of, or experienced looks anything like that.  Addressing premise goes on continuously and often invisibly.  The fact that one player comes to a decision about life and death and determines to act on it...that happens when it happens.  There's no waiting for everybody to reach that point together.  There's no "wait you can't kill that guy yet because you haven't gotten clue #3".  If player A feels he has enough information to pass judgement on an NPC then he just does.  And if it turns out later he was wrong...well shit...there's your theme evolving from premise right there.  And if player B feels strongly enough that the NPC shouldn't die, then player B does whatever he can to stop it.  And if that means killing player A then he does.  If he lets the NPC die because he won't cross that like with A...well shit...there's your theme evolving from premise right there.

Premise-into-theme is not written down on some tidy little slip of paper stored in a secret envelope like in Clue just waiting for the players to put the information together and accuse Colonel Mustard.  Its not doled out by the GM like a room description in an old module.  Its what happens when players make decisions...and if they choose not to decide, they still have made a choice (that's the art of crafting bangs).

As Ron asked above...actual play examples please.  Have you ever experienced nar play that works like a light switch where everybody things "ok time to address premise now"?  If not, then I'm afraid your question is exactly why the theory forums got shut down. 


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 04, 2006, 10:01:25 AM
Agreeing with Ralph, here.

Player A "What? Oh my gawd...after finding that out, I rush up and chop X's head off! He MUST die!"
Player B "Nah, DON'T! Let's discover more so we know exactly what's going on"
Player A "*splutter* But...but...he has to die! I can't just go on making little spot rolls and such...he has to die now!"

That sounds to me like great play. It makes me want to know what they do next -- does A run off to kill X? How hard does B try to stop him (or her) -- by begging him, tackling him, stabbing him, warning X? Does B race to find more clues that might prove X's innocent or guilt conclusively before A finds X and hacks him? Dude, I totally want to play that game now.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 04, 2006, 10:45:56 AM
What Sydney and Ralph said.

I don't see any shred of negative qualities in your pseudo-example at all. And I want real examples in your next post, thanks.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: IMAGinES on May 04, 2006, 01:35:24 PM
I think I see what Callan's trying to say. I can't give any actual play examples, I'm afraid, but it's something I've seen glimpses of in discussions about Dogs in the Vineyard. It's the idea that there's a point in a Dogs game before which the Dogs play detective (interview the witnesses, get information, etcetera) and after which they Pronounce Their Judgment on the town and in doing so address Premise. One of the indicators that the group knows when it's passed that point is when the GM says, "You Know All You Need To. Go Judge Now."

Callan, is that close?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 04, 2006, 01:51:44 PM
If it is, then I point to Ralph's post, which addresses that issue 100%.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Callan S. on May 04, 2006, 09:00:57 PM
I was about to say I don't have enough nar play history to post an example. But one did come to mind. Both players are long time friends. One PC is a palladin (player: Anthony) and one a thief (player: Daniel), D&D 3.x...a few levels under the belts, so their a bit rounded in character. At the start of the game they saw a man slay three peasants then run off and they couldn't catch him.

Latter they find him and he confesses that two of them were magically disguised snake men, who were turning the rest of his family insane/evil through magic (he wasn't insane because he was cast out of the family years ago...yup, angsty stuff). But he didn't know which were the snake men, so, frantic, he slayed all of them, peasant and snake alike.

The palladin hears this and instantly wants to turn him in. And then Daniel, the thiefs player pipes up and says "Nah, let him go and he'll owe us one". It was kind of like Anthony got a small punch in the guts, from his expression.

Daniel just did not get what Anthony was saying. It wasn't some narrativist twist he was applying, it was an agenda clash. I've posted about a conversation with Daniel here before, which was entitled "Narrativism is a good gamist penalty to avoid" I think. Here, he was turning the situation into a resource to tuck away for latter.

Okay, so maybe I'm just a bit stuck into a groove. But in a game where discovery is happening, I'd want to focus really heavily on discovery. I'm going to push for a gamist angle there. Now if it's a nar game, I don't give a shit about discovery, ie wheedling out the facts by careful strategem. I don't care about physical combat or social combat, if that combat is about pursing a 'win'. Who cares about winning...no ones going to pat me on the back for that right now!

