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[D&D 3.0/3.5] Skill combat and blood drinking

Started by Ron Edwards, May 01, 2006, 08:24:26 PM

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Ben Lehman

Hey, Ron, out of curiousity, were those NPCs at maximum skill rank in the appropriate social skills (Diplomacy, Bluff, Sense Motive, whatever)?  As in: Was the 9th level aristorcrat rolling d20+12 versus their skills?


Ron Edwards

Hi Ben,

The higher-level NPCs, Beezah and Khoros were pretty frightening in their bonuses, although my notes show more +9's than +12's. Lord Khoros' Sense Motive and basic stubbornness (compounded by the Charm Person and Sleep that Eladd used to manipulate him) smacked them. Overall, the characters' weeny Diplomacy failed so badly. They did better when they found end-runs around the situations their poor skills (with one or two lucky exception successes) landed them in, specifically when they prompted scenes in which their skills would be useful.

Which, as I see it, is analogous to the fighty/room situation in a dungeon. If the monsters are just too bastard-like in a given series of rooms, and if the players can come up a reasonable, unexpected way to deal with them or get around or under them, then cool! Given, of course, a few bloody noses along the way as they figure out the first part.

Callan, I gotta say, your questions are the weirdest things I've ever seen since Jesse's "long dark night" with Sorcerer.

QuoteSo, I think, information found or not found ends up helping to stimulate different addresses of premise.

Squinting. Yes. Ignorance of a particular piece of information is just as wonderful and powerful for this purpose as knowledge of it, especially with a lot of author stance going on.

Perhaps I'm reading what you wrote differently from what you meant ... information found or not found ends up helping stimulate ...

See what I mean? What they know and what they don't know affects developing Premise. Just like what they know and what they don't know affects an upcoming Challenge in a more straightforwardly Gamist context. Exactly like that, in fact. The fun part for me as GM is that I do not have to "make sure" they know this or that, but rather make sure that I'm not blocking them from finding stuff out.

Even that's not saying it right. It sounds as if I'm withholding information and doling it out, and that's not what's up. I dunno man, your questions and statements are so vague that I'm not seeing how to respond well.

QuoteIf play gets to a point where a juicy address could be made, but they haven't found all the pertinent facts yet, would you go with that? I'm interested in the structure that determines when you switch from discovery of pertinent facts mode to 'We know all we we need to know, time to make a choice!'.

There. What do you mean by "go with that"? Concretely, for GM behavior, what exactly do you mean, "go with that"? And similarly, by "you" and "switch," I assume you mean the GM. What exactly do you mean by the GMing "switching"?

Be specific and draw upon real, actual play examples for your answers. No more vague abstractions. People, game, characters, situations, behavior. What do you mean by those phrases?

Best, Ron

Larry L.


This seemed a bit weird to me:

Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 08:24:26 PM
and in fact, she demanded Forin play a blood price for attacking the fleeing hyena in the last session. She got to halve his hit points by drinking his blood, which is the sort of thing I like to throw into my D&D games to keep them from being all about killing kobolds.

Could you elaborate how that whole "blood price" thing played out? I don't understand what beef Old Beezah has about the hyenas. This seems like, uh, GM disapproves of player's actions and deals out arbitrary penalty. But I'm probably missing something.


Ron wrote:

Really, it's so easy. It has nothing to do with pre-determining the timing of information flow. Nor does it have anything to do with walking them through fake-fights or planned step-by-step sequences of scenes. This way, they actually got a lot more info in that run than I anticipated, or more accurately, would  have anticipated if I'd wasted the mental energy to do any such thing. Why you guys suffer and crack your brains trying to grasp "fun story, high risk, lots of strategy" is beyond me. How else  would you do it? (rhetorical) And godamighty, why would you do that, when it flounders so badly? (ditto)

I'm beginning to sense another chasm between my understanding and experience, and your understanding and experience. I don't think you don't know why people "do that" - I mean, c'mon, that's just how "everyone" does it, and as we have seen and keep seing, people mimic this over and over, game after game.

While I am not interested trying to convert or teach or anything like that for anyone else, I am extremely interested in how to make this happen for games I play and run. For myself at least, this gets right down to very specific steps, attitudes, and actions that I have either never understood or applied successfully at the table. And it's the most frustrating experience I have ever had.

The way you describe your tactics - not witholding anything, not preplanning ourcomes - it sounds as if this worked really well. I'm up against 22 years of doing it one way, despite a lot of tries at altering what turns out to be superficial garbage. How much of this particular game's sucess comes from the fact that your participants haven't been playing with "20 minutes of fun packed into 4 hours" for a long time? How different far does your experience running this game, moment from moment, from running, like, say Sorcerer? Are you still hitting the scene framing and hard core cut power with the same intensity?

And, if this needs it's own thread, well... I'm sure we'll get there.

