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Title: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 17, 2006, 08:19:32 PM
Hello,

For context and previous play, check out the threads [D&D 3.0/3.5] The kid two houses down (http://) and [D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19690.0).

We played our third session last Sunday. It was all about the showdown fight with the secondary villain Eladd, who I discovered in my notes was originally named Aledd, a name I like better, but somehow was transformed during play so far. Eladd is a wizard who's using attitude-influencing spells to allow him to steal this blessed castle blind, including a whole bunch of holy stuff.

If you remember, I'd forgotten to provide them with better information in the previous session, considering they'd successfully interacted with an NPC who could tell them a whole lot. So we re-wound just a little to the with the Beezah conversation, for a bit more brush-up information about the back-story.

To bore you with it, a little, here's the deal. There's this ghast named Garfauld "out there" in the woods, and he's the father of the Lady who just died. He is all cursed and evil and so on, and right now he's fixated on destroying his grandchildren. One of them is the heir at the castle, and the other is running around being kind of wild-woman with a bunch of hyenas. So, now they know about Garfauld and the whole back-story; Much to my pleasure, and with no prompting or previous discussion of the concept, Dan whipped out a blank page and sketched a neat relationship-map within 30 seconds, looked at it, and said, "Ah!"

And then according to the players, they wanted to go back to the castle, and this was just right, as I'd prepped for the crisis awaiting them there. Who knows what I'd have done if they didn't go back there. Something. Maybe a fight with a monster for no good reason at all.

A bit more social stuff

I started with a Sense Motive check on the guards, which was failed by all characters except Forin, the barbarian (Dan rolls well for him most of the time). He figured out they were taking the characters' armor and weapons differently this time, as in, not likely to give them back, as opposed to the usual routine when they entered the castle and checked their stuff. This brought up some interesting lessons in role-playing for Christopher, who instantly started talking about what his characters were going to do about it - interesting for me, because Dan and I did not say "You have to act in character" or anything like that. Instead, I said something like, "Remember, only Forin knows this, and he hasn't told anyone. What would you do?"

Dan then had Forin intimidate the guards into letting the characters keep their armor on, which was sort of, you know, not in my DM plans. Damned social conflict skill rolls. Also, Christopher fixated a bit on this bit of interaction, wanting to follow up on the various guards and make a continuing big deal out of this scene. I decided that scene closure still remained my prerogative, and also checked out the retry rules. More on that in a moment.

Anyway, up they go to the main hall of the castle, and meet Lord Khoros, who's currently under several powerful mind-altering spells and absolutely convinced that they are all agents of Nerull (evil god, blah blah), traitors, assassins, blasphemers, and so on. I point out that Lord Khoros is Lawful Good ... and that it would be perfectly reasonable in that context for him to have them executed, if he were correct. Oh, and Eladd's just hangin' out there, smiling evilly at them and picking his fingernails.

It was kind of pleasant to see the look dawn on both their faces that the time had come - they simply needed to fight. I purposely said nothing of the kind, but with every sentence moved closer to Lord Khoros ordering their deaths.

The fight!

What were they up against? A 5th-level wizard with Mage Armor, Blur, Protection from Law, Protection from Good, Shield ... it added up to AC 24 against the LG clerics, AC 22 against the NG and CG characters. All those defensive spells meant that the clerics (Joshua: 2nd-level fighter, 1st-level cleric; Vall, 2nd-level paladin, 1st-level cleric) were in trouble, hitting only with criticals (or whatever the new things are called that are potentially criticals, "threats" or whatever).

Eladd didn't have either Lightning or Fireball, given the importance of Suggestion to his whole scenario/character concept, so his offense consisted primarily of Magic Missiles. I was kind of annoyed as well that the characters had kept their armor and main weapons ... the armor wasn't the main thing, but I'd kind of hoped they'd be stuck with daggers. Forin had really intimidated the guards, though.

Lord Khoros was addled by a Suggestion and a Charm Person; Hathic was kept out of things with Cause Fear; both had been cast prior to the fight. I also had a few guards present, and when the players' frustrated rhetoric (to which Khoros was immune, being enspelled) started to affect them, Eladd hit'em with Sleep.

The fight took about four and a half rounds. The party suffered significantly due to lack of teamwork, as well as unfamiliarity with their own spells. Christopher figured out he should have cast protective stuff on Forin well after Forin was sucking wind. Specifically, Forin took two threebie Magic Missiles, which zapped him below 0 hit points; remember, he'd been weakened by the blood-loss from the previous session.

But they got frackin' lucky with Forin's first Power Blow, which actually hit, and a later strike by Vall with a 19 at a crucial juncture in the fight. With these on the board, Corin's little plinking Magic Missile strikes were significant after all. Together, it all meant that Eladd didn't have time for what he really wanted - to take a couple of characters out of the fight, then make the others stand down, permitting him to escape with his loot, in exchange for Lord Khoros' life. Plus he used up more of his Magic Missiles than he'd planned, and he (I!) certainly hadn't planned on losing half his hit points in the first round.

A couple of preps ago, I'd come up with his magic toys, which included a scroll he used in the fight, and an Instant Steed. After a little suffering (see below), I finally had him use the Instant Steed, so there he was, thundering across the second-story castle floor, heading for the broad staircase to the lower floor and the open doors to the outside.

Dan looked up his spells and used Mage Hand to trip the Steed, Eladd went head over heels to the stone floor, and knocked himself down to -5 hit points.

Christopher, bless his good heart, instantly had his clerical characters run over and stabilized the villain from losing any more hit points and eventually dying, without any comment from Dan or me whatsoever.

Pause for bitchin'

Golly, looking stuff up is an intense pain in my ass. The first time we tried Barbarian Rage, it took ten minutes, half of which was annoying referencing (look up X, refers you to a bonus Y, look up Y, refers you to attributes table), half of which was Dan's unfamiliarity (I ask him his Combat Bonus, he gives me a derived value instead of the base value I need). Dan's wife, Liz, came by and asked how things were going, and all my modern tastes in role-playing seethed into my mind, almost forcing me to cry out to the heavens, "Looking stuff up for no damn good reason!"

I'll give the book credit for a decent index, though.

Retries

It was interesting to see Christopher clickin' the "try again" button a few times during this session. When a skill failed, he repeatedly said "do it again," or after someone else's skill failed, saying, "OK, then I try it." I think the same issue applied during the first guards-interaction, up to confronting Khoros. Christopher kept talking about having his clerics go and pray, or for everyone to rest up and heal some hit points, without really processing that in-game time mattered in this situation.

I remembered my friend John Marron talking about his role-playing experiences with people who'd begun their adventure gaming with CRPGs of a particular kind. According to him, they had a kind of "click on it again" approach to play, basically moving around rooms and touching everything over and over to see what it did, or expecting spells to be essentially "hit," "block," or "open." I think the healing-thing is similar too; you just type or click "wait" and recover a few points, and you basically do this as much as you want as long as you're not in a fight.

On a different note about retries for rolls, though, I have to say that is some seriously confusing and fucked-up text about the issue in the skills section of the book. You can't do re-tries. Except when you can. Except when you do the DM might not let them work. Except that sometimes they do. The words do this hyper-contradictory dance across a very few sentences in a way I've seen in a lot of game texts, but is a bit anomalous for this version of the Player's Handbook. I'm beginning to think that retaining skills in the rules (mainly a Second Edition thing; most older D&D only had "skills" as a few class abilities) was a bad idea, and T&T's Saving Throws, so-called, look better and better to me all the time.

Dubious stuff

All right, so far I have been a very good boy and played by the written rules with some care. I'm a little horrified at some others' readings of those rules, especially the balking at applying the actual skill rules, to the extent of insisting they say stuff they don't, for example. But for this session, here's your chance: you can now say, "Ron doesn't play D&D right." What you're about to see is some Old School DMing, bwah.

If you want a little more perspective on that, check out Sean's intro and my posts in The grognard speaks: System and Step On Up in OD&D (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=12288.0).

1. Christopher hurled his two characters into melee right next to the berserked-out Forin, after the latter's dramatic first strike. I smiled nastily and upon Forin's next attempt, which missed, had Joshua make a Reflexes Save against the attack roll, which he failed, and hence Joshua got clipped by his pal's longsword. Full damage, too; I'm a bastard. "Here's the lesson: don't stand next to the enraged barbarian," I told Christopher. (Aside: the Barbarian Rage rules make for pretty limp-dicked berserker scenes, in my view. In real old-skool play, Forin would then have ravened after Joshua for his next attack.)

2. Christopher had Joshua hurl a Protection from Evil onto Lord Khoros. I ruled that it provided the dotty enspelled lord a new chance to Save vs. the Suggestion & Charm Person spells affecting him (cast by an evil guy). I tell ya, I don't even know if this is legit, and my perusal of the rules at the time of play provided me with no help at all. I shrugged and went for it. It was a nice thing for Christopher to do, and a good indication that he understood that a given fight isn't necessarily about my to-hit + hit points against his to-hit + hit points in some little microcosm.

I did encourage that choice, actually. Christopher said "Protection from Evil!" and I asked him to consider very carefully whom he would throw it on. He and Dan debated that one for a bit until he chose Lord Khoros.

3. I really needed a morale check for Eladd in that crucial second-to-last round. He had 3 hit points left, was a highly selfish and self-preserving character, and had done a lot of damage, but not achieved his goals of putting the player-characters at his mercy. He really wanted (a) to kill Forin, stabilized at -5 hit points, with his last Magic Missile, and (b) to escape. But doing (a) meant another round of nasty risks. I really didn't want this decision to reside with me as a person (I'm still a little irked by pulling the hyenas out of the fight in the first session), and without a good grasp of how 3.0/3.5 morale checks work, or if it even has them, I said, OK, Fortitude Save, against a DF of 15. He failed it, so that's why he went with the Instant Steed and tried to escape.

4. Tripping the horse with the Mage Hand ... another hint-hint from me as DM, I'm afraid, mainly through pointing out to Dan that his Magic Missile only did 2-5 points, and he didn't know how many were left. He asked, "Can I do anything with Mage Hand?" I clicked out of play-Eladd-opponent mode and into helpful-coach mode.

H'mm ... I knew that I, as a player, would use Mage Hand to seize a loose weapon lying around (all those sleeping guards) and huck it into the path of the magic horse's legs, into the spokes as it were. Looking on our little battlemap, the range was right, in fact, as if it had been set up with that spell in mind. The spell's description seemed to match that goal. So I suggested it in broad, vague terms: you can lift up something and put it where you want, and remember the guards all collapsed right over there ... and admittedly due to rather obvious coaching, Dan indeed announced that as his action.

Which to my way of thinking meant Eladd had to make a Reflexes Save to avoid injury from the automatic tumble he'd take (roll for the horse first? forget it, enough layering already), which he failed, and thus I wondered about falling-from-horse-at-a-gallop damage ... screw it, 2d6, I said, and that took him down to about -5.

Next

Regardless of the dubious stuff above, as far as I can tell, they beat Eladd fair and square. How many XPs should they get for the fight? Four 3rd-level player-characters against one 5th-level.

Well, we're finally getting to the part where they're going to deal with Garfauld and make some choices about what this messed-up, fragmented family is going to have to do. One thing they'll find out is that Eladd isn't an agent of Garfauld or anything like that, just a Neutral Evil wizard enjoying his chance to mess other people over and make a fast buck. I have a few scary-looking graveyard and crypt type maps to use, and it's probably going to be a vile fight-undead horror-type session to finish the story off. I'm interested in how I'm going to play Raetha, whom they plan to meet next and who I haven't really characterized well in my mind yet.

All comments welcome.

Best, Ron

edited to fix the grognard link


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Asteele on May 17, 2006, 11:32:45 PM
Quote
2. Christopher had Joshua hurl a Protection from Evil onto Lord Khoros. I ruled that it provided the dotty enspelled lord a new chance to Save vs. the Suggestion & Charm Person spells affecting him (cast by an evil guy). I tell ya, I don't even know if this is legit, and my perusal of the rules at the time of play provided me with no help at all. I shrugged and went for it. It was a nice thing for Christopher to do, and a good indication that he understood that a given fight isn't necessarily about my to-hit + hit points against his to-hit + hit points in some little microcosm.

This was actually a really good move under the rules (I probably would of done the same thing), Pro Evil prevents compulsions from working on the target.  Under the rules this would of prevented the suggesstion spell from affecting Khoros, but wouldn't of done anything about the charm (which is a charm not a compulsion), I once employed a similar move on a baron who was being dominated by a vampire.  I do agree that this is some pretty deep in the woods rules stuff though, your solution certainly wasn't a bad one.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: cdr on May 18, 2006, 12:05:07 AM
Sounds like fun!  I'm very much enjoying this sequence of threads.

Four 3rd level PCs defeating a 5th level opponent gain 450 XP each. (If they'd done it without armor and weapons 50% more would be appropriate.)  Possibly they should also get 150 each for cowing the guards
into letting them keep their armor and weapons.

(If you don't want to bother tracking XP exactly, note that it works out that a party of four advances after defeating 13 opponents of the same level.  An opponent 2 levels higher counts double, one 2 levels lower counts half, and NPC classes like Aristocrat count as a level lower than they actually are.  With the expected 3 fights per average 4 hour session that means advancing a level every 4 games, if one wanted to award just showing up and playing.)

Protection from Evil prevents magical orders from being given to the subject (among various other effects), so it was very clever of Christopher to cast that on the King so he couldn't be ordered to attack them, which would have been awkward.  And it's very pleasing that he stabilized the fallen wizard instead of finishing him off while he was helpless.

The bonuses for Protection from Law and Protection from Good are the same kind of bonus (deflection) so they overlap, not stack, so strictly by the book the wizard's AC would be 22 vs. both LG and NG/CG, but if you think that's a stupid rule that should be ignored, I wouldn't claim otherwise. And Shield blocks magic missiles.

I'm looking forward to hearing the next part, especially what they plan to do to the captured Wizard. I wonder if they'll think to offer to let Eladd live if he'll help them against the evil undead?  Enemy of my enemy and all that, although Paladins are often sticky about not wanting to work with evil folks.

--
Carl


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: WiredNavi on May 18, 2006, 03:05:21 AM
Quote
(Aside: the Barbarian Rage rules make for pretty limp-dicked berserker scenes, in my view. In real old-skool play, Forin would then have ravened after Joshua for his next attack.)

I'm really enjoying these threads, not the least to see someone who really groks Narrativism on a deep level having a very different perspective on playing something like D&D.  I, personally, applaud the limp-dickedness of Barbarian Rage, because I think its purpose is to be an interesting tactical choice for the barbarian's player, and not a tactical disadvantage of the party.  The tactical balance in D&D3.X is precarious enough at times that having your main damage-dealer turn on the party, even for one round, could result in a TPK.

If I was playing something like TSoY, though, then hells yeah, berserk everything that moves and cause as much trouble as possible.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: James_Nostack on May 18, 2006, 05:42:33 AM
How many XPs should they get for the fight? Four 3rd-level player-characters against one 5th-level.

450 each.  If this counts as some sort of "story goal" you might want to dish out a little more.

Can I ask a question?  What's with "each player controls two guys"?  It seems like an unnecessary complication.  Based on these reports, you've got two PC's--a Cleric, and a Barbarian.  In terms of arranging difficulty, just fool around with the Encounter Calculator (http://www.d20srd.org/encounterCalculator.htm) until you get something listed as "Challenging" or "Very Difficult."

Quote
Who knows what I'd have done if they didn't go back there. Something. Maybe a fight with a monster for no good reason at all.

This made me laugh out loud.  D&D... (shakes head)

And then I've got one or two comments about GM'ing in general.  At some point, there really ought to be a discussion of these things--

* The tendency to retroactively tweak the last session for plot purposes.  I did this in the "Python God" Sorcerer game.  Big Sphinx shows up, bellows a warning--and it turns out I forgot to make it bellow the key clause of the warning!  Oops!  Same deal with the "Hanno Mad-Dog" thing, though in that case the tweak ended up almost completely destroying the game for that player.  (I'll post once that's settled.)

*  The consequence of the dice screwing with "the story"--like that guy getting the weapons past the guards.  Where does that feeling of let-down come from? 

* Giving a hint or somethin to the players--viz., the Mage Hand spell.  You seem to regard this as a bigger deal than I do.  While I see it as interference, if someone seems completely stumped when playing an unfamiliar game, and it would make a cool scene, I'm willing to offer a tentative suggestion.

-----
Also: yes, the retry rolls are kind of confusing.
And it's my impression that the Barbarian's Rage gets more powerful at higher levels.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Dav on May 18, 2006, 06:15:42 AM
Hey Ron:

These (your posts on this D&D phenomenon) are precious.  How does this relate to indie games (I had to)?

My REAL question(s) is(are) as follows: how are you, or are you bothering, to treat alignment in your game?  I've always despised this aspect of D&D more than most other aspects, as it seems to want you to be "X and only X", which is dumb.  One other quick one:  I lost it (well, I probably didn't, and actually missed it in the skimming of the first session, but, y'know), how are you seizing upon focusing the characters toward one particular story (or are you)? ---> i.e. moving clue, Bobby G, many-hooks-where's-the-bite, etc.  I ask because it seems these are beginners, to a degree, and I find beginners only occasionally intuitively grasp the idea of steering the narrative without seeing it accomplished by others a few times.

Dav


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 18, 2006, 10:58:29 AM
So the Protection from Evil was legit? Bonus!

Thanks for reminding me about the compulsion/charm distinction, which I tend to forget. It turns out that nailing the Suggestion was more important anyway, because that's what convinced Khoros the player-characters were evil-guys. The Charm Person just made him like Eladd and (of course) be unable to attack or oppose him. He might be a bit shocked that they attacked such a nice guy, but the spell-counter took away the conviction they were evil assassins. So that works fine.

Seems to me that, yeah, not letting Protection spells stack is stupid. Especially since all the offensive stuff in the book seems to stack.

Dammit to hell about that Shield spell, though. I think my solution will be to knock down their XPs a little for that reason; it was significant. Also, I'm a little back-and-forth about it, but I don't think getting through the guards is worth any points. It wasn't that hard.

Carl, you might be interested to know that Dan and Christopher have no intention whatsoever of killing Eladd. That just hasn't occurred to them and I don't think it will. The whole question of "let's let him live if he helps us against the ghast" is therefore right off their radar screen. I do think it's interesting that Dan is playing a Chaotic Good and a Neutral Good character (Forin and Corin, respectively) who also happen to be half-brothers; and Christopher is playing the two Lawful Good guys. So maybe some talk about justice and so on will appear next session after all, we'll see. More on that in a minute.

