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Author Topic: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!  (Read 20544 times)
Jasper the Mimbo
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« Reply #75 on: May 27, 2006, 01:11:36 AM »

What a great thread! Here's my two cents.

Regarding skills: Circumstances bonuses.I love these, a DM's bread and butter.  Ron's baddy would have major bonuses to resist intimidation due to having an extremely strong position to negotiate from. This also ties into Morale. The only thing remotely close to Morale in 3.5 is the intimidate skill. A player who decides to intimidate his opponents after his group had kicked the crap out of most of them should have serious bonuses to the result. Other than that, the point at which an opponent gives up or runs away is simply a point of choice for that character. My villains usually have some sort of escape plan or get out of jail free card. (potions of ethereal jaunt or contingency teleports are my favorite)
Also, the taking 10 and taking 20 rules really shorten the time spent on determining weather checks succeed of fail. Be liberal with these rules. As far as re-tries go, I rarely allow them. If you fail, you're either going to have to take a different approach or take the time to take 20. Other party members can't try when the other guy failed, but they can use the "Aid another" rules to help the first guy with their roll. Keeps things simple.

Regarding P's: P's are awarded any time a challenge\ is overcome. This is why monsters have challenge ratings. One does not have to kill something to overcome it. I grant Xp's for successfully dealing with a threat, even if PC's deal with it by negotiation or stealth. Nearly any thing can have a challenge rating. Traps are my favorite example. Don't get nailed by the trap, get the XP. Set off the trap and survive, still get the XP. I bet they learn something, which is what Xp's are all about.
In games I run, I usually make it even more simple. I don't give XP. It's only necessary to keep track of them if PC's have different amounts. Generally speaking, this only happens when spellcasters are making magic items or casting spells where P's are part of the spell's components. In games where these things aren't likely to happen, I just tell the players when they've done something significant enough to warrant leveling up. This allows me to pace my game with a lot less headache.

Miscellaneous: The weakening of the berserker rage is done on perpose. At first level a barbarian should not be cool enough to be a full blown berserker. That's why we have prestige classes. Check out the Frenzied Berserker from the Complete Warrior. These scary bastards are what you're talking about, Ron. A danger to themselves and everything around them. A couple weeks ago, a game I was running had an 8th level Berserker nearly kill his whole party when he was bitten by a large spider in a forest and failed his Will save to resist frenzy. Ugly. Also, to tie together this with what we've been talking about. Check out the Intimidating Rage feat, from the Complete Warrior. Now you can scare the crap out of people while you kill them! Yay!

You might notice that below, on my list of people to kill, Ron has made the list twice. The first way I'm going to kill him is by talking to him about DnD at Gen Con, until he kills himself. Hear that, Ron. See you in August. :)

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List of people to kill. (So far.)

1. Andy Kitowski
2. Vincent Baker
3. Ben Lehman
4. Ron Edwards
5. Ron Edwards (once isn't enough)

If you're on the list, you know why.
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #76 on: June 01, 2006, 01:16:18 PM »

I think Roger's right. In a very technical sense. That is, if one really poured through the books, and studied them hard, they might come to an understanding of what the IIEE is supposed to be about. And it sounds pretty tight when you have Roger throwing it all together.

I mean, I'm not positive, but this is Tweet's writing, correct? I can believe that he, of all people, did it right.

What I can also believe is that almost nobody plays D&D of any variety by the entire set of rules. Heck, I don't think I could be bothered to read them in their entirity. I wonder if Ron did. If he did, and he's still confused about how it works, and it takes Roger doing his darndest to prove that they're unfuckedup? I'd say that, again, this is only functional in the way that the Italian Parliament can be considered a functional ruling body. That is, only technically.

One of the advantages of the smaller indie games are that the IIEE is usually pretty well stated, and all in one place. Look at Roger's page references! Again, I think that, given the complexity of D&D, Tweet probably did the best job he could with what he had.

Worse, does anyone come to D&D 3E without some prior notions of how the IIEE works, or arrives only to be informed by the old guard (cue the cries of the ten people who have taught themselves the game - I wonder if even they got it right)? Again, this is an advantage of Indie games; that players may take a look at the complete product anew, and "get it." But I've even seen players play Universalis using something like traditional "GM rules all" IIEE. I suppose we can't fault the text of the game for this, but given the size of the D&D text, it really is asking for people to rely less on reading the rules than on what they think they already know about how they work.

In fact, I'd hazard that no edition of D&D has actually ever promoted GMs using force to cause outcomes. Certainly not the early editions. I think that the effect is, in fact, from published adventures and play of other RPGs.

