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Author Topic: [Tunnels and Trolls] A Player's Dissatisfaction  (Read 9128 times)
epweissengruber
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I like games! and theory! and The Forge!


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« on: March 13, 2006, 09:51:45 AM »

Members of the IndieRPG group in Toronto have been playing around with T&T.  The most eloquent response to the session was highly critical of the system.  I am posting parts of our discussion here as there has been some very good discussion of how the game plays out in practice and some of you might be able to respond to Hans' points.

Here is the link: http://roleplayers.meetup.com/261/boards/view/viewthread?thread=1688812&pager.offset=10&lastpage=yes#3265610

Hans' Initial Response to The Session:
  • "Good time last night Mark. I think T&T has promise, with reservations"
.

Mark, the GM, responds:
  • "The system is so simple and light-hearted, I want to let it get away with everything. Combat was pretty deadly, but I think that is a trick of properly gauging the monster strength with the party's. The system by its simplicity and it whimsy does encourage a very light-hearted approach."
  • "The system is so simple and light-hearted, I want to let it get away with everything. Combat was pretty deadly, but I think that is a trick of properly gauging the monster strength with the party's. The system by its simplicity and it whimsy does encourage a very light-hearted approach."
  • "A lot of the joking around the table came from the trite & archaic nature of it. That's fine and part of the fun and I certainly catered to it but it does work against the system to a degree--making it very trivial. I believe this is what Hans has reservations about. It's fun, but Hamilton is a long way to come for what amounts to something like a Saturday morning cartoon (would you say that's correct, Hans?)"
  • "I would like to really encourage imaginative use of the Saving Rolls, and also make an attempt to push things above a simple dungeon crawl. What draws me is the idea of a living dungeon. Not literally, but in something that responds to its invasion. Whether or not I can pull it off... well, we'll see."

Hans' Second Response --It's The System, Not the GM:
  • "OK, here is my take on T&T. It sounds harsh, probably because it is. Mark, nothing I say here has anything to do with you. I think you are a good GM, and if anyone could make T&T worth playing for me, it would be you. All of the above is strictly commentary about the GAME of T&T, and not the instance of play "Mark running T&T last week"."
  • "I find the system flawed for one big reason: there is little or nothing the player can do to adjust the randomness in their favour and increase their effectiveness. There are no tactics a player can use (at least, from the rules demonstrated in our session) to increase their chance of success. You simply roll the dice and add them up. There are no positional/circumstance advantage rules (i.e. D20 gamist/wargaming play, flank bonuses, concealment and the like), no action/hero points or other resource managent aspects (i.e. Heroquest narrativist) (with the exception of spells, see below). The system is neither complex enough to enjoy from a sim "system exploration" perspective, nor realistic enough to enjoy from a sim "setting exploration" perspective. The characters are completely random, and darn simple, so there is not much room for "character exploration" either."
  • "So, I have to say that from my perspective T&T is essentially an elaborate version of snakes and ladders with some narrative associated with it. It has less strategy than Yahtzee."(emphasis added)
  • "The Saving Rolls do have some promise, but in a convoluted way. Essentially here the player MIGHT have some way to increase their chance of effectiveness, but only if they can convince (through negotiation, whining, or bribes) the GM to allow them to roll their highest stats and not their lowest. Frankly, then, here is what I can see being my experience as a highly gamist/narrativist player in T&T:

    Mark: The blood sucking hummingbirds start swarming around you! We are in combat, what do you do?

    Hans (noting IQ is his highest stat): Hmmm. what if I were to use my IQ to calculate their trajectories in such a way to ensure that only one of them can get to me at a time?

    Mark: Lame, lame, no way.

    Hans (in a whiny voice): Pretty please?

    Mark: Forget it.

    Hans (noting that Dex is his next highest stat): OK, how about I use my Dex to dodge around them, ensuring that only one can hit me at a time?

    Mark: (a bit exasperated) Sure, OK, your Difficulty is DC 50, make the roll.

    Hans: (weighing the XP you get from failed rolls carefully, even though he has no hope of success) Hmmm, tempting, tempting, could you make it either 60 or 25? 50 isn't quite bad enough to make me want to roll it for the XP.

