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Author Topic: Starting up D&D with the kids  (Read 17112 times)
Storn
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Posts: 228


« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2006, 06:26:47 AM »

Quote
I'm going to thank you and then kick you in the nuts for providing empty advice. We're playing an (even simpler) version of that particular game, which just happens to share the D&D name but is not very much like the versions of D&D many of you are probably familiar with -- we're talking about stripped-down "old skool nursing home patient" D&D. Ok? Cool? Thanks!

Hold on.

When you spent 3 posts explaining the STRUGGLE you had with simplifying D&D Basic.... you do not have to jump down our throats for suggesting systems where you don't have to do that work.  I can speak for me, I was just gently suggesting alternatives... .not demanding that you switch.

If you WANT to do that work... fine.  It can be great fun.   But that wasn't coming across to this reader.  Ok?  Cool?  thanks.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2006, 09:37:55 AM »

I have to agree with Storn. I'm absolutely baffled why somebody who has created more functional, and certainly easier to teach, RPGs like Orx would decide to go with D&D of any color. I felt baffled before when you were playing your "narrativist D&D" game. And I'm twice as baffled now. At least with adults there's the chance that they can overcome the problems at hand to make for more frequently functional play. With children, D&D is about the last thing I'd start them on. I mean, if they're rolling a D20 to see if they hit, and another die to find the number of HP of damage, you're playing the wrong system.

By way of trying to anger you here,  so that we might find an answer, I'm going to rashly and spuriously propose that you feel some sort of apologetic sympathy for D&D, that it's the only "real" RPG, and that, in the end, all other RPG developments are just artsy, difficult to understand forays into intellectual dishonesty. That's the only reason I can think of why you, of all people, would keep coming back to D&D.

I've been trying to argue for quite a while now with the people on the Kids-RPG Yahoo group that, while certainly it's possible for children to learn and even have fun with D&D (I did at a pretty early age), that it's far from optimal for children. The game we try to suggest is Zak Arneston's Shadows, for instance. But there are tons of games better suited to children than D&D.

So I gotta ask....why?

Mike
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2006, 12:04:38 PM »

Cool game, Raven.

Hey, what are you doing for experience points?  For kids, I'd dumb it way down, like "you need 10 tokens to get to the next level, and here's 1 token for killing that wolf just now."

Then you can do things like, "Okay, you can reroll that die, but it'll cost you 2 tokens..." or "are you stuck? I'll give you a hint for 1 token..."  There are metagame things for which you won't want to "say yes or roll the dice," and you can just charge them tokens for it, and they'll learn that nothing is free.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
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greyorm
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Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2006, 05:35:42 PM »

So I gotta ask....why?

Mike, this and the related subject you brought up (Narrativist 3E) is really, really, really a topic for a completely different thread. Please start one if you would like and I'll be happy to deal with it over there!

Storn, I'm not going to get into a pissing match with you (or anyone else) here in my own thread. Take the "must...defend...ego...from...jerk" posting somewhere else, like a PM if you really need to work it out with me. But don't post it here. And don't apologize. Just don't do it again.

I do welcome specific feedback about specific points of play, or specific areas of concern I've raised. Anything about dealing with the whiff factor, how to suggest without influencing, and outright avoiding force, or the fiat I used at the end of the game are all good examples of subjects we can talk about here.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2006, 05:38:00 PM »

Hey, what are you doing for experience points?  For kids, I'd dumb it way down, like "you need 10 tokens to get to the next level, and here's 1 token for killing that wolf just now."

Heya Adam,

I hadn't even thought about XP yet, since I have not yet introduced levels and such. I like that token idea, though; that's really good. I'll probably tie it to stuff other than just offing the beasties: such as handing out X number of tokens for taking care of the goblin chieftan (ie: completing the quest), maybe tokens for doing cool things like or trying out unusual strategies (like the "I shoot my bow from underwater" or "bowstring ropes" ideas) even if they don't succeed at the task. That way I can reward ideas and actions without tying the reward to the success, which is more the direction I want to head.

Hrm, that's also a possible solution to "character death as punishment", too: your character just died, ok, you get a couple tokens as a consolation prize (since I am thinking tokens would make a better player resource than a character resource, and thus be transferable). Well, something for me to think about, anyways.

Thanks!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2006, 04:37:54 AM »

Mike, this and the related subject you brought up (Narrativist 3E) is really, really, really a topic for a completely different thread. Please start one if you would like and I'll be happy to deal with it over there!
OK, split this topic off here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20054.0

Back to your regularly scheduled thread.