If were going to do a game that focuses on discovery now and nar latter, I need a flag to indicate where one ends and the other begins, so I can actually enjoy each instead of enjoying one and bored with the other. Bizarre as it sounds to Ralph, yes, BANG and a switch gets flipped/we drift agenda. Otherwise I'm going to end up as Anthony or Daniel.

A bit ranty, but it gets the investment out in the open better than a clinical post. However, if it's rantyness just raises hackles, I'm out of this thread with an apology post.

Quote from: Ron
First scene: meeting the lord's son, the impetuous and rather pushy young Hathic; and Hathic's trouble-making, smarmy friend Eladd who seems to run things. All sorts of Diplomacy vs. Innuendo rolling commenced. The following scene with the confused, sleepy old lord put the characters into a fun position, as they tried to match their Diplomacy and other skills to the various Innuendos, Bluffs, and Sense Motives going on.

I didn't fully translate the rules into "social combat," for instance I didn't use Initiative but just had everyone say what they were up to and roll. It went well, as I say. In a couple of cases, they got their asses kicked sideways, and the players buckled down to saying, "This Eladd guy is no good. What's up?" Oh, and the Hieronymous shrine is all screwed up; figuring that out was a fun case of Religious Knowledge. I basically found a way to hit nearly all the social and knowledge stuff on their sheets, eventually.

The best part was that the players did a great job of looking over their sheets and deciding how they should attack the situation. They started with Detect Magic, but Eladd was way ahead of them with Misdirection, which led to an embarassing interrogation with a totally innocent serving dude ... and thank goodness for Sense Motive, which allowed me to cue the players that yes, the guy really was innocent, and Arcane Knowledge (or whatever it's called, Spellcraft?) that allowed me to tell them about Misdirection.
I think I need more info on the dice rolling, because I may simply not see what's going on. What were the stakes? How did the players discribe the diplomacy rolls? The sense motive roll, did it come with an emotional/moral angle if they failed? Just embarressment or embaressment and a reassesment of how you treat people/suspects or such like? Or would it end up being a resource liability? What were the players gunning for and more importantly, what stakes were they willing to put down?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Blankshield on May 04, 2006, 09:40:30 PM
I was about to say I don't have enough nar play history to post an example. But one did come to mind. Both players are long time friends. One PC is a palladin (player: Anthony) and one a thief (player: Daniel), D&D 3.x...a few levels under the belts, so their a bit rounded in character. At the start of the game they saw a man slay three peasants then run off and they couldn't catch him.

Latter they find him and he confesses that two of them were magically disguised snake men, who were turning the rest of his family insane/evil through magic (he wasn't insane because he was cast out of the family years ago...yup, angsty stuff). But he didn't know which were the snake men, so, frantic, he slayed all of them, peasant and snake alike.

The palladin hears this and instantly wants to turn him in. And then Daniel, the thiefs player pipes up and says "Nah, let him go and he'll owe us one". It was kind of like Anthony got a small punch in the guts, from his expression.

Daniel just did not get what Anthony was saying. It wasn't some narrativist twist he was applying, it was an agenda clash. I've posted about a conversation with Daniel here before, which was entitled "Narrativism is a good gamist penalty to avoid" I think. Here, he was turning the situation into a resource to tuck away for latter.

linked (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15441.0)

Quick question, Callan.  In the example above, I 'm reading this:

And then Daniel, the thiefs player pipes up and says "Nah, let him go and he'll owe us one".

...completely differently than you go on to imply.  You imply that it was all about resources.  I read that sentence as "obviously" Daniel driving a nar agenda.  Goody two-shoes paladin says "He's bad, and must be punished", smarmy theif says "Let him off, and he'll owe us"  Two statements, from two different characters showing two takes on the same theme.  Happens all the fucking time. 

So here's the question: Is it possible that Daniel was hitting on theme and you just didn't see it?

thanks,

James


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Callan S. on May 05, 2006, 01:38:45 AM
Nope. His tone dismissed at a real world level...this was no moral injection into the game world. This was a 'nah, that's the wrong move dude!'. There was no possitive social feedback for 'getting all emotional and shit'. Daniel has been rather dismissive of stuff like that before (thanks for that link, by the way).