    Mark: Just make the damn combat roll!!!!!"
  • "The basic problem is since there are very few rules that can work to assist the player in increasing effectiveness (either at gamist getting XP and gold, or narrativist telling cool story), it all falls back on the social contract." (emphasis added)
  • "Magic does add something in to this as well, which is one reason why I can't imagine ever playing a Warrior in this game. There is an element of resource management in terms of the power points spent on spells, which gives the player some control (since the spells seem to be VERY effective). But this, I think, would just lead to a war of attrition between the players and the GM. I would just keep spamming "O Go Away Now" and that other kill spell (especially since we get XP for monsters that run away) until I ran out of points, then leave the dungeon, cut down another sapling, make a new staff, and go back in."
  • "Now, compare this to the Saturday Morning Cartoon that Capes can become. Capes can be (and has in many of our experience) been just as silly as T&T was. However, Capes has a highly tactical GAME at its core. By paying attention, using your resources wisely, picking your battles, and knowing some basic tricks, you can do all kinds of things to turn a seeming defeat into victory in Capes. The game itself provides some enjoyment (at least for me) even when the story might not."
  • "I would also compare this to Donjon (another game with a cartoonish flair in my one experience). In Donjon, the fact narration mechanic is MAJOR. It allows a player to conceivable change the whole basis of a conflict with one good roll. It evens the playing field enormously between the GM and the player."
  • (as the GM who introduced Donjon to Hans, let me comment: Social Contract is the key to maintaining consistency.  There is no in-game mechanic to prevent a player from turning an evening of grim combat into a farce.  But if everyone sticks to a limit such as "Tongue in Cheek," where the players can make all kinds of in-jokes but the characters take everything with the utmost seriousness, then you can keep the fun without the cartooniness.)
  • "I also want to compare one other game to the way we were playing last week, and that is Paranoia. There were a lot of similarities. First, characters were essentially disposable. Second, players were perfectly willing to stab other players in the back. Third, it was all played for humour. However, Paranoia is a game that was designed for this kind of play and lots of features (both in the setting and in the mechanics) that make it work well."
  • "Now, what could be done to improve T&T? I could suggest several things, from adding some kind of "Hero Die" mechanic, to adding more tactics to the combat, to non-random character generation, etc. But then, all of these features ALREADY exist in other games. And this is the real root of the problem...T&T (compared to many modern games) is a Commodore 64 compared to an IBook. Its just old, obsolete technology. The only reason to use a Commodore 64 these days is nostalgia, and I don't have any. I think the same goes for T&T."(emphasis added)
  • "WOW, could I slam a game any harder? Sorry if that offends anyone, especially Mark. My intent was simply to provide my honest assessment of T&T as a game system."









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tzunder
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2006, 11:05:33 AM »

I have played T&T solo for years. It's ok for that but the system is so fundamentally broken that I'd hesitate ever running it except as a deliberate nostalgia one off with some of my fellow T&T cronies.

You could write a new T&T that honoured the essential style and feel of the game, but it wouldn't be compatibnle with the stocks of the soloes that Rick Loomis has, so he always wants a game that is compatible with his stock.

T&T introduced so much to the hobby (creatures as equals to humans as PCs, spell points, humour, differential dice rolls for characteristics, damage absorption, solo adventures) but as it stands it is a curious museum piece. Still good enough for the great solos tho'.
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rafial
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2006, 11:14:59 AM »

Well, my first reaction would be to say that T&T and Hans are not made for each other.  He's clearly looking for a game with a deep tactical subsystem, and T&T isn't intended to deliver that.  As for the "abuse the narration to get the best number" thing, I've seen pretty much the same thing happen in Donjon, Universalis, Roach, and pretty much any other game where players are required to "sell" their right to roll their dice.  So yes, it does come back to the social contract, what of it :)

My personal experience running T&T has been quite successful, so I don't know that I'd agree that the game is either "broken" or "obsolete".
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jrs
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Posts: 373


« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2006, 12:03:05 PM »

It sounds like Hans is pretty set against T&T, and I don't think anything I could contribute would change that.  I guess that a game that causes someone to state, "There is no in-game mechanic to prevent a player from turning an evening of grim combat into a farce," probably means that T&T is not for that person.  All I can say is that our group had a blast playing our T&T campaign, and part of the fun we had was in the out-landishness of player character actions.