James, you seem awfully puzzled about "two characters per player." Didn't you know this was a standard way to play dungeon-y fantasy back in the old days? Hell, in Tunnels & Trolls, it's practically assumed, if not 100% spelled out in the rules as an instruction. To answer your question, it has nothing to do with beefing up the strength of the party. Rest assured, I know alllll about setting up scenarios for one, two, five, or ten player-characters, or however many you'd like. Instead, I suggested doing this for two reasons: (1) so a player-character might die and the player would still have something to do; and (2) so we could see more of the rules in action. The latter wasn't realized as completely as I'd've liked, as Christopher went all cleric-happy, but that's OK.

I'm going to use you as a pinata now, if you don't mind, for at least two of your three detailed concerns.

Quote
The tendency to retroactively tweak the last session for plot purposes. I did this in the "Python God" Sorcerer game. Big Sphinx shows up, bellows a warning--and it turns out I forgot to make it bellow the key clause of the warning! Oops! Same deal with the "Hanno Mad-Dog" thing, though in that case the tweak ended up almost completely destroying the game for that player. (I'll post once that's settled.)

Well, hold on a second. There are two degrees of this issue that should be distinguished. In my case, there was no retroactive revision, merely an extension of the scene with which we closed the last session. "Oh, hey, Beezah tells you guys a bunch of other stuff too. Here it is." Nothing that was previously narrated had to be revised. If you encountered versions of this that threatened your group's Social Contract, then I'm betting it was a more extreme kind of revision.

Quote
The consequence of the dice screwing with "the story"--like that guy getting the weapons past the guards. Where does that feeling of let-down come from

You ready for this? From being such a teeny weenie.

No, really, I mean it. If you really get your Gamism on, then such an event is merely a good move on the other guy's part. It may disadvantage you (or "you" in the sense of the part of your mind playing Eladd), but it's not a letdown to see the other guy make a good move. If it is, then I suggest you avoid Gamism. Alternatively, if you really get your Narrativism on, and something equivalent occurs (less strategic, more thematic), then hey, there's no downside to that either unless you were invested in something happening and hoped the players would obey you until you got there. Which is just as lame, for Narrativist play, as being let-down for good play by an opponent is in Gamist play.

Sorry, man, it's harsh but true. Quit being such a teeny weenie, and the problem goes away.

Quote
Giving a hint or somethin to the players--viz., the Mage Hand spell. You seem to regard this as a bigger deal than I do. While I see it as interference, if someone seems completely stumped when playing an unfamiliar game, and it would make a cool scene, I'm willing to offer a tentative suggestion.

I agree with you on this one, actually. Especially for new players who are still getting used to the routine of this kind of tactical play - "Let's see, check my hit points, check my spells, check my physical position, check where everyone else is and the various terrain, check what the other guys are probably up to, check my apparent chances to hit this guy, check my available Feats," and so on. I've been trying to restrict my coaching to establishing this sort of routine, rather than dictating specific actions. The ones I mentioned veered a little too close to my own internal boundary about that, although they didn't quite cross it.

Dav, I'll get to your alignment questions in a later post. A lot of you D&Ders out there need to brace yourself for that. Don't try to anticipate my point, either, and no, the "Narrativist flag" comment in the previous thread isn't a clue.

Best, Ron

edited to fix quote formatting (twice! argh!)


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 18, 2006, 11:28:10 AM
Oh yeah. Dav, answering your minor question may be instructive to others (you, you're beyond help).

Posting in this forum is not restricted to independent role-playing games. It never has been; you can find D&D talk going on here since the beginning of the site.

Why? Because in this forum, we're here to discover what really works and what really doesn't, and for whom, in role-playing, period. That knowledge and insight is valuable on its own, and secondarily leads to better game design.

So for purposes of independent game development, full discussion of role-playing using any system/title is absolutely crucial to the site's goals.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: James_Nostack on May 18, 2006, 11:49:07 AM
Quote
It may disadvantage you (or "you" in the sense of the part of your mind playing Eladd), but it's not a letdown to see the other guy make a good move.

Hey, I totally agree!  I'm just commenting that this reaction sometimes happens in play.  The GM, particulary in games like D&D, usually enters a scene with way more information than the PC's, and probably has a rudimentary idea of a few ways the scene might play out.   It's possible that clever play completely screws up the GM's ideas--and that's exactly how it should be IMO.  But, once in a long, long while, there's an extra cool aspect of a scene that gets short-circuited or by-passed, and it's natural to say, "Shucks." 

For example, with the "check your weapons at the door" stuff.  It's cool that the player rolled awesomely and won the weapons.  But that moment of Step On Up obviated a much more powerful Step On Up moment later on: "The wizard is going crazy with his magic spells and ya'll have no weapons or armor OH NO!!!!"  Now, it's no big deal: dude was playing the game well, and you knew it was a possible consequence, and that's why people play games.  But the hypothetical scene still would have been nifty to see.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: mneme on May 18, 2006, 11:58:40 AM
I actually rather like the "no stacking the same bonus, dude" rule in theory, though in practice, it can be annoying to figure out which bonuses are which. (I've had discussions with my group like "no, I can't wear a Ring of Deflection because it doesn't stack with a shield" JK: er, no, dude -- the ring is a Deflection bonus; the shield is a shield bonus; they stack just fine.)

First: no, similar offensive bonuses don't stack either.  A +2 arrow shot out of a +2 gets...+2 -- they're both putting your shot into magical +2 land, but they're doing it the same way -- you don't get punished by them interfereing with one another.  If you had, say, a Boy of Dexterity, giving +4 to your dexterity (doesn't exist, but trivially easy to price; see the SRD), that would stack with arrows +2, because one bonus is to your bowshot and the other is to your ability to guide it.

By the same token, if you've got a shield and a Shield spell, they don't stack -- the shield is a moving object getting in the way of incoming blows and the Shield spell...same thing except that it's just made of force.  No matter how many +1 rings of deflection you wear, you're still only getting +1 to your AC, and you can't wear Armor and a Mage Armor spell to be extra-armored -- it's just good sense.

This said, it's still pretty fiddly, especially since two types of bonuses (dodge and circumstance) explicitly stack.

The "basics" srd page (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/theBasics.htm) lists all the bonuses that exist in D&D.  It's not a long list (17 separate types of bonus, including ones you get from basic system stuff like "ability bonuses" and "size bonuses").


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: mneme on May 18, 2006, 11:59:37 AM
Er.  In paragraph 2, it should be "you don't get punished by them interfering with one another, but they don't help one another either."


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: John Harper on May 18, 2006, 12:26:59 PM
I'm with mneme. The stacking stuff is a pretty important mastery skill for serious D&D 3.0/3.5 play. Or, it was for my group in our long-ish 3.0 series, anyway. I'd take a long look at it before ruling it out.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: David "Czar Fnord" Artman on May 18, 2006, 12:32:21 PM
The GM, particularly in games like D&D, usually enters a scene with way more information than the PCs, and probably has a rudimentary idea of a few ways the scene might play out.   It's possible that clever play completely screws up the GM's ideas--and that's exactly how it should be IMO.  But, once in a long, long while, there's an extra cool aspect of a scene that gets short-circuited or by-passed, and it's natural to say, "Shucks." 

There's at least one clear cause, I think, for the "aw, shucks" reaction. Over-preparation: the GM may have spent a lot of time preparing something for play and it is rendered moot by introductory actions. This is regardless of the GNS ramifications: it is a disappointment which can occur in any play style in which preparation occurs and player actions can circumvent it. Bummer. My advice, in this case: get away from static prep that could be circumvented. Which (surprise!) many modern game rules facilitate.

Or change your mind and prep for prep's sake. Or tuck away that well-crafted prep for the next session or tweak it to suit. Feeling the first twinge of "aw, shucks" is fine: most folks can't total control every emotional reaction they have. But once you recognize the feeling, move to a solution that serves to make you happy again (ideally, not including railroading).

That said... Ron, I suppose you figured being armored wasn't such a major bummer for the later (anticipated, maybe forced?) combat. Because you well know that drama could have ruled that situation, no matter how intimidating the barbarian is. Let's consider:
1) The guards are so intimidated that they call for back-up while they bar entry (and wouldn't that reinforce the Suggestion on the king, hmmm? The PCs get in to see him after arguing to remain armed and armored?! Sounds just like an assassin's plot to me!).
2) The guards are so intimidated that they let the PCs pass so they can go get a gang and catch up to them (unless, of course, the entry is very close to the king's throne room--was it the door to the reception hall itself?).
3) The guards do just what they did... and the next guards to see the PCs in armor say, "How dare you appear in arms in the presence of the king!? Seize them, and go relieve Frick and Frack and have them report to the kitchens!" (And, again, here's Eladd whispering away in the paranoid king's ear....)

From a Sim perspective, frankly, I can't personally see any sort of persuasion or social challenge convincing royal guards to disregard what is likely Rule One of being a royal guard: no arms around the king. Period. That barbarian would have intimidated his way into a fight or into the dungeon but no where NEAR into the king's reception hall. (It sounds patently absurd, put that way: "I was frightened into letting he who frightened me get closer to he whom I must protect, on penalty of death?!")

When you get down to "who is costed what" to consider that situation, the guards would have to literally fear the barbarian more than they BOTH love AND fear their ruler. In a "this smelly guy is gonna kill me right now... the king will kill me later... I'll take later" sort of way. For me (not versed in the politics of your world) this is a flat out impossibility. Royal guards are better vetted than that.

I am sure I'm not teaching you any "GM judo" or any great new trick. Mainly, I am asking if you can corroborate that this particular actual play situation you began to forge by disarming the PCs was probably not really all that critical for you to set up that way.

Great AP posts--I gotta stop designing and PLAY some, soon!
David


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Dav on May 18, 2006, 12:37:33 PM
Ron:

Waaaaaay beyond help... but not without reason (even if that reason is because I am too cool for those "popular games"...)

Starting your game, as, in my experience, D&D (or similar systems based around a contrived we-are-party ideal) waste at least a good portion of the opening scenario dealing with the "getting 'em together" concept for the group.  Later, I have often watched the devolvement of we-are-group vs. we-are-characters for these games.  You seemed to have sidestepped this niggling problem by starting somewhat in media res, or at least so I assume.  I have always felt that we-are-group games hamper a player's ability to explore different plotlines, as there seems this invisible and unspoken tether with the group.  Now, I know that these games do not specifically state the group-mind mentality, but when the company and designers, themselves, are concerned with "where a particular character concept works within the group", you know you've hit on something wince-worthy.  

My overall query is whether you see this mentality (the tether bit) more-or-less taken as a given by your players, or have they, to your mind (whether they have or not), felt free to explore the whatever-catches-their-eye-ness of your lil story?

Dav

(hey, when did that "while you were browsing, someone posted something new" notification appear... that's handy)


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 18, 2006, 01:20:54 PM
Interesting replies. Someday someone will write a dissertation on replies in D&D threads.

Joshua, many thanks for that stacking reference. John, if I ever do "serious" D&D, by which I mean playing long enough to go through multiple levels, I'll probably pay attention to it.

James, you seem to have backpeddled from a feeling of letdown to a fleeting aw-shucks. I agree that the latter is no big deal. But I think it was the former you were posting about, and that it had been a big deal for you in past. So let's not backpeddle from a real issue.

David, I don't think I'm in any real need of advice about how to prep or react during play. It's working very nicely so far. Your advice might be helpful for someone who'd expressed sentiments like James' letdown, so folks, if that applies to you, see David's advice.

Now, as far as your points about the guard-intimidation go, I'm glad you clarified your point to this question:

Quote
Mainly, I am asking if you can corroborate that this particular actual play situation you began to forge by disarming the PCs was probably not really all that critical for you to set up that way.

Yes, 100%. It wasn't that big a deal. I never, ever GM in such a way as to say, "Well, this has to happen or I can't get to this thing that has to happen." (Conversely, I do not any more GM in such a way as to say, "Well, if they don't do that, I can make the desired result happen another anyway, so no big deal.") When all is said and done, the guard bit came along because I thought it would be unfair for them not to get a Sense Motive check before heading upstairs. The consequences (weapons or no weapons) seemed like something I didn't want to leave to fiat.

That leads to an interesting question, though ... in many role-playing situations, the GM is responsible for saying, "This skill on so-and-so's sheet would apply right now, so I'll call for a roll." If he doesn't do that, it's considered unfair and irresponsible, and in fact, many of the skills in those games are constructed specifically for this purpose (i.e. the player never calls for their use). Whereas as I recall from old D&D days, at least in the games I played in, the player was responsible for all such stuff as Detect Traps or Find Secret Door. All ability-use was player-proactive, or you were shit out of luck.

Is there any rules-text in current D&D 3.0/3.5 regarding which of these is expected or instructed? My decision to call for that roll at the castle door made perfect sense in the first context of skills (it's basically the old Perception issue, warts and all), but now that I think about it, was rather different from the way I recall playing D&D back when, which was totally in the second context.

Oh yeah ... David, if you hadn't clarified that final question, I would have had hard words for you, and I know that because I wrote them before deciding they weren't warranted after all. However, I will take this opportunity to mention to everyone, especially in D&D threads, that you were not actually at the table, playing. In this case, in regard to your comments about guards and reactions, consider: the four characters had been received and welcomed formally by Khoros just the day before, Forin had been specifically acknowledged as an elf-friend with a direct family-friendship tie to the dead Lady, two are priests of Hieronymous in a castle where such priests left a while ago (and most everyone there is devout), and all four had received fine magical gifts by Khoros. The guards were well aware that Khoros was acting very strangely today. Citing their loyalty to him as an automatic block against the characters, at the level you're describing, was not valid in our situation.

Dav, that's an interesting question about the party-ness. I suspect that Dan and Christopher would be OK with splitting up a little bit, and in the previous run, had even done so for a while. But yes, they do think of the party as a united interest, and I further suspect that this view could fossilize into "party uber alles" over time. The whole justice-for-Eladd thing may be interesting next time in that regard, although I don't anticipate the acrimonious bullshit that arises among adolescents playing such situations using this game.

The party-mentality has all kinds of interesting aspects to discuss some day. Gareth (contracycle) once described to me his idea that it's related to romanticizing U.S. troops in Viet Nam with their raze-the-hamlet tactics, which does match to some of the kids I remember in the late 1970s, playing the game, and especially to a number of the servicemen who played it obsessively (and often served as role-models for the kids). I typically think it mainly has to do with social huddling, on the one hand, which is to say the people are socially huddling by playing, so the characters are thereby assumed to be a social unit with artificially-inflated automatic unity; and on the other hand, with the classic tourney-style competition in which groups competed against groups for fastest "run-through," highest kill-count, and highest treasure-count, which of course played such an enormous role in the development of the game and its culture in the late 1970s.

Alignment talk much later. I have stuff to do now.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: rafial on May 18, 2006, 01:41:40 PM
Quote
The party-mentality has all kinds of interesting aspects to discuss some day.

An additional possible source of this tradition is your comment above about multiple characters per player being the norm in the old days.  That is certainly how I originally played, primarily because it would be me and and at most two other players.  So when a party to 6-8 characters are being controlled by only one or two players, there's really no motivation for featuring character squabbles.  After all, your chess pieces never squabbled.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Eric Provost on May 18, 2006, 02:24:33 PM
Hey Ron,

I was kinda sitting here and pondering your decision not to give the players the XP for Intimidating the guards into letting them keep their weapons & armor.  I mean; really?  None?  I mean, they succeeded at the Sense Motive roll, figured out that they were probably gonna need their weapons & armor right away, came up with the idea of using Intimidate to get their way, then succeeded at that roll. 

Soooo.... two successful skill rolls and a good idea which resulted in a drastic change in an impending situation that probably had a pretty severe impact on how the story turned out... and that's not worth a measely 150 XP each?  Because it was too easy?  Please imagine me sitting here in my hotel, holding my full belly while I laugh and declare; You suck, dude.  You totally suck.

-Eric


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 18, 2006, 02:29:00 PM
H'm, that is sucky, isn't it? I did say I was going back-and-forth about it ... I'll make my final decision by the next session, but that is a pretty strong lobby there, Eric, and at the moment I find it convincing.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: James_Nostack on May 18, 2006, 02:39:22 PM
James . . .  I think it was the former [clothes-sundering heartbreak of Casey Jones, Master Railroader] you were posting about

Sorry, but no.  Maybe it was a miscommunication.  I raised three aspects of your play report in my initial post: Retconning, the Limbo of Unborn Coolness, and Nudging--because I hadn't seen them discussed before.  They're (obviously) truly screwed-up when used on a large scale, but on a tiny scale they probably happen from time to time in all groups, and are harmless.  Any phenomenon that's fairly common yet unremarked and potentially problematic is worth highlighting.

Regarding the Limbo of Unborn Coolness: as you point out, if something must happen regardless of player input, it's a sign that the whole story/adventure/whatever-it's-called was badly conceived.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Mark Woodhouse on May 18, 2006, 03:39:53 PM
Regarding the "party up" thing, my most recent D&D experiences suggest that whatever its origins, it's now very much embraced as a feature by players. Hardcore G D&D is a combined-arms tactics exercise, and you party up because the tactical unit is the group, not the individual character. In my most recent 3.5 game, the group would quite fiercely quash any level of solo effort - all tactical decisions were very Xs and Os.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Callan S. on May 18, 2006, 08:32:57 PM
Hey Ron,

I was kinda sitting here and pondering your decision not to give the players the XP for Intimidating the guards into letting them keep their weapons & armor.  I mean; really?  None?  I mean, they succeeded at the Sense Motive roll, figured out that they were probably gonna need their weapons & armor right away, came up with the idea of using Intimidate to get their way, then succeeded at that roll. 

Soooo.... two successful skill rolls and a good idea which resulted in a drastic change in an impending situation that probably had a pretty severe impact on how the story turned out... and that's not worth a measely 150 XP each?  Because it was too easy?  Please imagine me sitting here in my hotel, holding my full belly while I laugh and declare; You suck, dude.  You totally suck.
My thoughts are that they didnt' take on a risk. A failure on the social rolls didn't mean any penalty. The only thing that could happen is that they profit, or what was going to happen, happens anyway. To put it in monetary terms; someone is going to take $500 from you. But if you roll a 10 on a ten sided dice, they don't take it from you. It'd difficult odds, but it's not a risk, because someone else is just going to take it from you. They chose to put your in that situation, you didn't. You didn't take on the risk.

However, if they had the opportunity not to be in that situation, but chose it anyway as their best bet, that's a different matter.