Mike
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2006, 07:29:43 AM »

Whiff factor: not really very avoidable except by handing out potent magic items. The game (we're talking the OD&D - Holmes Set - Basic/Expert - RC lineage of D&D here) was originally designed for pretty large parties, and even tough monsters don't have all that many hit points until you get to the Mentzer and RC editions. So it's actually a feature, if an 8 HD monster is supposed to be tough, but takes eight hits to kill, and you've got seven adventurers fighting it, to whiff a lot - it increases suspense and makes fights last. The way people actually play, in small groups, it gets frustrating though. One thing you can do is let the PCs find things like spearmen and blink dogs to help them out, let the players run them in combat, and then at least one of their 2-3 characters probably won't whiff.

Suggestion vs. Fiat: A variant on Vincent's "spill the beans" concept - when things start to bog just hand out more and more facts. If they do what you want them to do, great, say yes. If they come up with some other weird way of combining the elements you've given them, great, say yes.

Other note: I use the following generic resolution system with my OD&D-basic homebrew:

http://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=1266

I try to invoke this stunt system when I don't like the player's idea (and so don't want to 'just say yes') or when the scene seems to call for the drama of a dice roll; it's my way of almost never just saying no. I decide on a difficulty and if the player makes the roll his or her vision prevails.

Don't know if this is useful to you but for me it's a way to have a principled noncombat adjudication system without descending into the morass that is skills.

Mike, I hear what you're saying about the two-roll resolution system, but when hits are rare and monsters don't have as many hit points (because you avoid the Greyhawk - AD&D - 3e lineage of ever-escalating damage and hit points), the occasional drama in 'how much damage do I do?' occurs relatively more often. Maybe it still leads to bog more often than drama, but surely there are better reasons than this to try to unsell people on D&D as a first RPG.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2006, 07:31:31 AM by Calithena » Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2006, 08:55:51 AM »

It's not really that it's two rolls, but that there's a combat system at all. Actually it's far more complex than that, but if you want to discuss that, please move the comments over to the other thread set up for that.

Mike
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2006, 09:56:51 AM »

Mike - Not sure which other thread you mean since Ron closed the most obvious choice.

I know your standard rant on subsystems (esp. combat systems) and agree with you on general principle, so that's cool.

But - one way to think about the 'why put in a priveleged subsystem?' question (and you're one of the people I got this from I think) is because you want to privilege that part of the imaginative material as important to the game. D&D has special subsystems for, and therefore calls attention to, violent conflict and magic. If you want your game to be about violent conflict and magic - irrespective of GNS, these can be the ways that themes of loyalty or heroism get dealt with just as easily as they can be opportunities for Step on Up - then it seems like these big subsystems of D&D might be in a sense well-motivated.

One reason I like (certain versions of) D&D (particularly the lineage that Raven is using) is that I get off on a pretty deep level on the idea of using violence to solve my problems, and the threat of violence/possibility of avoiding violence as a driver of decision-making. And I do think that the rules support that. On the other hand, I can see how that would bother some people (not me!) in terms of a game to introduce kids to role-playing with, and form the basis of a stronger don't-start-with-D&D argument relative to some people's assumptoins. But I suspect I'm drifting this thread where it shouldn't go, so I'll stop there.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2006, 09:58:50 AM by Calithena » Logged
greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2006, 10:52:10 AM »

I don't think so.
...
In terms of situations like this, you might want to ask 'What will you do (as a player) if the bear kills your PC?'. It helps put the stakes on the table - is he going to whine and complain? No? Is he's going to take it and accept it? Even though it's unpleasant? Ok, now we really see him taking on risks himself, rather than leaving it to daddy to clean up when things go bad.

Yeah, that's actually what I was thinking of having done: "Hey, this bear is really strong, a lot stronger than a goblin. He could really hurt you badly or even kill you if you attack him. You might be able to beat him, but you still have time to run if you want to do that instead. What do you want to do?" That is what I believe I should have said.

I say that, in disagreement with your assessment, only because my son doesn't (or didn't) really know there are things in the game that can crush his character in one blow. If we had been playing for quite a while, or this situation had come up before, then I wouldn't disagree. Then it is, "Well, you knew the odds"...but he didn't. As far as he knew, it would be like fighting the rats or the goblins.

