*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
April 24, 2014, 04:04:19 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [D&D 3.5] Adjust my CA for this game!  (Read 3709 times)
Adam Cerling
Member

Posts: 159

WhiteRat


WWW
« on: January 19, 2006, 09:37:01 AM »

Last year I sat down as a player at a D&D 3.5 game of Midnight, a fantasy setting in which evil won. In the very first session, one player’s gnome PC was killed anticlimactically by a trap in the scroll case we had fought all session to retrieve. (We were literally walking victorious out of the ruins with our prize when someone suggested that we make absolutely sure the precious magic scroll MacGuffin was actually inside the scroll case. Thock! Poison needle!)

Perhaps because the player was so cool with it, and because we had a “backup gnome” – an NPC we summarily assigned the dead PC’s stats and gave to the player – I didn’t take the hint.

I’ve always had trouble with character death: in my experience of traditional games, it always felt arbitrary and empty and unrewarding. It felt like a punishment for not being good enough or lucky enough. Given how I like to invest creatively and empathetically in my characters, PC death would strip away much of what I enjoyed about the game.

So in this D&D game, we managed to go for several sessions before death reared its head again. It was my PC. The DM first rolled a magical attack on me; then he checked what the attack did; then he discovered that all those D6s of damage were really more than enough to snuff out my magic-user in one shot.

I was stunned. I pushed back from the table. I am certain that my body language broadcasted my shock and displeasure loud and clear. I felt like I’d been kicked out of the game: I certainly couldn’t imagine just rolling up another PC and inserting him into the party when it was clear that all that creative potential in him had less value than his armor class and hit points. (In Midnight, there is no resurrection magic, so that possibility was out too.)

The DM seemed a little sheepish at the time. It was clear to me he hadn’t realized just how potent the attack was before he targeted my PC. The other players paused in surprise as well and expressed appropriate condolences. But it was the middle of a combat round and they were up against a potent foe: they didn’t wait too long before resuming.

But wait! A number of actions later, one player pointed out that we’d been making a mistake. We had the initiative order wrong, and his action had been skipped.

We can’t have that, said the DM, and retconned the entire round.

Suddenly my PC was alive again! The player who’d been skipped took his action. The enemy who killed me once already moved next. And the DM had him someone else with his magic – someone with more hit points.

I never got the DM to really own up about how he decided to handle the situation that way. He said things about being “fair,” and doing things “right,” but in my experience he’s not usually that detail-oriented. I suspect my unhappiness figured into his choice significantly, but he couldn't admit as much without revealing the man behind the curtain.

Other than the stress of this incident, I had a good time with this group. They richly reward acting in-character and creative problem-solving with social appreciation. They are a friendly, well-spoken, and diverse group of people in their own right.



This brings us to today. After the better part of a year, the campaign begins again on Friday. I’m apprehensive. I’m eager to play, but the issue of PC death still intimidates me.

I’ve asked the DM why PC death is important to him. He hasn’t explained it very clearly, other than talking about how important “risk” is (as if nothing less can be risked!). While that’s a big fat Gamist tell, he has also spoken with longing for getting rid of the maps and miniatures that are so important to D&D 3.5 – he doesn’t enjoy that degree of tactical precision. I see a strong Sim streak in him: he loves the Midnight setting and wants to celebrate it, and the risk of the good guys dying is an important element of a setting in which “evil won.” He doesn’t give XP for beating on things, he just tells us all to level up whenever he feels like we’ll need it to face the next part of the game.

I don’t want to change him or the rest of the group. They’re well and truly functional. I would just like to avoid becoming the dysfunctional element.

I’d like to change my Creative Agenda to better match theirs. I like Narrativism best, but well-paced Sim with lots of opportunity to “act in-character” is fun too. They like Sim and Gamism and use a lot of illusionist techniques.