But since this isn't a gamist game, this probably doesn't apply. (And I'll be engaging any arguements to the contrary by PM, so as to not mess up this thread)


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Aaron on May 18, 2006, 08:47:51 PM

I think the lack of stacking, particular when t comes to "Protection from..."spells, is good.  Allowing the protections to stack is only going to encourage more "neutral" characters against which only one of the protections won't work.  Or if you have real min maxers you end up with a bunch of true neutral characters in which case none of the protection work.  Been there, don't like it!


While I agree that missing the shield vs. magic missile probably made a significant impact on the encounter I don't know if the characters should be punished because you forgot!  It would have made the fight harder but they still may have pulled it off, you missing the shield protection just didn't give them the chance.
I'm also curious about the combat setup.  Eladd had four 5 minute duration spells cast on himself before the fight started, presumably before the characters even entered the room.  How long were the characters talking before the fight started?  Five minutes isnt very long and it would indicate that Eladd was really expecting to have to fight pretty much as soon as they appeared.  It sounds more like he tried to set up the situation, (organising to remove their weapons, having guards present) so that he wouldn't have to do any actual fighting himself.

Aaron



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Eric Provost on May 18, 2006, 10:39:15 PM
Callan,

How do you know that the PCs weren't taking a risk by Intimidating the guards?  I mean, Ron didn't mention what he might or might not have done if the PCs failed in that roll, but that doesn't mean that he wouldn't have used the failed intimidation attempt to have the guards mess with the PCs.  And even if Ron wouldn't actually have done anything on a failure, what about the perceptions of the players?  They might have assumed there was a risk when they decided to pull out that particular skill.  But all this is just crazy guessing, because neither of us were at that table.

Despite what it may or may not say in the rules, I stand by the idea that a scene that invloves successful skill rolls, player decision making, and has a significant impact on the outcome of the game both tactically and narratively, should include some player reward.  It was a challenge and the players did overcome that challenge.

-Eric


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Eric Provost on May 18, 2006, 11:37:29 PM
Wait a second...  I was headed back to sleep when it occurred to me;  There totally was a risk.  The risk was the loss of the weapons and armor.  It doesn't matter that, in the game's fiction, the guards were just planning to take the stuff from the players.  What matters is that there was a chance that the characters would have their arms and a chance that they wouldn't.  And the players came away fully armed through decision making and good rolls.

-Eric



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: TheTris on May 19, 2006, 04:37:35 AM
From what I can see of this, the players were "scripted" to face this bad evil guy without arms and armour.

Through social combat, they managed to regain arms and armour during this encounter.

Then they faced the bad evil guy, and won.

Then, the xp calculations were all like "So they faced him, but they had arms and armour and stuff, so it isn't as impressive so they don't get the 50% extra I might have given them if they had been unarmed"

Something seems wrong there.  XP are part of the reward system, and the players have managed to reduce their potential reward through good decisions and winning rolls?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 19, 2006, 05:16:12 AM
Listen up.

There are many venues on the internet for you to debate whether XP should be granted or not, in whatever situation, and I suggest you go there to do that.

For my case, I'm musing over the alternatives, in a minor way, because this is a trivial issue. A few XPs are not the fucking national debt, all right? All of you are way way too committed toward what these two guys are going to get for their session.

Typical D&D thread breakdown ... why? Because you all carry history that makes "what happens in D&D" in any session, played by anyone anywhere, a matter of self-threatening importance. I don't see this kind of reaction in threads about any other game. I'm putting my foot down about it here. This is about my D&D game, not the bugaboo sitting your heads, pulling the levers.

'Specially because I asked some pretty substantive questions in my first post that are being passed over. If you can't shake off whatever emotional grab-factor seized you at the very mention of "gee, 100 XPs or not?", and go back and actually understand the topic of this thread, then stop posting.

Best, Ron



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: R. Jason Boss on May 19, 2006, 05:48:36 AM
Sounds like a great game so far, I've been following the threads with interest as I learn my way around this place.

The ongoing issue of social combat has been pretty useful for me to read as I'm still running D&D for my group more than anything else, by popular demand.  I'm trying to make more use of those skills in my current game, and at least one player (a ranger/sorcerer) is making a concerted effort to keep her Diplomacy et. al. up and ping skill synergies when her point distribution allows. 

Do you plan on having the negative impression left on the feral girl by the hyena-wounding party member carry over, or is that "debt" cleared by this later bloodletting?  Since the party noticed her it should be a fun, tense meet and greet for them.

Anyhow, this session and post were more about the battle.  I know you mentioned looking things up bogged you down a bit, but otherwise how did the pace of the fight go in terms of real time?  Was the play pretty straightfoward in terms of decisionmaking and executing mechanics or did the players want to add a lot of color to their fighting?

Curious and interested,
Jason


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: James_Nostack on May 19, 2006, 05:51:02 AM
Regarding your question about morale: as far as I can tell from skimming the index, it's not part of the game any longer.  (Lord knows, back in the day we never used it.)  And it might be one of those situations where fiat makes more sense than mechanics.  Running away when you're down to 1/3 or 1/2 (HP Max) seems pretty reasonable to me, unless the adversary values the goal more than its own life.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: R. Jason Boss on May 19, 2006, 06:07:26 AM
Yeah, I missed that bit.  Near as I can tell it's fiat.  Some of the newer WotC modules for D&D include text like, "When so-and-so reaches 20 hit points, he attempts to retreat to the next room, quaff his invisibility potion, and escape," or what have you.

Jason


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Storn on May 19, 2006, 07:57:41 AM
Quote
All of you are way way too committed toward what these two guys are going to get for their session.

Typical D&D thread breakdown ... why? Because you all carry history that makes "what happens in D&D" in any session, played by anyone anywhere, a matter of self-threatening importance. I don't see this kind of reaction in threads about any other game. I'm putting my foot down about it here. This is about my D&D game, not the bugaboo sitting your heads, pulling the levers.

I've been reading this thread with great interest, but held off writing a reply... cause, amazingly.... I had nothing to say.

But now I do. 

Ron, from what i've interperted posts about the XP thing is not a History & Baggage thang of our oddly shared D&D experience... but point out to you on this very specific Actual Play example.  Of course, History & Baggage is going to seep into folk's counterpoints... it just happens here that it is about the XP of the guards or not.  They are using their Play as a basis to support their counterpoints.... It cannot help but happen.

And yes, it is about D&D.... what does that tell us about System Mattering?  That XP rewards of D&D are both super stratified and yet so loose to be almost useless.  If you kill it, it makes sense.  If you compromise with it... XP has a vague set of guidelines.

Not that you are wrong in your intention.  This can get contentious and out of hand. 

But lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.  It is a very valid question to ask this; "If the players supernavigate around the guards, who MAY be ordered by their ensorcelled leader, to protect the Manipulative Mage... is that worth d20 XP or not?" IN YOUR GAME!.  To me, that is a reasonable question to put forth.  In any catagory, Gamist, Narrativist or Simulationist... I think I can make a case that it IS worth the Xp and a case that it ISNT in each rough camp.

However, I totally back you on this point.  GMing is an art.  Not a science.  You gotta make the call on the spot.  The game is happening at the table in real time.  And if you said, 450 xp for the defeating the manipulative Mage and that's it.  That's it.  Show must go on.  You are absolutely justified in the "ain't the national debt!" comment, imo.

My actual play experience with d20?  I threw up my hands in the air and fell back on Hero.  I gave out 1000xp every episode regardless of what had gone on in the episode.  This is simply a suggestion on how I solve my problem, not a "self-important" decleration <g>!

Great threads, btw.  Really enjoying them.  I wish I was as smart and feeling at 12 and could have saved the life of a villain and driven story in that fashion.  Humbled, I am.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Web_Weaver on May 19, 2006, 09:08:49 AM

I remembered my friend John Marron talking about his role-playing experiences with people who'd begun their adventure gaming with CRPGs of a particular kind. According to him, they had a kind of "click on it again" approach to play, basically moving around rooms and touching everything over and over to see what it did, or expecting spells to be essentially "hit," "block," or "open." I think the healing-thing is similar too; you just type or click "wait" and recover a few points, and you basically do this as much as you want as long as you're not in a fight.


This, to me, is the most interesting thing in this thread, the impact of computer roleplaying is a real issue now, superficially the mechanics utilised in CRPGs are getting closer and closer to full RPG design, but by their scripted nature they will always be limited. But, playing with a group who actively play these games it is interesting what ideas come up during play.

  • They have suggested Save Games, i.e. having certain points where you could experiment safely with the scene or situation before committing to your actual strategies or actions;
  • Commented on plot hooks being akin to computer games having triggers that kick off parts of the story when the player is ready for them (assuming that unresolved situations will still be there if they walk away and come back later)
  • Waved away simulationist concerns over carrying too much gear by referring to the vast inventories that their computer characters can handle.
  • Have very specific ideas about XP due to unambiguous rules (you may have to confront this one).
  • Not to mention the in-built assumption that the plot is right there ready to be triggered whatever the situation.

I had best stop this list here as it is in danger of becoming a thread in its own right.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Eric Provost on May 19, 2006, 12:31:13 PM
Love you too, Ron.

I went back to your first post and re-read it a couple time.  I don't see those substansive questions that are being passed over.  I see that you made a couple statements about some "dubious" rulings that you made, but they don't look like questions to me.  The only question I see in the whole post is that one where you ask what XP we thought they should be awarded.

I would go ahead and talk about those "dubious" things, but I don't want to get all mired up in answering questions that haven't really been asked.  Or maybe I'm just blind.  You point me at the questions, and I'll try to be helpful.

-Eric


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Larry L. on May 19, 2006, 02:19:43 PM
Yowie, I better get a question in before this thread is sucked into the Quagmire (X6) of minutiae.

Ron, I'm curious if you've observed any neat interactions with the father-son relationship in play. Are they playing differently than, say, some random kid and an adult might play? Does pa exhibit any of his own D&D baggage from back when? Does he do anything to mentor or reign in his son's play? Does dad cave to his son's arguments moreso than a soley self-interested party might? That kinda thing.

Also, now that you mention it, the bit about "player must declare skill use" vs. "GM prompts for skill use" is something I know I've puzzled over when running pre-Forge games in the past. Unfortunately, I don't have any insight into this phenomenon other than I think I've always erred on the side of "GM prompts," since that is pretty much required to make illusionist junk like Call of Cthulhu to run.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 19, 2006, 02:39:27 PM
Well now, let's see.

The big questions I want to address are,

1. Morale: NPCs and monsters giving up, turning tail, pulling their "escape valve" spell out of their butts, or otherwise checking out of a combat situation. I welcome any D&D instance of this sort of thing as actual play topics, in this thread or in their own, either way is fine. My question: when, how, and why have people done this in the past?

So far it's been part of both our fights in this game so far, which as a basic observation makes my nose wrinkle at myself. Am I smelling something I don't like? I think I might be.

2. The GM calling for skills vs. Player calling for skills. Boy, that is a biggie, isn't it? I've been in games where only the first is permitted. You role-play what your guy says and does, and if the GM decides that warrants a Diplomacy check, why then he calls for the roll. And I've been in games where only the second is permitted, and if the player is dumb enough not to call for the Diplomacy check when that's obviously what the character is doing, then the GM is under no obligation to remind him or make the check.

Interesting how totally irrelevant that is to Sorcerer, in which conflict-of-interest dictates a roll no matter what, and who calls for the roll pretty much varies 'round the table - in some cases, it's not even the player in question or the GM.

So, for any D&D play of any kind. which way did you do it? GM calls for skills, player calls for skills, or catch-as-catch-can? And in the latter case, what was the shared "ding ding roll" signal that everyone seemed to abide by?

3. How many XPs to give out for the guards ... oh wait, that's not funny. Actually, Storn, I greatly appreciate your post. Everyone go read Storn's post, it makes sense to me. That doesn't mean I'm entirely certain about what I'm going to do, though. Oh, and related - I do know that it would be really really lame of me to dock them XPs because I forgot about Shield stopping Magic Missiles. What, punish them for my bad/unskillful play? Laaaaame.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 19, 2006, 02:58:09 PM
Dammit, I hit post before I intended.

Larry, I'd have to have at least a few "adult + kid but not related" instances to compare, and that's one of the things I don't have a lot of experience with in role-playing.

To focus just on these two, I can say that Dan really loves the color in the game. After his big ol' Power Strike announcement for Forin's attack, we did a quick check on where everyone was, and I described Forin as "having left a trail of saliva" between his former position and his current one (right up vs. Eladd). He loved it, and always seems to love that sort of thing. I think he has a lot more enjoyment goin' on here than merely mentoring or being there for his kid.

I realized something though. His D&D experience must be reeeeeeally old, because they didn't play with the -10 hit point buffer at all - hit 0, and you die, wham. He was surprised at this "new rule," which in fact first appeared in the 1978-80 set of hardbacks (the first AD&D), unless it showed up in some Dragon magazine or something before that.

I'm not seeing any over-concession or conversely, over-managing of son's play by dad. Their interaction seems to be mainly about playing the game to one another's satisfaction; Dan cracks down on Christopher for losing focus regarding whose turn it is or where his character is, for instance. But we take a few minutes sometimes to talk about Christopher's experience of the game too, and so it's clear that Dan's finding the game very illuminating as a dad. It helps that Christopher has absolutely no inkling of the hyper-kill, adolescent, nose-breathing power fantasy, and likes playing his characters as good guys tryin' to fight for good stuff.

Web-Weaver, I say, make a thread about that! I really want some actual-play dissection of that issue too.

R. Jason, you asked,

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Do you plan on having the negative impression left on the feral girl by the hyena-wounding party member carry over, or is that "debt" cleared by this later bloodletting?  Since the party noticed her it should be a fun, tense meet and greet for them.

They were talking about meeting Raetha next time, and in fact had set up a meeting through Raetha. Like I said, I need to put some thought into prepping her a little better. (It's interesting so far, on a related note, that I like Hathic better through playing him than I did through prepping him. So I need to prep Raetha but also be open to whatever adjustments playing her imposes too.)

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Anyhow, this session and post were more about the battle.  I know you mentioned looking things up bogged you down a bit, but otherwise how did the pace of the fight go in terms of real time?  Was the play pretty straightfoward in terms of decisionmaking and executing mechanics or did the players want to add a lot of color to their fighting?

It was straightforward and very sensible in terms of all of us knowing what was going on and announcing what they wanted to do. I even took notes about what each person did on his or her turn in each round, but every time I post to this thread, the notes are in some other damn room or underneath something.

Which reminds me, I'm OK with the timing of the spells. Eladd absolutely did plan on provoking the fight although he wanted it to "prove" the party's guilt. So yes, he cast the spells right when the party got to the gates.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: ffilz on May 19, 2006, 03:03:26 PM
Ron, thanks for re-stating the questions.

On the morale issue: In my previous D&D play (and I'll include Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed/Evolved as D&D), I've very rarely used morale, and if I have, it's been entirely GM fiat (gee, these guys are sucking it on the chin, they can't possibly win, so they run away - or try to). In one sense, if the game is kill and take treasure, and not a lot of social interraction, then it makes sense for the NPCs to fight to the death.

I both call for skill rolls, and let the players ask for skill rolls. I'm sure I've been inconsistent about requiring the players to be smart enough to call for rolls, and asking for them when it seems like they should have a chance of noticing something. I attribute a lot of this problem to really fuzzy skill mechanics, and it relates to "mother may I" play.

On XP for the guards - I'm not sure what I'd do in that situation. I'd be inclined to give some XP for the good idea, on the other hand, the guards weren't intended as an obstacle for the PCs to overcome, and the players already benefited from the subsequent encounter being easier that you had expected, so it was easier to get the XP award in that encounter. This brings up one thing I've noticed, what XP do the PCs get if they give a good fight, but fail to prevail? The rules say nothing about that. I'm not convinced they should get no XP (or at least only get XP for the sub-set of opposition they actually defeated, say they defeated 2 trolls, but the 3rd troll ran them off), but I can see a reasonable argument for that.

Frank


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ricky Donato on May 19, 2006, 03:21:40 PM
1. Morale: NPCs and monsters giving up, turning tail, pulling their "escape valve" spell out of their butts, or otherwise checking out of a combat situation. I welcome any D&D instance of this sort of thing as actual play topics, in this thread or in their own, either way is fine. My question: when, how, and why have people done this in the past?

So far it's been part of both our fights in this game so far, which as a basic observation makes my nose wrinkle at myself. Am I smelling something I don't like? I think I might be.

Hi, Ron,

I know that the morale check is not in the D&D 3rd ed. rules. From a gamist point-of-view, I see an NPC fleeing as a strategic decision by the DM: do I risk this NPC's life to challenge the players some more, or shoud I cut my losses now and get him out of here while he can? This is interesting, because if the bad guy gets away, it tends to imply to the players, "Ha ha, you didn't really win. He'll heal up and he might come back to challenge you again in a few days or a few years."

Some actual play:

I was DMing a 3.0 D&D game a few years ago, and the characters in their first adventure defeated a gnomish wizard named Evart. Evart escaped them, and Phil, one of the players, became obsessed with finding him again. As he put it, "I have to find him because he's going to come back and haunt us otherwise." This eventually became a running gag, but Phil's subtext was clear - the characters didn't completely win against Evart, and Phil was worried that Evart would challenge them again.

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2. The GM calling for skills vs. Player calling for skills. Boy, that is a biggie, isn't it? I've been in games where only the first is permitted. You role-play what your guy says and does, and if the GM decides that warrants a Diplomacy check, why then he calls for the roll. And I've been in games where only the second is permitted, and if the player is dumb enough not to call for the Diplomacy check when that's obviously what the character is doing, then the GM is under no obligation to remind him or make the check.

Interesting how totally irrelevant that is to Sorcerer, in which conflict-of-interest dictates a roll no matter what, and who calls for the roll pretty much varies 'round the table - in some cases, it's not even the player in question or the GM.

I haven't read Sorcerer, but let me throw out a possibility: the D&D text does not give clear indications as to when these rolls should be made, so it is not . By contrast, rolls in D&D combat are very clear cut and "who calls for the roll" as you put it is irrelevant - because the roll is demanded by the system, and does not rely on anyone's subjective judgment.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: greyorm on May 19, 2006, 03:25:55 PM
1. Morale: NPCs and monsters giving up, turning tail, pulling their "escape valve" spell out of their butts, or otherwise checking out of a combat situation. I welcome any D&D instance of this sort of thing as actual play topics, in this thread or in their own, either way is fine. My question: when, how, and why have people done this in the past?