I will briefly address two points.  First, contrary to Hans' statement, I think T&T is all about tactics.  It requires the player to be very conscience of the character's resources, namely stat scores, and act accordingly.  Running away was something that we learned was an important (if overlooked) strategy.  Second, T&T is all about the saving rolls and learning how to take advantage of that element of the mechanics is crucial for successful play.

If you're interested in reading about our campaign as well as extensive comments by the GM, summaries are available at the following links:
[Tunnels & Trolls] Killed me a player-character (spit)
[Tunnels & Trolls] Second level characters
[Tunnels & Trolls] Half-elves are poncy nancy-boys
[Tunnels & Trolls] Gamism ain't for the faint of heart

(I got the giggles re-reading some of those posts!)

Julie
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dunlaing
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My name is Bill


« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2006, 01:59:45 PM »

Isn't Hans a poster here? I'm pretty sure I've seen him on the Capes forum. It seems weird to have this particular discussion without him posting in the thread.
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2006, 04:11:22 PM »

Hi epweissenguber,

I'm not clear on some things here. Is epwessenguber your real name? And how are you involved with the session in question? Are you Mark or Hans?
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Alan
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2006, 06:30:47 PM »

I want to just emphasize what Emily said about savign throws.  Saving throws are the tactics of T&T combat.  A player can, for example, declare they want to separate one combatant from the group and fight only that one, while the other players handle the rest -- the GM sets a save level and consequence for failure and the player rolls.  Many other such maneuvers are possible -- it's just up to your imagination.

- Alan
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2006, 11:08:11 PM »

What Hans is saying, is that saving throws are essentially an illusionist style cover for GM fiat. The GM likes what your saying, low DC. The GM dislikes what your doing, high DC.

The only things that seperate it from vanilla fiat are:
* If the GM sets the DC too high, his application of force starts to become obvious.
* Getting lucky with the dice rolls can sometimes beat a roll the GM set a bit too low.

One might say "But you should trust the GM to not apply force". The issue with that is, why doesn't the GM just skip using any rules and use explicit fiat? I think Hans doesn't trust/doesn't want to use a mechanic, who's only real use would be to cover up illusionism (if it's being used).

I'd be interested in what Hans thinks about spell slot systems, compared to this. Where, for example, you could anticipate (from how the adventure/game world had gone so far), that you will run into vulnerable to fire monsters. And thus you could select to memorise fireball. In this case the GM does not decide how much damage the spell does to the fire vulnerable monsters (and thus, through fiat, deciding the outcome of the tactic).
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rafial
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2006, 01:31:55 AM »

The charge of SR levels as disguised GM fiat has merit in the case where play is generally unstructured, but one of the implied traditions of T&T play, which is hinted at, but not explicitly stated in the rules themselves, is that the GM will *write out* before hand in some detail the parameters of the environment, and the nature of the opposition.  This often involves anticipating likely lines of player action, and preestablishing SRs for them.  This is made most explicit in what T&T is often best known for, its solo adventures, where the ONLY lines of action available to the player are those anticipated by the adventure writer.  So in this case, fiat is avoided by presentation of a fixed challenge that the players are to work though as best they can.

Playing T&T with a live GM has the virtue of allowing players more creativity on the spot, but the risk of some fiat creeping back in.  I find it interesting to compare the T&T GMs role in this circumstance to that of the judge in a Matrix game.  The parameters of the situation are set by GM narration (often working from written notes) combined with the numbers on the character sheets.  Players proposing tactics argue based on this relatively fixed environment established by what has gone before, and the GM setting an SR level is in effect judging the plausibility of the players arguments by setting a likelyhood of those arguments being true.  The die roll then "fixes" the outcome as either true or false, and the outcome modifies the situation and informs future arguments.