Joel P. Shempert

Ron, I have to confess I'm a bit bewildered by the statement James quoted. I think maybe I'm just having a hard time parsing it. So let my try to break it down a bit for myself, and you can correct me on any point I get skewed or just plain miss. So first, are the "it" in "How else would you do it?" and the "that" in "why whould you do that" the same or different? It doesn't make mush sense if they're the same, but that's the most obvious grammatical reading. So, assuming they're different, I'll hazard that "it" refers to the play style you're describing, the "not withholding, not preplanning" as James put it. And "that" refers to "Suffer and crack your brains"? That seems to make the most sense. I'll also assume that the "fun story, high risk, lots of strategy" Holy Grail you mention is synonomous with the aforementioned play style. And with that out of the wayI guess I'm wondering what you mean by "suffer and crack your brains." Do you mean just generally, "why do you puzzle over it when its so obvious?" Or do you mean something more specific, perhaps the antithesis of your abovementiond style, e.g. "witholding information, preplanning outcomes"?

If I haven't gone off thew rails anywhere up there, I think I get what you're saying, and the style you're using sounds like it works very well. Sorry I'm being so dense on this, but for some reason that paragraph is really uphill work for me comprehension-wise. And instead of continuing to speculate on whether I've got it right, I thought, hey, I'll just ask.

Regarding the thread in general, I don't have much to say except that it sounds like super-fun play, especially as interested as I am right now in trying games with roleplaying virgins. I think it's interesting, and certainly against type, that the kid is playing the more cerebral type character, while the dad has the market cornered on punchy scrap-fighter territory. And damn, I wanna meet this 11-year old, not to mention play with him!

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.


Hi guys,

Real quick- this thread is wavering due to simple misunderstanding.

1. Ron's talking about Vanilla Narrativism:

"Narrativist play without notable use of the following Techniques: Director Stance, atypical distribution of GM tasks, verbalizing the Premise in abstract terms, overt organization of narration, or improvised additions to the setting or situations."

2. Callan's fishing for "How do these techniques of play -engineer- hard Nar choices/Addressing of Premise?"

3.  Ron's like, "It's Vanilla Nar, how else -would- you make it work in straight up D&D?"

(and yes, a new thread to clarify Vanilla Nar for those who are interested is a good idea)


Ron Edwards

Joel, "yes," especially to the part where you paraphrase me as saying

Quote"why do you puzzle over it when its so obvious?"

Chris, you're right on too, with the addition that a bit more violent conflict is built into my expectations/prep for this game than it might be for, say, Shadow of Yesterday.

James, the last time I tried to explain the chasm of understanding that you're talking about, I got accused of calling people rapists. People are probably still shitting little green apples out there in the blogspace about it. Until a more adult and thoughtful culture surrounds my on-line points, I'll have to say, "Keep working on it." Maybe some drills will be invented that can help you out, that's my best suggestion for now.

You asked,

QuoteHow much of this particular game's sucess comes from the fact that your participants haven't been playing with "20 minutes of fun packed into 4 hours" for a long time?

I don't know. I do think that the 20 min/4 hours phenomenon is destructive to the default creativity of the human mind, and quite likely to other parts of it as well. I also think both Christopher and Dan are imaginative, fun people, and that they care a lot (in ways appropriate to their ages) about emotional responsibility in all aspects of life. It doesn't surprise me that they can play solid verbal content for Lawful Good and Chaotic Good characters without being smarmy or preachy.

If any of you are smacking your head and saying "spoo! Ron says alignment can be used as a Narrativist flag!" then you're right. The entire conflict about the ghast and the granddaughter is based on a personal failure of ethical judgment and the subsequent breakdown of law. If they'd made neutral evil characters, I'd have come up with a completely different scenario.

QuoteHow different far does your experience running this game, moment from moment, from running, like, say Sorcerer? Are you still hitting the scene framing and hard core cut power with the same intensity?

Scene framing is pretty easy with this group, especially in the castle situation. When I think the current conflict is done, I stop the scene, just as we might in playing Primetime Adventures. I start new scenes based on some consequence of what some NPC has done, or I'm moving to the logical interest-point posed by a player announcement ("Tomorrow, let's see this Beezah lady"). Alternately, when I sit back and ask, "So, how do you want to handle it?" I'm basically letting them start a new scene. As far as cutting is concerned, most of the characters have been together in the same places for most of the time (Corin's weasel scenes and Joshua's prayer scenes were probably the only exceptions). So not much cutting.

In raw technique, there's not much difference from Sorcerer play. In detail and consequences of the techniques, they differ a lot, because player-characters are often in very different places, facing different things, in Sorcerer play.

Best, Ron

Ron Edwards

Whoa, forgot Larry.

Larry, the scene had nothing to do with GM punishment at all. Raetha is the "mistress" of the hyenas, and she has set a bunch of them to watch out for and hunt for Old Beezah. Old Beezah has some animal-friendly spells and can talk to them. They told her about the guys they fought and what they did, or perhaps Raetha (who saw the fight) told her.

Old Beezah chose Forin's blood to drink because Raetha is mad at him, and this is a way for her (Beezah) to get Raetha to call things even-stephen. Beezah knows Raetha needs these guys' help against the ghast.