What do I have to do? Do I have to just invest less in my PC? Is there a different way or a different place I can invest? Are there different techniques I could use? Has anyone else made good in a similar situation? Or am I attempting the impossible?
Logged

Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2006, 10:05:58 AM »

Hi Adam,

Think of a flavor of ice cream you don't like.   How would you make yourself like it more?  Eat a lot of it?  I don't know.

I guess knowing that this CA doesn't fit with what you like gives you a level of detachment to not get too heavily invested or raise your expectations to get what you're looking for from it, but I can't think of a way that just "changes" someone's personal preferences.

You like one thing, they like another.  It's no big deal, but it's also something that I don't think can be consciously changed (short of some kind of weird brainwashing, but I don't think you really want to do that).

Aside from them being nice folks, you should seriously ask if what is offered there is what you want.  You can still be friends, but maybe you should look for a different gaming experience.  For example, most of my friends listen to different music than I do- we still hang out, we just go to different concerts, that's all.

Chris
Logged
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2006, 10:10:04 AM »

Hi Adam,

Sounds like there's some things going on here:
1.  The system you're using supports Gamism, particularly (and I say this with total respect for the purity of the vision) "Kill things and take their stuff."  It sounds like you want something very different out of gaming. 

2.  It sounds like you've got doubts about the GM's commitment to the "Kill things and take their stuff" style of play, and in the long term you wish he'd move away from that.

3.  Within the context of "killing things and taking their stuff," there was this initiative/retcon thing where you feel that the GM was acting in an un-kosher way.

Here's what I haven't heard yet:
A.  What gaming experiences have been most satisfying for you?
B.  What do the other players feel about "Killing things and taking their stuff", or about the GM's dilution of that?

=====
In a game like D&D, serious emotional investment in a character is a bad idea if you're playing by the rules.  The game is built so that characters face lethal risk.  They are not characters in a novel or a movie: they're more like avatars in a video game like "Half-Life" or "Doom."  There's no 'plot immunity' to death. 

The point of the game, from a design point of view, is to select a survival strategy allowing for maximum power limited only by the demands of versatility.  (Which is why niche protection is so important.)  Character death isn't a reflection on your emotional state or commitment; it's a reflection on your strategic planning skills.  "Damn, I should have prepared better for that challenge.  Okay, how do I beat it next time?"

I'd recommend a character background of maybe a paragraph at the start, and let the character develop (or not) depending on the plot-line.  That may mean that you have a level 20th character with three sentences of backstory!  That may not be satisfying to you, but any additional investment should be with the understanding that you might get burned.

I'm not familiar with the Midnight setting.  But I think it's the collective wisdom of the Forge that it's very hard to turn D&D into a reliably fun Narrative or Sim experience.  If your group is up for it, I might suggest using the rules from the Shadow of Yesterday or even the Pool/Questing Beast to see how the group likes it.
Logged

--Stack
Roger
Member

Posts: 168


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2006, 10:27:35 AM »

Adam,

I'm not entirely sure if you're asking for advice on the level of CA shift, or if you're just trying to avoid the "symptom" of Fear of Character Death.

The latter is probably a lot easier to pull off than the former; let us know if that's the sort of advice you're looking for.


Cheers,
Roger
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2006, 11:06:29 AM »

Hiya,

Oooohh, this discussion presents lots of things that can become very strange, especially in a multi-user text forum.

Here's one thing for everyone to consider: quit describing D&D in absolutist terms. "D&D is about killing things and taking their stuff." This is deliberately provocative and imprecise, especially given the content of my essay about D&D, which explains why you shouldn't talk like this. "The Forge thinks D&D is no good for anything but Gamism." This is simply untrue, but most of us who know the threads demonstrating otherwise are tired of presenting the list over and over again. James, I'm lookin' at you specially. However staunchly you'll defend your post, recognize that others will start defending the memory of the forty-year-old GM who taught them D&D when they were in middle school, hammering the keyboards as tears squeeze from the outer corners of their eyes. You cannot argue with an emotion, or from one.

Despite the good points to be made in a discussion of how versions of D&D have dealt with Gamist play and character death. I simply don't think the emotional body-politic of the Forge is able to handle it.

