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Author Topic: [D&D 3.5] Gamist Non-Affirmation  (Read 8705 times)
Joel P. Shempert
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« on: October 26, 2007, 05:42:50 PM »

i]ON!

There was a Succubus, who set an Ettin (two-headed giant) on us, and then when we killed the Ettin and pursued her, she summoned a Vrock, which is a big vulture Demon. And we kicked their asses.

In ons sense, the fight was pretty tough. Both the Succubus and Vrock have hella resistances and immunities, and were shrugging off a lot of what we threw at 'em. On the other hand, all the monsters dropped pretty easily, if sometimes slowly, and I didn't really feel properly challenged.

Our party's big, seven total, all level 6, consisting of a Warforged [mechanical golem] Barbarian, Changeling Ranger, Human Fighter/Mageslayer, monkey-man Scout, Human Cleric/Stormlord, Human something-or-other (she won't tell anyone; seems to have rogue-like abilities with some spellcasting power), and Human Warmagwings<have <were able to get clear shots from the side (at no time had the sphere prevented a shot or caused it to miss), and it was <idea that they weren't quite sure how to deal with.

I'm ripping on the players pretty hard, so let me take time out and stress that I did have fun, moreso than I have in a long time in that campaign. It was just kinda. . .lacking, like a friendly basketball game that your team played shit on. . .you go home having enjoyed yourself, but the back of your mind all the shit that should have gone down better is nagging at you.

Also, full disclosure: I myself got a total pass from the GM, when I was contemplating using Shocking grasp just moments <or
There was a Succubus, who set an Ettin (two-headed giant) on us, and then when we killed the Ettin and pursued her, she summoned a Vrock, which is a big vulture Demon. And we kicked their asses.

In ons sense, the fight was pretty tough. Both the Succubus and Vrock have hella resistances and immunities, and were shrugging off a lot of what we threw at 'em. On the other hand, all the monsters dropped pretty easily, if sometimes slowly, and I didn't really feel properly challenged.

Our party's big, seven total, all level 6, consisting of a Warforged [mechanical golem] Barbarian, Changeling Ranger, Human Fighter/Mageslayer, monkey-man Scout, Human Cleric/Stormlord, Human something-or-other (she won't tell anyone; seems to have rogue-like abilities with some spellcasting power), and Human Warmagwings<have <were able to get clear shots from the side (at no time had the sphere prevented a shot or caused it to miss), and it was <idea that they weren't quite sure how to deal with.

I'm ripping on the players pretty hard, so let me take time out and stress that I did have fun, moreso than I have in a long time in that campaign. It was just kinda. . .lacking, like a friendly basketball game that your team played shit on. . .you go home having enjoyed yourself, but the back of your mind all the shit that should have gone down better is nagging at you.

Also, full disclosure: I myself got a total pass from the GM, when I was contemplating using Shocking grasp just moments <or
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Mel White
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2007, 06:26:13 AM »

At the very least, your write-up of the battle was very engaging--I think because it accurately captures some my own experiences playing D&D from both sides of the screen.  It's a positive sign that your DM seems willing to adjust in order to give the players more of what they want.  So as you communicate a desire for more tactical flexibility and challenges, perhaps you'll see it.  One of the hardest things for me in DMing is setting appropriately challenging encounters for the PCs.  Lucky dice rolls, innovative magic-item use, etc., frequently turn an encounter I thought would be a central fight into a sideshow, so it may just be a matter of experience for your DM.  I've found that because D&D has so many official combat tactics and combat feats, DMs may be reluctant to provide a mechanical benefit for innovation, especially if the DM has to decide on the fly.  The apparent solution would be to develop individual and team 'tricks' in advance, with the DM's knowledge so that he or she knows what to expect.  The drawback is that if the trick is going to become a standard part of the party's arsenal, then it really should be a feat or skill or something. 
Similarly, if the party develops in advance of a battle the benefits of team-work even using standard spells and abilities, both the players and the DM will be more comfortable actually putting those tactics into play.  The DM may even create situations requiring the new tactics!  (Or thwarting them.)
The key, I think, for the party to start using innovative tactics in battles is that the opponents must be tough enough in some way that innovative tactics are required to defeat it.  'Necessity is the mother of invention' and all that...
Mel
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Chris_Chinn
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2007, 08:50:50 AM »

Hi Joel,

This is really the fulcrum of gamist D&D- system mastery and teamwork.  It makes this kind of play hard for both players and GMs, in general.