So, I wouldn't have expected him to know about the bear's strength or have any idea of his chances against it, hence my post-event worry of having been wrong in not bringing that up before he chose to fight. I feel it was poor sportsmanship on my part. Or maybe...I've been in games before where the GM just dropped things into play that were more dangerous than suspected, without providing any hints about the level of danger. I never liked it when it happened to me.

I did the same once to my players a few years ago -- just dropped a bomb on them out of the blue, killed half the party -- and my players didn't like it at all. I realized my mistake right there, though stupidly, I didn't rectify it. I want to avoid that: it feels like part of the traditional broken D&D behavior -- GM-vs-player antagonism and power dynamics -- that I want to get away from.

But this brings up a good talking point about the subject. D&D does not provide a good method by which the players can gauge the actual risk of an endeavor. They're completely in the dark. The GM can throw a 5HD monster at a 1st level party without any sort of safeguard for them, because until they've seen it in action they have no clue just how dangerous it actually is.

So the players have no way to know whether they should take a chance on the fight or run; the risk they are taking is opaque until they're in the thick of it, at which point it might be too late. The reason I don't like this is because it is a big stinking pile of fiat on the GM's part to hold up his part of the bargain and "be fair" with encounters and chances of success, but there's no control for it.

Dogs, to use a counter example, puts it right out there on the table. You know how much you're risking or how much of a risk it is going into a conflict.

Deciding which way to swing, and figuring out how to swing the latter in D&D (though it seems simple enough to just announce relative difficulty), changes the very nature of the game play between knowing the risks and deciding if they're worth it, and not knowing the risks and having to figure out if the unknown level of risk is worth it. Play changes from being about taking the risk to figuring out what the risk is. That's a big difference in play style.

Thanks for the input! I can see your suggestion being very useful once they get a feel for the odds in play and start taking big risks knowingly, and it has gotten me thinking.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
ffilz
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« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2006, 11:17:25 AM »

I think there are ways to keep this issue manageable. One option is to never present a challenge that is too risky for the PCs. That's probably not attractive. Another option is to make it easy for the players to get information that a challenge may be too hard. When I want to present unwinnable encounters, I either use large numbers of some creature the PC has fought before, or use something that's so obviously overwhelming that I can just state it outright if necessary ("the dragon looks pretty big, and can probably whip you and eat you for lunch.").

But another part of the problem is players realizing how quickly they can die when they are low on hit points etc. I think this problem is something that really only can be learned by having it happen to you, or another player.

In any game where the GM has cards up his sleeve, it's abosutely critical that the GM play fair. The GM sneaking in a killer encounter to a gamist game is just as bad as a GM negating a player's input in a narativist game. Dogs has an advantage that it doesn't rely on hidden information.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Callan S.
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« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2006, 03:56:10 PM »

I don't think so.
...
In terms of situations like this, you might want to ask 'What will you do (as a player) if the bear kills your PC?'. It helps put the stakes on the table - is he going to whine and complain? No? Is he's going to take it and accept it? Even though it's unpleasant? Ok, now we really see him taking on risks himself, rather than leaving it to daddy to clean up when things go bad.

Yeah, that's actually what I was thinking of having done: "Hey, this bear is really strong, a lot stronger than a goblin. He could really hurt you badly or even kill you if you attack him. You might be able to beat him, but you still have time to run if you want to do that instead. What do you want to do?" That is what I believe I should have said.
That wasn't my suggestion. I suggested getting him to say not what he does now, but to say what he'll do as a player if in the end his character dies.

Quote
I say that, in disagreement with your assessment, only because my son doesn't (or didn't) really know there are things in the game that can crush his character in one blow. If we had been playing for quite a while, or this situation had come up before, then I wouldn't disagree. Then it is, "Well, you knew the odds"...but he didn't. As far as he knew, it would be like fighting the rats or the goblins.
I think contemplating the odds is to also contemplate, more importantly, how you would feel/act upon losing. But contemplation of odds is not a required part of this. You can always contemplate failure without actually knowing the odds of it.

Quote
So the players have no way to know whether they should take a chance on the fight or run; the risk they are taking is opaque until they're in the thick of it, at which point it might be too late. The reason I don't like this is because it is a big stinking pile of fiat on the GM's part to hold up his part of the bargain and "be fair" with encounters and chances of success, but there's no control for it.
You have to admit, a player who isn't prepared to lose, can never be placated by a GM. No matter to what lengths that GM went in being fair. It just isn't possible.
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
charles ferguson
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Posts: 74


« Reply #27 on: June 08, 2006, 04:09:31 PM »

Raven said
Quote
But this brings up a good talking point about the subject. D&D does not provide a good method by which the players can gauge the actual risk of an endeavor.