The result was that Anthony, in a rather lacklustre way, gave up on the issue and Daniel forged on with play.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: contracycle on May 05, 2006, 02:38:32 AM
So the idea with the thief example is that it was a real difference of moral opinion between players, thus could be address of premise.  But their positions are dependant on knowledge of the circumstances.

I think the point about the bullet in the gun is this: suppose the premise is thought of as something around violence and intimidation, then the presence or absence of the bullet is materially relevant to the situation, and the moral positions people adopt.  Surely this information has to be available to the players so they can adopt a position?  Or else, if they adopt an un- or ill-informed position, can this be important and relevant?

The answer is, this is not what happens.  Narrativist players do address premise on the information available,  the premise is not prefigured.  If they don't know the status of the gun, it is functionally irrelevant to the premise they themselves do address.  Put it his way, if one players character bravely thrust themselves forward in order to take the non-existent bullet for their comrade, would the absence of the bullet make their attempted sacrifice less heroic?  No, not if they THOUGHT there was a bullet.  Or likewise, if they bared their breast and swore never to recant, or whatever is going on the scene.

So there is no requirement for players to have all information pertinent to a premise, because the premise is what they themselves propose through play action.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 05, 2006, 05:12:04 AM
Gareth's right, Callan.

In your example, there isn't any address of Premise at all. It's just not there. It's an ephemeral bit of interaction between two players which doesn't give much information, but most especially does not indicate any kind of Narrativist switch getting flipped. I disagree with James regarding the agenda clash; at most, I see a brief arrival at a tactical decision which doesn't say much about Creative Agenda at all. And what you do say for context militates against Narrativism in a big way.

What your example tells me is that you're asking questions that are actually pretty far out of your depth at this time. I think I have a pretty good idea where you are, in all this thinking about RPGs, and it's a rough spot. You are struggling through many, many permutations of Gamist play, with a lot of frustrated history based on knowing it must be or should be fun, but not really seeing it much. Whether it's a basic failure of the Exploration (SIS), or a difference in what the Gamism should itself be about, or an uncertanty about competition, or a tendency to swing toward or avoid the Hard Core, your mind is all Gamism - agh - Gamism - no, this way - ack - Gamism.

In that state, there's just no point about discussing or understanding Narrativist play. You are not the first person in this state here at the Forge. The tendency is for the person to dive right into Narrativist discussions and pick up the terminology quickly, because he recognizes certain features that he really wants to see (because of the strong N/G parallels). But there's no real, experiential or aesthetic understanding there. The person becomes a bit of a fake here, frankly - paddling along in the Narrativist discussions and fitting in by not using the terminology blatantly incorrectly ... but somehow never really presenting their own "ah ha" or facilitating someone else's. He really wants to talk about Gamism and often does so, but not honestly - talking about real play and real problems. The tendency to hop into Narrativism discussions in a seemingly-knowledgeable way is a defense, a shield against really getting into the issues troubling or intriguing him. It means he can commentate but not be himself the focus of scrutiny.

Another confounding factor in this tendency, also observed across many people posting over the years, is a squirrelly insistence that they emotionally own D&D. Therefore they leap into D&D discussions with all their baggage and needs without really paying attention to the fact that they should be posting their own actual play threads, about actual events and rules and people.

It's a shame, too, because Gamism rocks the house and we can easily have great discussions about that if it were being brought up.

Callan, I say to you - post new threads about your actual play experiences. And not some piddly little ten seconds of interaction, either. I'm talking about real meaty actual play stuff, like the first post in this thread or the one Buzz posted when I made it clear to him what he needed to do.

None of your questions about the skills-interactions are important to answer here, in contrast with this crucial and clear need for you to do that posting. Until then, you'll forever be a secondary, half-in half-out, bizarro interferer into threads, gumming them up without adding or clarifying content.

Best, Ron



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Callan S. on May 05, 2006, 12:59:36 PM
Gareth: I'm already working from that understanding.

