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Author Topic: [D&D] Good solid gamism?  (Read 24336 times)
ffilz
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« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2005, 10:11:35 AM »

Good point Andrew. I've re-titled the post. And excellent summary of the point of the article.

Frank
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Frank Filz
John Harper
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« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2005, 12:32:29 PM »

Yes! Andrew, that's it exactly. Well said.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2005, 05:23:09 PM »

Heya again Rob,

Do you give a nod of interest to the railroady bits between dungeons, to acknowledge the work of the GM/what he was interested enough to provide?

If not you, does anyone else?

Or do you/would you have the feeling that if you show appreciation of these bits, they will get lengthier?

Does the GM seem likely to 'fall in love' with certain story elements at any point and make these bits more lengthy, so as to show them off more?
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Rob Alexander
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« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2005, 01:17:25 PM »

Hi Callan,

Hmmm...I'm not aware that anyone's giving the between-dungeon bits a particular response. I'll keep a look out though in future.

The DM has shown no sign so far of getting carried away with elaborate descriptions, so I suppose this isn't something I've worried about yet. They've all been admirably short and to the point.

I've certainly run into this problem before, with one GM in particular who really liked the sound of his own voice. Surprisingly, I remember that game as being somewhat enjoyable, although the sessions seemed to go on forever (8PM to 2AM or so) and quite often very little would happen.


rob

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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2005, 06:50:09 PM »

Well, I'm stuffed as for anything extra to say: It's gamist and it's rolickingly functional!

I'd really recommend trying to note how the game is presented and stuff and posting it somewhere, so others might learn from it. It might help someone else who is like your shadowrun GM, in the future, or me or many other people. The cargo cults thing with roleplay means that when a group gets a really good play style going, they often don't share it with the world, which is a real shame. I think you've got a little goldmine of functionality you could exploit a little and share around, if you wanted. :)
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Simon Marks
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« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2005, 06:53:30 AM »

Good point Andrew. I've re-titled the post. And excellent summary of the point of the article.

Frank


Which means your link to the post no longer works

May want to post a new link.
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ffilz
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« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2005, 09:01:54 AM »

Quote
Which means your link to the post no longer works
Oops...

Challenging the assumption that permanent death of character must be at stake in D&D

Followup post:
Followup on my post about permanent death - changing expectations on players

Frank
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Frank Filz
Eric J.
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« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2005, 11:22:30 PM »

I think that eliminating character death is too gamist.  Contrary to popular belief at the Forge, D&D isn't just about getting the most treature or hit points.

It's about showing off with that treasure and hit points.  There's something to be said for "I survived Jon, the meanest SOB gamemaster since Sony Online."  On some occasions for some games eliminating player death is a very good idea.  With WotC's take on the game, it's become a kind of class-ability combination that has served them as a winning strategy with Magic: The Gathering.  Playing it like that makes perfect sense then.  However, D&D is also a roleplaying game which means that the consequences should have meaning in game as well.

I'll talk a little bit about dealing with character death in D&D without eliminating it (that seems to be the focus of this thread right now so I'll go with it). One thing that I do is start the characters off at at least level 4.  This is in keeping with 3rd ed's style of customizability.  It sets the stage for getting pretigue classes and makes each character powerful enough to have one on one duels.

I also anticipate changing the incapacitation to equal the player's hit points.  This means that it becomes a lot harder to die.  It helps against most effects but instant kill effects are still dangerous.  It also sets the stage for the next suggestion.

Running away is usually a viable option in my games.  It also makes treasure and XP more protagonising since they chose which fights they enter into.

Weaker monsters are also useful because they give more tactical emphasis to the DM's role and something for the players to kill (and show off).  Weaker monsters also can be used to fulfill a simulationist agenda by making it appear that the world is consistant.  A realistic and consistant world is cool because it lets the players show off.

This has been said many times before but- People shouldn't always be trying to kill the characters.  Unless there is strong resistance mix up your gamism with political intruigue, competing motivations, and meaningfull decisions.  You'll be fulfilling at least two agendas at once.

Using these techniques I've kept my players' PCs alive in great great numbers while keeping my reputation as a SOB difficult GM.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Empyrealmortal
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Halzebier
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« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2005, 12:54:46 AM »

On some occasions for some games eliminating player death is a very good idea.  With WotC's take on the game, it's become a kind of class-ability combination that has served them as a winning strategy with Magic: The Gathering.  Playing it like that makes perfect sense then.  However, D&D is also a roleplaying game which means that the consequences should have meaning in game as well.

