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[D&D 3.5] Gamist Non-Affirmation

Started by Joel P. Shempert, October 26, 2007, 09:42:50 PM

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Daztur

Jasper: nah, I don't play casters much. I'm more of a barbarian player (with a bit of multiclassing or a few powergamer tricks to bring up the will save), being able to do irrational shit for RP reasons and have enough HPs and good enough saves to survive is damn fun and in any case wands of cure light wounds are cheap :)

Quote from: Caldis on November 06, 2007, 10:02:02 AM
Quote from: Jasper the Mimbo on November 06, 2007, 02:41:06 AM
Melinglor, I think Datzur might be on to something. You may find yourself having more fun if you fill your bag of tricks with spells that force creativity. (Stone Shape is my favorite example.) To me "I throw another fireball" gets a little old. Don't know if your attention span is as short as mine is, though.

I think you guys missed the part where he did use a spell to do just that and the rest of the group thought it was cool but didnt use it to their advantage.  It's not a question of the characters working together it's the players, they arent playing the same game. 
Well in MMORPG terms what you did was root the mob and then the dumb noob went and broke the root. Damage dealers breaking crowd control is probably the most common newbie mistake in MMORPGs, so that's pretty much par for the course.

Maybe choose spells that help the group that have uses that are more foolproof? Like casting a spell that makes the monster run away for a bit while the meelers are next to it and remind them that they get AoOs.

Joel P. Shempert

OK, I have some new developments in the game to post about but first I want to take care of the old business that's been piling up. Could I ask everyone to lay off posting until I've done both of those (addressed current posts AND posted about my new game session)?

I feel like the thread's running away a bit, getting into all this "what you COULD do in SOME game of D&D" and drifting from addressing THIS game of D&D. A lot of interesting stuff to think about, but none of the "start again from scratch, only like this" are very applicable, you know? And the array of information to digest is becoming bewildering.

A little background on the Warmage choice: it was my way of getting my feet wet playing a spellcaster. Very simple, front-loaded choice: here's your spells, you can cast any of 'em, they all do damage, go! no worry about what spells to pick per level, or learning a lot of different kind of spell descriptions, no memorizing, etc. As I've played him and gotten used to him, I've supplemented his limited repetoire with items and oddball spells (you can pick a spell outside the list to learn every few levels). Like the Engtangling blast, which suddenly turns my repetoire into more than a menu of damage rolls, or comboing up Whirling Blades with a Flame Burst Sickle.

If I were starting a new character, yeah, I'd probably go with Sorceror and focus on more nuanced spells with lots of, as you guys say, "battlefield control" effects. But right now, I got what I got. That said, I am taking him in a new direction in the near future through multiclassing. More on that when I post about the game session.

By the way, Daztur, there's something wierd going on with your posts--you're saying things that are obviously directed at me, but addressing them to others, first to Callan, then to Caldis. It's rather jarring, so just a heads up. In case there's any confusion, I, Joel ("Melinglor"), am the player of the Warmage from the original post. Everyone else here is commenting on my game, not players themselves.

Quote from: Jasper the Mimbo on November 06, 2007, 02:41:06 AM
Callan: When you put it that way, it makes a lot more sense. The main trouble seems to be that they never firmly established the challenge itself. (I.E. why they're playing at all) Sounds like a problem with the social contract. It's amazing how much can go wrong without that little pre-game discussion, and how many groups don't even do it at all. I still think that the game is fine as it is written, as long as everyone is clear about what they want and why they are playing.
Yeah, I too think Callan raised a good point here. Social Contract and clear communication can go a long way here, and that's one thing our group is weak in (never really occurred to us all these years to actually talk about expectations and preferences, or even establish what we mean by a "fun game" or "good roleplaying"). I think I might be able to make some headway as we go along with nonthreatening discussion of how a particular game session went. I'm wanting to ask, more than tell, like: "How'd you like it when the Ettin got to clobber you both before you even got to attack it? What would you do differently?" Hmm, even that seems a bit too leading. Perhaps in more nuanced situations I can pharase questions better to elicit honest impressions from folks. But anyway, we'll see how that goes.