On the player side you have to learn tons of rules and how the combinations of rules work together, and hopefully you have teammates who are on the same page and you can coordinate tactics with.  Though there's obvious tactics and common optimized ones, the hardcore team will sit down and develop specific combinations of spells and tactics for their party build, even going as far as writing down specific tactics for the first couple of rounds.  Or, for the truly hardcore, they map out their character builds together, and consider how choosing later feats and spells will keep them an effective party from level 1 to level 20.

And if you don't have that... well, you're as strong as your weakest link very often.

On the GM side, you're trying to prep a challenge for the players which is tactically interesting, challenging enough to take up your game time, but not so hard you're seriously in danger of PC death (for most games anyway, because getting a player to spend more time building a new character is disengaging, rather than engaging).  Naturally, this magical difficulty level completely depends on the group playing and how hardcore they are as well.

This is why a lair of kobolds either is a nice introduction to hack and slash or your worst nightmare of guerilla warfare depending on how the GM plays them.  As a GM, it's also tough because you're usually prepping at least 3 encounters per session, and you have to gauge it against your players, not just by their numbers, stats, etc. but by their teamwork and mastery of the system.

And, as an individual, you're also having to gauge the teamwork and such of your team as well, to decide on your character build and tactics.  On one end, you could be like the hardcore team and choosing tactics and spells which work with specific tactics and feats, etc. of theirs, and on the other end, you're building self sufficient characters because you know the team will go through PCs as the tactically challenged keep trying to charge things which you shouldn't charge.

And the other problem is that because it's so team based, the viability of your (or anyone's) tactics will not show through unless there's actual teamwork to make it happen.  If they can't already see why charging might not be a good idea compared to readying an action and taking a 5 foot step, then they're not going to give up the round or two it would take to try out anyone's specific recommendations.

An interesting hurdle is that there's tons of advice available on character builds, and very little on teamwork and tactics and utilzing the system choices to the best.   In some part, I think it is because character build rules tend to be enforced pretty solidly in all D&D games, but actual rules in play tend to drift a lot based on the individual group.  So an equally important factor is if anyone else in your group has actually played with AoO's or had the GM utilzed them intelligently against them, etc.  If not, they probably think the rules are neat add-ons and not crucial information, compared to it being a key component of driving manuevering and tactics in D&D 3.0+.

Chris
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2007, 12:20:20 AM »

Hi Joel,

Basically there's no point to tactics if you can't lose. If just rolling attack after attack will beat the monster, there's no point in flanking for example. In fact, to flank is losing - it's wasted effort for no gain - your going to win anyway, why fuck around?

I think rather than 'Why aren't they doing fancy tactics', the question might be 'Why was there very little chance of losing?'. Err, assuming there was little chance of losing - what's your estimate?
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2007, 01:41:28 AM »

At the very least, your write-up of the battle was very engaging--I think because it accurately captures some my own experiences playing D&D from both sides of the screen.
Thanks, Mel; it's always gratifying when folks find my play reports appealing and not just a rambling mess. Smiley

It's a positive sign that your DM seems willing to adjust in order to give the players more of what they want.  So as you communicate a desire for more tactical flexibility and challenges, perhaps you'll see it.
I heartily agree--I hope this trend only grows in the future, and I want to do everything I can to foster that.