Which is more realistic: saying that the Elven ranger only looked as if he had his head bashed in (and is now groggily coming to his senses) or meeting another adventurer from the surface in the depths of the Underdark (and who is happy to join you, too)?

I'm not saying one option is better than the other, but merely that the claim that PC death is automatically more realistic than fiating away death just doesn't wash.

Quote
I'll talk a little bit about dealing with character death in D&D without eliminating it (that seems to be the focus of this thread right now so I'll go with it). One thing that I do is start the characters off at at least level 4.  This is in keeping with 3rd ed's style of customizability.  It sets the stage for getting pretigue classes and makes each character powerful enough to have one on one duels.

Could you elaborate a bit on this? To which level have you played and plan to play to? What's the biggest difference in levels between player characters that your game has seen? How many player characters have died and stayed dead in the last twenty sessions?

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Running away is usually a viable option in my games.  It also makes treasure and XP more protagonising since they chose which fights they enter into.

This sounds prefectly viable, though it has the potential drawback of wasted prep work. For instance, I like to draw up very elaborate battlemaps in advance (e.g. a Robo-Rally inspired factory map with conveyor belts etc.) and that prep is wasted if the player characters can avoid combat there.

Quote
Weaker monsters are also useful because they give more tactical emphasis to the DM's role and something for the players to kill (and show off).  Weaker monsters also can be used to fulfill a simulationist agenda by making it appear that the world is consistant.  A realistic and consistant world is cool because it lets the players show off.

I agree only insofar as I see the occasional push-over fight as satisfying (particularly against monsters you fought and were afraid of just two levels ago). I don't see how realism and consistency feed into showing off, though.

As for weaker monsters, I'll grant that their presence is realistic - though most encounter tables and especially encounter frequencies are not, but that's another topic -, but actually fighting them just bores me out of my skull, so I prefer the DM to gloss over that ("You run into another 2d6+4 goblins and slay them all. Do you want a captive?").

Quote
This has been said many times before but- People shouldn't always be trying to kill the characters.  Unless there is strong resistance mix up your gamism with political intruigue, competing motivations, and meaningfull decisions. You'll be fulfilling at least two agendas at once.

Could you elaborate a bit more on this, perhaps in Actual Play? I'm particularly interested in hearing about the presence or absence of illusionist techniques and the ratio of improvisation to prep work.

Regards,

Hal
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Eric J.
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« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2005, 11:10:55 AM »

I'll certainly elaborate.

Quote
Which is more realistic: saying that the Elven ranger only looked as if he had his head bashed in (and is now groggily coming to his senses) or meeting another adventurer from the surface in the depths of the Underdark (and who is happy to join you, too)?

I'm not saying one option is better than the other, but merely that the claim that PC death is automatically more realistic than fiating away death just doesn't wash.

I guess what I meant by realism in my post wasn't really the world-physics kind of realism but the type that the players live in.  Saying that the elven ranger had his head bashed in when he was knocked out (ala Final Fantasy) may be realistic for the world but if the characters never die do to metagame reasons it's really hard to justify their characters reactions in-game.  Players and characters live in a semi-riskless universe.  This can still be roleplayed but in some ways it's more difficult.  I'm not against eliminating player death but since most people had talked about that I decided to take another stance to supose other options.

Quote
Could you elaborate a bit on this? To which level have you played and plan to play to? What's the biggest difference in levels between player characters that your game has seen? How many player characters have died and stayed dead in the last twenty sessions?

My personal experience probably wouldn't be very helpful.  I greatly enjoy gamist play but my players really don't.  Because of that my games' PCs hardly ever die because I tend to focus on enemies that aren't trying to kill the PCs (at least not at first) and I give them enough options that die roll or two won't end in death.  When a character does die, I usually let her/him make a character that's about two levels below the rest of the party.  If (s)he wanted to make a character as high as the party I'd probably let her/him provided that my other players wouldn't mind (they probably wouldn't).  So the highest difference I've encountered is probably about 4 levels but the gap was pretty quickly closed (do to D&D's square mechanism).

Quote
This sounds prefectly viable, though it has the potential drawback of wasted prep work. For instance, I like to draw up very elaborate battlemaps in advance (e.g. a Robo-Rally inspired factory map with conveyor belts etc.) and that prep is wasted if the player characters can avoid combat there.

I can understand problems with wasted prep.  I tend to overprepare so when they skip something I can either try to work it into the game later (this almost always happens) or I just throw up my arms curse my players (which makes them feel good) and go on.  This method probably isn't the best for a tactically centered game but then again why would they skip combats if that's what it's about?

