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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 69 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: (Sweet20 D&D) Imperial Bad-Guy Elves  (Read 1562 times)
BWA
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« on: February 09, 2007, 07:24:44 PM »


I posted several months ago about using the Sweet20 experience rules (from The Shadow of Yesterday) in a D&D campaign. I did that with a small group of close friends (four people including myself as GM), and it worked pretty well. It definitely created a new kind of dynamic for a D&D game, and everyone enjoyed the group collaboration that resulted.

Previous AP:
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Brian Minter
Bears Will Attack
BWA
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2007, 07:43:41 PM »


So, in the second session, we actually sat down to play. One of the players couldn't make it, so there were just four players and myself as GM.

Since two of the four were pretty new to D&D in general, I figured we'd do a more straight-forward old-school D&D kind of session just to get used to the rules: Go to the place and fight the monsters.

In this case, the "place" was taken from the descriptions and Keys of one of the players (his character wanted to return his parents' ashes to the sacred mountain), so it wasn't hard to get them going after the requisite rumor-mongering and tavern-talk. The "monsters" were some bad elf druids and some trolls. I also threw in an encounter with a not-necessarily-bad elf and his guards, but he got mowed down along with the more obvious villains. (Actual quote: "Okay, I tell him that's very admirable, and then I ring his bell.")

As far as an evening of RPGing goes, it went well. The two newer players had really made an effort to get the basic rules down before the game, and everyone played to their character concept (the reckless guy, the scared guy, the diplomatic guy, etc). The combat encounters were challenging, and I made an effort to really use the D&D "NPC reaction" rules as they're written. (I found that if you do that, and call for a little RPing, they are not all that different from Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits. Honestly.) We had some pizza, there were lots of laughs, some awesome dice rolls, and some memorably bad ones, etc.

But the Keys did not make the session go in the way I had sort-of-hoped. It ran pretty much like D&D runs without Keys when you have a good social group and a reasonably skilled GM. Everyone got some XP based on their Keys, but that seemed pretty incidental. For instance, after they messed up the bad elf druids, a couple players got XP for hitting their Keys of Vengeance, Bloodshed, and Misson, but they would have gotten XP anyway, in regular D&D, for messin' up bad guys.

I also found myself doing pretty standard pre-adventure prep (monster stats, some cool set-pieces for battles, some NPCs with motives and believable names and a map or two). I enjoy that in some ways, and I definitely think you should run the game right (ie - no fudging stats as you go along), whatever the game is, but it feels like that stuff should come easier.

So, while I don't have any complaints, I do find myself a little at a loss. Did using the Keys help, or was this just a D&D game played by pretty well-adjusted dudes in their early 30s? Or am I rushing to judgement, and I should wait until the next game, now that I've seen the characters in action?

I'd like to think that's the case, but if I sat down to prep for the next session, I don't know that it would be different. I definitely know what everyone wants to do with the game, and with their characters, but is that knowledge coming from the systems we're using IN the game, or just from the conversations we've been having ABOUT the game? Or are those things all related in some subtle deep-Forge-theory way that I'm missing?


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Brian Minter
Bears Will Attack
BWA
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2007, 07:15:53 PM »


Our third game also went well, it's a good group, and everyone is enjoying themselves. I still feel like I am splitting the difference between tactics-driven traditional D&D and character-driven new-school gaming, but not necessarily in a cool or awesome way.

Some problems:

1. The players do a FANTASTIC job of shared-setting creation. We have a wiki page, and people are constantly adding some little bit (NPCs, locations, factions, etc), and then dragging that bit into the game, which is great. But the actual play is very much driven forward by me throwing hints or clues or things that require reaction (ie - evil elf rangers with poisoned arrows are attacking right now!).

2. I've definitely lost interest in strict adherence to the D&D ruleset over the years, so I'm very inclined to wing it with rules and modifiers and such. But a couple of the players have spent a lot of time and effort in making their characters effective, so it seem unfair to them to play fast and loose with the rules. (ie - "I've got a +2 to that skill roll because of this rare feat. Will that change things?" "Um, yeah, okay. Sure! Your guy totally makes it!")

3. Instead of the relatively uniform pace of character advancement you get with the standard D&D xp rules, using Keys has left a couple characters with 10-12 xp, and a couple with 3-4. Should those players be playing more toward their Keys? Or am I failing to give them situations geared toward their Keys?