So if we are going to play the "what would Hans think?" game, I'd be interested in what Hans might think of a Matrix game :)
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Hans
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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2006, 06:46:11 AM »

Hehe, I've generated more discussion here by NOT posting than by posting in other areas. :)

Several comments:

First, epwessengruber (sp?) is Erik, the founder and administrator of the Toronto area Indie RPG meetup group at:

http://roleplayers.meetup.com/261/

He copied these comments by myself and Mark over from that location, for which I thank him.  They have generated some interesting stuff.

To Rafial (re: me liking a game with a tactical subsystem): I agree that I am generally a fan of systems with more obvious tactics.  To me, tactics can be meta-game or in-game.  For example, I find Capes a highly tactical game, even though it is about as abstract as a game can get.   It doesn't have to be TROS.  I love Heroquest as well, which is not what one would call a tactically rich game, although I am going to comment more on that below.

To Julie (re: seeing more tactics in T&T than I do):   My first reaction was to say, "Show me the tactics!"  But then I noticed your links to other posts.  I will read them and see if it answers my question. :)

To dunliang:  Howdy!  Glad you recognize my name.  I feel the love.

To Alan (re: Saving rolls being the core of the game): I agree with you that Saving rolls are crucial, but disagree with you when you say its just up to YOUR imagination.  It really isn't.  Its up to the GM's approval of your imagination.  See my response to Callan below.

To Callan S.:  You have concisely summarized me, but when I see it the way you put it "saving rolls are essentially an illusioist style cover for GM fiat" I realize that I put it a bit too strongly and back up a bit.  Games that have a general "Buck Stops Here" GM will always have final GM approval for things the players want to do, so I can't really argue against that.  In principle I LOVE the idea of the Saving Rolls, because it really does provide a pretty wide open playing field for what you can do without a lot of extra statistics.  The problem is in the way they are implemented.  In this game there is no structure, it seems to me, to help the GM in determining how likely success or failure should be.  Therefore, it seems there are really only two basic ways: how "realistic" the manuever is (base difficulty on real-world physics) or how interesting the maneuver is.  The first is completely contrary to the spirt of T&T (where realism is nowhere to be seen) and a minefield of player argument (becuase, lets face, the number of gamers who could realistically determine how difficult it is to jump onto a chandelier or dodge blood sucking hummingbirds is pretty small).  The second makes the game a "please the GM" game.  If you please the GM, you get good stuff, and if you don't, you get dreck. 

That being said, since you get XP for FAILING saving rolls as well as succeeding at them, there is an incentive to come up with incredibly outrageous saving roll ideas with as high a difficulty as possible.  You could get more XP from a single Saving Roll, failed, than an entire combat, if you make sure it is really completely insane.

To Rafial (again) (re: structured adventures):  I see exactly what you mean by this, although to me the structured adventure thing you talk about makes T&T even more like a game of Yahtzee not less.  It seems to me that all this does is just remove even the "please the GM" tactic from the game; what are you left with?  The only tactic from that point forward is calculating probability of several options and picking the one with the highest probability of success. I can see how this would work, though, in terms of consistency, and I can see how some people would enjoy it.  My saying I think it sounds dull is an aesthetic judgement, not one based on any system flaws I perceive in playing T&T that way.  In fact, now that I think about it some more, the GM deciding, a priori, what Saving Rolls are possible in various situations, and setting their difficulty before hand, suddenly makes the game make a lot more sense to me, if it was the intended mode of play.

To Rafial (again) (re: Live GM and the Matrix): Never played the Matrix game, so I have no idea how I would respond.  Your statement "GM setting SR level is in effect judging the plausibility of the players arguments" however, is really the core of my problem.  What is plausible?  How do you decide plausibility?  Is it based on "realism"?  If I want realism, sorry, but I'll go play GURPS or Twilight 2000 or, for preference, TROS.  T&T does not have a realistic line in its entire rules.  So if "realism" isn't the standard, what is?  It strkes me it is what is interesting to the GM.  If you like playing a game of "please the GM", then go for it!  I can see how this could be fun.  Personally, I only like playing "please the GM" if I am the GM.  :)

To Callan S (re: spell systems): I'm not completely certain as to what your question was Callan, so I will just natter on for a bit.  To me, spellcasters in T&T are essentially psionicists from D20, in that they have a list of spells they can cast, and set of power points they can use to cast them.  This is pretty standard stuff, and has worked in a lot of games.  From a system perspective, it seems completely workable, and in fact spell casters are the only thing I would ever play in T&T, I think, because it gives you a lot more to think about and do.  From a genre, narrative perspective I detest all such magic systems, because to my mind they remove just about all creativity and mystery from magic.  But that is an aesthetic preference.