Adam, here's the next thing, which is all about the Big Model and Creative Agenda. Adam, you're demonstrating some odd little quirky interpretations of the ideas which are getting in the way. Not "in the way of being GNS-correct according to Ron," but in the way of being able to get anything out of this thread. Here are just a couple little things to consider.

1. Enjoying prepping and playing your character in detail and planning for his or her main in-game activity to be interesting and significant, is not CA-specific. This feature of play, and preference for it, varies greatly among groups and is not an automatic criterion for talking about Creative Agenda.

Over the past three years, this has become the most poisonous and prevalent form of synecdoche across many internet discussions - the notion that a love for, a hope for, and investment in one's character is somehow inherent to Simulationist play. It's not.

2. Gamist play includes a bewildering diversity of approaches to character death. It ranges from treating characters essentially as pop-rocks, fizzy while they last but inevitably gone in the near future, but always available for replenishing; to treating characters as monstrously complex, ever-metamorphosing tactical packages. And along that range, degree of characterization ("play," "portrayal," whatever you want to call it) varies independently.

So, enough idea-talk. Let's take a look at your actual play experience.

Your description of your reaction to the character's death is quite clear, and your preferences and general approach are recognizable to many of us. I know exactly what you're talking about in terms of reacting to the death - and in terms of being almost-equally uncomfortable with the retconning that saved the character. Basically, no matter what, the SIS and whatever CA it might have been fulfilling for you, was dissolved.

If you plan to play with this group again, let's not consider CA (yet), but rather just this - can you make up characters for this version of D&D with your first priority being performance in the moment? Which means that if he dies, no biggie, you just make up another really really fast, and now it's his performance in the moment which matters?

Dead gnome rogue: flush. Dead human fighter-cleric: flush. Dead female half-elven ranger-sorcerer (!!): flush. "Did great while he lasted," becomes the mantra, and a bad roll that kills him, hey, sometimes that pac-man thing eats you quicker than anyone could have reacted. Next guy. It's pop-rocks play, with the focus on situation, in which the characters are situation's bitch and therefore a lot like shuffling the Magic deck for the next game. Colorful? Fun? Even inspiring in terms of character? Yup, but still pop-rocks, and you may love your guppy, but it's not like you expect him to be around ten birthdays from now.

Should you want to play this way? I ain't saying that. That's totally up to you. What I've presented is, I think, the key issue, with an eye toward not getting hung up either (a) on what D&D is or isn't, or (b) on what CA is involved.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


WWW
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2006, 12:01:56 PM »

Wow, I'm that GM. Or rather, I was. Except I killed the whole party by my inexpertise with D&D rules. And I was hardcore enough to not even consider going back. Instead we just made new characters and continued the session with a new adventure. The one player who doesn't share the aesthetic (as you apparently don't) bitches about it to this day.

My advice: talk with the GM in depth. Chances are good he indeed doesn't want to play this way, and you shouldn't assume much about what the rest of the group prefers, either. In my case it was a sim campaign I ran for setting-focused gamists. Man, do I do better with that group after figuring out what makes them tick. It took me three years of solid play and I still thought the guys were sim. Was I feeling stupid after playing one session of The Mountain Witch with them, which proved that they're all systematically inclined to gamism and the odd one out is actually a narrativist. (Who I thought was the only gamist in the group. Shows what I know.)

Nothing further to add. Ron gives excellent practical advice if your goal is to enjoy the D&D morass (not judging, but it is usually kinda messy creative agenda -wise) for what it is. The group I talk about above is currently going through the World's Largest Dungeon, and the pop-rock analogue (some kind of candy, right?) captures their attitude towards characters perfectly. The character is the tool of situation negotiation, and while favourite characters create stories and stuff, they're fully expected to die at any moment. This attitude is reinforced by continuous jokes about the death rate and dangerousness of the dungeon, and from what I can see the guys are having fun like puppies in a coke field. I'd almost like to join them, except I'm not in the city much nowadays.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2006, 12:43:13 PM »

I don’t want to change him or the rest of the group. They’re well and truly functional. I would just like to avoid becoming the dysfunctional element.