Hi Ron,

A mans in a morally ambigious situation, where it's the life of his family or killing an innocent along with the guilty. And the player judges that there is no excuse, he should be immediately turned in (which I compared against my own feelings on the situation, which is that he should do penance for life but not hang). And it's not nar? I think your working from 'there needs to be a reward cycle to identify a CA'. Weve been through this on a another thread, when I mention nar it means what I wanted at a particular time (and in this case, reporting Anthony's apparent wants). I show you a grain of sand and you say "that's not a beach!". I agree...that's where a beach starts from. Were differing on the technical worth of that grain, rather than me just wanna talk gamism but can't see it.

I'll tell you what though, in terms of ownership and hackles, you can probably see mine are raised now. I've just been told my address (well, I was a listener to Anthony's, so I was part of it) wasn't good enough for the story/wasn't good enough to support a creative agenda. Rant: Weeeeelllll screw the making a good story, cough, I mean absolutely clear and concise agenda! Anthony made his moral judgement and while it lasted, I LIKED IT! >:)

My next AP reports already were going to be on gamism. Running a game, even though it's PBP and lacks so many social elements, has been far more revealing than just thinking about the whole thing (of course). There are a few accounts of it here at the moment, at a grain of sand level. I'll see if I can identify a reward cycle and post the whole thing.

On a side note for all: an old account of mine, in terms of nar: Anxiety and recognition of narrativism  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16181.0)

BTW, I still want to know those stakes.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 06, 2006, 08:35:47 AM
Fuck "stakes." "Stakes" is currently an abominable term in disarray across dozens of discussions.

See games 'in play' (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19744.0) for my points about this issue regarding playing Sorcerer. They are portable to a fair extent to my current D&D game, for social skill confrontations especially.

Your emphasis on the "grain" is exactly the problem. No, I am not impressed, convinced, or even interested by your account above. It is a molehill, and if you want to talk about the mountain of Creative Agenda, you'll have to show me a mountain. No clod of dirt or single rock is a mountain. If you show me a rock that is shaped like a mountain and tell me that the mountain it comes from must look like that, you're wasting my time.

Start a new thread. Give a real account of play, described now, not some old thread reference. You are, at this point, defying site and forum standards for discussion by stalling and shirking on this point. Just as with Dan, I'll be happy to deal with any and all discussion of dice, rolls, conflicts, interactions, narrations, and consequences, for your game as you describe it and (for instance) my current game of D&D.

And leave this thread alone. Currently, you're 'jacking it.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: buzz on May 11, 2006, 06:54:56 PM
That's why I'm not concerned with my straightforward "go see Old Beezah" moment, because it was merely scene framing, not railroading ... they still get to choose all the important stuff, especially setting up which conflict will occur, where, and with whom, and about what. (Hey Buzz! See that? I can't plan for that! They do it!!)
And the light bulb in my head gets a little less dim... I think I'm getting it.

Sort of a side question... you seem to be playing pretty fast-and-loose with the rules. E.g., there's no opposed Diplomacy vs. Innuendo or Bluff in the RAW. My dumb question is: Why is this okay?

I mean, I realize that D&D is not your game of choice, and these players are all new to the game. That seems to make it okay, especially since you're adding a level of "social combat" that doesn't really exist in the books. But, if this were veteran players (like my groups), wouldn't this sort of be Calvinball? Or is it that you've set up a house rule(s) based on your knowledge of the rule text and the players at the table, and you stuck to it throughout the game?

And what do I mean when I say "okay"? Not that the RPG police will hunt you down, no. But that the various essays seem to point to not doing this. Granted, I'm thinking of the Gamism essay, and what seems to be going on here (according to Chris) is Narrativism. Is the way you're running things just a consequence of using D&D for Nar purposes?

Just trying to understand your approach.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 12, 2006, 05:31:31 AM
Hi Buzz,

Quote
you seem to be playing pretty fast-and-loose with the rules. E.g., there's no opposed Diplomacy vs. Innuendo or Bluff in the RAW. My dumb question is: Why is this okay?

Well, now I'm puzzled. There is a whole section in my Player's Guide which explains how to figure out who does better or beats the other guy when two characters are using skills. You roll each character's skill, and whoever gets the higher value wins.

What I don't see is any example of two social-type rolls in opposition, or any explicit text that holds your hand and says "you can do this." But none of that is necessary. Look ...

