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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 82 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Gamist Advice for D&D (long)  (Read 11651 times)
Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2005, 09:28:10 AM »

Quote from: Regarding dividing a monster's attacks among PCs, Noon

I've always found this to be an instinctive thing to do, but wondered what it would do in terms to gamist play. I get the feeling that it doesn't matter in D&D too much, as all the party's HP are like a pool...as long as that pool is drained, it doesn't matter which individual(s) contributed the most or least to the drain. But I'm not certain.


If the DM concentrates his fire on one PC, he will often be able to take him or her out, especially if he is focussing on a weakness. This may or may not be a good tactic, but in any case, it is usually not much fun for the player involved. Hence, I'm all for both randomizing and spreading the pain. Especially randomizing, as it were, because then it does not feel as if the DM has it in for a player.

(The usual defense "But these are intelligent monsters and it's the best tactic available" often strikes me as just another variant of "But that's what my guy would do." IOW, the DM is being a dick and tries to hide behind the game.)

Two ignoble examples with me as a DM:

(1) The party is attacked by a lich and a horde of shadows. The party's cleric is the only one with a low touch-AC, so I send all of the shadows against him. Despite the entire party's valliant attempts to save him, he's a goner a couple of rounds later.

To the player, it felt as if I had crafted a "kill the cleric"-encounter. I hadn't set out to do so, but once I had assembled my monsters (going purely by story reasons), I recognized it for what it was ... and went ahead anyway.

(2) The party is mopping the floor with some cultists. The rogue is unconscious, but everybody else is doing well. The last cultist standing sees no chance to win and decides to cause as much grief as he can by hacking the rogue's prone body to pieces. He knows the party will have the rogue raised, but hey, he will lose a level.

Can you spell "petty revenge" (because the players stomped my encounter)?

Regards

Hal
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M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2005, 08:47:08 PM »

I feel like I've been gone forever, as the site was down pretty much right up until I shut down to prepare for Ubercon, and now I'm catching up on everything as fast as I can but still took a day to get here. I hope my comments are still relevant.
Quote from: Quoting Halzebier, Callan
Quote
(Combat is right out, because I'm bored by anything less than PL+3.)

Do they have to be non combat?

My thinking was along these lines, but not exactly so. In the example of the dragon, my first idea was that the party approaching the dragon's lair encountered otyughs--those foul beasts that live on offal and carrion. Rather than make it "party must defeat otyughs to reach dragon" I would make it "party must prevent otyughs from alerting dragon, or dragon will be ready for them when they come". This inherently explains why the encounter level would be 3 if the party is successful with the previous encounter and 4 otherwise.
Quote from: Later, Callan
Do you or other people here spread attacks? So if the monster has three attacks and there are two PC's in front of it, you might lay one attack on each, then randomly distribute the third. If there were three PC's, then they each get one attack.

I've always found this to be an instinctive thing to do, but wondered what it would do in terms to gamist play. I get the feeling that it doesn't matter in D&D too much, as all the party's HP are like a pool...as long as that pool is drained, it doesn't matter which individual(s) contributed the most or least to the drain. But I'm not certain.

Whether it makes a difference depends on whether the fight is serious enough that the party starts losing people. From a player perspective, I try as much as possible to focus our attacks on the smallest number of opponents at a time, because eliminating opponents means reducing attacks against us in most cases. The same is true when the referee starts eliminating players. Even apart from whether a character is killed, seriouslly endangering one of them will usually mean at least one and possibly two give up attacks while aid is being rendered to restore lost hit points, and thus focusing attacks on one or two player characters does have a significant strategic impact.

As to how I handle it, it's rather seat-of-the-pants, but I think I follow these rules:
    [*]If multiple attacks are due to multiple adversaries, these spread among the player characters as much as is reasonable under the circumstances. Five orcs are not going to surround and attack one player character while the other four player characters in turn stab them in their backs. Rather, the orcs will each take one man.[*]If these are the multiple attacks of one intelligent creature not larger than man-sized, I will roll to determine whom he attacks among those who should be within his reach.[*]If these are the multiple attacks of a larger creature, such as a dragon, I will probably roll for who is attacked, but will rule out results that I deem unreasonable--the same opponent does not get hit by a bite and a tail on the same round, if the dragon isn't airborne. Most will attack individuals who have already launched attacks on them, as these will be perceived as threats.[*]If there is an intelligent strategic or tactical choice the creature could make and the creature has the intelligence to recognize such a possibility, I'll usually use a intelligence check to see whether it does that.[/list:u]I think that's how I generally handle it.

    --M. J. Young
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    Halzebier
    Member

    Posts: 216


    « Reply #17 on: March 15, 2005, 10:01:50 PM »

    Quote from: M. J. Young
    In the example of the dragon, my first idea was that the party approaching the dragon's lair encountered otyughs--those foul beasts that live on offal and carrion. Rather than make it "party must defeat otyughs to reach dragon" I would make it "party must prevent otyughs from alerting dragon, or dragon will be ready for them when they come". This inherently explains why the encounter level would be 3 if the party is successful with the previous encounter and 4 otherwise.


    Yeah, that sounds good. The fight will deplete some of the party's resources, but may yield a small advantage in the fight that immediately follows. Also, its victory condition isn't "kill 'em all", but "prevent them from raising the alarm". I like that.

    Regards

    Hal
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    Sean
    Guest
    « Reply #18 on: March 16, 2005, 11:43:32 AM »

    I really like your nine points of advice in general. I'd note though that a feature of 1e AD&D that 3e loses is that the 'wimpy' fights were actually a feature of 1e, where they are a total waste of time in 3e. This is because (a) healing was a lot rarer in 1e and (b) the narrower spread of armor classes meant foes say six hit dice down from you had a chance of getting in one or two hits. There was a serious 'war of attrition' effect you could get in a 1e adventure.