I’d like to change my Creative Agenda to better match theirs. I like Narrativism best, but well-paced Sim with lots of opportunity to “act in-character” is fun too. They like Sim and Gamism and use a lot of illusionist techniques.

What do I have to do? Do I have to just invest less in my PC? Is there a different way or a different place I can invest? Are there different techniques I could use? Has anyone else made good in a similar situation? Or am I attempting the impossible?

I have a pretty simple suggestion -- start by designing several PCs, and make all of them cool.  Then when one PC dies, you can look forward to it as a chance to bring in the other PC. 

Another technique is to make your PCs each have a tragic/fatal flaw, such that you feel it would be fitting for them to die. 
Logged

- John
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2006, 01:18:39 PM »

Any game where the GM is convinced that PC death is an important facet of play is potentially fraught with obstacles, but if those obstacles are addressed can indeed be a very empowering experience.  If the game is not to be played "pop rocks" style (nice turn of phrase that) than certain things about the structure of the game must be understood up front.

The first key is that there must be times when the players are willing to say "yes, I am willing to risk the death of this character to proceed down this path".  Without that committment from the players this style of play simply won't work.  Players having a primary goal is character preservation and realizing some future hoped for "destiny" is simply incompatable with PC death is a risk you have to accept play.  My first recommendation then is to make sure when you design a character for this game that you are quite clear what your character is willing to die for and embrace the idea that if the character does, in fact, die in pursuit of that goal that this *IS* a desireable end state for the character, and not an interruption of your vision.  When I've done this for games I've actually found scenes which practically demanded that my character die as fullfilling his destiny.

The second key then is for the GM to recognize that if there are things that players should be expected to embrace having their characters die over, that everything else (by definition) is something that they aren't willing to embrace having their character die over...and this means the GM must embrace (and plan / prepare for) times when the players (as a whole or individuals) simply choose to walk away from an encounter.  I've played many sessions of pop rocks D&D where the purpose of play was going from one encounter to the next to the next and fighting everything that moved to see how far you could get before somebody got gacked.  Walking away from that next encounter with the Hill Giants was simply not done...fighting those Hill Giants (and displaying our tactical prowess) was why we were playing.

In other words while the players have to be willing to say "yes I am willing to have my character die to continue to try to pursue this path" the GM must ensure that that's not the ONLY viable path.  In otherwords, if saying "no I'm not willing to risk death to go down that path" is essentially the same as saying "no I'm not willing to risk death to continue playing the game" then the campaign is broken.  Everyone must be completely comfortable with some player simply saying, "you know...rescuing that hermit from those hill giants just isn't worth it to me.  My character is driven to save his village, he'd risk death for his family, but not for that guy".  And by everyone that means the GM being willing to have alternatives available, and being willing to split the party when players disagree about whether its worth it or not AND also the other players being perfectly accepting that sometimes the cleric they rely on to heal them...is just going to decide not to tag along this time...and not resent the cleric's player for doing that.

In that sort of environment...the risk of character death is a powerful thing.  But it doesn't work if either there are no circumstances (likely to occur in the campaign) that a player is willing to ante up their character for, or where players are forced to ante up the character in every circumstance regardless.
Logged

Nathan P.
Member

Posts: 536


WWW
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2006, 02:12:20 PM »

I'm going to throw in an example from my own play to illustrate Ralphs wonderful post.

When I got to college, I played in a game of 3rd Ed. D&D, which was the first time I'd played any kind of D&D for a number of years. My character was a straight-up human fighter, a longsword master (we started at 10th level), and with a backstory packed full of flags that I didn't articulate as such, and my DM didn't recognize.