I honestly haven't. I have never utilized morale in play of any version of D&D, mainly because every instance of it I have ever seen in D&D-type rules looked clunky and tacked on (I can't say 'felt' because I never used it). I almost always have played fights right to the death -- blood, blood and death! -- unless the NPC was one I needed for another scene, or didn't want to see die for some other (perhaps sentimental) reason. And in that case I just fudged it and went the surrender-or-escape-by-GM-fiat route. Usually the latter because the players would have no possibly say in the outcome, then. That was awful -- manipulative and unsportsmanlike -- of me to do, but I did it.

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2...So, for any D&D play of any kind. which way did you do it? GM calls for skills, player calls for skills, or catch-as-catch-can? And in the latter case, what was the shared "ding ding roll" signal that everyone seemed to abide by?

In the last years I was playing 3E, I tried to get my group to start making skill roll calls, as well as feeding them rolls. We all came from a very strong background of "GM tells you when to roll, now roll like good little robots", so the idea of asking for skill rolls for some things never caught on as strongly as it could have, though it did improve. Notably, all sorts of dungeoneering-type rolls would be called for regularly (Search, Spot, Listen, Track, etc.), but the Social-type and other rolls were almost completely and utterly ignored unless I asked for one (even when they were floundering "role-playing"-wise and could have used to social roll to gain a mechanical advantage).

Tangentially, I have to wonder if that is because those sorts of rolls are built into previous versions of D&D as non-skills: searching for hidden doors and traps, etc. are part of your character's basic interactive portfolio, they're firmly on the side of "my resources", whereas diplomacy and other social things such are tied very strongly to traditionally GM-fiat portions of play ("Does [the GM feel like having] the old hermit give us the clue?")

So, I tried my best to coach them when I thought a roll might be appropriate, or I thought there was something/multiple things they could try out, but I was having enough problems worrying about running the game that I was only rarely a good coach, thus I blew numerous chances to suggest using Diplomacy or Intimidate rolls. I kick myself.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: R. Jason Boss on May 19, 2006, 03:29:26 PM
1. Morale: NPCs and monsters giving up, turning tail, pulling their "escape valve" spell out of their butts, or otherwise checking out of a combat situation. I welcome any D&D instance of this sort of thing as actual play topics, in this thread or in their own, either way is fine. My question: when, how, and why have people done this in the past?

Hmm.  In my last game I had a situation where the players were fighting some goblin guards.  One stayed and lobbed javelins and the other went to warn their second line of defense.  The players took out the fodder guard and rushed after the second but not in time.  The second goblin joined the next line of defense, which made the ensuing fight 5 or 6 goblins vs. 2 PCs.  I had decided that one goblin would stay near the exit to run and warn the goblin "town" of the attack if they lost their 2:1 advantage.  One of the PCs made it into their defenses with some impressive Jump/Tumble moves and as a result cut that goblin down with an attack of opportunity when it tried to escape (in retrospect I should have had the goblin open the door in the previous round, but I was satisfied in interpreting the PCs actions as catching the goblins very off-guard, one human and one elf tearing through them so quickly).

What I'm considering trying out next game is using something like Intimidation vs. Sense Motive, with situational modifiers based on how the NPCs/monsters view their position and the threat level of the PCs (as demonstrated by their actions as well as intangibles, hence Sense Motive - Are these hardened warriors after all?).  I might have to fiddle with the numbers a bit for modifiers to make it work out right but it seems a pretty reasonable option.  In the above example, the goblin that was tasked with carrying the alarm message would have had a chance to make a check or two and possibly decide the party was badass enough to merit his hightailing it before my conditions were met.

They were talking about meeting Raetha next time, and in fact had set up a meeting through Raetha. Like I said, I need to put some thought into prepping her a little better. (It's interesting so far, on a related note, that I like Hathic better through playing him than I did through prepping him. So I need to prep Raetha but also be open to whatever adjustments playing her imposes too.)

Sounds good.  I asked because you expressed dislike for the "NPC Attitudes" charts and all that in favor of opposed rolls, which I dig.  Normally I'd do something like knock her default attitude down a peg if she was pissed about the hyena backstabbing, but I guess in a pinch a situational penalty to Diplomacy would have the same result.

Thanks!
Jason


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: buzz on May 19, 2006, 04:11:18 PM
2. The GM calling for skills vs. Player calling for skills.
Our games are most definitely a mix. More often than not, the DM will call for rolls as a result of actions described by the player (e.g., "Hmm... okay, you'll need to make an Open Locks check to do that"), or as a consequence of terrain (e.g., Balance), or the ever-present preamble to an encounter (e.g., "Everybody make a Spot check"). There are times when a player will call for a check, e.g., "Can I make an active Spot to see what he's doing?" It probably happens the most in combat when the PC is performing maneuvers that have stated DCs, such as Tumbling to avoid AoO or making a Concentration check to cast defensively. There's no asking involved then; the player just does it as part of their move.

I think it often depends on knowledge of the DC involved. That info is typically the DM's domain, so they're the ones calling for checks.

To touch on the time-spent-looking-stuff-up: make notes. Arranging the character sheet in such a way that various bonuses are pre-calculated (e.g., Rage) and page references are marked near relevant bits (spells especially) is very helpful. Also, like any game, the more you play, the less you have to look things up. I see character-sheet-confusion as one of the biggest hurdles the casual gamers in our group face.

The rules-fu people in my groups rarely crack the book for anything other than spells. 'Course, we've been playing 3.0/3.5 consistently since 2002 or so.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on May 19, 2006, 05:28:17 PM
Just gotta say, I've been following these threads and enjoying them immensely. It sounds like a damn fun game of D&D.

My D&D experience is fairly limited, but I've always found the GM-call vs. Player-call for skill checks extremely muddled. In my case there's a heaping helping of poorly (or simply un-) negotiated Social Contract, but whatever the cause, I alswys feel like I'm on shaky ground as a player in calling for my own checks, and at the same time see little initiative on the part of the DM to call for them. Even if we're talking about my own pro-active, creative (hopefully) idea or solution to problem, I always seem to get, following describing the plan, a simple "Oh, OK" rather than, OK, roll Bluff!" It's more like: ME: "blah blah, clever plan. GM: "OK." Beat. Me: "OK, so should I roll bluff, or diplomacy?" GM: "Sure." It always seems to carry an element of mild surprise, and at the very least a curious indifference: "Oh, you wanted to use a skill roll to accomplish that? Hm." And if it's a more passive situation, like reacting to a situation with Spot or Sense Motive or the like, the effect is more pronounced, though still subtle. "Can I roll Spot to see if anyone's out there?" "Oh, OK." (unstated attitude: "I guess, if you really think it'll do any good.")

I find this terribly demoralizing. It makes me feel like the GM is humoring me, and I suspect that my character's actions (and my choices) aren't really having an effect. Any sccess is suspect--if rolling my skill is such an afterthought, isn't it probable that the GM already had the result in mind. And of course any failure only increases the fatalistic feeling in your gut.

(In case it's still unclear, I should make the official disclaimer that this is all my subjective impression, not a stated position on the part of the DMs in question.)

I can think of a few possible explanations for the phenomenon. One is the tendency to view such skill-based endeavors as a kind of end-run around the TRUE challenge--the fight. In other words, cheating. Not necessarily dysfunctional cheating (you can, for instance, play poker with the understanding that cheating well--ie not getting caught--is part of the game), but nonetheless something to be blocked. "Nope, you can't bluff your way around this one," "Ha, tiptoe all you want, you're gonna have to fight him to pass," etc etc.

Another possibility: an Ouija-board situation where actually trying to call on a mechanical advantage, direct and unabashed, is considered crass and poor form. So of course nobody wants to say "hey, can I roll Intimidate here?" they just want to describe their character's action and let the GM figure out what the descriptive input means vis a vis mechanical output.Come to think of it, I'm not sure if anyone else in my group does subscribe to this style of play, which could explain why I keep finding my input marginalized; the Gm's waiting for my skill call, and I'm waiting for his. (And even in my case I think it's more an ingrained habit than an actual play preference.)

A final possibility; I just need to speak up and assert my right to use my player's resources. This is kind of related to the above reason, but somewhat independent, I think. The base problem is that I'm not getting full and robust use of my characters' means of game effectiveness, so regardless of the factors that led to that, I at least need to do everything in MY power to maximize that effectiveness before I can determine where else the problem might lie and correct it there as well.

I hope this post wasn't too self-analytical, by which I mean I hope it is broadly insightful or useful regarding the issue as raised in the thread. In any case, it's started to untangle some issues for me.

Peace,
-Joel

PS Ron, I'm looking forward to your commentary on D&D Alignment.
 


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 19, 2006, 05:42:35 PM
On the "morale" issue, I recall the "red box" "Basic D&D" set actually had specific morale rules (roll when half the enemy is wiped out, or something) and an actual "morale rating" (roll vs 2d6, I think) for every single monster. Never played that edition, though.

More interestingly (to me), to get back to the real people stuff:

Dan really loves the color in the game. After his big ol' Power Strike announcement for Forin's attack, we did a quick check on where everyone was, and I described Forin as "having left a trail of saliva" between his former position and his current one (right up vs. Eladd). He loved it.... Christopher has absolutely no inkling of the hyper-kill, adolescent, nose-breathing power fantasy, and likes playing his characters as good guys tryin' to fight for good stuff.

Ron, as a dad myself (of a two-year-old, admittedly), I suspect what you've got going on here is an activity that gives the adult permission to do "kid stuff" ("getting his orc on" and all that) and the kid permission to try on adult stuff (e.g. taking strong positions of moral authority) without either feeling awkward or embarassed about it. Which is fantastic.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Callan S. on May 19, 2006, 11:09:19 PM
1. Morale: NPCs and monsters giving up, turning tail, pulling their "escape valve" spell out of their butts, or otherwise checking out of a combat situation. I welcome any D&D instance of this sort of thing as actual play topics, in this thread or in their own, either way is fine. My question: when, how, and why have people done this in the past?
In a game once the palladin and rogue met up against something quite tough in a cave. I can't remember what, might have been an ettin.

Anyway, it comes down to it the rogue is in the negs and out of it. It's the ettins turn and both sides can see each other are battered. If it strikes, it may win. But if it strikes and misses, it'll most likely die due to the palladins attack.

When it came down to it, I hadn't really invested myself in cutting down players. I was pretty invested in players screwing up enough times that they killed themselves. But now was the crunch time...I could play the monster to the 'fights to the death' or it could show that it wanted to hold back and simply run away.

I just wasn't invested in the story ending because, basically, I had decided to play to the hilt. That's not that interesting an ending you know...that choice from me as a player is fairly basic and uninteresting. If I had limited resources like a player, like that ettin was my PC, it would be much more interesting.

And lets face it, I just found my yet to be revealed 'astounding' plot revelations more interesting as well. Why would I play to the hilt and kill off the chance to show those?

Well, that's what I'm prising out of my memory as to why I indicated to the players that it wanted to hold off, shuffle around them and run off down the cave. At the time I didn't have any clear cut thoughts on the matter, just a bunch of feelings. But I knew it had come down to me. At this latter date, looking back, I think it just wasn't that interesting when it came down to my descision (as GM I just don't have as much on the line as players do).

On an amusing side note, the palladins player acted as if he was going to go with it, then he declared he was attacking, basically breaking the deal. The rogues player went nah, in a way that indicated some negative social feedback for that sort of deal break. The palladin lets him go, but then one of them remembers an NPC they had under their thumb that they left at the cave mouth "Oh, he could get him, yeah!". He was low level but the ettin only had 3 HP left, so rather than looking up the NPC's stats I just gave him a 50% chance. He passed and the players cheered! Funny and cunning!

BTW, the ettin indicating it giving up and shuffling/running off involved no rolls. I wasn't willing to gamble on whether he did this, in this particular account.

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2. The GM calling for skills vs. Player calling for skills. Boy, that is a biggie, isn't it?
It is!! What's specifically would you like to ask about it?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: cdr on May 20, 2006, 12:33:42 AM
D&D3.0/3.5 core books have no morale rules other than GM fiat, although the D&D Miniatures Handbook has something that could be bolted on.  I've seen Will save used, since that's what's used for fear checks, but that has the odd effect of making wizards and sorcerers stand their ground as fighters and barbarians flee.  A Fort save would be odd rules-wise, but would advantage Fighters. Clerics win either way.

Often the difference in a tough fight between complete PC victory and Total Party Kill is just a turn or two, so the decision on whether to run RIGHT NOW or stay for ONE more turn and get the killing blow in can be very high pressure.  We saw a lot of this in the 3.x campaign I ran for 3 years, 60 sessions, 1st to 13th level (ending shortly before I discovered the Forge in February last year).  Especially at higher levels, the tactical instability caused by the huge advantage to the prepared attacker and the difficulty of defense meant it was very desirable to not let anyone get away, which led to scorched earth resource denial tactics.

Something I've heard of in lots of games is "tar baby syndrome" where one PC goes down and the others won't retreat without their fallen friend so everyone winds up dead.  If I were to ever run D&D again I'd have capture and ransom a standard part of the culture so that surrender wouldn't be so unthinkable.

If you did use Morale rules for the NPCs, would you use them for the PCs too? Or  would they left to player fiat?

I'd hate to deny to players the right to make their own call on whether to save their own lives or hang in there and risk death, or risk drinking a healing potion (which draws an attack of opportunity).  I think the challenge ratings as presented are assuming fights to the death, based on my experience.  If the villains run away when they reach 20% of hit points (or whatever criteria, like being one more average attack from dying) then they're not as tough, but that does seem more realistic.

We didn't use morale rules, but when I ran Heart of Nightfang Spire which has a lot of undead fear effects,  the tactical placement of the party's two Paladins (Rogue3/Paladin8 PC and her Paladin9 cohort) to provide coverage for their bonus vs. fear to nearby comrades played a significant part in planning.

2. The GM calling for skills vs. Player calling for skills. Boy, that is a biggie, isn't it?

Yes it is! Always requiring player to call for skill checks can be agonizingly tedious in a dungeon crawl with traps as they ask to check for traps every 10'.  3.x lets you "Take 10" to assume you rolled a 10 if you take an action for the skill, or you can take 20x as long to "Take 20" and assume you got a 20, but only for skills where nothing bad happens if you fail the roll.  So you can Take 20 searching a room (2 minutes per 10' square!), but typically not for Diplomacy or climbing or disabling traps.  Take 10 is very handy for climbing since otherwise the odds of climbing anything tall are vanishingly small unless you're very skilled or its very easy.

We played that the player can always use a skill, and doesn't have to ask the GM for permission, any more than they would in order to cast a spell or swing a sword.  "Use a skill" is an action a PC can take. But the GM can also ask the player to use a skill anytime (most commonly Spot or Listen).  We used Diplomacy a great deal since the Rogue3/Paladin was maxed out on Diplomacy and more of a talker than a fighter. We found Sense Motive and Intimidate mostly broken, and didn't use them much.  In particular, we quickly clarified that Sense Motive was NOT "Detect Lie."

As GM I also let players enter standing orders, like "The halfing rogue will always check for traps before opening the door" and the players would mention explicitly when they weren't doing that (usually for time pressure reasons, especially in the Spire where they were under a brutally short clock to get in and out each trip before their protective wards wore off). For search and traps I'd roll the die behind the GM screen (and abide by the results), everything else they rolled themselves.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: greyorm on May 20, 2006, 10:39:59 AM
It is!! What's specifically would you like to ask about it?

Psst...before Ron blows up and beats you with a large trout for failing to read his whole post before responding, here's a specific quote from it: "So, for any D&D play of any kind. which way did you do it? GM calls for skills, player calls for skills, or catch-as-catch-can? And in the latter case, what was the shared 'ding ding roll' signal that everyone seemed to abide by?"

You may kick yourself now.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Callan S. on May 20, 2006, 12:14:58 PM
There were two questions in that post. I failed when I stopped at the first (though I would like more detail on that first one). The second question:

In D&D, searching is often left as a player called for skill (well, usually the player declares their seaching and the GM calls for a skill roll (or just tells us what we find)). Other skills like religion checks, for example, have been GM called but almost in a 'Did you put points in this?' sort of test of skill point distribution. In actual play, when there was a call for my clerics religion check and he had low ranks, there were some derisory comments. As in, he hasn't got it where he should have it...he's inneffective at what he should be as a cleric (I'm pretty sure it was feedback based on effectiveness). Which is a bit of a conflict, because when you roll religion once in a blue moon and roll spot multiple times per session, effectiveness is putting them into spot. Anyway, I'm ranting on. The point is that the call could come as a test of character skill point distribution...calls for spot rolls always feel like this.

I don't think we had any 'GM says something along the lines of diplomacy but doesn't roll, player picks up dice to contest it' stuff at all. I don't think weve had much history of picking up the dice without being told, let alone picking up the dice to interfear with something the GM said, as in calling for a diplomacy roll rather than just being influenced. Although when the player did want to contest it, it was usually thought trying to slip around it. For example, I was GM'ing once and the palladin had just rescued a woman from an attacking monster. The woman was a succubus, actually. Yeh, yeh, the old prisoner is a monster thang. Anyway, when I describe her about to hug the palladin, he goes all dodgey and weavy. No dice rolls, just talk between us. If I'd introduced dice, he'd have accepted it, I think. But talk would have continued about bonuses or such.

I have to say one thing about dice rolls, is that our group doesn't stop play for any considerable amount of time for look up. You don't know how to do the rolls for a power (like rage), you can't do it. Look it up while it's not your turn (in my mind, that's part of our game - so your still active on when it's not your turn). The annoyances you have about look ups shock me a bit. Why's that your responsiblity or anyone elses apart from the player? This is a personal preference of mine of course, but the look up is part of the skill of the game. You don't do that for him (unless your another player and it's not your turn). It's babying them around to actually grind play to a halt for this. Again - I can see this is just my preference.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Eric Provost on May 20, 2006, 12:50:14 PM
Right on.  Those are questions I can answer.

I've used formal Morale rules in one and only one session.  That was the Red Box session that I posted about earlier.  It was interesting but there was only one part of it that I'd enjoy applying to a non-hack&slash session.  That's the part where it's implied that once the monsters cut & run, then the players win & get the XP.  For some reason, in my D&D games over the past few years, that idea kinda got lost somewhere.  When the villians would turn tail, the players would usually get upset over loosing their victims.  Which I think, but I'm not sure, stemmed from some old ruling about how they wouldn't get XP because they didn't kill the suckers.  Whiiichhh... turned into a downward spiral of No-Fun. 

Starting with the first session of our new campaign tomorrow, I intend to have the baddies surrender or cut & run just about every time I know that the fight is already in the bag for the PCs.  You know that point in a long D&D fight where you can just see the tide turn against the monsters & NPCs?  Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.  Once that happens, I don't want to drag out the thing longer than it's fun.  And the players will totally get their XP. 