My own preference:
1) All rolls clearly signal the risk factor beforehand as an integral part of the roll process, whether this be a fromal mechanism or an informal GM declaration
2) the players can always run away up to a specific point of commitment to the action, and always know what that point is. Continuation then becomes a player statement

Don't know how this would work for your ruleset, Raven, since I'm not real clear on what's acceptable drift in your current istuation & what's not (& gee, I don't want to get kicked in the nuts again :)

Hey, how about if you go with that "dice are tokens" thing? I think that's an exceptionally cool technique, especially for kids.

Maybe when they take on any challenge that has potential damage, line up the damage dice you'll be rolling if they take a hit? Then say, "OK, are you sure?" If they say yes, that's the signal they're committing to the action.

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Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #28 on: June 08, 2006, 06:19:08 PM »

This thread is generating cool ideas, regarding the tokens for XP and the transparent threat assessment things. Maybe there's more to be learned about good design by breaking down RPGs so that kids can grasp them, more than just a "dumbing down" effect.

Obviously, this ties in nicely with games like The Pool or DitV, where the dice are dual-purposed to be both number generators and finite currency sitting on the table for all to see.

Just saying I'm finding these things useful. Thanks Raven, Adam, Charles, & the rest.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #29 on: June 08, 2006, 09:21:46 PM »

That wasn't my suggestion. I suggested getting him to say not what he does now, but to say what he'll do as a player if in the end his character dies.

Callan, you are correct that my quote was not what you suggested. I communicated my thoughts really poorly there and accidentally mixed two different ideas together. Apologies.

With all due respect, I am more concerned with my failure to have indicated the odds to him than I am with his ability to deal with losing, because the latter simply hasn't cropped up as a big problem in play. After all, he didn't throw a huge fit when his character died, he didn't pout and stomp his feet or quit the game, or anything of the sort that I've seen in some gamers twice his age. He had a very healthy, natural reaction for a nine-year old boy: a bit of disappointed whining on his part, but overall he handled it well given his nature and particular problems. So I'm not worried knowing the huge disaster it could have been.

I am instead concerned with my having misled him (or so I feel) with the bear. If he knew one hit could take him down, that the game could work that way, too, would he have gone at it? I didn't give him that choice, though, and I don't believe that was at all fair of me in the circumstance. It was like asking him to pick between two doors, and then having a tiger kill him without ever having indicated the possible outcomes included being killed by a tiger.

What kind of choice is that? It's not. It's meaningless. Worse, it's typical D&D peer-power-struggle dickery. I'm making him play by rules that, functionally, exist only in my head and are completely unknown to him. It's fizzbin: "Oops, it's Tuesday. You lose."

All of which is not to say I won't ask the question you brought up, because I think it is a good one to ask the kids a couple times and get both of them thinking about, I'm just not concerned with it right now.

Suggestion vs. Fiat: A variant on Vincent's "spill the beans" concept - when things start to bog just hand out more and more facts. If they do what you want them to do, great, say yes. If they come up with some other weird way of combining the elements you've given them, great, say yes.

Not really too heavy on the plot right now, so spilling the beans hasn't been an issue, though I will definitely be keeping that in mind when I throw more complexity their way, rather than playing my hand close to my chest.

By fiat, I mean issues more similar to the one I encountered with my daughter in the endgame: I made an arbitrary ruling about the combat that let her get away from the wolf before it chewed her in half. Really, it should have just attacked her, not made a contested initiative roll again. On the other hand, I didn't want a TPK, either. I just didn't have an alternative possibility for her between giving an unwarranted chance to avoid the normal attack routine or possibly get killed.

Hey, how about if you go with that "dice are tokens" thing? I think that's an exceptionally cool technique, especially for kids. Maybe when they take on any challenge that has potential damage, line up the damage dice you'll be rolling if they take a hit? Then say, "OK, are you sure?" If they say yes, that's the signal they're committing to the action.

Man, that rocks. That's a great suggestion!!

It builds on what I've already established with the dice/tokens as visually/viscerally representing "stuff", and gives me a way to show them the relative amount of danger they are in.

I can also build on it. For example, I could hide the damage dice, if I want to worry them a bit or encourage some caution. That makes a great talking point, too: "I'm not showing you how dangerous this creature is; you don't know. Are you sure you want to attack it? What if it is stronger than you think it is? Can you think of a way to find out how dangerous it is, or a different way to deal with it?"

Thanks!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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