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Author Topic: [D&D 3.5] Conflict Resolution and other Forgey things (l  (Read 2022 times)
Andrew Cooper
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« on: March 22, 2005, 09:13:15 AM »

My group played once again this weekend and I thought things went very well indeed.  I must say that my time here at The Forge has really helped me run my game a lot more effectively.  Proper scene framing techniques (as my last post indicated) really injected a good scene of quick pacing to the game.  I've also learned to watch the reactions of the players and the social interactions to see what really piques their interest and what falls flat.  This session I tried 4 new things that were inspired by reading these forums.

First, scene framing is good but sometimes there are issues that are important to the game that would be really boring to play out line by line in the session.  For instance, if the party is attempting to track a thief through the marketplace, I find the constant rolling round by round of Search vs Hide checks to be tres boooooooring.  It doesn't really add tension to keep rolling dice in this instance.  So, what I did this session was add Conflict Resolution instead of Task Resolution to the game.  I worked out with the players the Stakes and then wrapped the whole thing up with 1 roll which was then narrated by me (I'd let them narrate but they just looked rather confused the last time I tried that.  Maybe, I'll try again in another session or two).

Second, I gave each player 3 tokens at the beginning of the game and told them that each one represented either a +2 bonus for them or a -2 penalty for their enemies.  They could spend them whenever and wherever they liked during the session.  They could use them to give bonuses to their own character or to another player's character or a penalty to their enemies.  I ripped this idea off from TSOY.  I know.  I'm a thief.

Third, after reading the thread on running a Gamist game for D&D, I made all the encounters be the party's EL +3 or +4.  I completely did away with easy fights that just wore the party down.  Every fight was now a serious  challenge with a very real chance of defeat.

Fourth, following the same thread, I quit rolling behind a screen.  I didn't fudge anything and all the players saw every roll.  If someone died, then someone died.

The Session

Scene 1

The party is a day or so out of Nesme and runs into a group of the Riders of Nesme, the town's military arm.  The Riders were suspicious of the party because of their racial makeup (1 Wemic, 2 Drow, 1 Tiefling, 1 Githzerai, and 2 Aasimar).  After a little role-playing the party was allowed to go on but warned that they were unlikely to be allowed into the city, at least the Drow, the Wemic and the Tiefling were unlikely to be welcome.

This scene was short but tense.  I didn't really require any rolls as it was just intended to set the tone that the racial prejudices against the party were going to play a factor in the game.  The party moved on towards Nesme to see how things went.

Scene 2

We skipped directly to the city gates.  This is where I used Conflict Resolution for the first time.  I talked to the players and indicated that they needed to pick one character that would do a Diplomacy roll for the party.  Others characters with the skill could make a roll to give the primary character a synergy bonus.  I set the DC of the task to an 18 because Nesme was not the most welcoming town in the Realms by reputation.  We set Stakes.  If the party made the roll by 4 or more then the group is let into the town.  If they simply succeeded, then part of the party (the Aasimars and the Githzerai) would be allowed in but not the others.  If they failed, then they were turned away.  If they failed by 4 or more, they'd be chased away by soldiers (ie a battle would occur).  They picked the Aasimar Priest to make the roll and he succeeded but the party really wanted everyone to get in so they used a couple of tokens to raise the success to over 4 so they made it.

I narrated the success out quickly and the group spent the night in the town where the Wemic was able to visit the Temple of Tempus and get some healing that he needed.  (Rods of Withering are really scary to players, if you other DMs need a hint.)

Scene 3

We skipped a day of travel by me simply mentioning that it was an overcast day with a steady rain and the Trollmoor nearby to the southeast filled the air with the sickly, sweet smell of decay.  Then we went to scene framing...

The party had made camp in a copse of trees and they picked two characters to be on guard.  The Wizard cast an Alarm spell before going to sleep.  The Alarm goes off and the party spots a Troll coming towards them.  Big melee ensues.  This was really, really scary for the characters since if the Troll hit with both claw attacks and got to Rend a character, it was pretty much a sure thing that the character would be dead.  Not unconscious... dead.  They manage to kill the Troll with the party taking heavy damage.  They rested, healed up and moved on the next morning.

Scene 4

Two days later, they came across the remains of a two wagon caravan.  They determined that the creature that attacked the caravan was either a Troll or a Dragon (probably green or black).  The party really wanted to track whatever it was.  I used Conflict Resolution here again.  I rolled the Dragon's Hide skill vs the party's Tracking skill.  The Stakes were if the party won, they got to determine the terrain and start with a round to prepare spells.  If the Dragon won, I determined terrain and everyone started even.  Once again the party threw in some tokens to win and they got to determine the setting.