Anyhow, after about a semester of weekly play, we were deep in the underground fighting some Drow or something (aside: the game as a whole was a whirlwind of dysfunction, looking back). The party was getting pretty beat, and the NPC master mage character told us to retreat, which we dutifully attempted. There were webs and ledges and drow with poisoned arrows, and there came a moment when everyone was out of danger except for my character, my friends Monk, and another players Bard (notice the distinction between "my friend" and "other player". anyway...)

In my head, I thought it would be such a cool and tragic scene for my Fighter to sacrifice himself in order to hurl the Monk, his best friend, to where the Bard, his nascent love interest, was beset, enabling them (and the rest of the party) to escape while my character nobly held off the Drow unto the death. Did I actually come out and say this? No. Considering that in the last session I'd been killed by a Banshee due to a failed saving throw and immediately resurrected, Deus Ex Machina, I doubt the GM would have "let" my character die. But the point is, if this had been a functional situation, I would have been all over saying that this is where I wanted this character to end, because it was entirely appropriate and moving to me, as his player. I mean, we would have gone through the tactical bits and rolling, to see exactely how my character would make his stand, but it would have gone to the death.

If you can see the general situations or conflicts in which you would allow, or be excited for, your character to die, I would communicate that to your DM. That allows him to ease off, mechanically, until those kinds of situations arise - kind of a sliding scale of lethality. Alternately, maybe you could work out a deal where you know in which situations it would piss you off to lose your character, and have those be understood to be no-death scenes for your character.

Hope that helps.
Logged

Nathan P.
--
Find Annalise
---
My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters
Adam Cerling
Member

Posts: 159

WhiteRat


WWW
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2006, 08:52:00 PM »

There's a lot of good stuff here. I'll try to touch on it all without quoting too much.

I've been struggling with the same skepticism Chris and James express. I have considered the option of just not getting my game on with these folks. That option, however, seems extreme: I had fun with these folks, after all, save for this one jarring note of disharmony. I'm not slogging through 4 hours of suck to get my 20 minutes of fun. Instead I'm trying to mitigate the risk that this one point -- PC death -- will poison my 4 hours of fun.

Perhaps I flung down the words "Creative Agenda" too swiftly or synecdoche-ially. I figured that our CAs in this game were mostly the same because we were having fun; they just diverged on this one bit. So to Roger's question --

Quote from: Roger
I'm not entirely sure if you're asking for advice on the level of CA shift, or if you're just trying to avoid the "symptom" of Fear of Character Death.

-- I figured those were the same thing, since CA is what happens here, in play, during this game. A change I make to my CA here hardly needs to have any effect on my CA in other games. Avoiding fear can only be accomplished by changing something about where I get my rewards.

If I'm mangling the idea of Creative Agenda, I'd be glad to hear Ron set me straight. I stand corrected on how love/hope/investment is not CA-specific. It's just difficult for me to imagine wanting to invest if that investment isn't allowed to reach a fitting closure.

Eero and Ralph and Nathan all recommend paths that include more communication with the DM. I've done a bit of that. I discovered that he's really fiercely attached to the risk of PC death, even though in actual play it's fairly rare. It's not a pop-rocks game at all -- if it were, I wouldn't play. His Sim side would balk at the thought that an orc in situation A could somehow be less lethal than the same orc in situation B. But at the same time, when last we spoke about it months ago, he was considering allowing us "Hero Points" (a la Mutants & Masterminds) to mitigate the worst streaks of bad luck.

I will have another discussion with him, especially with Ralph's excellent points in mind. "If you want to see us risk death, can we walk away when we don't like the odds?" But I don't want to meddle too much. He and the rest of the group are totally functional, as far as I can tell. I don't want to pull him off-balance just to make me happy.

If someone has to adjust, I will adjust. I'm not martyring myself: I'm learning how to appreciate something different.

That brings me to these excellent ideas:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If you plan to play with this group again, let's not consider CA (yet), but rather just this - can you make up characters for this version of D&D with your first priority being performance in the moment?

I'm certainly willing to try. What can I do to help develop a "performance in the moment?"