These aren't really complaints. Like I said, the game is going well. But I feel like it could go much better.
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Brian Minter
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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2007, 04:15:17 PM »

Does your group complain about the uneven distribution of XP?

The basic key based experience system will lead to a 'local' imbalance in XP. You cannot possibly have everyone in the spotlight at the sem time. Those who act more because they're in the spotlight will get more XP.

If you want to have a more uniform pace, you could do the following approach: Instead of people awarding their own characters for hitting keys, they put the XP into a bowl (nice if you have poker chips to throw into the bowl). The XP are evenly distributed between the characters, with leftovers carrying over to the next session.

I can't say without seeing the group if you 'fail' to give them situations geared toward their keys. How do you prepare the sessions? Are you doing the rmap-type thingie that's part of the TSoY rules (write down names, core abilities and keys of the characters on a sheet in paper in related lumps, and then relate npcs to the keys and core abilities which will allow the characters to hit their keys possibly by filling ther spotlight using their core abilities)? Even then, some npcs might not show up, and some players are just reluctant.

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Simon C
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2007, 04:42:57 PM »

There's a piece of advice in TSOY which I think is really useful in getting the most out of the Keys advancement system.  It says, roughly, that your adventure prep should be about presenting choices to the PCs which hit their Keys.  I can't remember the exact wording of it, but yeah, basically you want to be giving them all situations which hit their Keys hard, giving them tough choices to make, and opportunities to earn XP.  This is tough to do in a big group, but I'd suggest that an essential tool for your prep be a list of the characters, their Keys, and their current XP.  Look at who's lagging behind, and give them situations where they can hit their Keys.  Make it tough.  Tempt them to buy off their Key.

I think another problem is that players are trained from long indoctrination about what is "good" roleplaying, to avoid "gaming" the XP system.  They're trained to feel guilty about doing something just for the XP.  I think this approch doesn't work for Keys.  The players should be busting their guts to get XP, hitting their Keys every way they can, buying off Keys as often as possible, basically just gaming the system to get XP.  You get really engaged play when every situation is seen as an opportunity to score up some XP - something that's counterintuitive to players who are conditioned to feel bad about that attitude.  A good way of encouraging this is to put a big bowl of XP "counters" in the middle of the table, and let the players grab them for themselves when they hit a key, rather than doling them out yourself.
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BWA
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2007, 06:28:45 PM »

I think another problem is that players are trained from long indoctrination about what is "good" roleplaying, to avoid "gaming" the XP system.  They're trained to feel guilty about doing something just for the XP.  I think this approch doesn't work for Keys.  The players should be busting their guts to get XP, hitting their Keys every way they can, buying off Keys as often as possible, basically just gaming the system to get XP. 

Yeah, I think I see that. But I feel like I'm not doing enough to get that across.

I think Oliof's advice is something I should follow: design NPCs and situations tailored to the PCs and their keys. As it stands, they are just going through the scenario (driven mostly by their choices as a group), and not moving the action toward their keys. So it's very "plot" driven, rather than "character" driven.

I do encourage the players to award themselves XP, rather than give it out, and I definitely think using some kind of physical markers is a good idea. I think I remember them talking about that on Sons of Kryos once, and it seemed smart.

On the plus side, the players aren't complaining, and, in fact, character advancement seems fairly unimportant to them so far. Which is weird, since we're playing D&D.


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Brian Minter
Bears Will Attack
Chris Crouch
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2007, 10:35:17 PM »

I've just started a new D&D campaign where I'm using sort-of-Keys-in-disguise.

What I'm doing differently is using the Keys to give action points (an optional rule from Unearthed Arcana, SRDed here: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/actionPoints.htm) instead of xp. I'm doing this mainly so that the payoff is immediate (and a secondary benefit is allaying player concerns about uneven advancement).

We haven't had any actual play yet, but the players were all excited when they chose their keys so I'm hopeful :-)

Chris
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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2007, 11:49:13 PM »

On the off-chance of hi-jacking this thread:

You could tie this stuff together. Keep the upper limit of action points in place so people will use them fairly often, and not stack them for 'that final fight around the corner'. Have them hit the keys in-fight to regain action points.

If they'd get action points, but their limit is reached, give them a set number of XP instead. Since I don't know enough about the XP economy, this could be something between 10 and 50 XP per action point that'd be given out. If you have two distinct sets of poker chips (say, red and blue), this would easily be distinguishable.

If you want to drift even further, have a pool of action points people can award other players for cool stuff. This is gift dice in disguise.
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