I'm no D&D aficianado, but I've seen a fair bit of play even just incidentally over the years. And I have to say that, by far, what I've found is that GMs reserve the right to decide whether or not to roll. The text doesn't say specifically that he does not have that right, correct? Alone, narrow construction would tell us that doesn't give him the right. But, check the 3E text...does it say somewhere that the GM is the "final arbiter" of the rules somewhere?

I think that's your culprit right there, that allows GMs to slip into this mode feeling justified. If we allow players to call for rolls, they'll job the game, they'll figure out too cute ways to circumvent the challenges, and play will be boring. So let's retain that right for ourselves since it's not specified who has it, under the "GM is last court" rule.

Or is that absent from 3E?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #77 on: June 01, 2006, 02:48:28 PM »

As far as the DM as last court is concerned, the DM Guide is rather strong on romanticizing the privileged, lonely role of entertaining everyone else and being solely responsible for the overall structure of scenarios and events. Whether they explicitly include any "the DM is boss" statements, I don't know.

Also, Mike, I think I must put my foot down regarding Roger's point. By the rules, the DM may choose to go with the "set difficulty level" option for any skill roll - and unlike the "roll vs. opposing skill" option which Roger discussed, that choice is not constrained.

I tried hard to demonstrate why that is not necessarily railroading or any other bad thing, but it is entirely arbitrary, and that Roger's excellent points only applied to the "roll vs. opposing skill" option. If you are reading this thread to state that the rules ultimately do account for limits on DM arbitration of skill use, then you're mistaken.

Best, Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #78 on: June 02, 2006, 05:27:57 AM »


I understand the "set difficulty" point, Ron. But it sounds to me like there's some lattitude in terms of the reading in that one could read the DM as being constrained by the examples, even if there are no good examples to match something like how potent somebody's mental defenses against intimidation are, and there are no absolute limits on the level that the DM can associate with this. That is, I think that a reasonable reading of all this could be that, while the DM has wide lattitude that he's supposed to be responsible to set this level in a simulationism fashion, where he does not have the right to modify that figure such that it exists solely in order to serve his "needs."

Now, of course, that's about as blurry a grey line as one can imagine. Aren't all mechanical selections in some way intended to cause a certain effect? That is, we don't bother to roll for crossing the street, so all selected levels are intent on producing some sort of drama or challenge, no?

But this is all my point. Whether or not the text intends to not try to enforce some idea that the DM is not supposed to use the rules to enforce a certain direction in play, I don't think that it delivers this in any effective way. I'm sure that if we back up yet again to some other level, like selecting challenge ratings for monsters that are to be encountered, that we'll find yet more complications to this (and, near one end of the layers, the "responsibilities" statements you mention above). Taken as a whole, I'm quite sure that the text cannot possibly deliver a consistent IIEE methodology, simply because of it's complexity, and design tradition (which has always been to largely leave this sort of methodology to the individual Cargo Cults into which these books fall).

So I think we're saying the same thing from a slightly different POV. You're saying that there are certain specific exceptions that mean that even a technical reading means that the DM is informed that he has the right to use difficulty setting as a way to enforce his vision. I'm saying that I don't think there is an overall technical reading that anyone can stick to, or at the very least does stick to, and so the point is moot - people will (and do) play the way you're describing using the text.

Or, put another way, in the cases you felt uncomfortable, it was because, despite trying to play by the rules, you felt that the rules were not constraining you as you'd prefer. I think that your experience is what everyone experiences with these rules - not the discomfort, but the notion that they have the sort of authority that you're feeling uncomfortable about (some people crave this control).


I wanted to get to the EXP problem. The issue here is that D&D is not at all well focused, in fact, on what the EXP system exists to encourage. Theoretically you could see it as promoting player competition against the system (or, if you prefer, the DM as fair arbiter). The problem is that the system isn't set up to do precisely that. Yes, rewards should be proportional to the difficulty of the contest. But giving more EXP for not having equipment is saying that the characters should be rewarded for having been unprepared. That is, the problem is not whether or not to give EXP for getting their equipment back, but whether they should get "less" for having gotten the equipment back (not getting the bonus). If a hard task is easy because the group was well-prepared, then that doesn't make it any less of a challenge. That is, in D&D, equiping properly up front is part of the challenge before you even meet it. Just as much as, say, a player reading up on his spells to get an idea of special circumstances in which they'll be useful, and using that information in a contest.

No, D&D experience is still vaguely simulationism supporting - it's not rewarding the player, it's still trying to reward the appropriate amount of experience to the character to represent, well, his experiences, and how this makes him more powerful. As long as this is the case, you can't think in terms of hardcore gamism when trying to calculate how many EXP to give. That is, you either have to stick with D&D's sim approach to EXP, or you have to drift the rules to make it coherently gamism.