The skills thing.  I think that we've always gone with a kind of mix where sometimes the player calls for it and sometimes the GM calls for it, but the GM always gets that final say about what skill gets rolled and when.  I imagine that we'll probably stick with that pattern in the new campaign, but I indend to be a little more cool about letting the skills go how the players want them to go.  In the past I was kinda overbearing about deciding what skill gets used under what situation, but that was mostly 'cuz I was under the impression that I was supposed to be overbearing about it. 

Quote from: Ron
And in the latter case, what was the shared "ding ding roll" signal that everyone seemed to abide by?

Not quite 100% sure what you mean by this.  What was the signal that it was time to roll the dice?  Or what was the signal that determined who got to choose?

In the former case, it was um... well, it was kinda anytime the players tried to do anything that could be covered by one of the skills and invloved a possible risk.  In the latter case... well, there was no signal.  At least none in the vein of knowing that it was time to roll dice and not quite yet knowing who got to decide which skill got used.  If the GM heard a player narrate an action that might fail and have consequences he might call for a roll.  If a player wanted to get something done and was quite certain that it fell under a skill or ability that they wanted to showcase then they'd say something like "I wanna roll my Diplomacy skill to convince him to sell me the carrot."

I imagine we'll keep that pattern tomorrow, only replacing "consequences" with "important consequences". 

What I'd like to know is what is it about the Morale/surrender/escape thing that's leaving a bad taste in your mouth?  Is it the feeling of cutting the challenge out from under the players, making it too easy?  Or the opposite, making it too hard by having the baddies fight to the bitter end, trying to kill off a PC at any cost?  Or something else maybe?

Oh, know what?  I've got one more thing to share about NPCs escaping.  A bit of an anecdote that might just be interesting here.  It was a few years back and we were playing L5R in a great little group.  I was a player and was in the role of the tough and uncouth guy in the group.  We had done a bunch of clue-hunting for the session and had tracked down the Bad Guy to where he was hiding.  There were words spoken that lead to an immediate fight.  From my pov, this was the climax.  Everything lead to killing this guy.  At some point in the fight it became apparent that we had him.  We had won.  So, the GM pulled out some special escape-ability of the NPC and declared that he ran away and dissapeared into the night.  Poof!  I was totally pissed.  And now I can articulate why.  See, I felt like we had won the conflict fair and square, and the conflict was about putting an evil dude to death.  But, because of some obscure special ability that win got snatched right out of our hands.  We came away with nothing to show for it.  No consequences at all.  Zip.  The dude dissapeard back into the same shadowy orginization that he came from and we had nothing to show for all our efforts.

Is there some connection between that anecdote and the bad taste in your mouth?  Cuz... non-pc-death consequences for the players winning a fight could totally solve that.  Like, if the badguy in my story had been driven out of the city and his crime orginization had crumbled... that would have been totally cool.  Or something like that.

-Eric


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 20, 2006, 01:11:10 PM
Wow! I almost want to stop this thread and start new ones for the other topics, because this whole "who calls for skill" thing, and associated issues like the lookup stuff Callan mentioned, are turning into a great database.

I think it's fair to say that a game which includes skills, effectiveness-values for those skills, and a point-buy (often strategic) assignment basis for having skills ... really ought to be more explicit about when and how skills are used. But that's no unique criticism of D&D, now is it? I think we just discovered one of those crucial issues regarding how-to-play which simply isn't explained. It's only assumed, absorbed, intuited, and above all enforced within a given group.

Talk about a crucial Techniques topic, eh? Wow again. I'd like to call for anyone who's interested to look over the posts so far and see if you can come up with a suitable generalization for the "state of the art" regarding skills (who calls for them, how, and why). Here's mine so far, which is probably pretty primitive.

The skill list on the D&D character sheets we're using (standard from the TSR website) can be divided into three things.

1. Color. Just raw Color, meaning that a ranger probably picks up some Wilderness Lore, a cleric picks up some Religious Lore, and so on. I'm betting that these are practically never rolled, and when they are, the DM probably called for it - and calls the result a success unless it's a 1, or even says "reroll" if it's a failure (no lie!). Such a roll/event involves information the DM would like to impart and is pretending that the overt resolution system is involved when it's patently not.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all groups use Lore in this fashion. I'm describing the category and pointing out that Lore may well be used as that category by many groups.)

2. A crucial tactical element of play, usually highly customized to the group. Spot checks are the obvious examples, and groups will differ radically about who calls for them and how much meat-and-potatoes you get from succeeding at them, just as with any Perception rolls in any games. (Note that in some games and groups, Perception is utilized as #1 above, though.) I imagine that Sense Motive and Intimidation are either used in this category, as in my current game, or (if the group can't figure out a way to interpret success/failure) deemed "broken" and discarded.

3. Important hooks or contexts for setting up scenarios, such as languages (again, these are candidates for this category, not hard-and-fast must-bes). Who knows which language, and what NPCs say to one another in different languages, may be used as an information-brokering or even crucial-misunderstanding context for scenarios and conflicts that are being developed. As I recall, a great deal of debate over what the hell an "alignment language" was often had to be ironed out for a given group or risk being a source of phenomenal contention during play, because some folks would then use them strategically in this context.

Great feedback on morale, too, guys, and thanks. Here are my thoughts on it, to be clear what I meant earlier.

Basically, I want a rule that determines whether, at the point when the tide turns against my monsters or NPCs, they cut and run. I don't like deciding it by myself, and going by the two fights so far, apparently I am too sympathetic to my baddies and basically assume they'll try to stay alive. That's the "bad taste," and I associate that particular flavor with the niggling desire not really to kill player-characters. A desire, incidentally, which I have trained out of my system for many other games, so I'm suspicious when anything even looks like it, especially in D&D. (Yet in each case I don't think I was too off-base; I just don't like the implication of two-for-two.)

I want a deterministic roll. If they make it, they stand and fight, and who knows, maybe a few more HPs will go down the drain, or a lucky crit will show up, or  whatever. I'd be happy to play them either way, depending on what the roll says. Maybe I'll look it up in my 1978-80 books and see what those rules suggest.

And yeah, I agree that if they do cut and run, the PCs get the experience points.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Callan S. on May 20, 2006, 01:57:44 PM
Quote
I think it's fair to say that a game which includes skills, effectiveness-values for those skills, and a point-buy (often strategic) assignment basis for having skills ... really ought to be more explicit about when and how skills are used. But that's no unique criticism of D&D, now is it? I think we just discovered one of those crucial issues regarding how-to-play which simply isn't explained. It's only assumed, absorbed, intuited, and above all enforced within a given group
I hadn't actually thought about that before, in terms of our groups play. Not at all, really. I'm sure I've contributed to our groups development of it. But actual, wilful thought? I guess it's the way it's written 'Skill X opposes Skill Y' and you buy into that as an answer. But really, which player opposes which player? That's the unanswered question.

On state of the art: I think you've nailed it, too hard to top.

On morale - this is what comes to my mind (so clearly it's something that I dig and not inherantly D&D) and it's to just say something like "Some monsters/foes run at half HP" or "Some run at one quarter HP". No dice rolls, just a fixed fraction. You don't even have to tell them which do what...they'll see the results in combat (though I really recommend deciding for each NPC before the combat). That way the players can judge just how much risk there was "Oh, this guy will run at half, so it's not as great a win if we beat him". I like that because it's a nice, hard number. If there's a morale roll - well, you might not be deciding when they run, but your still deciding when there's a chance that they run. For my own preferences, that's not so much a hard number and harder to judge exactly what risk I was facing.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Larry L. on May 20, 2006, 02:36:33 PM
I'll mention this here rather than wait for a new thread because it's a neat intersection of two issues Ron mentions.

Back in the old high-school AD&D2 game, I was like the only player who knew the rules as well as the DM. The DM would always forget about morale checks during combats. So from time to time, if we had whomped on the monsters pretty good but ourselves were in peril, it would be something like

"The Black Captain charges at the wounded mage... and hits! causing..."
"Hey wait! Shouldn't they have to make some kind of morale check after that fireball?"
"Huh? Oh, uh, yeah! Let's see... yup! Okay, so instead... the legion of evil scrambles to flee!"
"Do I get a bonus if I attack him as he flees?"

and so forth.

Which is funny, because morale checks are spelled out as a "DM remembers" item, and I'm using it here as a "player remembers" item.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on May 20, 2006, 05:40:36 PM
Now I come to think about it, it seems to me that the skill issue divides into two categories: 1) who calls for a roll at all, and 2) who decides on relevant skills/abilities to use in the roll. That is, there is a responsibility for declaring when something needs a roll to resolve, rather than deciding the result by fiat, and there is also a responsibility for knowing what character resources are relevant, and applying them. I'm inclined to think the most functional distribution of this power is the GM calling for rolls, and the players applying abilities.

What we have instead in my game is, as I said, sometimes the GM calls for it, and sometimes he doesn't, and you're left wondering just what is expected of you.

I realized this while thinking of some recent play, in the Big Eyes Small Mouth system, where my character had this Unique Attribute to reach out to people, and I was playing out all kinds of conversational situations where I was trying earnestly to do just that, and the GM was just "letting the conversation play out" instead of giving me a roll to influence. I talked to her about this, and her answer was, "You need to tell me when you're using the attribute because I've got too much to keep track of to be responsible for that." Which seemed a reasonable enough response at the time, but then I realized, it wasn't just not getting to use that specific ability, but just not getting a roll at all, when obviously I'm trying to have a real, palpable effect on the world with my character, and should get to roll Soul or something whether I've got "Aura of Compassion" to bump it up or not.



Also, I'm not sure if this is getting off topic, but I've noted as well in my games that there is a harsh attitude toward failure, such that results of a failed roll, especially a 1, are likely to be treated as a comical level of incompetence. This falls into your category of skills as color, but it's absulutely vital Color, like "is my guy the cool and collected badass I envision him to be, or not?" So when that Ranger turns up a 1 on his wilderness lore, rather than still being assumed to be a competent Ranger, he suddenly forgets that birds have wings or something. Thus a failed spot check practically means sudden blindness, A failed bluff and you sound like a used car salesman, and so forth. I think this goes a long way toward explaining the squeamishness about skill use in some players, or at least me.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: buzz on May 20, 2006, 07:44:16 PM
1. Color. Just raw Color, meaning that a ranger probably picks up some Wilderness Lore, a cleric picks up some Religious Lore, and so on. I'm betting that these are practically never rolled, and when they are, the DM probably called for it - and calls the result a success unless it's a 1, or even says "reroll" if it's a failure (no lie!). Such a roll/event involves information the DM would like to impart and is pretending that the overt resolution system is involved when it's patently not.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all groups use Lore in this fashion. I'm describing the category and pointing out that Lore may well be used as that category by many groups.)

Wilderness Lore (Survival in 3.5) gets used a lot if you have the Track feat, as it's the skill you check when tracking. Rangers will generally max this skill. The Knowledge skills, in our games, get whipped out mostly for identifying monsters. In 3.5, there is a specific, finite list of which Knowledge skill are available and what they cover. Monsters of various types are divided amongst a bunch of them. I.e., if you want to know what kind of undead you're fighting, you ask the cleric (Knowledge: religion). What type of dragon, you ask the wizard (Knowledge: arcana).


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: JMendes on May 21, 2006, 12:19:36 AM
Hey, :)

Also, regarding whether a skill is color or not, almost all skills have some sort of non-irrelevant effect on effectiveness. Knowledge skills, for instance, give a synergy bonus of +2 in relevant "active" skill rolls, provided you have at least five ranks. Because there is a maximum number of ranks you can purchase in those active skills, if you really want to be top dog in one, you pretty much have to go for the knowledges.

Plus, some of these bonuses are totally tactical. Knowledge (Religion), for instance, gives a bonus to Turn Undead checks.

(The above does not apply to things like Profession, which, I think, are there mostly for the sake of completeness in describing NPCs. Or at least, I've never seen them taken by anyone, for color purposes or otherwise, as they never seem to fit with any idea of any type of PC that I have ever seen in real play.)

All this is to say, category 2 is pretty much universal for the game, but, I would speculate many groups might be playing without category 3, and I can assure you some groups (strive to) play without category 1 at all. (Actual Play example: I have, as GM, withheld information that I reeeeaaallly wanted to give out, on account of a failed Knowledge roll, because it was information that I felt was quite helpful with regards to overcoming challenges, but not crucial to continued fun.)

I hope I have contributed to the picture being painted.

Cheers,
J.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Storn on May 21, 2006, 06:08:23 AM
Quote
This falls into your category of skills as color, but it's absulutely vital Color, like "is my guy the cool and collected badass I envision him to be, or not?" So when that Ranger turns up a 1 on his wilderness lore, rather than still being assumed to be a competent Ranger, he suddenly forgets that birds have wings or something. Thus a failed spot check practically means sudden blindness, A failed bluff and you sound like a used car salesman, and so forth. I think this goes a long way toward explaining the squeamishness about skill use in some players, or at least me.

I agree.  I think when my characters, who are supposed to be competent, get belittled... then I wince a bit.

I think it was Feng Shui that started me thinking that "Failure" could be cool.  A couple of other games have reinforced it.  So as a GM, sometimes a skill failure, I'll even say 'oh, you even succeed at the task... but this consequence X rears its head".  Burning Wheel has some examples like that.

 Like there is no doubt the thief should pick the lock from the tenor of the game so far.  And rolls the dice and gets a afailure.  But I rule he still does pick the lock.  But while doing so, the guard around the corner drops his tin dinner plate with a loud crash.  Probably startling the crap outta the poor thief.  Other guards come over to see what the ruckus is.  Thief has picked the door, but there are bunch of buffons just around the corner (who have no idea that uber cool thief is SOOO close) yelling for a mop!  The job of getting out is going to be trickier.

This is a classic James Bond scene.  And who is cooler than Bond.  We haven't made our example Thief character less cool for failure...we've almost made him cooler, as there is now more challenge.

But it was Stake setting where often I find myself hoping to fail... and in certain games, like L5R or Weapons of the Gods dice pools, I've even picked the lower dice to fail on purpose, because the Failure stake was so much fun!

Now to dovetail back to d20.  This unexpected consequences of failure that do not deprotagonize the protagonist *might* be a bit harder to do.  Just in this thread, we've seen Skill vs. Skill pairings.  Ex: Intimidation vs. Sense Motive.  These pairings focuses tightly the consequences of failure.  Armando the suave, but dangerous courtier fails his Intimidation vs. the Capt of the Guard's Sense MOtive.  There is a GM tendency, I believe, to go "NOPE!  The Capt sees right through your bluster!  His spine is stiff as steel.  He isn't intimidated at all".  In the heat of the moment, at the table, it is harder to think of "yes...but!"  As in "Oh, Armando, the Capt totally buys your social status as higher, and is trying to ingratiate and help you.  Unfortunately, he wants to escort you as is your due for being such a scary badass."

d20 is not the only game that I think channels thinking.  And channeled thinking is not necessarily a bad thing.  But since d20 is the thread origin and what not...

Also, as side note, if the players never outright fail.  Does it take away the drama of the dice?  Does it make it seem like the PC always succeeds? (an actual complaint by one of my more competitive players of my GM style).  In other words, why roll?


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 21, 2006, 07:59:06 AM
Hey guys,

One thing that's getting missed in a couple of posts above is that I'm not classifying the D&D skills into those categories. It's crucial to my point that in one group, all of the skills might be used as Color, whereas in another, how you distribute your skill points is a deadly serious tactical prep choice, and any of the skills might be crucial at some moment.

See what I mean? There's no point in saying "Wilderness Lore is too important because when you use it with Track then blah-de-blah," because in that group two doors down, they don't do that. They don't use the skills remotely like you do. Maybe they use them like you'd use a Crayola crayon set to solidify the characters' visual images in one another's minds, and that's all.

That's my point and I hope it's clear.

Also, those three categories are, as I said, primitive, or at least only one angle of attack on the issue. We should really focus on the whole "who calls for a skill, and which skill, and how deadly/crucial is doing so" angle. The posts so far are interesting - there's a lot of pain and unrealized commitment being expressed even with reflecting on the answers to the questions I asked about it. Look at how much status during play is being invoked in people's histories.

Right now, for the present game, it's interesting to be playing D&D with no teenagers involved, nor with anyone who's resurrecting his or her own teenage memories of D&D either. The result? Personal status is simply not on the line. Dan, Christopher, and I are not interested in "who sucks" or "who's baaaad," in our game. Rolls don't make you cool, they're a source of commitment to the situation and a source of some combination of relief, triumph, or apprehension.

So my current perspective on that issue really makes the emotional knots underlying and entwining with the comments so far jump out at me.

Best, Ron


Title: [D&D 3.0/3.5] On The Subject of Skills (Re: Spells and swords - fight!)
Post by: Roger on May 21, 2006, 09:31:48 AM
The purpose of this message is to examine how the D&D 3.5 game, as written, treats skills.

Skills are the Game

"The whole game can be boiled down to the characters trying to accomplish various tasks, the DM determining how difficult those tasks are to accomplish, and the dice determining success or failure."

-- DMG 3.5, "Skill and Ability Checks", pg 30.

"Characters accomplish tasks by making skill checks, ability checks, or attack rolls, using the core mechanic."

-- PHB 3.5, "What Characters Can Do", pg 5

"A task is anything that requires a die roll."

-- DMG 3.5, "Delineating Tasks", pg 30.

"While combat and spellcasting have their own rules for how difficult tasks are, skill checks and ability checks handle just about everything else."

-- DMG 3.5, "Skill and Ability Checks", pg 30.


Thus, we can conclude that D&D itself consists of skill checks, closely-related ability checks, and the special cases of combat and spellcasting.


Objections to the Aforementioned

* "As written, the game requires the player to roll dice virtually every time he opens his mouth!  No one plays like that -- indeed, the game is unplayable as written, if that is required."

The rules as written do not require a player to roll for mundane, routine tasks, such as walking down the sidewalk, drinking an ale, or saying hello.

"For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful."

-- PHB 3.5, "Checks without Rolls", pg 65

"Unlike with attack rolls and saving throws, a natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success, and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure."

-- PHB 3.5, "Skill Checks", pg 63

In effect, these routine tasks have such a low difficulty that no character would ever fail, even if he rolled a natural 1.  As rolling would serve no purpose, it is omitted.  However, in the purest theoretical sense, one might consider those skill checks to have been passed.

* "There are more possible character actions than there are skills!  If the character tries a task to which no skill applies, the whole system must necessarily fall apart."