This fight was really cool and it really engaged the group.  The Young Black Dragon went into hover mode at one point in order to get 4 claw attacks when the Wemic used a held action to pounce on the dragon and grapple it.  No one at the table (including me) had even considered such an action and the universal reaction was, "Whoa, cool."  The Wemic got torn up really bad but he managed to pin the Dragon just long enough for the party to kill it without taking serious losses.

At this point, the Wemic's player's kids came into the room.  They are 10 and 9 years old.  I started letting them do the rolling for the NPCs.  It was really fun for them and it kept them from being a distraction during the game.

Scene 5

Skipped another day, had the party make the north end of the Trollmoors and turn east towards Silverymoon.  They ran into a scouting party of Sky Pony Barbarians.  This was a tough fight.  Five raging Barbarians can dish out a lot of damage.  After the fight, two party members were unconscious until healed.

Scene 6

Immediately after the previous fight, the party was warned by the Wizard's familiar that there were more Barbarians coming.  The party decides to run for it.

I need to note here that something happened that would have confused me before but I recognized now.  I still am unsure how to account for it in my game prep.  Our group is pretty consistantly Gamist.  They look at the situation, figure out the best tactical move, and then go for it.  The Wemic's player, Trey, has much more gaming experience than the other two players.  At this point in the game he decided that his character, the Wemic Priest of Tempus, wasn't going to run from a fight because it would be out of character for the him to do so.  He decided this knowing that another fight with the barbarians would likely end with half the party dead, if not everyone.  I recognized this as slipping into a Simulationist by habit sort of mode but hadn't thought about that at all and was somewhat unsure about how to proceed should he convince the party to stick around and fight.  I'd hate for the campaign to come to an abrupt end.  The party convinced him to run however, so the point was moot.

Enter Conflict Resolution.  I had the party's Hide skill vs the Barbarians' Search skill.  If the party wins, then they find an escape from the barbarians.  If they fail, they enter combat with some of the barbarians.  They roll and spend some tokens to win and thus they found a cave that the barbarians refuse to follow them into.  Barbarians make camp outside while the party explores the caves.

Scene 7

The party runs into a Basilisk.  I misread the rules for the Gaze attack and  turned 4 out of 7 of the party to stone in the first round.  This took me by surprise (the save DC is only 13 after all) and we took a few minutes to reread the rules.  I found my mistake and restarted the scene (we were only 1 round into it) and only 1 character was turned to stone.  Big fight ensued.  Another character got stoned (we made many "stoned" jokes).

I will note here that by making the ELs equal to the Party Level +3 or +4, you really have to make sure you don't make a mistake that makes the encounter too difficult. At PL +4 it is really easy to wipe the party off the face of the earth by screwing up a rule or misjudging how tough a creature is.

End Game

The party got the two characters unstoned in a manner that cost them resources in terms of money and magic items.  We stopped the game here after playing for 5 hours.

Trey mentioned to me offhand that things really moved quickly this session and I think he meant it as a good thing.  Adding the Conflict Resolution to the aggressive Scene Framing really speeded things up and kept the pace quick.  I think everyone is enjoying that.  I think the party should reach Silverymoon next session and that should be the end of the first story arc of the campaign.

I've got a concern with the way things are going however.  The aggressive scene framing really seems to be making the story very linear.  Of course, this is an adventure about traveling from point A to point B, so that may be most of the issue.  In a Gamist game, how can I ensure that my game doesn't just degenerate into a series of scenes that I've completely mapped out before hand.  I don't want to run Illusionist or railroad the group.  I've got some scenes I think would be cool that I want to run but I don't want to make all the decisions.  I want the players to be
making decisions on the direction of the game.  What they think is cool should be included.

Anyway, hope someone found this interesting.  Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

[/b]
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Bankuei
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« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2005, 09:25:53 AM »

Hi Andrew,

Quote
So, what I did this session was add Conflict Resolution instead of Task Resolution to the game.


I believe this is absolutely necessary for functional D&D.  The skill system is pretty abstract when it comes to resolving conflicts- is it one roll, is it 20 rolls?  I usually go with a personal rule I call "1 or 3", which basically states that a conflict will be resolved with either 1 roll, or the 2 out of 3, and that the player is informed of that before committing to action.

Quote
In a Gamist game, how can I ensure that my game doesn't just degenerate into a series of scenes that I've completely mapped out before hand. I don't want to run Illusionist or railroad the group.