In my opinion this is the place where D&D got off the gamism track in the first place. Well, one of the places, where in AD&D 1E Gygax started it down the road to simulationism support. And D&D has been incoherent ever since. The EXP system leading to the worst of the problems. "Why did we kill the baby kobolds? Because they weren't worth any EXP alive!" Blatant pawn stance gamism at cross purposes with a sim experience system. I remember reading that edition and saying, "Hmm, I guess that makes sense, after you level up, you don't just suddenly get more powerful there in the dungeon, you have to go train for a few weeks." That was an important part of the experience system at the time, and a huge sim indicator.

So, which do you want to play by...the sim-based system that people incoherently use for gamism? Or drift to solid gamism? If it's the latter, then the question of EXP in this case is simple - you give them the EXP for overcoming the foes (ignoring in the future the rule about not having equipment), and none for getting their equipment back. Getting the equipment back was no more a risk challenge (as has been pointed out) than whether or not a player remembered to memorize the right spells. It's just good preparation for the actual challenges that faced them ahead - for which they should be rewarded with the points for winning that contest, no more, no less.


In playing Hero Quest lately, I find loads of ambiguity in the text. To get it to play well, I make certain assumptions in my reading of the HQ text about what things mean, so that it all hangs together in a (to me very) playable way. In most cases, I don't think that I'm voiding the letter of the rules. Often I'm simply employing what others might see as loopholes. All texts have to be interpreted to be played, and some have potentially more wide interpretations than others. Given a text that has two widely different interpretations, each seemingly valid, what does this say about what the text says? Well, it says to me that it's not X or Y as written, but we can only speak about the various uses to which it's actually put in play.

This is why I say that neither you nor Roger are 100% correct. Rather I refer to what I actually see, and say that, on interpretation, the D&D text produces the effect that you say in most cases (I can't claim to have observed all D&D play, or even enough to be statistically sure of my observation, in fact). What I think is interesting is that the interpretations become "rules" themselves effectively (as you point out). These are "House Rules" in that they are what the local group has to make the rules play effectively. But they're not "House Rules" in that they aren't an intentional alteration of the rules to improve them. They are, as I've said, interpretations of the text that are neccessary to make the rules playable.

I propose that as a jargon term then, "Interpretation Rule" as opposed to "House Rule." To add to "Textual Rules" which always have to become Interpretation Rules before they're used in play, and are sometimes altered or dropped by House Rules, for various reasons. 

To use these in this case, I'd say that you need an Interpretation Rule to fix the hole you're feeling with regards to the DM having too much authority, and you need a House Rule to tighten up the EXP system to get the game to be coherent.

Though I think it might be interesting if you simply tried to run the game "as written" in it's incoherent form. I'm simply not sure what your goals of play are here (is this an experiment, is it an attempt to really have a fun game?).

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #79 on: June 02, 2006, 06:12:26 AM »

Hi Mike,

Agreed, with one quibble.

The quibble is that I'm not criticizing the rules-issues I'm talking about because they allow/force the DM's "vision." The issue is only that effects-forward thinking is necessary in order to DM (i.e. GM this game), because the set-difficulty option is always there. I have left the uses and abusese of this technique completely open. I have despaired of anyone actually understanding this; between the worshippers of said vision and the rebels vs. railroading, I've decided the collective comprehension of the real issue is in its infancy, and can't rush it past that.

Regarding your proposal,

Quote
What I think is interesting is that the interpretations become "rules" themselves effectively (as you point out). These are "House Rules" in that they are what the local group has to make the rules play effectively. But they're not "House Rules" in that they aren't an intentional alteration of the rules to improve them. They are, as I've said, interpretations of the text that are neccessary to make the rules playable.

I propose that as a jargon term then, "Interpretation Rule" as opposed to "House Rule." To add to "Textual Rules" which always have to become Interpretation Rules before they're used in play, and are sometimes altered or dropped by House Rules, for various reasons.

"Yes." This is completely in line with my experiences with the three most seminal role-playing games, D&D, RuneQuest (or more accurately BRP to include Call of Cthulhu), and Champions. I agree with you entirely that in this case, playing D&D requires an Interpretation Rule regarding skill use, most especially the distinction between rolling-opposed and rolling-vs.-difficulty. My interpretation is simply to pre-empt the decision by saying, "always roll opposed." Although whether this is interpretation or legal application is, I think, not something that can be debated successfully.

Regarding my goals of play, I never "experiment." I only play for fun, period. Sticking to the rules as best I can is part of that fun, in this case. I've already said we're playing Narrativist*, with a strong risk factor of character death and a lot of fight-y conflict built-in. The time factor, as well, which is to say we're only playing this one scenario, means that leveling-up and the long-term strategies of character construction, are not major issues during play.