Quote from: John Kim
have a pretty simple suggestion -- start by designing several PCs, and make all of them cool.  Then when one PC dies, you can look forward to it as a chance to bring in the other PC. 

Another technique is to make your PCs each have a tragic/fatal flaw, such that you feel it would be fitting for them to die.

John -- thanks. These simple ideas fulfill my hopes for this discussion very well.

I have never designed a PC for a game before I was done playing the current one. I've always focused all my creative energy into the PC in front of me. So I like this idea: spreading that energy around should help. I'd be tempted to connect them -- like making them all members of the same family line -- but I wonder if that's inviting more trouble.

I'll give some thought to a tragic flaw as well.

Thanks all! I'm off to play tomorrow.



Logged

Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Kintara
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2006, 12:08:20 AM »

Regarding making characters that you can enjoy in the moment: I would say that strong, even caricature-like, characters might be good.  You want a character that you can enjoy immediately, and characters like that can be fun and easy to play immediately.  Also, I think it helps to look at D&D characters from the perspective of what they do rather than who they are.  D&D appeals to the system monkey in me, but what they do doesn't need to be specifically tied to mechanics.  As long as the character has some sort of kinetic aspect that you can jump into, so to speak, I think it would be easier to have fun in the moment.

Valamir's post also works, if you want to look at it that way, though, honestly, that seems more difficult to implement given your situation.
Logged

a.k.a. Adam, but I like my screen name.
TheTris
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2006, 01:34:07 AM »

It seemed from your original post that there might not be an irreconcilable conflict here.  If his attachment to character death stems from his love of the setting, and a feeling that to edit out character death stole the coolness from the setting, and your objection to character death in previous campaigns has been that it seemed trivial and arbitrary, I think a solution presents itself:

Would you both be happy with character death, but only in a satisfying and heroic way?  Unless I'm reading you wrong it seems like you might be.

I'm sure there are a number of ways to do this.  Perhaps you can agree that when someone hits a certain total of hit points they are doomed.  They don't lie down and die then, but they will die before the end of the adventure, probably against the big bad guy, and almost certainly in a heroic way.

If they aren't dead by the end of the adventure, they are wounded beyond help, and pass away from their injuries, having made sure their comrades made it through.
Logged

My real name is Tristan
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2006, 06:06:06 AM »

Hi Adam,

You're not mangling the idea of Creative Agenda when you say this:

Quote
It's just difficult for me to imagine wanting to invest if that investment isn't allowed to reach a fitting closure.

But you are mangling it when you say this:

Quote
I figured those were the same thing, since CA is what happens here, in play, during this game.

Have you seen the current thread about "Nar Sim blur?" The points I make there are relevant here as well. When you say "what happens," try to avoid focusing on moment to moment, and more on rewards which feed into the next round of investment.

Now, as it happens, player-character death in most RPGs does fit the bill for such a reward. (? reward, he says? OK, reinforcement, if it works better for you) But not in isolation. Given that you have been very clear about how satisfying most of the play-experience is, I'm convinced that a clash of CAs is not what's going on here.

See, you can't put us into the position of dealing with contradictory claims: (a) I think my CA isn't fitting with everyone else's, (b) I am too having great fun most of the time, just not this bit. I'm choosing to favor (b) as it's what you are most intent on getting across, so that simply means (a) has to be put aside as the main issue.

Also, I'm not sure how you and Roger managed to get into the idea of comparing a CA when playing a particular game with a given group vs. playing any other game with any other people. I think that's a total red herring. I certainly don't care whether or how you play in any other circumstance; we're talking about this one.

I'm going to focus on two people who, based on your description, are sharing their CA pretty well, but are both in denial about certain techniques they employ out of habit and comfort - even though they don't like the results of the techniques, as they don't suit the CA. That's you and the GM.

I'm getting a better idea of his position based on the last few posts, and although my pop-rocks advice isn't too bad (and John's suggestion is a good fit for it), perhaps this is less of a fire-and-forget player-character game than your first posts indicated.