If one of the characters were hiding in the forest, and if a scary NPC were hunting him, what would you think about the player rolling his Hide (or Stealth or whatever it is) and the NPC rolling his Track? Whoever gets the higher roll, that's what happens - he gets spotted, or he doesn't.

I am going to leap forward and assume that this is your response: "That is perfectly understandable. That is what the opposed-skill rules are written for. Such scenes are conceivably very common when playing this game."

If that's your response, then your question really boggles me. There they sit, about six or seven really specific social skills, in the skill list. There are the opposed-skill rules, sitting in a paragraph on the same page.

Given that text all sitting there staring us in the face, why in the world would you perceive "Diplomacy vs. Bluff" as being out of the scope of the rules as written? They seem ... utterly explicitly available for that purpose, to me.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Andrew Cooper on May 12, 2006, 07:00:46 AM
Opposed rolls are explicitly available.  I can't look up the specific section in the rules at the moment, since I'm at work but it works basically like you've said, Ron.  I think the rules explain it with different semantics but it is there.  The example I remember reading in the rules is the standard, "One person is hiding and another is looking for him." example.  The passive/defending  (hiding) player rolls his Hide skill.  The result of his roll becomes the Difficulty Class that the searching player has to achieve in order to succeed.  While the example was hiding and seeking, I think they were pretty clear that this could apply to all sorts of situations.



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: ffilz on May 12, 2006, 08:39:15 AM
I think what throws the curve at everyone here is the table given with the diplomacy skill that gives static DCs based on how friendly the target is to the PC. And people have moaned about that table for years. A good solution obviously is opposed social skill rolls (and actually bothering to give each NPC a social skill so they aren't pushovers just because they have 0 ranks in any social skills).

I'd say you've hit on a great application of the rules already presented even if it isn't bog standard play.

There are other examples of non-opposed skills causing problems. Tumble is often cited as a problem. Monte Cook resolved tumple in Arcana Unearthed/Evolved. Tracking also has static DCs.

Frank


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Will Grzanich on May 12, 2006, 09:32:38 AM
Right.  The thing is that the rules-as-written don't allow any given skill to be opposed by any other given skill, as the DM sees fit; they lay out which specific skills can be opposed by which other specific skills.  Spot vs. Hide.  Move Silently vs. Listen.  Bluff vs. Sense Motive.  But Diplomacy isn't opposed by anything (other than Diplomacy, when two characters are negotiating).

D&D doesn't have a "Persuade" skill, Neverwinter Nights notwithstanding.  You can Bluff your way out of a situation, and you can use Diplomacy to make people more friendly or helpful, but it's largely up to the DM to decide how far a given NPC is willing to go to help you out.

That said, there's no problem with making "unsanctioned" opposed checks.  I'm not sure what you'd oppose Diplomacy with in 3.5, though, for the purposes of (non-lying) persuasion.

-Will


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Glendower on May 12, 2006, 09:41:17 AM
That said, there's no problem with making "unsanctioned" opposed checks.  I'm not sure what you'd oppose Diplomacy with in 3.5, though, for the purposes of (non-lying) persuasion.

I'd oppose Diplomacy with Diplomacy.  Higher roll (with modifiers) wins.  Fight fire with fire. 


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Will Grzanich on May 12, 2006, 02:49:10 PM
I'd oppose Diplomacy with Diplomacy.  Higher roll (with modifiers) wins.  Fight fire with fire. 

Diplomacy vs. Diplomacy works great for debates, with each person trying to convince the other of the correctness of their respective arguments.  But what if person A is trying to persuade person B, but person B doesn't give a whit about convincing person A of anything?  Should a person's skill in making nice with people make him necessarily more stubborn?  I'm not so sure.

I suppose you could just come up with some static DCs for various levels of "stubbornness" and leave it at that.

-Will


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: buzz on May 12, 2006, 10:00:47 PM
I'd oppose Diplomacy with Diplomacy.
RAW, you don't use Diplomacy v. Diplomacy to convince someone of your argument. You can use Diplomacy vs. DCs listed in the rules to change an NPC's attitude, and you can use opposed Diplomacy checks to see which of two advocates plead a better case to a third party. You explicitly cannot use Diplomacy on a fellow PC. Other social skills (Bluff, Intimidate) do not have this explicit prohibition, but the DM advice basically dissuades you from doing it. You're supposed to just "roleplay" it.