Best, Ron

* Mike, I know that you understand this, but for others reading this post, this has nothing to do with agreeing or stating any such thing prior to play. I'm interpreting the other players' stated goals and actions during play in order to make this statement.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #80 on: June 02, 2006, 06:21:38 AM »

Hi Mike,

Agreed, with one quibble.

The quibble is that I'm not criticizing the rules-issues I'm talking about because they allow/force the DM's "vision." The issue is only that effects-forward thinking is necessary in order to DM (i.e. GM this game), because the set-difficulty option is always there.

Sorry, I was shortcutting trying to identify the issue. I completely agree with you.

Quote
Although whether this is interpretation or legal application is, I think, not something that can be debated successfully.

Probably not. I'd say that in these cases that you can probably call these interpretations. When something is an actual change from the rules, it's usually pretty clear.

Quote
Regarding my goals of play, I never "experiment."
I didn't think so. My point is that, in this particular case, I'd House Rule it by skipping EXP. The rewards aren't going to come into play anyhow, so why allow for the potential gamism or sim incoherence they might cause? Why do the work only to have the game work less effectively for you?

Of course I might as easily ask "Why aren't you playing Sorcerer?" I suppose. I guess that's why it seems like an experiment to me.

Mike

edited to fix quote formatting - RE
« Last Edit: June 02, 2006, 07:08:47 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged

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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #81 on: June 02, 2006, 06:33:05 AM »

Aargh. Apologies for the missing bracket that messed up that last post. You can parse out what I was saying, if you read it carefully.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #82 on: June 02, 2006, 07:10:00 AM »

Boy, that took three edits to fix properly.

Anyway, thanks for weighing in, Mike, and I suggest that this thread really has done all the damage it can do. Let's close it now, folks, although I encourage everyone to post their own actual-play experiences regarding the issues that it has brought up.

Best, Ron
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Storn
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Posts: 228


« Reply #83 on: June 02, 2006, 07:23:09 AM »

Quote
I have despaired of anyone actually understanding this; between the worshippers of said vision and the rebels vs. railroading, I've decided the collective comprehension of the real issue is in its infancy, and can't rush it past that.

Count me as an infant.  I've been reading this thread with great interest.  But I'm so not getting it.  I feel that i can almost grasp what you are trying to drive towards...but I'll be damned if I can see what is over the next ridge.

I *think* I get that the 2 systems of dealing with skill checks in d20 can lead to really defining how a certain GM goes about task resolution.  The opposed roll seems to be a bit more "loose" and "less railroady"... whereas the Hit the TN roll could be construed as "more railroad-y" because the GM has the option of setting almost impossible TNs to prevent success.  I.e. Ugly Pig Guard is persuaded, fight is avoided.

And because d20 allows both systems to exist without very good guidelines of when to choose one over the other... and skills descriptions themselves add to the confusion as some are one way... and others are another way... it creates an environment where so much can be handled in a multitude of ways.  This might lead to confusion between player and GM.  

Because there is the excellent point of Ron's example of the highly set TN (the more railroad-y option) seen below..
Quote
but even if they do want to stick with the rolls, the nigh-insurmountable difficulty of convincing Ugly Pig can be treated as consensual between DM and player, because the DM has already expressed his desire for this to be a fight scene. "I dunno man, I think my guy would at least try to talk him out of it." "OK, let's roll for it, but the difficulty is monstrous, OK?" "Sure!"
Now, the player has been "listened to", the TN is still really high and success unlikely... but that isn't railroading... that is setting HUGE obstacle, but there still is that slim chance.  The player is engaged and feels like he at least got a shot.  Railroading is if the GM recants despites an unbelievable roll of the dice and still prevents the success... that's railroading in my book.



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Storn
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Posts: 228


« Reply #84 on: June 02, 2006, 07:24:12 AM »

ooops... crap.

I'm sorry, you wanted to wrap this up.

Unfortunately, I don't know if I have Actual Play that can speak to this.  Despite wanting to figure it out better.  So, I will wait until the next thread.
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TheTris
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Posts: 68


« Reply #85 on: June 02, 2006, 08:05:19 AM »

Man....I managed to miss a lot on holiday.

My last post in this thread:

I really like the way you've had morale failure for bad guys, Ron.  My perception is that your players are making some pretty cool statements, and playing a certain brand of hero.  "No, we don't kill him.  We aren't like that" sort of thing.

It really seems to fit when you say "Bad guys are cowards at heart, who tend to flee when things go against them".  It makes total sense to me, because of what I've picked up about the atmosphere of your game.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #86 on: June 02, 2006, 12:59:04 PM »

Guys, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but the thread is closed. Please read to the end of threads before posting further comments.

No more posting here, please.

Best, Ron
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