On the player side you have to learn tons of rules and how the combinations of rules work together, and hopefully you have teammates who are on the same page and you can coordinate tactics with.  Though there's obvious tactics and common optimized ones, the hardcore team will sit down and develop specific combinations of spells and tactics for their party build, even going as far as writing down specific tactics for the first couple of rounds.  Or, for the truly hardcore, they map out their character builds together, and consider how choosing later feats and spells will keep them an effective party from level 1 to level 20.

And if you don't have that... well, you're as strong as your weakest link very often.
I guess we're not hardore,then. . .developing tactics beforehand doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone. We're kind of haphazard and individual (remember one player hasn't even told anyone what her character class IS), then combat begins and we try to make it all come together. If I were to introduce this kind of planning I'd start small, like one little combo at a time: "Hey, Mister Ranger, how about when combat begins you close on my and let me cast Flame Arrow on all your ammunition?" If players see it in action they might go "hey! That's some cool shit! What else can we come up with?"

On the GM side, you're trying to prep a challenge for the players which is tactically interesting, challenging enough to take up your game time, but not so hard you're seriously in danger of PC death (for most games anyway, because getting a player to spend more time building a new character is disengaging, rather than engaging).  Naturally, this magical difficulty level completely depends on the group playing and how hardcore they are as well.
I am aware of how tough this task is. I've found it a bit tricky even GMing at 2nd and 3d level. I guess I still kind of feel like employing no tactics at all is pretty shoddy, especially when the first sentence of each creature's Combat entry contains a great and simple way to spice it up. But I'm wanting to tackle this pretty gently; it would be pretty crummy of me to ask for more of X in the game, get it, then rant and rave that X wasn't good enough (that's what forums are for, right? Wink.

An interesting hurdle is that there's tons of advice available on character builds, and very little on teamwork and tactics and utilzing the system choices to the best.   In some part, I think it is because character build rules tend to be enforced pretty solidly in all D&D games, but actual rules in play tend to drift a lot based on the individual group.  So an equally important factor is if anyone else in your group has actually played with AoO's or had the GM utilzed them intelligently against them, etc.  If not, they probably think the rules are neat add-ons and not crucial information, compared to it being a key component of driving manuevering and tactics in D&D 3.0+.
Word. One thing in this game that makes tactics difficult is that the rules are pretty shifty under Joe's jurisdiction. AoO's are applied kinda haphazardly, and he adds in (but not all the time) factors like Facing that have no place in D&D combat mechanics. And stuff like allowing Flanking "whenever it seems like the monster has a lot to worry about," or my Flaming Sphere granting the demon cover (which makes some sense but ain't covered in the spell).

So it's hard to gain any traction for the intelligent application of tactics. but again, I don't want to deluge the GM with cries of "you're doing everything WRONG!" I did stand up for the correct application of Spell Resistance, since it affected an awesome and pivotal move by the Cleric. Joe had said the Vrock had "made his spell resistance roll" and I consulted the book quickly and spoke up, "Um, actually, the caster rolls to overcome the resistance." Joe told Matt, "Uh, OK, roll then." Matt did, succeeded, and fiished off the demom with a Holy Smite. Huzzah!

The key, I think, for the party to start using innovative tactics in battles is that the opponents must be tough enough in some way that innovative tactics are required to defeat it.  'Necessity is the mother of invention' and all that...
Basically there's no point to tactics if you can't lose. If just rolling attack after attack will beat the monster, there's no point in flanking for example. In fact, to flank is losing - it's wasted effort for no gain - your going to win anyway, why fuck around?

I think rather than 'Why aren't they doing fancy tactics', the question might be 'Why was there very little chance of losing?'. Err, assuming there was little chance of losing - what's your estimate?
It's interesting that two people brought this up. In short, I agree. This has been one of the disappointing factors in the sporadic combat we've had so far. I was heartened when I saw some pretty tough opponents show up (though I'd have guessed the Ettin was higher; it's only CR 6), but the "monsters just stand there" deal kinda killed that, like I said. If the Vrock for example was flying around divebombing with his claws, we'd have had to think twice, especially our melee attackers. Oh, and my estimate: little chance, as played. One PC was fairly close to KO, but that's it. If the demons were played more to the hilt, there'd be a very real chance.