Here's what I think. Both of you know the Midnight/D&D rules about character death. Neither of you like to see them in action. Neither of you is being entirely honest with yourselves or clear with each other about this. Too many ideals about play are getting in the way of understanding what you actually do.

I'm going to speak for you here, so bear in mind that I'm only guessing: "I'm OK with the hit-points and saves and other rules about D&D death, as long as the GM makes sure they don't happen in ways which cut off my real investment in what's going on. His scene framing and NPC-tactics choices are supposed to take care of me when it's not a crucial scene for my character."

I'm going to speak for the GM here, so bear the same thing in mind: "I don't want to kill off any characters in meaningless ways, but I'm supposed to obey the dice/timing - otherwise it betrays 'the game world' and will have negative effects that ripple throughout the rest of play. I know this because I've been reading it for 20 years. I guess I'll repeat the phrases they use about 'risk' even though I'm still not sure what that really means."

You're not coming clean about what you expect him really to be doing (he's somehow supposed to know that you have all this heartfelt absorptive attention sunk into any character of yours). He's not coming clean about how he's dealing with the text (as you're presented it, he's being utterly self-contradictory).

And both of you are very likely playing in a basic-Sim way which (perhaps) assumes that Narrativist stuff will "just emerge," eventually, as long as you keep the integrity of the SIS preserved every little step of the way. In effect, regardless of eventual or abstract goals, you guys play solid Sim, emphasis on mechanics (time, position, risk, Fortune-at-the-end), enjoyment of characters being mostly arty and internal. I'm perceiving, rightly or wrongly, that you guys have a lot of tactics in your fights and some hints of Premise/dilemmas in your situations, but that neither of these consistently emerges as the make-or-break, driving contexts for your play-experiences.

So it's not about his CA clashing with yours. I think it's about the techniques that both of you know aren't quite right for your shared CA, but keep using for whatever reasons you might have ... and struggle to reconcile the techniques with actual play as an ongoing hassle. The hassle only revealed[/] itself with this event.

All of the above may be pure armchair nonsense. Try it on to see if it fits. If any does, then ...

... to reach a solution, you two will have to hit upon your shared understanding and desires, not pick scabs about how one or the other of you did something wrong. Especially when you can't come out and say what it is you actually object to. For instance, it's not the dice or system you're irked with, it's his failure to protect you.

That's why I'm cracking hard on you about CA - I really don't want my ideas to be used as a shield for someone to say to someone else, "Hey, it's not my fault I'm mad at you, my CA is just different, so there."

Best,
Ron
Logged
Roger
Member

Posts: 168


WWW
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2006, 11:10:53 AM »

Quote from: Roger
I'm not entirely sure if you're asking for advice on the level of CA shift, or if you're just trying to avoid the "symptom" of Fear of Character Death.
I figured those were the same thing, since CA is what happens here, in play, during this game.

I wasn't entirely clear with that.  What I'm trying to get at is that there are two realms of solutions:  "out-of-game" and "in-game".

By out-of-game, I mean things that involve the players sitting around and reaching some sort of agreement.  Many of the suggestions offered so far fall into this category.  They often involve changing the player's opinion or point-of-view on his character or the game.

By in-game, I mean changing the character and his actions within the game.  As an extreme example, this could be "Falstaff sells all his equipment, buys a farm, and retires."

There are less extreme options.  For example, there are methods to return your character to life after he's died.  A scroll of reincarnation would run under two thousand gold, which is potentially too expensive for you personally, but quite possibly within the means of the entire party.

There are ways to minimize the chance of death.  Building a tank character with very high AC, good saving throws, lots of hit points, etc, is an option.  He could be played more defensively than offensively.

Something like Action Points or Hero Points are somewhat out-of-game, somewhat in-game.

These in-game strategies don't require any particular motion on your part with respect to CA, which is what I was trying to express earlier.