However, this brings to mind a system of "please the GM" which I could contrast against T&T, namely, the magic system from Mage: The Ascension (haven't played the new version).  Clearly, this system is a "please the GM" system.  The player proposes some magical effect they want to create, and the GM decides how difficult it will be.  However, there is a large body of guidelines provided in the rules that give some common framework for this decision: the sphere descriptions by level being the most important, and then the various modifiers to difficulty based on circumstance.  Sure, if you propose something the GM really loves, the GM may very well cut you some serious slack.  Having GM'ed Mage, I can tell you I did this all the time, and had my players well trained in what would please me. :)  But even if you don't please me, even if I find what you are trying to do boring, insipid, and annoying, I still have a set of guidelines that YOU, the player, know very well I have to follow, and you can judge pretty accurately what your ultimate chance of success or failure is.  T&T, by contrast, provides nothing like this.

Another "please the GM" game is Heroquest, in a way.  In Heroquest, you propose augments and the GM has to decide whether you can use them or not, both in simple contests and extended ones.  If your proposals jibe with the GM's view of things, he or she will allow them, otherwise, try again.  However, in Heroquest, there are three things that mitigate this situation.  First, the trait system ensures that each player has such a large number of traits that they will almost always be able to come up with SOMETHING the GM will like.  Second, the bidding system in the extended contest adds a layer of choice out of the GM's control to the player.  Third (and most important) with hero points you can FORCE your will upon the GM, if your willing to commit the points to it.

Anyway, there is my reply.  Like everyone who plays RPG's, I find it hard sometimes to separate my aesthetic judgements about a game (its genre, play style, etc.) from what I think are real flaws or innovations in it.  So as to how much of my problem with T&T is aesthetic (T&T just isn't Hans's game) versus systemic (T&T is flawed) I will leave to others to judge.

Hans
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rafial
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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2006, 10:26:01 AM »

Quote
(re: Live GM and the Matrix): Never played the Matrix game, so I have no idea how I would respond.

This thread provides a pretty decent summary of Matrix games.  You may find it interesting.

Quote
Your statement "GM setting SR level is in effect judging the plausibility of the players arguments" however, is really the core of my problem.  What is plausible?  How do you decide plausibility?  Is it based on "realism"?  If I want realism, sorry, but I'll go play GURPS or Twilight 2000 or, for preference, TROS.  T&T does not have a realistic line in its entire rules.  So if "realism" isn't the standard, what is?

Genre expectations.  T&T espouses a certain brand of light, swashbuckling fantasy, and most players, from other media such as books, films, etc, have expectations as to what sort of things "fit" that genre, and what do not.  This becomes the standard to which proposed actions are held.  Note that this standard may vary from group to group, based on their shared experience.

It is interesting to compare T&T to Castles and Crusades in this regard.  I personally view C&C as a "d20ized" version of T&T, in that it sets out fairly simplistic combat system, a magic system, and then says "and for anything else you can roll against a characteristic, and the GM will say how hard it is".  (Minor difference, in T&T the GM sets a target number, in C&C the target numbers are fixed, and the GM sets a modifier).  However the overall presentation departs from T&T, by implicitly saying "this is D&D fantasy", and so the genre expectations of the playing group are calibrated accordingly.
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Hans
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« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2006, 11:39:17 AM »

Quote
(re: Live GM and the Matrix): Never played the Matrix game, so I have no idea how I would respond.

This thread provides a pretty decent summary of Matrix games.  You may find it interesting.

Indeed I did.  To my mind, it sounds almost identical to what happens with Saving Rolls in T&T, except with more dice and a bit more colour.
Quote
Quote
Your statement "GM setting SR level is in effect judging the plausibility of the players arguments" however, is really the core of my problem.  What is plausible?  How do you decide plausibility?  Is it based on "realism"?  If I want realism, sorry, but I'll go play GURPS or Twilight 2000 or, for preference, TROS.  T&T does not have a realistic line in its entire rules.  So if "realism" isn't the standard, what is?