I think a key point of it too is to also put in potential "choice points" for the group to decide what makes sense to them strategically, and provide clear, good reasons for any potential choice.  

"If we attack the giants now, we catch them by surprise before all their forces return to their base...  If we go get the magical sword, "Giant Slayer", we've got a great weapon to use against them, but that means there'll be more of them to fight..."

If you end each session with a choice point- you can also open it up for the players to make other decisions and prep accordingly... "Ah, forget the sword, we can release the River Serpent and let it fight them when they try to cross the river!  One side or the other will be dead, and the other will be weakened!"

Overall, if the group is enjoying the challenges heading their way, then that's what matters most.  I find Illusionism and Participationism work fine with Gamism as long as the GM's use of force doesn't override the strategic input of the players.

Chris
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2005, 09:44:18 AM »

Quote from: Gaerik
The party really wanted to track whatever it was.  I used Conflict Resolution here again.  I rolled the Dragon's Hide skill vs the party's Tracking skill.  The Stakes were if the party won, they got to determine the terrain and start with a round to prepare spells.  If the Dragon won, I determined terrain and everyone started even.
I'd like to point this out, so you can appreciate your own genius.  You didn't define Stakes that would make the game boring!

Everyone (you included) wants to find the critter.  Everybody (you included) wants a tense scene where tracking the critter makes a difference.  So you decided a difference (in this case tactical advantage... always a good call) that mattered, but couldn't prevent you from getting the thing you wanted.

Do more of that!  That's absolutely key!

Also, it's key to answering your question about how to lead them from point A to point B without making their contribution meaningless.  You know that they aren't going to be contributing to the question of "Do we get to point B".  Everyone (you included) wants them to get there.  So figure out some conflict that you can deal with that can go either way without derailing the story.

Classically:  Frodo will get to Mordor.  That's simply not at issue.  The question is whether he can do so without being observed.  He can?  Great.  Later, Frodo will get to Mount Doom.  The question is whether he can resist the ring while doing so.  Turns out he can't?  That's fine.  Doesn't spoil the story.


Why are your game's characters getting to point B, anyway?
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John Kim
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« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2005, 10:56:10 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Also, it's key to answering your question about how to lead them from point A to point B without making their contribution meaningless.  You know that they aren't going to be contributing to the question of "Do we get to point B".  Everyone (you included) wants them to get there.  So figure out some conflict that you can deal with that can go either way without derailing the story.

I definitely agree with this.  However, I'd like to point out that it is telling that you use the term "derailing" here -- which is accurate since it is predetermined that they will follow that path.  One option would be to at least vary the path -- i.e. they can take things in a different order as long as they eventually get to Point B.  You could have a diagram of points with forkings, or just a list of stuff prior to Point B.  

Quote from: TonyLB
Classically:  Frodo will get to Mordor.  That's simply not at issue.  The question is whether he can do so without being observed.  He can?  Great.  Later, Frodo will get to Mount Doom.  The question is whether he can resist the ring while doing so.  Turns out he can't?  That's fine.  Doesn't spoil the story.

While I agree with your earlier point, I absolutely despise this example, because it frames what will "spoil" the story based on what was written in the book.  The reason why Frodo will get to Mordor is because that's how Tolkien wrote it.  However, there are perfectly good stories which can be told if Frodo does not get to Mordor.  If we let go of the attachment to how things are supposed to go, then there are a world of good options.  For example, Faramir could take Frodo and the Ring back to Gondor.  Then perhaps we see the Ring actually put to use against Sauron while at the same time corrupting its wearer.  I don't consider that spoiling at all -- I consider that a strong, cool turn for it.
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- John
Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2005, 11:07:03 AM »

The key to avoiding rail roading while using scene framing techniques is to simply let the players frame some of the scenes.

Instead of the typicaly D&D question of "what do you do next?" (and get answers like "I go to the weapon shop")  ask something along the lines of "what sort of confrontation do you want to have now?"

With a little practice you'll get answers like "I want to have a stare down with some shop keeper over whether or not he'll serve someone of race X"

With them feeding you the ideas of where to frame to, you won't have to worry about the story being on rails.
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Lee Short
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2005, 11:30:00 AM »

To expand on what Ralph said, here's a technique to try if they're having trouble getting into it:  present the players with multiple options for adventure hooks, all at the same time.  Three is usually a good number to work with.  Make all three of the hooks attractive.  I've often had problems with the players glomming onto the first hook if I present the information solely in-character.  I'd suggest telling the players OOC that they will have 3 options and can choose one of them (or make up one of their own devising, if you as GM can prep for that).  Then give them the IC information on each hook and let them choose.  