Cheers,
Roger
Logged
Adam Cerling
Member

Posts: 159

WhiteRat


WWW
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2006, 08:38:39 PM »

So play happened, and we had a good time. Here's a quick update on the results.

I didn't follow through entirely with John's suggestion that I prep a cool character ahead of time, but I did partly, and that was helpful. I built the character just enough to have a vague picture in my mind about the kind of person he would be and the kind of roleplay I could do with him that I can't do with my current character. D&D character building is really complicated, so I never came close to finishing him -- but having the concept sitting in the back of my mind made me feel less threatened as a player during moments where my character was in real danger.

(My DM was shocked when I started writing up the second character. I told him I'd been receiving gamer therapy.)

I found even better utility in John's suggestion that I adopt a "tragic flaw." Considering my character, I decided to play up his fear: the prior campaign's harrowing adventure across an Evil-dominated continent took a psychological toll on him, and now he's got something like post-traumatic stress syndrome. When this campaign's mission comes up, he agrees to go not because he wants to save the world, but just because he wants to save his friends who want to save the world. Every night is terror for him. That he has come at all is a testament to his true heroism and bravery: but at the same time, death will release him from fear, which I hope will feel like closure.

Moments in which I could immerse in that characterization were enjoyable. It was crowned by a scene in which I comforted the lone survivor of an orc-razed village by telling her in a shaky voice, "you're not the only one afraid."

The Midnight setting is remarkable for how much of D&D it turns on its head. As run by our GM, the worst thing you can do is walk into a fight. We spent hours and hours of play actively avoiding combat -- threading our routes through enemy lines, covering our tracks, setting up secure campsites and holding watches, smuggling ourselves onto river barges, connecting with members of the resistance, and hiding in safehouses. Even magic and magic items are punishable by death in this setting, so as a magic-user I spent a lot of time trying not to cast spells: I contantly had to compare the urgency of the need against the risk of being discovered by the magic-hunting evil clerics.

Even so, in eight hours of play, we did get into combat a few times. Our first fight set the tone: a huge river serpent attacked our boat. We had no hope of killing the creature: the challenge was explicitly in getting to shore with our lives. The second fight happened as we were attacked in the night by a lone wandering zombie: we had to kill it without making a sound that would wake the excitable sleeping refugee we'd rescued, whose screams would surely have alerted an enemy encampment nearby. In the third fight, our party was betrayed to the Shadow by a town to whom we had brought medicine, and so we managed to kill four orcs and the cleric who had been sent to kill or capture us. Fleeing the town afterward exhausted my spellcaster's spell energy and ate into his Constitution, leaving me feeling fragile.

And I didn't mind so much, feeling fragile. I had fun. I enjoyed myself pretty unreservedly.

I do recall an occasional twinge when another PC got close to death, as in the river serpent fight -- like, man, what a dumb way it'd be to die, on the fangs of a plot device for taking our transportation away!

There were some bits where I was not engaged -- in-character discussions comparing the virtues of heading due east to those of going east-northeast, the careful calculations about how long our current rations would hold out, etc. -- but none very onerous. Also, the DM used Spot checks like a maniac, even in situations I didn't take to be tactically meaningful: I sometimes wanted to just shake him and say, dude, if there's scenery just let us see it already! Why make us roll to notice the line of orc camps on the horizon when we're headed in that direction anyhow? So while the other players were wasting time with that kind of stuff I tended to switch into my "arty and internal" enjoyment of my character, just trying to silently grok his complex emotional state.

I judge that the rest of the group had fun as well. At times they were laid-back, not taking it too seriously, cracking jokes; at others they were all leaning forward, breathless with the tension in the air. We had a new guy in the group who'd never played with us before -- a friend of the DM -- but we'd all met him a few times before in non-gaming contexts, and he fit in like he'd always been there. When we had to wrap up, we eagerly began making plans about the next time we could get together.

Those plans haven't been finalized yet -- but I'm looking forward to it. Thanks everyone for your feedback and insight! You helped make my good time even better.
Logged

Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!