Genre expectations.  T&T espouses a certain brand of light, swashbuckling fantasy, and most players, from other media such as books, films, etc, have expectations as to what sort of things "fit" that genre, and what do not.  This becomes the standard to which proposed actions are held.  Note that this standard may vary from group to group, based on their shared experience.

I suppose I agree with this.  I was going to say some other stuff, but then your next point kicked the legs out from under me.

Quote
It is interesting to compare T&T to Castles and Crusades in this regard.  I personally view C&C as a "d20ized" version of T&T, in that it sets out fairly simplistic combat system, a magic system, and then says "and for anything else you can roll against a characteristic, and the GM will say how hard it is".  (Minor difference, in T&T the GM sets a target number, in C&C the target numbers are fixed, and the GM sets a modifier).  However the overall presentation departs from T&T, by implicitly saying "this is D&D fantasy", and so the genre expectations of the playing group are calibrated accordingly.

Wow, hit right to the core there.  I have been playing in a C&C campaign for a while, and you have brought up a very good point that I have actual play references for.  They ARE remarkably similar to each other, so much so that I would classify them as different instances of the same game, one using d6's as the basic mechanic and one using d20.  C&C attribute rolls are functionally identical to T&T saving rolls, and actually provide LESS flexibility, since the difference in bonuses is so small compated to T&T (with the choice of prime/not prime being the most important choice).  Why, then, am I playing one and disrespecting the other?

I thought through several justifications for this, but in the end they all rang hollow.  All of my concerns regarding T&T have come up in actual play in C&C.  For example:

* Dull combat mechanics: Since almost all of the D20 tactical features are stripped out of combat, C&C combat is just swing, roll damage.  This is not to say that combat is ALWAYS dull, but it takes work on the part of the GM and the players to spice it up.  Much of the drama of the game comes not from the players actions, but from the random results of the die rolls; a critical hit or fumble on the part of either PC's or opponents, a character surviving for ever against opponents that long ago should have dropped him due to incredibly bad damage rolls.
* Please the GM: Several times in actual play, a player has proposed an action they think would be really cool, but the GM, either because of "realism" or genre expectations or just lack of interest, assigned a difficulty much higher than the player expected, causing some hard feelings. On the other hand, players have proposed actions that, frankly, they never had a prayer of thinking they could succeed at, but because the GM loved them, they were able to succeed.

However, I don't like C&C either.  Now that I think about it, I said much of what I have said here in emails to the GM of the C&C game when we first started it, recommending a number of house rules that I would also recommend to a T&T group.  I'd much rather be playing the exact same campaign and characters with Fate, TROS, Heroquest, or Donjon.  But I keep playing because the story is fun, and the people are even more fun.  System matters, but its not the only thing that matters.

So, I stand by my belief that T&T is a flawed system, and expand it to include its close relative, C&C.  But I also retract my opinion that I can't picture a game of T&T being fun.  I have played in it, and it can be, even for me. 
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2006, 12:01:26 PM »

One thing I haven't seen in this thread is a discussion of the GAMIST nature of the Saving Throw system from the perspective of the GM.  And Callan I think this directly ties into the issue of GM fiat in the game...cuz it isn't really GM fiat at all...in fact, its pretty radical.

See in most games where there is the traditional GM is God kind of power division, GM fiat is just that...its GM fiat...period...with no out other than social pressure or not playing.

But in T&T the GM doesn't get fiat...the GM gets the opportunity to PURCHASE fiat.

See, the way I see it working is this.

If the GM doesn't like the player's idea (for any number of reasons from "not realistic" to "I just don't like it" to "you pissed me off earlier so now I'm getting back at you) the GM can set the TR arbitrarily high, nearly guarenteeing failure.

So this is true just like most games of similar power division.

Only in T&T the higher the difficulty the GM sets, the greater the XP reward the player gets for failing.
The greater the XP reward the more power the player gets by upping stats, etc which means they can more easily succeed in Saving Throws in the future unless the GM sets even higher difficulties and hense even more XPs, etc, etc.