Quote
I agree only insofar as I see the occasional push-over fight as satisfying (particularly against monsters you fought and were afraid of just two levels ago). I don't see how realism and consistency feed into showing off, though.

As for weaker monsters, I'll grant that their presence is realistic - though most encounter tables and especially encounter frequencies are not, but that's another topic -, but actually fighting them just bores me out of my skull, so I prefer the DM to gloss over that ("You run into another 2d6+4 goblins and slay them all. Do you want a captive?").

I like weaker creatures because it gives you some leeway for tactical preperation.  With smaller monsters the focus isn't on defeating the players directly.  As suggested earlier with random encounters, it's about the war.  You're trying to bring down their resources or one of the creatures is stealing things from them or killing prisoners or whatever while they're trying to fight them off.

I agree that if there isn't any risk it really isn't satisfying.

Quote
Could you elaborate a bit more on this, perhaps in Actual Play? I'm particularly interested in hearing about the presence or absence of illusionist techniques and the ratio of improvisation to prep work.

I can elaborate on this because it's probably what I do the most.  I tend to make a few cunning NPCs with specific objectives (get another NPC (or PC if they'll go along with it) to fall in love with him; stop the PCs from discovering some terrible truth about a dungeon; humiliate one of the characters; etc.) that are contrary to the PCs.  This isn't narrativist in the slightest especially if taken in a gamist manner. 

Suddenly they have to sneak through a tower without alerting anyone that they were there so they use invisibility spells.  This sets a timelimit to the task and the rogue is overconfident so they don't search for traps and one dispels their invisibility.  Suddenly they're in the middle of a tower with tons of powerful guards that they have to overcome in some way while having to accomplish whatever set them there in the first place.  This is still a dungeon but they have many options: Leave immidiatly (through a window or something), start digging into their resources (Wands, potions, whatever) which will make the next adventure harder, or do somthing clever.

It's still strict gamism but involves more meaningful decisions and has a bigger win-loss factor.  Most of my suggestions may not be useful for the game that you're in.  That's fine.  I have no idea what kind of game you're in or what conventions that you use.  It's really up to you.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Empyrealmortal
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #25 on: November 14, 2005, 07:54:12 AM »

What I think everyone's trying to agree on here is that Character Death often provides the "loss" provision for measuring gamism success. That is, if your character dies, you know you've lost, and the power of that makes the win all the more potent. And I don't disagree. It's good to have negative or loss conditions to create risk.

It's just that it's only one way to do it. That is, you can have just as powerful loss conditions - perhaps more powerful conditions - without putting the player out of the game. Consider board-game design. Yes, some of them elminate players as play proceeds. But the best designs (and you can go to www.boardgamegeek.com and ask them if you don't believe me), are considered to be those in which every player has a chance to come back at the end, and nobody is ever eliminated. It can be done, and done well.

Elimination from play is not the only risk available. Reduction of position is just as valid, and superior in that players don't have to "start over" (in which case you have the problems of handicapping) or not get to play the game. Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't played enough games, or is stating a personal preference.


Now, what's interesting is the "trailblazing" style mentioned earlier with the GM "railroading" between "dungeons. There is no railroading going on here. That is, for the term "railroading" to have any meaning it must mean, "To make choices for a player who would like to have made them." That is, if the player isn't actually interested in making these decisions, perhaps because of the presentation of play, then that's not railroading. Otherwise GMs are constantly railroading when they say things like, "Bob can't see who your character is because he's wearing wet weather gear, given that it's raining." Simply put, the GM has the authority to control certain things about the game world, including making assumptions about how the character acts. Oh, game texts say that the GM doesn't have such authority, but they do. "After you've finished eating, somebody comes over." Well, did the player say that their character finished eating? The player could say, "I haven't finished eating yet, I'm going to take all night long to finish." But if the GM had to ask, "Your character feels the urge to urinate, does he do so?" for every small detail of a character's existence, then it would be a dull, dull, game. "Do you walk the next ten feet? The next ten feet? The next ten feet?" It's abusurd. At some point, the GM is authorized to say, "You get to the end of the corridor, which way do you want to turn?"

Because this is precisely the job of the GM. To get the players to a point where they want to make a decision. Where the decision to be made is interesting in some way. Which way to go at a split in the corridor is, for certain styles of game, crucially interesting. Whereas asking if they want to walk every ten feet is not. And wheras for another style of play, the GM would say, "You wander about the castle for a bit, and eventually end up in the throne room before the evil overlord." Or even "You wander about the castle for a bit, slaying several creatures in the process, and eventually end up in the throne room."