Thanks for the feedback, guys. This is great fodder for refining my houghts and grasping the issues involved. I just need to figure out constructive ways to take this know-how back to my group.

Peace,
-Joel
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Chris_Chinn
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2007, 09:00:41 AM »

Hi Joel,

Shifty mechanics is death to tactical choice.  Tactics are based on optimal choices, which in turn, only develop when there's a consistency to the options you have.  If things shift under your feet constantly, "optimal choices" in one situation might become completely useless in the next, even identical situation.   Like everyone has pointed out, fudgy stuff like "calling" a monster has made an SR roll means stuff like magic might work in one situation and not at all in another based on nothing more than whim.

At which point the tactics stop being how you use your character and instead how well you win favor with the GM.

Chris
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Precious Villain
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2007, 09:43:06 AM »

Chris is right on here!  If your DM doesn't know and apply the rules in the same fashion as everyone else at the table, tactics cannot function. 

On lethality, I have this question: how many fighters per in game day happen in your campaign?

Finally, have you clarified with your DM that you seek a "tactical" game?  It could be that your GM thinks you wants lots of exciting action, but doesn't want to get bogged down in trivia like attacks of opportunity or (apparently) spell resistance.

-Robert
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Moreno R.
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2007, 11:40:15 AM »

Hi!

The last D&D that I played was AD&D 2d edition, so I am not sure that this is still the case in the following editions, but I remember that a very big reason people didn't like very tactical playing was the fact that the very best tactics, game-wise, didn't make any sense in the "shared imagined space". I mean, for example, the very good tactic of putting the party member with expendable hit points in the front of the group to be hit, with him risking nothing until the hp were lowered enough

So, if you "played very well AD&D", in the tactical sense, you destroyed the believability of the situation for other players.

The usual solution was the use of "rule zero" and having the GM disallows the most unbelievable results, and that discoraged the use of tactics.

In my experience, really tactical-inclined players didn't stay with D&D for long before changing game.
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contracycle
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2007, 01:55:07 AM »

The plethora of special powers and funky tactics acts against real tactical play.  Real tactics are called into being when people do NOT have a special attack that suits the situation, and instead have to manipulate the situation itself to their advantage.  Characters with all these whizz-bang special powers and whatnot against similarly equipped monsters have little ability to predict their opponents actions, or deceive or mislead or conceal.  Such characters also need specific opportunities to deliver their niche-signature attack, which is absolutely not tactics.

Try playing a simpler game, a game in which the playing field is more level, in which the opponents are more comprehensible.  Under those circumstances actual tactical play will be both more important and more rewarding.
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2007, 06:35:09 AM »

You know what games do the D&D-esque carefully orchestrated special-power-combo stuff really well?  MMORPGs.
That's pretty much ALL they are.  Makes accessibility pretty low...I can't hang with them at all...but for the devoted those games are all about skillful manipulation of all the resources at hand and exactly how and when to apply DOTs, HOTs, and all manner of other such stuff.  And the rules only "shift" when there's an update and otherwise are quite consistently applied.

D&D's combat and feat system is like that...but it will never be able to do it as well.

Which is why I think D&D 4.0 and its move to be more MMORPG-like is rather doomed...going head to head in an area you can't hope to compete in.
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Caldis
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2007, 09:45:36 AM »


I think your big problem is expecting gamist play when it looks like the group is after Sim.

As Callan said "I think rather than 'Why aren't they doing fancy tactics', the question might be 'Why was there very little chance of losing?'. Err, assuming there was little chance of losing - what's your estimate?"