Also, it's a straightforward consequence of Forin's unruly behavior, the sort of thing that Dan delights in (did I mention him getting his half-orc on?).* And since it had both an ethical and fair basis, the paladin and cleric were OK with it, as was Forin's brother.

They could have refused. Or they could have negotiated for someone or something else. Or whatever. It wasn't like I as GM told Dan as player, OK, now you lose half your hit points because I say so.

Best, Ron

* Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that the primary skill that did operate in the player-characters' favor was Forin intimidating the crap out of Eladd at their first meeting, with a high bonus for his level as well as a dynamite roll, when Eladd tried to get "this orc" barred from the castle. That's why Eladd never attacked them directly - which I might add, I was willing to do prior to that scene.

Callan S.

Hi Ron,

I'm going to use an unnessersarily negative example.

Discovery mode ticking along then...
Player A "What? Oh my gawd...after finding that out, I rush up and chop X's head off! He MUST die!"
Player B "Nah, DON'T! Let's discover more so we know exactly what's going on"
Player A "*splutter* But...but...he has to die! I can't just go on making little spot rolls and such...he has to die now!"
GM, who was encouraging discovery mode up until till and including, wondering just what he's encouraging right now.

I don't want to use a negative example, but it was clearly too vague before. I wanted to to get at the structure that ensures everyone goes onto address premise mode at the same time, particularly if another player apart from the GM, triggers it.

There's something amiss about our communication, so I'm leaving my input at this, for now.
Philosopher Gamer

Joel P. Shempert

Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 05:13:00 PM
If any of you are smacking your head and saying "spoo! Ron says alignment can be used as a Narrativist flag!" then you're right.

Boy, can it ever, at least with my current D&D character. He's neutral evil, and currently up to his neck in a web of betrayal from which he could only now extricate himself by betraying the people he's betraying his friends to. Thing is, I actually used the alignment as a personal flag for what they guy's all about, which is a drastic switch from my usual tack of begrudgingly picking one because i have to. And I'm actually enjoying "playing my alignment". Whodathunk?
Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.


Callan, I can completely see how Ron has no idea what you're talking about.

What the heck is "address premise mode"?  Do you have some vision that play looks like some kind of bog standard hunt the widget get the Macguffin for some period of time and then at some magic point BANG the switch gets flipped and everybody starts "playing nar"?  That's about the only thing I can figure you must be thinking with your worrying about how to get everybody to switch on at the same time.

If that is what you're envisioning actual play to look like then I don't really know how to respond since no nar play I've ever seen, heard of, or experienced looks anything like that.  Addressing premise goes on continuously and often invisibly.  The fact that one player comes to a decision about life and death and determines to act on it...that happens when it happens.  There's no waiting for everybody to reach that point together.  There's no "wait you can't kill that guy yet because you haven't gotten clue #3".  If player A feels he has enough information to pass judgement on an NPC then he just does.  And if it turns out later he was wrong...well shit...there's your theme evolving from premise right there.  And if player B feels strongly enough that the NPC shouldn't die, then player B does whatever he can to stop it.  And if that means killing player A then he does.  If he lets the NPC die because he won't cross that like with A...well shit...there's your theme evolving from premise right there.

Premise-into-theme is not written down on some tidy little slip of paper stored in a secret envelope like in Clue just waiting for the players to put the information together and accuse Colonel Mustard.  Its not doled out by the GM like a room description in an old module.  Its what happens when players make decisions...and if they choose not to decide, they still have made a choice (that's the art of crafting bangs).

As Ron asked above...actual play examples please.  Have you ever experienced nar play that works like a light switch where everybody things "ok time to address premise now"?  If not, then I'm afraid your question is exactly why the theory forums got shut down. 

Sydney Freedberg

Agreeing with Ralph, here.

Quote from: Callan S. on May 03, 2006, 11:43:11 PM
Player A "What? Oh my gawd...after finding that out, I rush up and chop X's head off! He MUST die!"
Player B "Nah, DON'T! Let's discover more so we know exactly what's going on"
Player A "*splutter* But...but...he has to die! I can't just go on making little spot rolls and such...he has to die now!"

That sounds to me like great play. It makes me want to know what they do next -- does A run off to kill X? How hard does B try to stop him (or her) -- by begging him, tackling him, stabbing him, warning X? Does B race to find more clues that might prove X's innocent or guilt conclusively before A finds X and hacks him? Dude, I totally want to play that game now.

Ron Edwards

What Sydney and Ralph said.

I don't see any shred of negative qualities in your pseudo-example at all. And I want real examples in your next post, thanks.

Best, Ron


I think I see what Callan's trying to say. I can't give any actual play examples, I'm afraid, but it's something I've seen glimpses of in discussions about Dogs in the Vineyard. It's the idea that there's a point in a Dogs game before which the Dogs play detective (interview the witnesses, get information, etcetera) and after which they Pronounce Their Judgment on the town and in doing so address Premise. One of the indicators that the group knows when it's passed that point is when the GM says, "You Know All You Need To. Go Judge Now."

Callan, is that close?
Always Plenty of Time!

Ron Edwards

If it is, then I point to Ralph's post, which addresses that issue 100%.

Best, Ron