What makes an interesting decision for a player, varies tremendously from game to game. For gamism, the key is to get the player from one arena of conflict to the next. Where the choices are about what tactics to use to succeed against player challenges. Step on Up. As such, the play between "dungeons," if there are few such challenges, are exactly what the GM should be abbreviating.

In fact, the "problem" of incoherence in RPGs stems precisely from the moment that Gygax told us that we had to play out the world between the dungeons in as much detail as the dungeons. That is, the simulationism comes in where the GM asks constantly "What is your character going to do now?" Understanding that the character can do "anything." Well, for gamism, this isn't good play. If there's no Step On Up presented, no decision interesting to the player, then the GM isn't providing good information. Sure the player can go off and find something, create his own Step On Up moment, but then what good is the GM?

For gamism, I always refer to "Arenas of Conflict." Meaning the place where the conflict will occur, and the type of conflict that's expected. In gamism, it's largely the GM's job to shuffle players from arena to arena. Now, dungeons aren't the only possible arena in D&D play - in theory the player could have moments where gamism applies to things like buying a new sword. But then these should be presented as contests in the method that is intended for the type of contest. For example, is it just a die roll? Or will the player be allowed to use player ability to haggle or something? Will that have an actual effect? Basically don't present the player with choices that they don't have the power to make.

This is why "What do you want to do?" is a tragically wrong question to ask for gamism play in most cases. Because, in truth, you probably only have certain arenas set up for conflict, and getting to them is the key. Only ask "What do you do?" in this style if there is some actual interesting choice for the player to make at that moment. If he's standing in the market, and you have some buying contests ready, then ask "What do you try to buy?" Etc. If you don't have anything ready, then instead say, "The next morning, after a good night's rest, you make your way to the dungeon entrance. Now, "What do you want to do?" is proper.

Mike
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Eric J.
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« Reply #26 on: November 14, 2005, 12:35:13 PM »

Um... yeah but for this case why are we assuming that they're playing strictly gamist?  Hell I'll do you one right.  I'll take your example to the furthest extreme in addressing your question.

Quote
For gamism, I always refer to "Arenas of Conflict." Meaning the place where the conflict will occur, and the type of conflict that's expected. In gamism, it's largely the GM's job to shuffle players from arena to arena.

Well why NOT eliminate the shuffle time entirely now that we've identified it as a simulationist priority?  Well that would make it little more than a strategy game, which is fine if that's what your into.

Quote
Elimination from play is not the only risk available. Reduction of position is just as valid, and superior in that players don't have to "start over" (in which case you have the problems of handicapping) or not get to play the game. Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't played enough games, or is stating a personal preference.

Right, but we're talking about what a reasonable replacement loss condition would be.  I think that to discuss that we have to put the victory conditions on the table too.  This means that we have to go into the whole 'competition between players' and 'competition between GM'.  With no death it all becomes a sortof implicit social thing which is sortof like a lot of games but it's still something that's assumed.


In any case, I feel that this discussion may have gotten away from the thread.  Rob, I hope that your game goes well.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Empyrealmortal
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #27 on: November 14, 2005, 02:00:25 PM »

Um... yeah but for this case why are we assuming that they're playing strictly gamist? 
Eric, look at the title of the thread. So far everyone has agreed that what the sought after mode here is good gamist play.

The rest of your post seems to be dodging the discussion, as far as I can tell.

Mike
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John Harper
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« Reply #28 on: November 14, 2005, 04:13:54 PM »

Excellent post, Mike. I'm blogging that one.
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Eric J.
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« Reply #29 on: November 14, 2005, 04:48:14 PM »

I appologise if I dodged your post.  I thought that it illistrated a solid point on gamist play.  However, as I thought about it and examined my reasoning I realised that we're really talking about actual play (first and foremost even if it's used as a context for theory) and as I said a purely theoretical approach isn't always usefull.

RPGs tend to use more than one agenda.  I don't think that the kind of play that Rob was talking about would be facilitated from only a pure gamist agenda (or mode or whatever we're calling it).  My point about the game outside of the dungeons was addressing this.

You may have interpreted my post as having dodged yours because I didn't address many of your points.  Well I mostly agreed and felt that your post stood on its own.  I want to address more thisgamecentric issues or at least address the issues in a more thisgamecentric kind of way.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron
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