Your group, including the GM dont look to be focusing on the 'step on up' as Ron put it, instead they are living the dream.  They dont want their tactical choices to be a big determiner of what happens, they want an experience of battling against demons and Ettins that gives them a vicarious thrill.  They want to charge into battle and slash away and for it to feel dangerous but not actually be dangerous.  They're going to win, and though their may be some consequence to the combat it's not going to affect the outcome.

I'd suggest that the GM isnt all that interested or possibly capable of turning it into the real tactical challenge you seem to be looking for.  You also hint that you've been frustrated in your attempts to turn the game towards "story, story, story".   I think you may have to accept that you are the only member of the group in this game that is looking for these things.  You seem to have a stable group that is enjoying the game as it is.  Is this the case or do you see more signs of unhappiness?

If they are stable then you have to either learn to enjoy the game as it is or move on and start your own game that will give you what you are looking for.  Possibly with a different system but I dont think it's impossible to do with D&D.

So how to keep a sim game fun for you?  I find it's all about long term goals.  Developing your character, where they are heading what they hope to obtain.  These are all things that keep sim games going for me with D&D or Gurps or several others.

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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2007, 10:10:38 AM »

Shifty mechanics is death to tactical choice.  Tactics are based on optimal choices, which in turn, only develop when there's a consistency to the options you have.
Wholeheartedly agreed. I've actually had issues in the past with this GM over consistency, and now I'm trying to take things reeeeal nice and slow and tactful-like, 'cause the way I previously addressed those issues was pretty ugly.

Peace,
-Joel
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2007, 10:11:09 AM »

On lethality, I have this question: how many fighters per in game day happen in your campaign?
I'm tempted to say, "we've only had one Fighter the whole campaign, plus one Barbarian." Wink But to answer your actual question, we average about one fight a day, if that. And yes, that's totally broken RE D&D's expectations of resource management and such. I'm actually longing for the day when I'll go, "Crap! I'm running out of spells!"

Finally, have you clarified with your DM that you seek a "tactical" game?  It could be that your GM thinks you wants lots of exciting action, but doesn't want to get bogged down in trivia like attacks of opportunity or (apparently) spell resistance.
Nope, I haven't. Like I've said above, I had assumed by everyone's talk that they were all into tactics. But the point's wel taken.

Peace,
-Joel
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2007, 10:12:06 AM »

Moreno, all I can say is that 3.5 is a much more tactical beast than AD&D.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2007, 03:24:06 PM »

Shifty mechanics is death to tactical choice.  Tactics are based on optimal choices, which in turn, only develop when there's a consistency to the options you have.
Wholeheartedly agreed. I've actually had issues in the past with this GM over consistency, and now I'm trying to take things reeeeal nice and slow and tactful-like, 'cause the way I previously addressed those issues was pretty ugly.
I'd like to say, I used to think it was shifty mechanics that were death to tactical choice. I think I've got some posts on the forge about it.

But really when someone shifts the mechanics, without any note of a care or concern, it shows they don't give a crap about your step on up. They're screwing with your step on up, but it doesn't register to them that that matters in any way. Sadly this shows that to begin with, they didn't give a crap about your step on up. It's a bit hard, because in a game like chess the two players can be quite calm and collected and yet you know they care about the step up. So when a roleplay GM is calm and collected, you could think he also cares about step on up.

Further in terms of shifty mechanics being a non issue - if a GM goes shifty on the mechanics, then says 'I just went shifty on the mechanics, I know this is going to make it so much harder. Can you beat it? Can you do it!? I gotta know!' and he's like on the edge of his seat and almost looks like he's hurting to know, I'd say gamism is in full session. The shifty mechanics don't mean anything by themselves - it's the recognition that's key. But when you get shifty mechanics and no recognition, damn, bad sign!

Note: And to make things even more complex, some GM's ARE gamist, but don't realise that being shifty on the mechanics makes things harder, so they grant no further recognition for that significant rise in difficulty. But this is a matter of gamist honour, rather than lack of gamism.
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