That's my issue, Ron. The way you were handling these skills sounds cool, but it also sounds like you were extrapolating usage that, in some cases, may have been directly contradictory to RAW.

My confusion is that, based on the essays, I thought that playing fast-and-lose was a Forge no-no. Or is this healthy Illusionism? (Apologies if I'm butchering the terminology.)


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 13, 2006, 07:20:27 AM
Mark,

Nowhere have I ever said that playing by the rules-as-written is some kind of golden law of successful role-playing. Given all those appallingly stupid rulebooks out there, it would be a terrible thing to say.

It is my own preference to play by rules-as-written, especially when trying to understand a game. In many cases, stuff that I thought would be dumb or weird in play turned out to be a fantastic method I'd never have realized on my own. In others, stuff that I thought would be obviously so much fun, and couldn't wait to see in action, turned out to be ass.

Where you got the idea that my preference has anything to do with some kind of "Forge recommendation" or no-no, I don't know.

As it happens, so far none of our skill rolls in the game have opposed any like-on-like skills. Intimidate vs. Innuendo, Diplomacy vs. Sense Motive, and stuff like that is what we've been doing. That's been an outcome of simple choices made during play, rather than a stricture.

Now for the various points about diplomacy raised by you and others.

The rules as written

The original rules, 3.0, include this key phrase in the Diplomacy skill description:

Quote
In negotiations, participants roll opposed Diplomacy checks to see who gains the advantage

Then goes on to say the same thing applies to the two opponents appealing to a third party.

The 3.5 rules say,

Quote
In negotiations, participants roll opposed Diplomacy checks, and the winner gains the advantage.

And also then goes on to say the same thing about the third-party appeal.

The rules-as-written in the Player's Handbook, both versions, explicitly support Diplomacy-vs.-Diplomacy. So Mark, let's start with that. There it is. Your statement that I'm going against those rules is not correct.

Whatever the DM Guide says about it

I'll tell you right now, I don't know what it says, because I don't own the book. Why? Because the DM Guide is almost entirely ass. I took a good look at that book a few years ago, said, "Garbage," and familiar garbage at that. If there's some text in there about no Diplomacy-vs.-Diplomacy, then it can be considered a particular piece of kleenex stiffened by soaked, dried snot, and I have no special interest in examining it closely for its merits, considering where it came from.

Flat difficulties instead of opposed rolls

When it comes to skill checks in D&D, according to the rules, you can use either a flat difficulty or an opposed check, with no clear statements about when or why you'd do one over the other. (I suspect that Task Resolution has embedded itself so deeply into writers' brains that in this case they couldn't bring themselves to support Gamist, oppositional play in which the loser, GM or not, had to bite the bullet and cope.)

So by the rules about skill checks, I could either use the difficulties they state in that table because I preferred to use flat difficulties, or I could use Diplomacy vs. Whatever (including Diplomacy) for opposed resolution, if I prefer that instead. I prefer the latter because it's simple, clear, and playable. If I want to take NPC attitudes or previous experience with the PCs into account, I can use the Favorable/Unfavorable Circumstances rules.

So

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: ffilz on May 13, 2006, 09:47:25 AM
Hmm, interesting bits from reading the actual text...

One thing I see, that's very interesting, that changed from 3.0 to 3.5. In 3.0, the NPC attitude table is in the DMG, and ONLY talks about using Charisma checks, NOT Diplomacy checks. And interestingly, Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved does it a third way. The attitude table is used, but the character who is being convinced subtracts his hit dice from the Charisma or Diplomacy check,

Another interesting thing I see in the skill text is an attempt to make the skills conflict resolution rather than task resolution in the discussion in retries. But again, this was changed in 3.5 (it now says "optional" for Diplomacy, and then tries to say why you shouldn't allow retries).

Certainly a lesson in the difference between the game as played/the rules as understood and the actual rules text.