The same goes for giving the players forking paths within the adventure:  give them multiple choices, all presented at the same time and given equal footing by you.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2005, 11:37:58 AM »

Tony,

I'm ashamed to say that the reason they are going from Neverwinter to Silverymoon is that they were hired to carry some magical rocks to Lady Aribeth there.  I know it is totally cliche but it really has worked well thus far.  The stones are completely incidental to the real conflicts going on and are just a way to introduce the characters to all the movers and shakers that they will be interacting with for the rest of the campaign.  And, yes, they got hired for the job in a tavern.

I will now go commit seppuku, as I have shamed myself. Hai.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2005, 11:43:23 AM »

Ralph and Lee,

Thanks for the suggestion Ralph.  I was going to respond by asking for suggestions on how to do this, as I am sure my players would look at me and give me the ol' blank stare and "Wha?  Huh?"  Then I noticed Lee's suggestions and the whole thing came together.  

There's going to be a period of "downtime" in Silverymoon.  I'm considering asking them what goals they would like to pursue while they stay there.  Then I can run with that while also throwing out some hooks of my own devising in the process.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2005, 11:50:26 AM »

John:  Yeah, my example sucked.  Good call!

Andrew:  Actually, I think such cliched plots are among the best.  Nobody's going to get all worked up about how important it is that the magic rocks get to the customer.  It's clearly, unequivocally, an excuse to pass through set-pieces.

So it sounds like the threads of racism are really what's going on here.  I'm going to rob from Trollbabe and ask you about Scale.  What could change, between Neverwinter and Silverymoon, about race relations?

Is it okay with the players if the change is purely an internal one?  Like, yes, everyone else are still racist bastards, but the player's characters have overcome some of their racist leanings, so it's okay?

Or will it only be okay if there is a real change in how the characters are treated?  Like, yes, the world is still full of racists, but even the most benighted understand that these particular heroes are exceptions.  Why they're hardly monster-kin at all!

Or will it only be okay if there is a real change in how races interact, world-wise?  Are they bucking for some kind of burgeoning civil rights movement here?  Or, alternately, if they fail could racism break into open violence against the hated species?

Once we've got scale, I think you're ready to start asking yourself who their real opposition is.  What is sustaining all this racism, and what concrete earthly representative does that force have?
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2005, 12:05:05 PM »

Tony,

Ooooh, lots of good stuff there.  I'm going to have to dig into that whole racism thing for the campaign.  I don't know what scale the players are aiming for but I'll probably present the problem on several different levels and let the group tackle the issue where they want.  Thanks for throwing that in there.  I was missing it almost completely and it was sitting there in front of my face.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2005, 06:36:16 AM »

Something I forgot to mention in the original post.  The tokens I gave out that were +2 to any action were used in an interesting way to me.  I fully expected the players to use the tokens in really tense combat situations when  they really needed to hit or needed extra damage or wanted to avoid being hit.  However, the only place they used these tokens was in the Conflict resolution situations.  They used them to get into Nesme.  They used them to get the tactical advantage on the Dragon.  They used them to avoid the Barbarians.  They never used them in a tactical situation at all.  I'm not sure why this is the case.  Anyone else used a houserule like this and discover anything similar?
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gorckat
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« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2005, 06:52:09 AM »

thank you much for sharing these experiences- being new here and seeing how to apply 'new-fangled stuff' to 'old school gaming' is very enlightening, and makes me quite a bit more willing to play a DnD game if run with similar goals/methods
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Matt Gwinn
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« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2005, 01:13:15 PM »

Quote
They used them to get the tactical advantage on the Dragon. They used them to avoid the Barbarians. They never used them in a tactical situation at all. I'm not sure why this is the case. Anyone else used a houserule like this and discover anything similar?


It could be more tactical a choice than you realize.  Perhaps I'm overly munchkinizing, but why spend a token to get a single +2 to damage for yourself, when you can spend it to get an overall tactical advantage for the whole party?

Players exploit this kind of thing all the time.  In games that use Attribute + Skill, it's usually more economical to spend points on attributes rather than skills.

,Matt
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Andrew Norris
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« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2005, 01:33:26 PM »

I had a similar situation in my FATE campaign (where you can spend Fate points to get rerolls or bonuses). Conflict resolution is one of those things where everyone's waiting with bated breath to see what the result will be, so if there's a time when someone will remember to use the resource, that's it.

Whether or not you feel conflict resolution is more interesting than task resolution, it seems clear that spending the resource on a single roll with large stakes is more efficient than spending it on a roll with relatively low stakes.
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