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

Daztur

QuoteBy the way, Daztur, there's something wierd going on with your posts--you're saying things that are obviously directed at me, but addressing them to others, first to Callan, then to Caldis. It's rather jarring, so just a heads up.
Good point, pronouns are HARD.
:)

Joel P. Shempert

Yeah, no big, just wanted to straighten it out.
Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Joel P. Shempert

So! We played again last Friday, and I talked to the GM about my idea for a character goal: following Telar's epiphany about the nature of magic (i.e. Creation instead of Destruction, with a healthy dose of Obi-Wan's explanation of the Force)  with a quest for knowledge, seizing the secrets of the universe and gaining a new and startling grasp of magic's power.

The nuts 'n bolts component ot this is pursuing a Prestige Classin a couple of levels, Mage of the Arcane Order, which advances your own spellcasting ability while letting you pull other spells (i.e. not on the Warmage list) from a Spellpool a certain amount per day, though you have to "pay back" the pool in Spell power within a week or so. My idea is that instead of belonging to a guild of Mages who share the Pool, I'd be drawing directly on the fabric of the Universe, while "paying back" the energy I use to maintain cosmic balance.

Joe was pretty into this (I thought he would be, he loves exploring D&D magic), and said he'd be willing to tweak things a bit for me, like with some shitty prerequisites. When we started play, I had Telar approach his mouthpiece-NPC, the guy who gives us orders, and tell him about his epiphany and lament the fact that they'd be leaving this magic-rich age too soon for him to explore it (the group was sent back in time by accident, to before the Fracturing of Magic, and were now soon to return to our own time). The NPC responded that there was also magical power in our era, and some few still wield Whole Magic, if they can be found. I was angling for "give me a quest for new magic power quick,before we return home from the age of more potent magic!" But instead he gave me "don't worry, you can still find what you're looking for after the return." This is good 'cause it relaxes pacing (I can't get into MotAO until level 8 anyway) and presumably gives Joe a chance to come up with good stuff for the quest.And it sounds like (especially with another player going "NOOO! Bad idea!" the whole time and likened Whole Magic to possessing a nuclear bomb) Joe's setting me up for an even greater power than just the Prestige Class. I'll have to see what he cooks up. So yeah, a nice initial success on the Character Goal front. (I'm planning to also broach the whole Red Wizards thing again after we return to our own time, with the angle of opposing them using my new freaky powers from the Golden Age of Magic. We'll see how that goes.)

*                    *                    *

On the tactical side of things, we had an interesting fight with a young White Dragon. First, lemme say that just having a combat two sessions in a row is a resounding improvement! And also, the fight had some interesting elements that I think bode well for future tactical play (though some good Social-contract negotiation is still in order). We were sent after the dragon to obtain its blood for the ritual to return us home. We jumped it in its cave (first using my Third Eye Crystal to magically recon) and wailed on it with arrows and fire attacks--and it flew out of the cave and retreated aver the mountaintops! Shit! There goes our precious blood!

So while Joe softballed us a little bit (he had an NPC suggest ambushing the dragon etherially via an established item combo, and didn't bother to let the dragon make a spot/listen check), he actually played on our expectations by having the dragon do the unexpected, but perfectly reasonable thing--get the hell out of that mess of Fireballs and pointy things!

The players' actions were still kinda dippy. When the Dragon flew out of the cave, everyone hunkered at the cave mouth and readied actions. The two party archers (one of which is a Scout, with mad skirmish damage,and the other a ranger with some kind of uberbow who can shoot accurately at an insane distance) could easily have shot at the thing, which was at most 60 feet away. Which is what I did, running to the entrance and nailing it with a Fireball, which is when Joe said it was getting wise and flat-out retreating. And looking up the Dragon's entry afterward, I saw that those attacks could probably have brought the beast down and then some. :(

We called it quits there. Everyone's fairly unconcerned about it, thinking they've probably got enough blood on the Barbarian's weapon blade from his successfulattack on the Dragon (I decided now was not the time for a discussion on the abstract nature of Hitpoints).. I guess we're going to head back to base, turn in our sample,and see what they say. Personally I hope we're SOL on the blood. If we get a pass on it, then then the encounter was no real challenge, and the dragon fleeing was no setback at all. If we're empty-handed, then we actually failed a mission,and have to get our blood another way, either a different mission or going back for this one. Who's ready for us. And maybe has some relatives handy. THAT would be cool.

It's funny, pre-game chitchat was as usual all about badass feats/items/spells and killer combos and what works best when and stuff. The Ranger player was even bragging about his 5-football field range and all the tricks he'd soon be able to do with it as an Arcane Archer. But in play, he's got a great opportunity (he was even standing outside when the dragon flew out) to show his stuff and he just turtles up. I don't get it.