    All this goes out with 3e though. Healing spells pop up like popcorn and big power asymmetries almost always lead to scratchless kills, plus casters have so many more spells and items that there's hardly any point attriting them. So your point #4 is sound for the current game but not for the early versions.

    As far as the 'softening the blow' part goes, I understand intellectually that Step on Up occurs at the social level and you could still have a functional game with lots of resurrection spells, life insurance policies, no real risk, etc. However, my viscera tighten up and I want to take my +2 battleaxe and hack the shit out of every human being who plays that way when I read that passage. It's really abominable to me, like little kid sports leagues and contests where everyone gets a prize.

    My friends and I stripped raise dead etc. spells out of the game already in grade school because we felt it made victory hollow. (Actually, that was only part of it - some of our actual reasons were IMO proto-narrativist, but all of our spoken justifications were gamist.) People who we caught playing killed characters in other people's games were let back into our games just long enough for us to tear the character sheet to pieces in front of the "cheater's" (as we saw them) eyes. This was kids mismanaging a social contract issue, as they do, but the feeling remains.

    But this is me. I like there to be something at stake beyond self-esteem in the games I play: money, a chess rating, the ability to continue playing my character who I've lavished attention on, etc. I do look down on people who spend a lot of time on supposedly 'competitive' activities and brag about it but who only do so in that half-assed way. I know adults with jobs play nickel-ante poker and have fun too, but you wouldn't catch me dead at those games.

    I want to say that people who play this way are playing wrong, but that's a moral stance on my part, and the vast popularity of video games which don't involve broader social competition and which allow you to save over and over until you get to the end of the puzzle suggests that there are - pardon my French - a lot of fucking wimps out there who enjoy that kind of bullshit, so it's probably good to give them advice on how to get the kind of play they want out of tabletop RPGs.
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    Callan S.
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    « Reply #19 on: March 16, 2005, 06:31:02 PM »

    Quote from: Sean
    My friends and I stripped raise dead etc.

    Yeah, but I've started thinking a surviving character doesn't always mean the player actually won. Since step on up is at the social level, deciding who has won ought to be closer to that level. If someone dies but really it wasn't a loss, and you can't raise them, then they loose a huge resource when everyone really thinks they won. While a playing can have a surviving character, but I don't respect him. He keeps the resource weve put social investment into as a win status, but his 'winning' is killing the value of that status for me. Because all the social investment for what is winning is in that one basket, not spread out at all, and that basket has been tainted. Yuck.
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    Philosopher Gamer
    <meaning></meaning>
    Sean
    Guest
    « Reply #20 on: March 17, 2005, 06:04:50 AM »

    I agree. You can be impressed with someone's math skills in nickel-ante poker, and you can be impressed with the quality of tactical and creative play in a D&D game where nobody ever loses their character to death no matter what they do. That's why I characterized my criticism as 'moral': I find these kinds of play pointless and vaguely offensive, but there is no a priori argument against them as functional forms of gamist play. For the weak and timid.
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    ADGBoss
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    Posts: 384


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    « Reply #21 on: March 17, 2005, 12:45:06 PM »

    Although I do not quite feel the vitriol that Sean (cool name) apparently does for this kind of play, I will admit that any sort of softballing to me undercuts Step On Up completely. It also undercuts the GM / DM and relegates him/her to the Dominant whipping boy.  For those familiar with BDSM terms you might consider it Topping from the Bottom. In this the "submissive" or "bottom" tells the "Top/Dom" exactly how he or she will be "dominating" the sub.  Softballing is similar.

    In any game, football and D&D alike, there are times when the referee does have to make a judgement call. However, he or she should do so with idea of making the decision based on the rules of the game and the intent of the game to the best of their ability.  It should not be done with the idea of favouring the Players. Remember, like it or not the players are not going to cut the GM/DM any breaks, even if they play by the rules (which most do) and they have the advantage of group tactical planning.

    I would also say that people should remember the GM/DM is there to have fun to and in these sorts of games they have a role to play.  So let them play their role as judge and advesary to the best of their ability and the limit of the rules.  Let the GM/DM have fun as well.

    Final two points and I will shutup.  First, as unpopular as this opinion is I am sure, D&D is NOT IMHO a Gamist system/game. D&D is dillusional Sim in that it wants you to focus on exploration but does so via hack and slash.  I liken it to a reality tour of the middle ages, where you earn promotional miles by gutting the less fortunate while saying Thee and Thou.  

    Second, Step On Up has to include REAL risk and REAL challenge for it to be effective.  How much of a winner can you be when you know the refs had the odds stacked in your favor?


    Sean (not the same Sean though lol)
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    Callan S.
    Member

    Posts: 3588


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    « Reply #22 on: March 17, 2005, 07:21:46 PM »

    Quote from: Sean
    but there is no a priori argument against them as functional forms of gamist play. For the weak and timid.

    Oooh, that throws down the gauntlet to my gamist sensibilities!

    I don't find anything balsy about loosing a PC, when they are just going to make another one straight away. There is no terrible impact on the players resources there, that makes it balsy. Sure, if you play through a few levels and get attached to your character, it'd be an impact. But that's a self damaging currency...if characters can die as a 'you lose' sign, then the higher the pressure, the more your not going to emotionally attach because you know you could lose this PC at any time. Young players will attach, until they learn this hard lesson, but anyone else will loose a sense of attachment. Therefore there is no impact from death and the player is not loosing a resource, since he's just going to just make another character anyway/replace those resource automatically.

    In the context of this thread, it's interesting to note how resources are valued. The more likely you are to loose/use up a resource, the less attached you are to it.
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    Philosopher Gamer
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