Further the player is also gaining power in the OTHER arena of conflict resultion...basic killing stuff...which isn't subject to GM whim in setting up difficulty levels bound to fail.  For the adventure the rooms are supposed to be stocked with what they're stocked with and combat proceeds according the rules...so by continually using GM Fiat to stop your players from using Saving Throws you just handed them the XPs they need to cut through your dungeon level like butter.

On the other hand, if you avoid giving high difficulty to saving throws in order to avoid this effect, you essentially hand your players another easy way to cut through your dungeon level like butter...by Saving Throwing their way around having to kill stuff.

Which all boils down to me to suggest the the primary duty of the GM is to game the odds...

Don't make the difficulties so high that you're giving away XPs like candy, but don't make them so low that your encounters are easily side-stepped and circumvented.  You have to set them JUST high enough to make it risky for the players to try it...which also means JUST low enough to be tempting to the players to try.

...which to me sounds like the very gaminess of the system motivates the GM to set the difficulty levels to the level that is most interesting and entertaining...risky, but tempting...

Making the GM pay for the right to say no seems like a very radical game concept to me...and a far cry from GM Fiat.

It also seems like its rife with step on up tactical options.  The tactics may not be d20 esque "which feat to use now" tactics...but surely the players will try to game the Saving Throws in the same (although contrary) manner as I outlined for the GM above, and that juxtaposition is where the tactics and step on up occurs...


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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2006, 07:06:17 PM »

Hi Ralph,

Imagine a player wants to bet on the flip of a coin. Heads he gets 100 gold, tails he looses 50 gold.

In the system you've outlined, the GM would tinker with the 50/50 chance of either result happening. The player made the bet with a 50% chance in mind...he was willing to step on up and show his guts in risking that. By changing the percentage, the GM is actually deprotagonising him.

Okay, now imagine, instead of a known, fixed percentage, the player is willing to risk facing the game worlds odds, which the player doesn't actually know.

Now, this is the tricky question. If the player doesn't actually know the real odds, but is willing to face them, is it deprotagonising for the GM to adjust that percentage up and down at will?

IMO, yes, because the players stated step on up involved them facing the game world...not facing the GM's desires about running a game which has just the right challenge. The players step on up revolved around the percentage being fluctuated by game world factors, not meta game factors.*

Take Hans made up example, where he goes from trying a move, to pure meta game negotiation "Could you up that DC from 50 to 60?". The extra points he gets will reward him for the negotiation, not for stepping on up. It could even be classed as a encouragement to slip into the hardcore.


Side note: I'm also rather uncomfortable with the XP rules for saving throws in T&T. The book states you should get something for risking your life. But there's an essential paradox in there - if I'm dead, what use is XP? If I'm alive, why do I deserve XP? I think the ambiguity, rather than a design fault, may have been used as a tool by the author.

* Alarm bells have rung for me,when any GM talks about providing just the right amount of challenge. Looking into it in this post, I now see them as deprotagonisation techniques stated in a very serious "This is just how to do it" tone.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2006, 07:28:09 PM »

Hi Hans,

Quote
To Callan S.:  You have concisely summarized me, but when I see it the way you put it "saving rolls are essentially an illusioist style cover for GM fiat" I realize that I put it a bit too strongly and back up a bit.  Games that have a general "Buck Stops Here" GM will always have final GM approval for things the players want to do, so I can't really argue against that.  In principle I LOVE the idea of the Saving Rolls, because it really does provide a pretty wide open playing field for what you can do without a lot of extra statistics.  The problem is in the way they are implemented.  In this game there is no structure, it seems to me, to help the GM in determining how likely success or failure should be.
Sorry, when I mentioned spell slot magic before, I mean any game that uses that system, like D&D. I mention it, because in it the GM doesn't determine how successful fire is against fire vulnerable monsters. What happens is the GM makes a choice, coloured heavily by the current game world area, about what monsters are around. The player makes his choice about what spell he memorises. But no one makes a choice about how successful fire is against these critters - that's already sorted out in the book.

What do you think of "The GM has a structure to determine how successful stuff is" compared to "The GM doesn't determine if stuff is successful at all - he just places the monsters"?
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Philosopher Gamer
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