"Sometimes a character tries to do something to which no specific skill really applies.  In these cases, you make an ability check."

-- PHB 3.5, "Ability Checks", pg 66

An ability check is essentially a special sort of skill check, so everything mentioned so far still applies.


Who Calls For Skill Checks

"Sometimes a player will say, "I look around the room.  Do I see anything?" and sometimes she'll say, "I look into the room, knowing that I just saw a kobold dart inside.  I look behind the chair and the table, and in all the dark corners."  In both cases, the DM replies, "Make a Spot Check.""

-- DMG 3.5, "General Versus Specific", pg 32.

The above passage should clarify what the rules say on this subject.  There are, however, a couple of situations on which the rules seem to be silent.

* "The player says, "I make a Spot Check to try to spot the kobold."" 

My personal inclination is to treat this case as non-problematic, although the rules don't seem to handle it explicitly.

* "The player says, "I try to convince the guard to let me pass.""

In this case, it's not explicitly clear whether the player is intending to use Bluff, or Diplomacy, or Intimidate, or some other skill.

My personal inclination is that the DM has a discussion with the player to determine his real intent here, and then decide on the most applicable skill.  But the rules do not explicitly describe it, to the best of my knowledge.

Try and Try Again

"In general, you can try a skill check again if you fail, and you can keep trying indefinitly.  Some skills, however, have consequences of failure that must be taken into account."

-- PHB 3.5, "Trying Again", pg 64

"If this [Try Again] paragraph is omitted, the skill can be retried without any inherent penalty, other than the additional time required."

-- PHB 3.5, "Skill Descriptions", pg 66.

Whether a skill can be retried or not may be a twisty maze of special cases.  However, it is fair to say that it's a well-defined maze.  Some restrictions on certain skills may seem more arbitrary than others, or rely more on GM fiat than not, but the rules as written certainly provide guidance for each skill.

Karma?

"In some cases, an action is a straight test of one's ability with no luck involved.  Just as you wouldn't make a height check to see who is taller, you don't make a Strength check to see who is stronger.  When two characters arm wrestle, for example, the stronger character simply wins."

-- PHB 3.5, "Ability Checks", pg 66

I merely mention this as an odd little corner of the D&D rules, in which fortune plays no part. 

In Conclusion

Hopefully this sheds some light on how skills are treated by the rules as written.  It intentionally does not address the nature of skills in the game-as-played, other than to conclude that it is not inherently impossible to play the game as written.



Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 21, 2006, 11:17:44 AM
That's an extremely generous reading, Roger.

I think that the "objections to the aforementioned" section you wrote is pretty much composed of non-objections. The issue is not whether to roll when contributing something to the SIS is (a) non-problematic and (b) non-conflict oriented. Obviously, you simply don't roll in those cases. And I mean, obviously.

But there is a basic objection that simply isn't met by these rules or by few if any others. It is: under what SIS conditions does the non-DM have the right to demand a skill check?

Look at it this way. We're in a fight scene, and my fighter/sorcerer character is in a hot spot. The hobgoblins in front of him just took their attacks, one hit, and my guy has 9 hit points remaining. Everyone else in the fight is about one turn away from being able to help, as they are all in pickles too. It's my turn! .... and the DM says, you know, I think you aren't going to get an attack this turn.

Whaddaya mean, I say? Is there some spell or effect that's preventing me? No, says the DM. It's not anything like that, it's my personal decision. Huh, I say. Is the footing or physical situation of my character making it too hard to attack? No, you're not understanding, says the DM. It's got nothing to do with the imagined situation, he continues, it's just that I think the rules for attacking aren't necessary at this moment, and that if you attack, it's a miss.

I strongly suspect that every person reading this thinks either (a) Ron is trying to make some extend-to-absurdity point that I the reader am not seeing, or (b) the DM I'm describing is obviously insane and doesn't understand the game. Of course I get to attack when it's my turn to attack, of course I'll roll this D20 I'm holding, and of course its result will be consulted to see how the SIS is affected (i.e. whether I damage a hobgoblin).

But here's my point: there is no such "of course" when it comes to rolling a skill check, even in situations which are potentially problematic (made easier or harder) for the characters based on the results of such a check.

I mean, here I am, playing that fighter/sorcerer, and let's say he has a bitchin' Intimidate skill. We're being confronted by Ugly Pig the Bandit and his men. We aren't in combat, but we're playing the dialogue, and I have my guy say, "Stand aside, Ugly Pig. I won't lie to you. That's Paladin George the Good over there, who killed eighteen heathen orcs single-handedly just yesterday, and he doesn't like lawbreakers like you. And this is Black Allazar, who studied under Nerribenzar the Cruel, whose magics give George the willies. I'm giving your men this one chance to get back to your wretched little bandit stronghold in the woods. Stand aside."

The DM says, ehhhh, they attack.

Whoa. Wait. He does what? I confronted Ugly Pig and said intimidating stuff, and I don't get to roll? What the fuck?

See, the book says that can happen. Or does it? According to the book, the DM "just knows" when such an action should warrant a roll of some kind. And in "just knowing," clearly his word is (a) to be obeyed and (b) to be tuned to the maximum fun potential for everyone. That's a whooooole lot of assumptions we just made about the DM, isn't it? Because the question how does he know? is left entirely silent, and in practice, groups arrive at some uneasy accord about it and internalize that accord as "playing by the rules."

I already stated my own rules-approach, which apparently was quite the lightning bolt for many of you: when there's a conflct of interest among imaginary characters, then a roll is warranted. Period. It doesn't matter if I had all kinds of plans about how Ugly Pig was going to get the upper hand, then given them some sort of clue about what rock to look under in the troll's lair. In fact, using my approach means that all such plans & prep are to be discarded in favor of a different kind of prep.

But you won't catch me claiming that I'm playing "by the rules" in doing so. What I'm doing is ... well, at most consistent with the rules, or at least with the body text of the actual rules as opposed to all the little except/if/but bits crusted in there. But "by the rules?" I don't think so. We had to arrive at the real rules (the conflict-of-interest one) in order to utilize the textual rules at all.

As does everyone else.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Roger on May 21, 2006, 04:19:27 PM
I think that the "objections to the aforementioned" section you wrote is pretty much composed of non-objections.

Well, yes.  I thought there was an outside chance they might come up; I should have more faith in Forge members.

Quote
But there is a basic objection that simply isn't met by these rules or by few if any others. It is: under what SIS conditions does the non-DM have the right to demand a skill check?

Let's look at that one rule again:

"The whole game can be boiled down to the characters trying to accomplish various tasks, the DM determining how difficult those tasks are to accomplish, and the dice determining success or failure."

There's nothing in there about the DM determining success or failure.

By the rules, if a player says "My character tries to Intimidate the Bad Guy," the DM's job at that point is to determine how difficult that is to accomplish -- nothing more or less.

Now, the DM might try to weasel out of this by determining that the difficulty of the task is "Impossible."  The PHB addresses this point directly:

"Sometimes you want to do something that seems practically impossible.  [...]  They're the accomplishments that represent incredible, almost logic-defying skill and luck.  Picking a lock by giving it a single, swift kick might entail a +20 modifier to the DC; swimming up a waterfall could require a Swim check against DC 80; and balancing on a fragile tree branch might have a DC of 90."

-- PHB 3.5, "Practically Impossible Tasks", pg 65.

Unless the DM decides that what you're trying to do is more difficult than swimming up a frickin' waterfall, he should not rule it a completely impossible task.  He should let you roll.

Both the PHB and DMG have pages and pages (literally) of advice for the DM on how to set the Difficulty for various checks.  One of the more telling examples might be:

"DC 43: Track a goblin that passed over hard rocks a week ago, and it snowed yesterday."

--  DMG 3.5, "Table 2-5: Difficulty Class Examples", pg 31

If a player is attempting something easier than that, the DM should see a roll.

Quote
I confronted Ugly Pig and said intimidating stuff, and I don't get to roll?

See, the book says that can happen. Or does it?

In my opinion, based on my reading of the rules as written, this is not allowed.  I won't comment on its frequency of occurence in instances of the game as played.



Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Calithena on May 21, 2006, 05:31:25 PM
Late to the party, but:

1. Morale. No official procedure any more. I forgot sometimes things don't fight to the death. Um, so I guess that means I use GM fiat: they can fight to the death unless I feel they shouldn't, as GM. So, I can roll the dice to the bitter end, or I can Give.

That's the way I've done it since time immemorial, except when I wanted to dramatize the possiblity of 'uncle,' when I drew out the old morale tables, tried to figure them out, and rolled some dice.

2. Skills. Who calls for them being rolled is open, according to the rules, with the caveat that the Big Dick of the GM seems to be able to swat them off the table with some impunity, albeit less in 3.x. In my 3.x play I found that I called for most of them: this relates to my preferred D&D GMing style, which is the player fantasizing out loud about what they want their guy to do, and me deciding if that's a point for dice-generated adversity or not. Which is sort of like Say Yes or Roll, I think.

Important: the historical conjecture in this thread about CRPGs being the source of retries/click it again mentality is wrong. This is a plain and simple product of the near-nonexistent IIEE advice in all early editions of D&D and AD&D. I remember people rolling over and over to open doors before Asteroids and Pac-Man were at the pizza parlor. Different DMs dealt with this differently.

Quote
T&T's Saving Throws, so-called, look better and better to me all the time.

In my current D&D homebrew I use a 'stunt' system based on the Greyhawk/AD&D 'Open Doors' and 'Bend Bars' percentages, the former for easy stunts and the latter for hard stunts, as judged by the DM, by most relevant attribute. In other words, I wholeheartedly agree.

Quote
(Aside: the Barbarian Rage rules make for pretty limp-dicked berserker scenes, in my view. In real old-skool play, Forin would then have ravened after Joshua for his next attack.)

Yeah - sigh. The reply about it 'just being a tactical option' was right, but that's both a good and a bad thing. Someday someone will figure out berserker rules with the entertaining sense of danger and insanity we got back in 1980 without the stupid party-degenerates-into-bloodbath side effects. I nominate Clinton.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: ffilz on May 21, 2006, 06:26:31 PM
Ron,

As usual, you cut to the chase...

One thing this got me thinking about is that I'm pretty sure in the past I've said "You can't attack him." Hmm, and thinking about it, in that disastrous Fudge game I played in a couple summers ago, I had the GM essentially tell me "You can't make an attack."

But skills are a mine field. When I was fumbling through trying to spell out the system used in my Cold Iron games, I was definitely struggling with this. One aspect of the problem is when skill rolls aren't attached to any sort of conflict resolution (the old endless tracking rolls being a prime example of this). But as you note, even when there is a clear conflict, it's still possible to disallow the skill rolls.

This general unease about skills is something that I'm giving a lot of thought to since playing Dogs in the Vinyard.

Oh, and back to that Fudge game, I don't think a single thing of relevance was determined by die rolls, and I'm not sure the character sheets were relevant at all.

I'm definitely all ears for solutions, especially solutions that still allow wargamey/miniatures style round by round combat on a grid, yet provide good mechanisms for resolving social conflicts and other non-combat stuff.

Frank


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 21, 2006, 07:43:06 PM
Hello,

Roger, in the rather rough spirit of interaction that I'm using for these threads, I'm now giving you a noogey.

The text you've quoted from the book is all well and good, as long as we're talking about swimming in pools, rivers, rapids, waterfalls, and water-filled tunnels. I've got a crucial point to make about that, which is ...

... it doesn't mean a damn thing when we talk about Ugly Pig the Bandit.

How hard should it be to make Ugly Pig stand down? Is that like, oh, doing a dead-man's-float in calm water? Or like swimming out to the raft and back, underwater? Or perhaps it's like swimming up a waterfall?

Who's to say which of these it is, and who's to say that decision is ridiculous in one case or another? The DM digs in his heels and says, "Hey. This guy runs a bandit crew and killed eight guys to do it, and he knocks over caravans all the time. He doesn't take shit from rag-tag adventurers. It is like swimming up a waterfall. You can't do it."

And here's the crucial, crucial point ... that there isn't any shared reference at all. For imagined physical actions, at least the player can say, gee, I guess leaping my horse over this chasm really is about as hard as swimming the rapids, or something like that - he's matching real-life physical stuff to real-life physical stuff, however inexpertly, and using that similarity to come to a conclusion about the SIS and the rules. But for social ones? Intimidation, Sense Motive, etc? What the hell is the shared reference point when Ugly Pig's psychology is absolutely inaccessible to anyone but the DM, who is, basically, his player? When what you're up against isn't Ugly Pig, but the DM's enjoined sense of "control" (urged by this same rulebook I might add), or the DM's sudden need not to look like a wuss in front of your girlfriend at the table, or the DM's genuine commitment to wanting Ugly Pig to be a bad-ass, and not wanting to risk that to a roll?

Absolutely none of the text you've quoted helps with this dilemma. You've tried to answer my question "how does he know?" by pointing to physical reference points ... but Ugly Pig's mind is no such thing. Ugly Pig's mind is as stubborn or as pliable as the DM fancies him ... and that fanciful quality may not be subject to revision. If the DM deems him "stubborn as an ugly pig," then dude, you're shit out of luck - because the DM may be working from intended results rather than parameters for conflict.

Geez, if I could make every person reading this post re-read that final sentence fifteen times, then sleep on it, and then write a five-paragraph essay due at noon tomorrow entitled "How this point has affected my role-playing value system," I'd do it.

My solution is to say it's all parameters for conflict. To borrow great wisdom from The Mountain Witch, "all conflict is a form of combat," and no, I didn't mix that up or get it backwards. That means I as DM/GM must abandon all results-first prep and play, and learn to abide by what comes out as well as my players are expected to abide by it.*

And the book says no such thing, nor any other thing which could serve as an equally-useful rubric for judging when and how skill checks are employed.

Best, Ron

* For those of you who think this means all is chaos and anyone can say everything, it doesn't. You'll notice scene framing, characters entering and exiting, and various spatial decisions are still my purview as DM. So is the scope of the social rolls. In the case of my game, Eladd's starting situation was so advantageous that an Intimidation roll could make him back off an immediate verbal attack, but it couldn't make him just run off and abandon all his loot.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: ffilz on May 21, 2006, 08:58:56 PM
Ron, I can't promise that I'll read that sentence 15 times, or write an essay by noon tomorrow, but I'll certainly sleep on it. My gears are already cranking in thought.

I do have one question, though, and perhaps I should wait to ask it until I've slept on this, but how do you determine the scope of a social roll? That's been a stumbling block for me, but I have this funny feeling it's related to working from intended results rather than parameters for conflict.

Frank


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Roger on May 21, 2006, 09:39:22 PM
How hard should it be to make Ugly Pig stand down?

This is not a difficult question to answer.  The answer is in the rules as written, sitting there as clearly and objectively as anyone might like.

Pages 76-77 in the PHB 3.5 describes the Intimidate skill.  It defines how difficult it is to intimidate someone.  It's a mathematical formula with no requirement nor opportunity for subjective DM fiat.

The DM may, at most, provide a +2 DC modifier to reflect Pig's painful childhood or whatnot.

On some plane of existence, there might be a DM who just arbitrarily decides that it's impossible to intimidate Pig.  That DM is not playing the game as written.

Quote
the DM may be working from intended results rather than parameters for conflict.

Wait, what?  It took us five pages of a thread to get to the point in which Ron Edwards tells us "Hey kids -- DM's who railroad the players are bad." ??

Well, alright then.  I'm not going to disagree with you on that.  Nor will I disagree that there is no shortage of railroady DMs still out there. 

Do the rules as written require the DM to railroad?  No.  Do they recommend it?  No.  Do they allow it?  Yes.

The DMG has this to say about the topic:

"A bad event-based adventure is marked by mandates restricting PC actions or is based on events that occur no matter what the PCs do.  For example, a plot that hinges on the PCs finding a mysterious heirloom, only to have it stolen by NPCs, is dangerous -- if the players invent a good way protect the heirloom, they won't like having it stolen away just because that's what you had planned beforehand.  [...] No matter what, all adventures should depend upon player choices."

-- DMG 3.5, "Bad Structure", pg 45.

Which, really, is exactly the point you're trying to make here, isn't it?



Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Caldis on May 21, 2006, 10:20:53 PM
This is not a difficult question to answer.  The answer is in the rules as written, sitting there as clearly and objectively as anyone might like.

Pages 76-77 in the PHB 3.5 describes the Intimidate skill.  It defines how difficult it is to intimidate someone.  It's a mathematical formula with no requirement nor opportunity for subjective DM fiat.

The DM may, at most, provide a +2 DC modifier to reflect Pig's painful childhood or whatnot.

For those of us without the rulebook Roger could you clarify the rules.   Is there a list of target numbers given and what are they based on?  Level of the target?  Any ability modifiers?  Can they resist?  Can the same abilities be used on the pc's?  Have you ever seen a dm do this?





Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Andreas on May 21, 2006, 11:39:42 PM
For those of us without the rulebook Roger could you clarify the rules.   Is there a list of target numbers given and what are they based on?  Level of the target?  Any ability modifiers?  Can they resist?  Can the same abilities be used on the pc's?  Have you ever seen a dm do this?

Quote from: hypertext srd
Your Intimidate check is opposed by the target’s modified level check (1d20 + character level or Hit Dice + target’s Wisdom bonus [if any] + target’s modifiers on saves against fear). If you beat your target’s check result, you may treat the target as friendly, but only for the purpose of actions taken while it remains intimidated.

Found here (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/skills/intimidate.htm). Friendly is defined here (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/skills/diplomacy.htm).

From the DMG, any ability that influences 'attitudes' can not be used on the PCs:

"However, NPCs can never influence PC attitudes. The player always make their character's decisions." (p. 128 of the 3.5 DMG)

I've never used these rules as a DM, but I have used interaction rolling along the lines of what Ron has described (though a lot less well-defined.) I've just realized that while a lot of the reason I don't use it as written is that I don't want to break the pace by looking it up, I would (and do) look up stuff in the middle of split second combat...

I think the quote above about PC attitudes may be a contributing factor here. The DM is informed very clearly that these are weapons which are useless against the PCs. At this point it's easy to say 'ok, I never need to learn how these things work.' There's something absurd about a great wyrm dragon having to rely on magical fear effects to scare PCs.

Drawing the parallel to physical combat again, a DM would be horrified to read that certain spells (charm person!) or weapons (long swords!) can only be used against NPCs, regardless of who they're wielded by. Even more absurd is that there are spells (like the aforementioned charm person) which do exactly what the DMG states NPCs can't do (and can be used by NPCs against PCs, in fact there's an example of it in the DMG2).