There's still a lot of loosey-goosey rules arbitration. Like Joe kept describing the Dragon as "between Medium and Large sized." So I assumed, it must count as Large (meaning a higher CR, among other things),but when the fight was on, Joe said no, it counted as medium. In retrospect, he may have been hinting that it has extra hit dice for its age category (which is good,but honestly he can afford to hit us with a higher dragon category altogether!). Also, he gave us all a pass on Knowledge checks for data on the monster, saying everyone in the world knows dragons,and just gave us the info. Stuff like that makes me wonder why I even HAVE Knowledge scores trained up. And most importantly, I'm not at all sure that he was tracking my extra damage from the dragon's Fire Vulnerability. I reported my damage rolls and he marked them down, but post-game examination suggests that if he'd applied the +50% the thing would have died already. I'm nevery quite sure where the authority and responsibility lines are drawn on that sort of thing in play--am I responsibile for tracking my own bonus damage (which includes looking up Vulnerability), or or is that overstepping the DM's bounds. I'm getting a lot of mixed signals on stuff like that.

In any case, I think there's at least a kernel of tactical bent ther to at least hang a discussion on--a foothold to get a dialogue going about what everyone's looking for from the experience and what we can do to get it.

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

Daztur

Quoteall the tricks he'd soon be able to do with it as an Arcane Archer
Aaaah, here we have a case of the incompetant powergamer. Arcane archer is right up there with monkey grip :) There's nothing quite as funny as munckins who end up nerfing their own characters.

Caldis


It sounds like you have at least a limited success there Joel.   My personal guess is that you will have enough blood to do the ritual and that you may end up meeting the white dragon again later, a much larger and more powerful one with all the time that will have passed. 

Is there anything left you wish to discuss?  It seems like you've worked out the problems you were having, at least for now, probably need more data (playtime) to make any further conclusions.

Callan S.

Caldis: Uh, where do you see Joel having worked out his problem?


Joel: Are you seeing the absence of social reactions, like I am? Like, the dragons flown away and everyones quite unconcerned - the blood on the sword will be enough, apparently. I have to admit, in reading your account I thought 'Hey, it must have bled, it might be enough' - but emphasis on the 'might', not casual certainty. I'm not reading any sense of uncertainty from other players in your account about whether they win or lose.

I wonder what their expressions would have been, if you had wondered loudly about whether this would be enough blood? I suspect the same expression they had when you used that flaming sphere in the last game and the GM ruled it as cover against their shots "Don't goddamn give the GM ammunition against us!". One group model I'm thinking of is a group who, in the past, has been repeatedly scorched by their contributions to the imagined space. Now they avoid it, except at a mostly mechanical level (roll to hit). If they never touch the SIS, they can't be told they lost at the competition held in it. You can't lose a race you never entered. But this whole "were trapped in time and need dragon blood to get back" is firmly rooted in the imaginary space. I'd watch the GM's face next session, you might see him trying to carefully read the group, whether they'll pay the idea that there isn't enough blood. While he's doing that, note what he talks about and the groups reaction. I suspect he'll veer off, making the return ritual work, but go wrong somehow - but from the groups reaction, he'll do that as if it was just going to be part of the story anyway - ie, it's not cause anyone lost. Well see what happens, hey?

With the ranger, I think it's pretty obvious he's looking for cues from the GM for what to do. "The dragon is leaving now", so he sits there so as not to interupt the dragon leaving. I'd be interested to know his play history - he might be happy he even engaged a dragon, perhaps having played in the past with zero structure and never having left the village in the first place, as the group milled about. Or from my group model before, he's following instructions cause then he can't lose "I was just doing what you said, GM!"
Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>

Joel P. Shempert

Quote from: Callan S. on November 07, 2007, 07:09:41 PM
Caldis: Uh, where do you see Joel having worked out his problem?
Well, actually, I was about ready to put this to bed. Not because it was all "worked out," but because I felt I was at the point of "nothing more to hash out without further experimentation and observation."

But that was barring anything insightful from others. Like this:

Quote from: Callan S. on November 07, 2007, 07:09:41 PM
Are you seeing the absence of social reactions, like I am? Like, the dragons flown away and everyones quite unconcerned - the blood on the sword will be enough, apparently. I have to admit, in reading your account I thought 'Hey, it must have bled, it might be enough' - but emphasis on the 'might', not casual certainty. I'm not reading any sense of uncertainty from other players in your account about whether they win or lose.
Yeah, that hits it on the nose. Complete unconcern. Maybe a liiiittle doubt that the blood on the sword would work, but even that was kind of a "*shrug* we can just go back for the dragon again if we need to" kind of thing.