What's a shame with the DMG is that half the book is actually decent, but like you say, the other half is crap. The section on experience, challenge ratings, and encounter levels is actually pretty good, and given a little bit of discretion in use of the Monster Manual allows reasonably reliable setting of challenge for combat encounters. The magic item section is also worthwhile, though granted not absolutely necessary (especially if one has a reasonable familiarity with some previous version of D&D, and you don't care that much about keeping treasure values in line). The bit on expected treasure quantities at each level is also useful in combination with the whole challenge rating system.

Frank


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: buzz on May 13, 2006, 12:11:21 PM
Where you got the idea that my preference has anything to do with some kind of "Forge recommendation" or no-no, I don't know.

I guess I'm miss-reading the Gamism essay, then. :(

Then, when is not using the RAW not okay? I know I saw mention of that somewhere in the essays. Just when we're talking Calvinball or something?

As it happens, so far none of our skill rolls in the game have opposed any like-on-like skills. Intimidate vs. Innuendo, Diplomacy vs. Sense Motive, and stuff like that is what we've been doing. That's been an outcome of simple choices made during play, rather than a stricture.

I balked at these combos because they are not listed in the section on opposed checks in the PHB. Granted, the table there is titled "Example Oppposed Checks", so it's not the be-all, end-all. I've never seenanyone else match the various skills you've listed, and I know either of my two D&D groups would look at me funny for using them (particularly opposing Intimidate with anything other than the listed level check).

Of course, this may simply mean I need to start and Actual Play thread about my D&D groups. :)

The rules-as-written in the Player's Handbook, both versions, explicitly support Diplomacy-vs.-Diplomacy. So Mark, let's start with that. There it is. Your statement that I'm going against those rules is not correct.

You're absolutely correct. I managed to blow by that sentence when I was looking at the SRD. My bad. Apologies if I derailed the thread.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: buzz on May 13, 2006, 12:13:24 PM
What's a shame with the DMG is that half the book is actually decent, but like you say, the other half is crap.
I'd love to see a Ron Edwards review of the current DMG. Pick it apart from a Forge perspective.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 13, 2006, 03:15:05 PM
Hiya,

Hey everyone - as of this post, Mark (Buzz) has 27 posts. He has demonstrated more intellectual integrity, daring, and willingness to present his real play than nearly anyone I've ever seen, regardless of post-count.

I think this thread has probably gone where it needed to go. Mark, if you'd like, review the Gamism essay and contact me privately - that might be the best way to go with that particular conundrum you're facing.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: buzz on May 13, 2006, 03:28:56 PM
Hey everyone - as of this post, Mark (Buzz) has 27 posts. He has demonstrated more intellectual integrity, daring, and willingness to present his real play than nearly anyone I've ever seen, regardless of post-count.

I aim to please. The theory here (and the games; DitV, BW, and TRoS, so far) have been rocking my world.

I think this thread has probably gone where it needed to go. Mark, if you'd like, review the Gamism essay and contact me privately - that might be the best way to go with that particular conundrum you're facing.

Chris was nice enough to explain some things to me via PM, so I'm good. I look forward to more threads about your friendly neighborhood D&D game.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: contracycle on May 16, 2006, 02:59:54 AM
I balked at these combos because they are not listed in the section on opposed checks in the PHB. Granted, the table there is titled "Example Oppposed Checks", so it's not the be-all, end-all. I've never seenanyone else match the various skills you've listed, and I know either of my two D&D groups would look at me funny for using them (particularly opposing Intimidate with anything other than the listed level check).

I found this a break myself; explicitly or implicitly, we read opposed to mean opposed of like with like.  The assumption is that they are in some sense scaled appropriately, while two differing skills might have differing scales and involve a complicated translation.  But theres no reason for this, really.

HeroWars/HeroQuest is a good read for a study in how utterly mismatched skills and abilities can be used against one another.  It mopens up huge possibilities.  I think the the like-with-like matching is a good bad habit to break.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 16, 2006, 04:20:41 AM
Whoa! Good insight, Gareth. That distinction would never have occurred to me. I read "opposed" to mean "brought into opposition" regardless of the two entities in question. Perhaps that like-with-like reading has been a big communication-stopper throughout all kinds of discussions.

I do want to close this thread, though. Dan and Christopher and I played a third session a couple of days ago, and I'd like to post that and discuss it in its own thread.

Best, Ron