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 22, 2006, 05:07:44 AM
Hello,

Roger, you're getting sarcastic and using my own name as a scare-feature ... and what is this about "railroading is bad?" That hasn't anything to do with what I'm talking about, or at most it's peripheral.

You're making a pretty good case for the text, so I suggest you not undermine your points with either (a) protecting D&D from evil me, or (b) attacking me in that internet way that crept into your last post. If you're frustrated with me and want to vent a little, just noogey me back. If you keep up the bullshit ("oh! So Ron Edwards is telling us ...") then the dialogue vanishes in favor of an ego-fight and playing to the gallery, and the valid points you're making, or that I might present in answer, will be lost.

For those who might be confused about this, I'm not trashing the game. I'll cop to finding most of the DM Guide pretty unhelpful, but this topic is well-suited by sticking to the Player book. I'm talking about a very, very problematic aspect of role-playing in general - my questions about skills - which this rules-set is helping us, here, to dissect. We could be using any of dozens, perhaps hundreds of other games instead of this one, but the interesting G/N interaction in my current game has brought the issue up.

For instance, I'm not too concerned about the care taken in the rules about not influencing player-character behavior via NPCs with massive interaction skills. That care seems well-placed to me. I'm more interested in whether or how the skills can be utilized as tactical items by the players.

On the other hand, this has gone on for five pages, and threads over three pages tend to lose general utility. And I'm not real happy with the turn in tone; I'm sensitive to how badly a thread gets poisoned when "he trashes D&D! protect it!" begins. And who knows, I could be unfairly trashing the game without realizing it. Rather than see the thread turn into an internet-fight about whether the book sux or rox, which is a fight I'm not invested in, I'd rather close it.

But I don't want to close this thread on the basis of you disagreeing with me and possibly refuting me. That'd suck. So, I want to state for the record: Roger has presented a very clean defense regarding the text itself, set against my claims regarding that text. I don't think we're disagreeing about the points regarding skills and role-playing, or at least that hasn't come up. Although I don't think you've refuted me, maybe that's just me being stubborn, and you've certainly made a good enough case for others to decide for themselves.

If you or anyone else would like to make further posts here, please do, but I'd like everyone to consider them final posts for this thread. I'd also welcome further D&D threads based on others' games that address the skills, both textually and in use.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Calithena on May 22, 2006, 11:14:23 AM
Ron,

Especially in the splatbooks and supplements, there's a certain 'drift effect' where the skills, sometimes in conjunction with classes or feats, take on additional powers. Bluff for example allows Rogues with Quicker than the Eye to get an extra sneak attack in certain circumstances, or at least did in one iteration of the 3.0 rules. There are similar kinds of additions to what the skills can do in other supplements (e.g. Epic Level Handbook). So in this sense they become a kind of quantifiable thing the character has, like the feats (which I kind of like, although I still think that idea could be better implemented than it was in 3e or Exalted w/ Charms.

The skills don't in general become the kind of resource for tactical play that I think you're wondering about, at least they didn't in my years with the system. That is, some of them (esp. tumble, hide, move silently, perception skills) become 'mini-feats' that explicitly enter into the system to let your character do things, but there isn't a sort of 'skill warz' subgame like there is with feats and spells. Which is one more reason I agree with you that the skills aren't so hot an addition to the game for the space they take up. They have the usual 'skill tradeoff' effect: increased character personalization at the cost of increased crap to keep track of, a burden which becomes onerous for the DM. (You looked over my Arduin critters, right? I made hundreds of D&D monsters, some of which got published, before I ran screaming for the Forge. It's fun as hell to figure stuff out in terms of ability combos for 3e monsters, the same sort of fun as you get for Champions villains at a lesser investment scale), but then you have to pick skills for your Fugly Fighter Flayer and man, what a drag that is, investing 100 skill points for this 12 hit die behemoth that basically doesn't even need attribute scores except for attack and damage bonuses, never mind Knowledge: Etiquette or Spellcraft.

Anyway, love these threads, and your strong hand here has at least weakened the D&D attachment poison that has harmed some others in the past.

Roger's points are interesting and remind me of the real purposes of language restrictions in all versions of D&D: to prevent you from using your Diplomacy or Charisma or general playerly wiles to pull a Cugel on every monster you encounter. Languages are an encounter funnel. Tongues and a maxed-out Diplomacy skill could prove a very nasty combo indeed in 3e.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on May 22, 2006, 03:03:33 PM
Yeah, Ron, I must confess I'm a bit lost in all this "D&D-fighting." Let me try and untangle (for myself if nothing else) the salient points of the "Call for Skills" discussion:

The main question is, when and how are skills used in games?

This subdivides into several issues, e.g. who, in actual practice, calls for skill rolls in games--the GM, the players, or some combination? or, how do game texts facilitate clarity in skill usage?

I'm going to assume that "skill" applies to about any ability that does not have an "automatic" usage with no negotiation needed, which in many, probably most, games means anything outside the mechanics for combat. And the "current state of the art" (at least as applies to game texts) seems to be "the GM tells you (the player)  when, though you can maybe ask for it yourself." But game texts are pretty vague on the subject: "it works this way, except when it doesn't."

And the "state of the art" as regards play groups, is of course, "each group has their own system worked out," which is a symptom of the aforementioned muddled texts.

So then there's the classification of skills, Color, Effectiveness and Plot Hooks, basically. I'm not sure what else to say about that.

The question, "under what SIS conditions does the non-DM have the right  to demand a skill check?" still seems unanswered. I would tend to say the most desirable conditions, for me, would be "anytime, though the results may still be filtered through the DM's understanding of the SIS." There are obvious situations where a skill check may have no effect, just as the combat rules have no meaningfulfeedback for a character swinging a sword at empty air. But given a fit character presented with a fit target for a skill, he should alwaysget the check.

I still prefer the model of "Player describes action, GM calls the roll." If the player describes an action, and the GM says "yeah, and?" this represents a Social Contract breakdown: "whaddya mean, 'and'?! I just described my awesomely awesome Lie of Total Deception, and you ask me what now? Bluff check is what!" IF the DM is cooperative ("Oh, Bluff? OK, cool") then play can at least proceed, but the person-to-person interaction is undermined in the long run. Better by far that the DM be always at the ready for when dice-rolls are required. The "always for conflict of interest" rule should serveadmirably. And as Ron pointed out, a combat action would never be manhandled by the GM in the fashion that other interactions often are.

It's hard in this discussion to differentiate the general points for all roleplaying, and the specific niggling bits wrt D&D, especiallywhen we start getting into DCs for waterfalls or goblin tracking or whatever. one point I'll make in favor of D&D is that having all these skills out on the sheet in front of God and everybody at least gets everyone on the same page regarding what resources there ARE, even if where and how to use them is murky. In contrast, I offer my BESM example from earlier, where I was being denied a roll because the attribute in question was unique to my character, and my GM thought of "I can't keep track of everyone's specific abilities" as somehow equivalent to "I don't need to call for a roll on that."

One thing I'm confused about:

I'm not sure I understand how this topic is unrelated to railroading. . .all the play examples, real or hypothetical that we've been using, have been about the DM quashing Players' ability to contribute to an outcome ("I wanna intimidate him!" "no, he attacks!"). Perhaps railroading isn't the only problematic issue in this skill use topic, but seems a key one. If you could clarify, Ron, I'd appreciate it.


Well, let me know if I'm off base or missing something in the above concepts. Other than that, I'm out.

Peace,
-Joel







Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Roger on May 22, 2006, 06:34:38 PM
If you're frustrated with me and want to vent a little, just noogey me back.

Yes, I think that's what happened.  I got frustrated and I handled it badly.

Quote
So, I want to state for the record: Roger has presented a very clean defense regarding the text itself, set against my claims regarding that text.

Thanks, Ron -- that means a lot to me.  Maybe I just needed to hear that.  To everyone else:  that is what intellectual honesty looks like. 

Getting back to the topic at hand:

Quote
what is this about "railroading is bad?" That hasn't anything to do with what I'm talking about, or at most it's peripheral.

Huh.  It's the first thing I thought of when you wrote:

Quote
the DM may be working from intended results rather than parameters for conflict.

And I shouldn't have been so dismissive about it.  If that is a good working definition of railroading, then it has some real value.  It's easy to give advice to DM's like "Railroading is bad -- don't do it."  But it doesn't really get into the guts of what railroading is, or what to do about it.  "Railroading is working from intended results rather than parameters for conflict" says a lot more about what railroading consists of, and gives DMs a much more concrete way to avoid it.

It's tangential to the main thrust of this thread so far, but I consider it as important as anything else that's been said.

Quote
I'm talking about a very, very problematic aspect of role-playing in general - my questions about skills - which this rules-set is helping us, here, to dissect.

I agree that it's a worthwhile approach to a worthwhile topic.


Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: greyorm on May 22, 2006, 06:38:52 PM
I'm not sure I understand how this topic is unrelated to railroading. . .all the play examples, real or hypothetical that we've been using, have been about the DM quashing Players' ability to contribute to an outcome ("I wanna intimidate him!" "no, he attacks!").

Ron, et al., can correct me if I'm completely wrong on this one, but I don't believe the specific situation being described has anything to do with railroading. It seems more like a Typhoid Mary behavior than it does railroading.

And now to be hypocritical: I think talking about railroading/not railroading/how is it railroading? is completely useless in the context of the current discussion. It's like arguing about what color the sky will turn when the meteor strikes and destroys all life in a 200-mile radius. The more important discussion, the more relevatory stuff about play, regarding skills and how they are used around the table by players and GMs, is going to be buried and forgotten underneath it.

We hear "railroading" and the brain shuts off. "Oh, railroading, that's it?" and think we've got it now, missing any context that might be included because we "know" what railroading is, whether or not the subject is really about railroading or not.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 22, 2006, 06:56:37 PM
Roger and I are chatting privately and when our conclusions are ready, I'll post them here.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Callan S. on May 22, 2006, 11:07:57 PM
I think Roger gives an excellent textual case, but it shifts Rons issue one step down the road.

Previously Ron stated the issue was that the GM can just decide whether there is or isn't a roll to be made. Roger's snipet of text puts that to rest.

Reading through the text, succesful intimidate rolls mean you can treat the target as 'friendly'. This means they 'Chat, advise, offer limited help, advocate'

This results in the same issue as before, except rather than decide if a roll happens, the GM decides just how helpful a chap Ugly Pig is.

I'm probably very wrong about what Ron is looking for. But in my mind it's a resolution system that determines who gets the lions share of input on a given matter (not absolute control, but is listened to alot even while everyone else throws suggestions to him which he draws on when making up the next bit). These rules do determine whether a target is helpful or not. But they don't determine who has the lions share when determining the matter.

It defaults to the GM at the start. Since it only talks about a target being 'helpful' and says nothing about who gets the lions share, the default remains. The resolution system hasn't resolved anything.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ian Charvill on May 23, 2006, 12:42:39 AM
I played for the first time in a while last night -- the D&D Adventure Game (a simplified D&D rule set intended as in introductory product) with an old university friend and his step-kids.  With this discussion in my head a few minor things occurred to me.

Rolls that did not affect one of the three big player resources -- treasure, hit points, experience -- felt tacked on, a procedural irrelevance.

In that light, the point of the GM calling for a roll is to frame a challenge.  The point of a player calling for a roll is to frame a challenge to their benefit.  Part of what's going on is players positioning their characters imaginatively to take advantage of what they're good at, either individually or as a group.  Someone playing a fighter might act intimidating so he gets to use his character's Intimidate skill, or defer to a cleric who might have a better Diplomacy skill or so on (the D&D Adventure has a limited skill set so we were seeing choices of who swings rather than which club to use).

In that light, who gets to call for which skill (explicitly or implicitly) is a huge deal in terms of tactical play.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: David "Czar Fnord" Artman on May 23, 2006, 06:59:33 AM
On Morale
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Basically, I want a rule that determines whether, at the point when the tide turns against my monsters or NPCs, they cut and run.

Given that there are no 3.0/3.5 rules, it seems like you need two inputs: when to check morale and what is checked. Right?

I think you can find a useful mechanical hook to hang this issue on, even in 3.0/3.5. I could give a ton of cases which check the when against the Int of the NPC, (can it tell the tide is against it?), against the nature of threat (is it being battered--Fort check--or is it being controlled--Will check--or is it protecting something--Loyalty (?) check), and against the NPC's notion of future advantage/delayed gratification (would retreat "buy" it anything other than time?). Ditto for the what.

Ultimately, without a hard-and-fast stat for each monster/race, there is no way this won't somehow be GM fiat. NPC motivation, future plans, loyalties, etc are the purview of the GM's notion of the NPC. In a Sim-motivated game, the GM's players might require a justification--hmmm... much in the same way a GM might require a justification/acting to use a social skill, eh?--but ultimately in a game like D&D, too much of the SIS is in the GM's bailiwick.


On Calling For Rolls
In all of my actual play experience, in nearly every RPG, we have used a "secrecy protection" basic rule. Put simply, if the roll was to detect or be aware of something, the GM always made it in private and only revealed successful results. We even made a point of using PC Record Sheets (yep, this was Hero) so that the GM could note all the GM-rolled skills.

In any other case--the players want to do so, they are trying to gain some credability (ex: Lore use with no GM-provided answer), or they are backing narrated actions with a resolution system (do I find a secret door?)--the players were totally required to state the attempt. Earlier, someone posted that they could use "blanket action statements" like the Rogue will always Listen and check for traps at every door--we would have never used. In our opinion, the expenditure of a resource (time) to accomplish something (gain information) was always the player's responsibility to call for. It just rankles our sensabilities to presume that every 10' of travel was going to burn up 10 minutes of in-game time; it felt very unheroic and, frankly, like a bunch of paranoid obsessive-compulsive disorder victims.

In my opinion, a game system should clearly dictate "GM-rolls, passive" skills versus "player calls, active" skills. D&D clearly does not do this on a skill-by-skill basis, random quotes from skill-use rules notwithstanding.

Hope this helps the database;
David


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 24, 2006, 05:06:12 AM
Hello,

Roger and I had a nice chat which ended up being fairly brief. Here are some of the points I made which I think are crucial understanding this thread. Roger, if there are points you want stated that I left out, post'em. Everyone, please remember I'm trying to wind this thread down, though. Any objections or reactions really ought to be handled with actual-play threads of their own.

One concern of mine was that all of Roger's most recent points - his strong defense that I acknowledged - relied on the DM opting for the opposed roll method of skill resolution. Whereas I am stepping back to the slightly bigger picture, in which the DM decides which of two methods to use for any skill check. He can either use an opposed roll, or he can use (and state) flat difficulties. I understand that the +2 is the maximum he can tack onto an opposed roll ... so if he goes that route with Ugly Pig, then yeah - it's Ugly Pig's Intimidate score (or whatever the DM chooses to defend with) +2.

But if he goes the route of the flat difficulty, then, well, I think it's back to that whole "swimming up the waterfall" situation, and my point stands that the DM is taking a results-driven approach to the scene. In fact, whatever value he picks, even a low one, he has to be taking such an approach.

Unless I'm grossly misrepresenting something, Roger agreed with me about this and so our dispute over the text is resolved. He also rightly pointed out that choosing a 50/50 difficulty would be an exception to that generalization, which is true, but not, I think, especially relevant to real-play situations in which the DM takes this option.

Now for this business about railroading. The following is more-or-less exactly what I posted to Roger privately.

Boy, everyone is reading that Ugly Pig account as if it were railroading. And yeah, one possible version of it could be railroading. But lots of functional possible versions exist too, and I want to concentrate on them. For instance, if the DM were merely offering Color for Ugly Pig's opening speech and had no intention of doing anything except fighting. So this whole Intimidate roll is feeling to him as if the player is seizing the molehill (Color) and making a mountain out of it (Situation). Much as a player might feel if he had said, "My guy laughs a little" at the king's court just as a bit of side-Color to everyone at the table, and the DM makes a federal case out of it and has the player-character clapped in irons.

My phrasing didn't help when I made that reference to the DM's plans for them finding a clue, because although I wanted the reference to be merely one of many, many reasons for the DM digging in his heels, it's obviously the one people are fixating on.

It also looks as if more than one person thinks that my depiction of the player with the fighter/rogue vs. Ugly Pig was about myself and a specific way that I thought the rules are bad and wrong. They are mistaken. It was about one way that an interaction could go south while dealing with the rules-as-written. I fuckin' hate the internet sometimes ...

I'm talking about a much larger issue than railroading, inside of which railroading represents a breakdown of function, but which itself is not a broken issue.

That larger issue is that unless at least some contributions to the SIS can be made by someone(s) without constant disputation, then nothing can happen. I'm talking about the context in which resolution occurs.

The mechanics of such a context are scene framing, entry and exit of characters, physical distance positioning, perceptions by characters, and establishing conflict. None of these can be handled as "resolution" (IIEE). They all establish the imagined circumstances in which any IIEE mechanics can then be applied.

(Side point: confounding perception with conflict is a serious problem throughout role-playing. The lesson is, if you want classic out-of-conflict perception rolls, then make sure you understand that they will affect which conflicts occur, and how they occur, and be ready for that effect. Or if you want resolved-conflict perception rolls, then treat them as minor features among the rest of the conflict rules. "Surprise" in D&D is actually a pretty good example, as far as it goes.)

What I'm saying is that all such mechanics need to be either effects-first or thrown up for grabs. And I can hardly imagine, or barely, a form of game-play in which all of them are totally up for grabs.

Therefore some form of "someone says it's this way, OK?" is absolutely necessary or no SIS is possible.

If the DM's head-space is currently saying, "Bang time! Fight with Ugly Pig!", then grabbing the Color he offered merely to get everyone in the mood (not force them, just for fun) demonstrates confusion about the boundary between the scene and the conflict in the scene.

I'm not saying the DM is right or the player is right or that either is wrong. I am saying they're confused about what they're doing, and each one is going to claim the other is unfairly fucking with the SIS.

If we're all in the mode that "we're not in conflict yet," and if this is a game in which the DM holds pretty much solid sway over that issue, then his effects-first narration should be unproblematic, as long as we all know when conflicts start. It works absolutely best when subject to inter-personal checks - "Unless you want to argue with Ugly Pig about it, but I was pretty much planning on going into the fight."

I realize this goes against every imaginable Ouija-Board ideal out there, in that conflicts are suppose to arise "naturally" from pure role-playing and so on, but that ideal is bullshit. OB play is overwhelmingly characterized by long stretches of nothing interspersed with unavoidable (and often unintelligible) clashes.

One benefit of this technique is that it usually doesn't require rolls, but even if they do want to stick with the rolls, the nigh-insurmountable difficulty of convincing Ugly Pig can be treated as consensual between DM and player, because the DM has already expressed his desire for this to be a fight scene. "I dunno man, I think my guy would at least try to talk him out of it." "OK, let's roll for it, but the difficulty is monstrous, OK?" "Sure!"

See what just happened? The player in this case, at the moment, is primarily concerned with depicting his guy - he's not really trying to get out of the fight after all, and so any DM pushiness that says "quiet! you're fighting!" is not necessary. And the DM in this case has preserved his desire for Ugly Pig to be mainly about the fight ... even if, in this case, the player rolls a natural 20 and the fight is averted. (His best solution at that time is to save Ugly Pig for another day, now that he has a relationship with the fighter/rogue who made him lose face.) No one loses face or "control," whatever that is in role-playing.

What I'm saying is this: my statement about effects-first is veeeery broad and railroading should be considered a small, wretched, rickets-afflicted district in that big country.

Best, Ron



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Jasper the Mimbo on May 27, 2006, 01:11:36 AM
What a great thread! Here's my two cents.

Regarding skills: Circumstances bonuses.I love these, a DM's bread and butter.  Ron's baddy would have major bonuses to resist intimidation due to having an extremely strong position to negotiate from. This also ties into Morale. The only thing remotely close to Morale in 3.5 is the intimidate skill. A player who decides to intimidate his opponents after his group had kicked the crap out of most of them should have serious bonuses to the result. Other than that, the point at which an opponent gives up or runs away is simply a point of choice for that character. My villains usually have some sort of escape plan or get out of jail free card. (potions of ethereal jaunt or contingency teleports are my favorite)
Also, the taking 10 and taking 20 rules really shorten the time spent on determining weather checks succeed of fail. Be liberal with these rules. As far as re-tries go, I rarely allow them. If you fail, you're either going to have to take a different approach or take the time to take 20. Other party members can't try when the other guy failed, but they can use the "Aid another" rules to help the first guy with their roll. Keeps things simple.

Regarding P's: P's are awarded any time a challenge\ is overcome. This is why monsters have challenge ratings. One does not have to kill something to overcome it. I grant Xp's for successfully dealing with a threat, even if PC's deal with it by negotiation or stealth. Nearly any thing can have a challenge rating. Traps are my favorite example. Don't get nailed by the trap, get the XP. Set off the trap and survive, still get the XP. I bet they learn something, which is what Xp's are all about.
In games I run, I usually make it even more simple. I don't give XP. It's only necessary to keep track of them if PC's have different amounts. Generally speaking, this only happens when spellcasters are making magic items or casting spells where P's are part of the spell's components. In games where these things aren't likely to happen, I just tell the players when they've done something significant enough to warrant leveling up. This allows me to pace my game with a lot less headache.

Miscellaneous: The weakening of the berserker rage is done on perpose. At first level a barbarian should not be cool enough to be a full blown berserker. That's why we have prestige classes. Check out the Frenzied Berserker from the Complete Warrior. These scary bastards are what you're talking about, Ron. A danger to themselves and everything around them. A couple weeks ago, a game I was running had an 8th level Berserker nearly kill his whole party when he was bitten by a large spider in a forest and failed his Will save to resist frenzy. Ugly. Also, to tie together this with what we've been talking about. Check out the Intimidating Rage feat, from the Complete Warrior. Now you can scare the crap out of people while you kill them! Yay!

You might notice that below, on my list of people to kill, Ron has made the list twice. The first way I'm going to kill him is by talking to him about DnD at Gen Con, until he kills himself. Hear that, Ron. See you in August. :)



Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 01, 2006, 01:16:18 PM
I think Roger's right. In a very technical sense. That is, if one really poured through the books, and studied them hard, they might come to an understanding of what the IIEE is supposed to be about. And it sounds pretty tight when you have Roger throwing it all together.

I mean, I'm not positive, but this is Tweet's writing, correct? I can believe that he, of all people, did it right.

What I can also believe is that almost nobody plays D&D of any variety by the entire set of rules. Heck, I don't think I could be bothered to read them in their entirity. I wonder if Ron did. If he did, and he's still confused about how it works, and it takes Roger doing his darndest to prove that they're unfuckedup? I'd say that, again, this is only functional in the way that the Italian Parliament can be considered a functional ruling body. That is, only technically.

One of the advantages of the smaller indie games are that the IIEE is usually pretty well stated, and all in one place. Look at Roger's page references! Again, I think that, given the complexity of D&D, Tweet probably did the best job he could with what he had.

Worse, does anyone come to D&D 3E without some prior notions of how the IIEE works, or arrives only to be informed by the old guard (cue the cries of the ten people who have taught themselves the game - I wonder if even they got it right)? Again, this is an advantage of Indie games; that players may take a look at the complete product anew, and "get it." But I've even seen players play Universalis using something like traditional "GM rules all" IIEE. I suppose we can't fault the text of the game for this, but given the size of the D&D text, it really is asking for people to rely less on reading the rules than on what they think they already know about how they work.

In fact, I'd hazard that no edition of D&D has actually ever promoted GMs using force to cause outcomes. Certainly not the early editions. I think that the effect is, in fact, from published adventures and play of other RPGs.

I'm no D&D aficianado, but I've seen a fair bit of play even just incidentally over the years. And I have to say that, by far, what I've found is that GMs reserve the right to decide whether or not to roll. The text doesn't say specifically that he does not have that right, correct? Alone, narrow construction would tell us that doesn't give him the right. But, check the 3E text...does it say somewhere that the GM is the "final arbiter" of the rules somewhere?

I think that's your culprit right there, that allows GMs to slip into this mode feeling justified. If we allow players to call for rolls, they'll job the game, they'll figure out too cute ways to circumvent the challenges, and play will be boring. So let's retain that right for ourselves since it's not specified who has it, under the "GM is last court" rule.

Or is that absent from 3E?

Mike


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 01, 2006, 02:48:28 PM
As far as the DM as last court is concerned, the DM Guide is rather strong on romanticizing the privileged, lonely role of entertaining everyone else and being solely responsible for the overall structure of scenarios and events. Whether they explicitly include any "the DM is boss" statements, I don't know.

Also, Mike, I think I must put my foot down regarding Roger's point. By the rules, the DM may choose to go with the "set difficulty level" option for any skill roll - and unlike the "roll vs. opposing skill" option which Roger discussed, that choice is not constrained.

I tried hard to demonstrate why that is not necessarily railroading or any other bad thing, but it is entirely arbitrary, and that Roger's excellent points only applied to the "roll vs. opposing skill" option. If you are reading this thread to state that the rules ultimately do account for limits on DM arbitration of skill use, then you're mistaken.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 02, 2006, 05:27:57 AM

I understand the "set difficulty" point, Ron. But it sounds to me like there's some lattitude in terms of the reading in that one could read the DM as being constrained by the examples, even if there are no good examples to match something like how potent somebody's mental defenses against intimidation are, and there are no absolute limits on the level that the DM can associate with this. That is, I think that a reasonable reading of all this could be that, while the DM has wide lattitude that he's supposed to be responsible to set this level in a simulationism fashion, where he does not have the right to modify that figure such that it exists solely in order to serve his "needs."

Now, of course, that's about as blurry a grey line as one can imagine. Aren't all mechanical selections in some way intended to cause a certain effect? That is, we don't bother to roll for crossing the street, so all selected levels are intent on producing some sort of drama or challenge, no?

But this is all my point. Whether or not the text intends to not try to enforce some idea that the DM is not supposed to use the rules to enforce a certain direction in play, I don't think that it delivers this in any effective way. I'm sure that if we back up yet again to some other level, like selecting challenge ratings for monsters that are to be encountered, that we'll find yet more complications to this (and, near one end of the layers, the "responsibilities" statements you mention above). Taken as a whole, I'm quite sure that the text cannot possibly deliver a consistent IIEE methodology, simply because of it's complexity, and design tradition (which has always been to largely leave this sort of methodology to the individual Cargo Cults into which these books fall).

So I think we're saying the same thing from a slightly different POV. You're saying that there are certain specific exceptions that mean that even a technical reading means that the DM is informed that he has the right to use difficulty setting as a way to enforce his vision. I'm saying that I don't think there is an overall technical reading that anyone can stick to, or at the very least does stick to, and so the point is moot - people will (and do) play the way you're describing using the text.

Or, put another way, in the cases you felt uncomfortable, it was because, despite trying to play by the rules, you felt that the rules were not constraining you as you'd prefer. I think that your experience is what everyone experiences with these rules - not the discomfort, but the notion that they have the sort of authority that you're feeling uncomfortable about (some people crave this control).


I wanted to get to the EXP problem. The issue here is that D&D is not at all well focused, in fact, on what the EXP system exists to encourage. Theoretically you could see it as promoting player competition against the system (or, if you prefer, the DM as fair arbiter). The problem is that the system isn't set up to do precisely that. Yes, rewards should be proportional to the difficulty of the contest. But giving more EXP for not having equipment is saying that the characters should be rewarded for having been unprepared. That is, the problem is not whether or not to give EXP for getting their equipment back, but whether they should get "less" for having gotten the equipment back (not getting the bonus). If a hard task is easy because the group was well-prepared, then that doesn't make it any less of a challenge. That is, in D&D, equiping properly up front is part of the challenge before you even meet it. Just as much as, say, a player reading up on his spells to get an idea of special circumstances in which they'll be useful, and using that information in a contest.

No, D&D experience is still vaguely simulationism supporting - it's not rewarding the player, it's still trying to reward the appropriate amount of experience to the character to represent, well, his experiences, and how this makes him more powerful. As long as this is the case, you can't think in terms of hardcore gamism when trying to calculate how many EXP to give. That is, you either have to stick with D&D's sim approach to EXP, or you have to drift the rules to make it coherently gamism.

In my opinion this is the place where D&D got off the gamism track in the first place. Well, one of the places, where in AD&D 1E Gygax started it down the road to simulationism support. And D&D has been incoherent ever since. The EXP system leading to the worst of the problems. "Why did we kill the baby kobolds? Because they weren't worth any EXP alive!" Blatant pawn stance gamism at cross purposes with a sim experience system. I remember reading that edition and saying, "Hmm, I guess that makes sense, after you level up, you don't just suddenly get more powerful there in the dungeon, you have to go train for a few weeks." That was an important part of the experience system at the time, and a huge sim indicator.

So, which do you want to play by...the sim-based system that people incoherently use for gamism? Or drift to solid gamism? If it's the latter, then the question of EXP in this case is simple - you give them the EXP for overcoming the foes (ignoring in the future the rule about not having equipment), and none for getting their equipment back. Getting the equipment back was no more a risk challenge (as has been pointed out) than whether or not a player remembered to memorize the right spells. It's just good preparation for the actual challenges that faced them ahead - for which they should be rewarded with the points for winning that contest, no more, no less.


In playing Hero Quest lately, I find loads of ambiguity in the text. To get it to play well, I make certain assumptions in my reading of the HQ text about what things mean, so that it all hangs together in a (to me very) playable way. In most cases, I don't think that I'm voiding the letter of the rules. Often I'm simply employing what others might see as loopholes. All texts have to be interpreted to be played, and some have potentially more wide interpretations than others. Given a text that has two widely different interpretations, each seemingly valid, what does this say about what the text says? Well, it says to me that it's not X or Y as written, but we can only speak about the various uses to which it's actually put in play.

This is why I say that neither you nor Roger are 100% correct. Rather I refer to what I actually see, and say that, on interpretation, the D&D text produces the effect that you say in most cases (I can't claim to have observed all D&D play, or even enough to be statistically sure of my observation, in fact). What I think is interesting is that the interpretations become "rules" themselves effectively (as you point out). These are "House Rules" in that they are what the local group has to make the rules play effectively. But they're not "House Rules" in that they aren't an intentional alteration of the rules to improve them. They are, as I've said, interpretations of the text that are neccessary to make the rules playable.

I propose that as a jargon term then, "Interpretation Rule" as opposed to "House Rule." To add to "Textual Rules" which always have to become Interpretation Rules before they're used in play, and are sometimes altered or dropped by House Rules, for various reasons. 

To use these in this case, I'd say that you need an Interpretation Rule to fix the hole you're feeling with regards to the DM having too much authority, and you need a House Rule to tighten up the EXP system to get the game to be coherent.

Though I think it might be interesting if you simply tried to run the game "as written" in it's incoherent form. I'm simply not sure what your goals of play are here (is this an experiment, is it an attempt to really have a fun game?).

Mike


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 02, 2006, 06:12:26 AM
Hi Mike,

Agreed, with one quibble.

The quibble is that I'm not criticizing the rules-issues I'm talking about because they allow/force the DM's "vision." The issue is only that effects-forward thinking is necessary in order to DM (i.e. GM this game), because the set-difficulty option is always there. I have left the uses and abusese of this technique completely open. I have despaired of anyone actually understanding this; between the worshippers of said vision and the rebels vs. railroading, I've decided the collective comprehension of the real issue is in its infancy, and can't rush it past that.

Regarding your proposal,

Quote
What I think is interesting is that the interpretations become "rules" themselves effectively (as you point out). These are "House Rules" in that they are what the local group has to make the rules play effectively. But they're not "House Rules" in that they aren't an intentional alteration of the rules to improve them. They are, as I've said, interpretations of the text that are neccessary to make the rules playable.

I propose that as a jargon term then, "Interpretation Rule" as opposed to "House Rule." To add to "Textual Rules" which always have to become Interpretation Rules before they're used in play, and are sometimes altered or dropped by House Rules, for various reasons.

"Yes." This is completely in line with my experiences with the three most seminal role-playing games, D&D, RuneQuest (or more accurately BRP to include Call of Cthulhu), and Champions. I agree with you entirely that in this case, playing D&D requires an Interpretation Rule regarding skill use, most especially the distinction between rolling-opposed and rolling-vs.-difficulty. My interpretation is simply to pre-empt the decision by saying, "always roll opposed." Although whether this is interpretation or legal application is, I think, not something that can be debated successfully.

Regarding my goals of play, I never "experiment." I only play for fun, period. Sticking to the rules as best I can is part of that fun, in this case. I've already said we're playing Narrativist*, with a strong risk factor of character death and a lot of fight-y conflict built-in. The time factor, as well, which is to say we're only playing this one scenario, means that leveling-up and the long-term strategies of character construction, are not major issues during play.

Best, Ron

* Mike, I know that you understand this, but for others reading this post, this has nothing to do with agreeing or stating any such thing prior to play. I'm interpreting the other players' stated goals and actions during play in order to make this statement.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 02, 2006, 06:21:38 AM
Hi Mike,

Agreed, with one quibble.

The quibble is that I'm not criticizing the rules-issues I'm talking about because they allow/force the DM's "vision." The issue is only that effects-forward thinking is necessary in order to DM (i.e. GM this game), because the set-difficulty option is always there.

Sorry, I was shortcutting trying to identify the issue. I completely agree with you.

Quote
Although whether this is interpretation or legal application is, I think, not something that can be debated successfully.

Probably not. I'd say that in these cases that you can probably call these interpretations. When something is an actual change from the rules, it's usually pretty clear.

Quote
Regarding my goals of play, I never "experiment."
I didn't think so. My point is that, in this particular case, I'd House Rule it by skipping EXP. The rewards aren't going to come into play anyhow, so why allow for the potential gamism or sim incoherence they might cause? Why do the work only to have the game work less effectively for you?

Of course I might as easily ask "Why aren't you playing Sorcerer?" I suppose. I guess that's why it seems like an experiment to me.

Mike

edited to fix quote formatting - RE


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 02, 2006, 06:33:05 AM
Aargh. Apologies for the missing bracket that messed up that last post. You can parse out what I was saying, if you read it carefully.

Mike


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 02, 2006, 07:10:00 AM
Boy, that took three edits to fix properly.

Anyway, thanks for weighing in, Mike, and I suggest that this thread really has done all the damage it can do. Let's close it now, folks, although I encourage everyone to post their own actual-play experiences regarding the issues that it has brought up.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Storn on June 02, 2006, 07:23:09 AM
Quote
I have despaired of anyone actually understanding this; between the worshippers of said vision and the rebels vs. railroading, I've decided the collective comprehension of the real issue is in its infancy, and can't rush it past that.

Count me as an infant.  I've been reading this thread with great interest.  But I'm so not getting it.  I feel that i can almost grasp what you are trying to drive towards...but I'll be damned if I can see what is over the next ridge.

I *think* I get that the 2 systems of dealing with skill checks in d20 can lead to really defining how a certain GM goes about task resolution.  The opposed roll seems to be a bit more "loose" and "less railroady"... whereas the Hit the TN roll could be construed as "more railroad-y" because the GM has the option of setting almost impossible TNs to prevent success.  I.e. Ugly Pig Guard is persuaded, fight is avoided.

And because d20 allows both systems to exist without very good guidelines of when to choose one over the other... and skills descriptions themselves add to the confusion as some are one way... and others are another way... it creates an environment where so much can be handled in a multitude of ways.  This might lead to confusion between player and GM.  

Because there is the excellent point of Ron's example of the highly set TN (the more railroad-y option) seen below..
Quote
but even if they do want to stick with the rolls, the nigh-insurmountable difficulty of convincing Ugly Pig can be treated as consensual between DM and player, because the DM has already expressed his desire for this to be a fight scene. "I dunno man, I think my guy would at least try to talk him out of it." "OK, let's roll for it, but the difficulty is monstrous, OK?" "Sure!"
Now, the player has been "listened to", the TN is still really high and success unlikely... but that isn't railroading... that is setting HUGE obstacle, but there still is that slim chance.  The player is engaged and feels like he at least got a shot.  Railroading is if the GM recants despites an unbelievable roll of the dice and still prevents the success... that's railroading in my book.





Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Storn on June 02, 2006, 07:24:12 AM
ooops... crap.

I'm sorry, you wanted to wrap this up.

Unfortunately, I don't know if I have Actual Play that can speak to this.  Despite wanting to figure it out better.  So, I will wait until the next thread.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: TheTris on June 02, 2006, 08:05:19 AM
Man....I managed to miss a lot on holiday.

My last post in this thread:

I really like the way you've had morale failure for bad guys, Ron.  My perception is that your players are making some pretty cool statements, and playing a certain brand of hero.  "No, we don't kill him.  We aren't like that" sort of thing.

It really seems to fit when you say "Bad guys are cowards at heart, who tend to flee when things go against them".  It makes total sense to me, because of what I've picked up about the atmosphere of your game.


Title: Re: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 02, 2006, 12:59:04 PM
Guys, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but the thread is closed. Please read to the end of threads before posting further comments.

No more posting here, please.

Best, Ron