This does contrast with some reactions in the past. There's one guy in particular (the Barbarian player) who tends to be all dire and counsel inaction constantly (in an angry way that's hard to chart across the IC/OOC line, like "No, you idiot! Don't explore that random room or touch that random object, you'll get us all killed!" type stuff). He's best buds with the GM, and it often feels like a "I know the GM, he's a real killer!" kind of thing. Which is one reason I came to this campaign having high expectations of crunchy, unforgiving challenge in the first place. Aside from being just pessimistic, this player gives off a really strong "I know the right way to do this, stick with me and keep your head down" vibe. Not sure what to make of that in relation to this issue, but I thought I'd highlight it as it forms an interesting dichotomy with the "eh, it'll all work out" attitude that's also prevalent.

Quote from: Callan S. on November 07, 2007, 07:09:41 PM
I wonder what their expressions would have been, if you had wondered loudly about whether this would be enough blood? I suspect the same expression they had when you used that flaming sphere in the last game and the GM ruled it as cover against their shots "Don't goddamn give the GM ammunition against us!"
Yeah, there's a strong group attitude of "Don't ever suggest nasty things to the GM, or correct his ruling errors in our favor!" It's usually spoken good-naturedly, but I often wonder just how much strain that maxim can take in our group.  In fact, I didn't really speak up much in the session precisely because I didn't want to rock the boat too much. I'm kind of sensitive to the danger of being the shrill corrective voice. And in retrospect, I probably felt a little vulnerable with the two players most likely to support me absent from the session.

Regarding your speculations on Joe's future actions: It probably will take a while to tell, since the ritual isn't actually happening until we complete a few more errands, but my guess is that he'll just make the dragon blood work just fine. He just might have us go back for more. He's a pretty illusionist GM, but his slight of hand isn't quite as subtle as you're describing. And he certainly doesn't seem to hedge his bets to feel out the group reaction.Rather he just barrels along with the group accepting any old thing that he tells them happens, for whatever old reason. I don't see him tiptoing around anything.

Quote from: Callan S. on November 07, 2007, 07:09:41 PM
With the ranger, I think it's pretty obvious he's looking for cues from the GM for what to do. "The dragon is leaving now", so he sits there so as not to interupt the dragon leaving. I'd be interested to know his play history - he might be happy he even engaged a dragon, perhaps having played in the past with zero structure and never having left the village in the first place, as the group milled about. Or from my group model before, he's following instructions cause then he can't lose "I was just doing what you said, GM!"
Well, this guy's our newest player, and he's never roleplayed with anyone else. Though it's been like, what? 2 years? I  don't quite remember. He's the most casual gamer of the group, as far as playing in character, developing a backstory and motivation,etc. He tends toward one-note joke concepts--his ranger's a Changeling, who takes the form of Alec Baldwin from the Edge and speaks in the third person: "Alec Baldwin needs fresh game!" "Alec Baldwin has no time for your foolishness!" In our anime-flavored campaign he plays a blockheaded narcississtic surfer dude and a goth kid who tries to talk everyone into killing themselves, and possesses giant-razorblade telekinesis. And so on.

He's an archer and bowhunter in real life, so he really digs the archery thing, pursuing that character path toward greater and greater "shoot-the-eyeteeth-off-a-gnat" powers. Other than that, I'm not sure what his play goals are. I haven't specifically noticed that "wait for the GM to cue you" thing with him or anyone else, at least not in combat. And actually everyone's assumption was that the Dragon would be coming back. When I fireballed it the GM said "he changes his tactics and leaves." So I'm not sure how that all maps to your theory. I suspect it bears a lot more observation to spot the patterns.Any which way, I'm rather surprised that the player would have an Archer with ungodly range standing outside, and when the dragon flew out, not shoot at it. The only thing I can think is that Joe was rather vague about where exactly the dragon was,so the players may not have been thinking that it was in range or line of sight or whatever.

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

Caldis

Quote from: Callan S. on November 07, 2007, 07:09:41 PM
Caldis: Uh, where do you see Joel having worked out his problem?

I think he's solved what is solvable.  He's found an interesting manner to more fully integrate his character in the game world.  That is an achievable goal in this game.

What isnt solvable is the lack of challenge.  The rest of the players show little interest and the GM shows no desire to make the game challenging.  It's clearly players with a different agenda.  I dont hold out any hope that he'll be able to get them to change their current agenda.

If Joel is interested in a challenging game it sounds like he has other options, a couple other games run by different people.  This game however will never become that.  The gm including more combat is about as far as this game is going to move in that direction.  Of course the way combats work in this game they dont actually add challenge so it's not a great success, another sign that the gm doesnt know how or want to provide challenge.

So all we have left to talk about is different signs of lack of interest in challenge.  I dont see that in any way being helpful to Joel, we can find more symptoms but we already know the disease here.  I'm still interested in hearing if this game can develop into something enjoyable but we'll have to wait for more play to see if that happens.

Callan S.

Yeah, your right. I missread Joels last comment as wanting more discussion here and I didn't really see even limited success - can't really win with a bunch of simulationists around you (which they might be). But you meant this and I acknowledge you were and are right. Now I just hope I'm not the last post in a D&D thread...again!
Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>

Lance D. Allen

Another idea (partly to keep Callan from being the last post):

Don't make the GM have to watch your reactions (even though you say that's not his style). Make 'em larger than life, but couched in good terms.

Bad: Bullshit! A little blood on a sword isn't enough! We need to lure that dragon back here so we can get enough!

Good: Man, we almost had that dragon! I almost hope there's not enough blood, so we can come get another shot at him!

It's a suggestion to the GM, but it looks like you're just raring for a fight, rather than "giving the GM ammo to use against you".
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Joel P. Shempert

Quote from: Wolfen on November 08, 2007, 07:42:28 PM
Don't make the GM have to watch your reactions (even though you say that's not his style). Make 'em larger than life, but couched in good terms.

Bad: Bullshit! A little blood on a sword isn't enough! We need to lure that dragon back here so we can get enough!

Good: Man, we almost had that dragon! I almost hope there's not enough blood, so we can come get another shot at him!

It's a suggestion to the GM, but it looks like you're just raring for a fight, rather than "giving the GM ammo to use against you".
Good one, Lance. That'sthe kinda mindset i need to cultivate here, I think. Hell, that's a great mindset to employ for voicing any game dissatisfaction or reservations. Thanks.

And it's actually not too late, since we ended our session right there--I can always open up next session with some comment like that! :)

Quote from: Caldis on November 08, 2007, 02:53:30 PM
So all we have left to talk about is different signs of lack of interest in challenge.  I dont see that in any way being helpful to Joel, we can find more symptoms but we already know the disease here.  I'm still interested in hearing if this game can develop into something enjoyable but we'll have to wait for more play to see if that happens.
Yeah, you're probably right. It's pretty tempting to blather on and on, complaining about this or that little aspect, wioth lots of back-patting commiseration. Which is probably about all I'm (semi-consciously) at this point.but that way lies madness (or wankery),so I think I'm pretty well done. Still willing, though, to entertain any further comments deemed edifi\ying by the respective poster (I DARE you to be the last post, Callan!).

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

Barlennan

I would go beyond Lance's suggestion and discuss fighting the white dragon again out of character, before play starts:

"Hey people, I thought the white dragon fight was good and I'd like to do it again.  Won't it be more fun if we find we DON'T have enough blood?"

You describe so much confusion with messages passed in character, you probably want to make this unambiguous.  There's some chance that you'll also get the honest opinions of the other players this way.  Of course, you may also find that your GM is sufficiently simulationist that he should dismiss player (not character) opinions as a hazard to the integrity of the game world.
Michael

Lance D. Allen

Michael(right?)'s suggestion is also good, and quite possibly better than my own, for the reasons he's mentioned about ambiguity. The only problem I see with it is that the players may just say "yeah, it would/might be fun, but that's up to the GM" basically shutting down any idea of player influence on the narrative. If this happens, the GM may take that as a sign that it IS, in fact, his responsibility, and go against the idea subconsciously or consciously.

His suggestion may be better couched in discussion directly with the GM, rather than with the play group, though with the play group present. If it goes over, then it may help introduce the idea that the players may, in out of character ways, influence the events of the game. Some of this obviously exists already, but it seems limited to stuff related specifically to the player's character, rather than the general arc of the game, as evidenced by your stuff with the MotAO.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls