The Forge Archives

General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: David Berg on October 24, 2007, 02:28:51 PM



Title: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 24, 2007, 02:28:51 PM
In the game I am designing, I would like for the system to help GMs in constructing Challenges (in the Gamist sense).

Does anyone know of any games out there that do a good job of this?

Challenges in my game are intended to adhere to the following parameters:
1) all aspects of the situation must not violate the logic of the world (said logic involves medieval tech, pragmatic human cultures, invading orcs, and pockets of malicious magical evil hidden away from most folks' awareness)
2) situations must cover a variety of difficulty levels (so they don't feel "rigged" -- the players shouldn't expect every enemy to be something they can kill)
3) situations must allow a variety of choices by the players as to the precise nature of their Mission (it could be a useful and worthwhile mission to kidnap one orc; or kill 2 orcs; or track 10 orcs and rally locals to attack them; or scout the camp of 100 orcs and persuade the government to call in the legions.  The players get to choose.  If they want to walk away from 100 orcs without doing anything, that's fine.  If they want to fight them, they should all die.)

Besides simply recommending to GMs that they just do the above, I would like to provide as much assistance as possible in this potentially challenging task.  Making step #3 happen is where I suspect some system could be of most help.

Note:
I currently have one mechanic in place to ensure that Challenges are of varying difficulty levels.  The GM is instructed on an "average Lendrhald difficulty level", and then told to roll 2d6, with the outlier rolls making the Challenge easier than average or harder than average.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Vulpinoid on October 24, 2007, 04:41:36 PM
Does your core game feature leveled characters? Or, does it use a more open experience system?

I only ask this because level based experience systems give characters a nice incremental scale that can be reflected through challenge difficulties.

This is a difficulty 7 task, a level 7 character should have a 50-50 chance of passing it.

If you assume that tag teaming characters have an innate bonus because they have complimentary strengths and weaknesses...

Here we have two level 3 characters, that means a difficulty 6 challenge is about right. But since there's an extra character involved we'll push it up a notch to a difficulty 7 challenge.

If you characters don't come down to a simple level based progression, things get trickier.

Arcadia: the Wild hunt had a nice system of "Waylays" which were complications that the characters encountered as the moved around the game as they completed their quests. There were usually easy ways to face a waylay, or hard ways. You could face off against a troll in combat, but you'd probably get flattened, or you could try to trick him through your cunning...I don't remember specifics, but there was some kind of rule where if you fought him and won, you'd remove him from the game; while if you tricked him, you'd get past him as an obstacle but others might have to face him later (he'd become a recurring villain).



Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Judd on October 25, 2007, 01:52:06 AM
Agon comes to mind when I think of gamist challenge building.

d20 too but I've never been particularly good at that aspect of that game, so perhaps I'm not the one to say.

Beast Hunters also might be well worth checking out.

Good luck, David!


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 25, 2007, 07:03:34 AM
Judd,

I don't remember d20 actually showing the GM, "Here's how to build a good challenge."  Is there some chapter of some book that I'm blanking on?  I actually have some d20 books, if you could help point me to the right place that'd be awesome...

I'll check out Agon and Beast Hunters; thanks!


Michael,

I'm fine with my current 2d6 mechanic.  I guess I should clarify that the difficulty level is evaluated relative to the world (i.e., w.r.t. an "average" dangerous mission), not to the characters.  The difficulty range of almost all missions (unless you roll a 12, basically) will roughly correspond to the range of character improvement, such that starting characters can just "beat" the easiest mission, while played-for-years characters can just "beat" the (nearly) toughest mission.  I want Competence 3 parties to run into Difficulty 1-8 challenges at random.  The next step is ensuring that they still have something fun to do when they hit that Difficulty 7 challenge.  So, I hope to design a system that helps GMs write those options into that challenge.  Discussing that is the purpose of this thread.

The mechanic you describe from Arcadia sounds appropriate to a structured game, but maybe not to an open-ended one where the characters can go wherever and do whatever they want (which my game is).  Varying levels of reward depending on how you tackle a challenge is definitely a good direction to go in, though (as long as players are made aware of that).



One idea I'm pondering is having set pay rates.  Money is important in my game.  It gets you gear to fight with.  Most characters start out with little money and little gear.  The Empire definitely pays adventurers to take care of minor threats to civilized areas.  I was thinking that perhaps they pay a more for some achievements (utterly destroy evil force) than others (spy on evil force, give report of their capabilities & movements).  This should get me partway where I want to go... but not all the way, I don't think.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Selene Tan on October 25, 2007, 10:06:43 AM
IIRC, both Agon and Beast Hunters use a resource-limited GM. i.e., for every unit of play (mission, adventure, hunt, etc.) the GM has only so many resources to spend on opposition. That may not fit so well with the "go wherever and do whatever" style of game you want.

D&D has some text in the DMG about calibrating challenges. NPCs have Challenge Ratings (CRs) based on race and class. If the encounter is with onlyone NPC, then the NPCs CR is the Encounter Level. When you put together several NPCs, there are rules that determine the resulting EL (it's not strictly additive, and it's not well-defined for mixed-CR encounters). Assuming a party of 4 equal-level PCs, an encounter with EL equal to the average party level is an appropriate encounter. It should use up about 1/4 of the party's resources, and 13 such encounters should give them enough experience to advance one level.
There's also an interesting numerical analysis/method for determining appropriate encounters that someone wrote up at http://www.epiphanies.org/games/cr_ep.pdf

There was a challenge-creation system I was toying with for a game I was working on that used multiple encounter difficulty ratings. The system had 5 major abilities/strategies the players could use on challenges, and each challenge had a value for how strong it was against each of the 5 strategies. Depending on the desired challenge difficulty, the GM had X points to distribute between the strength ratings.
The challenges had what were basically hit points, with the strength ratings determining how much damage would be taken from a particular type of "attack". So players could futz around with a variety of strategies as suited them, e.g. use attacks the challenge was somewhat strong against because the players were really strong in that area.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Callan S. on October 25, 2007, 06:16:01 PM
Currently I'm looking at multi generational procedure generated* situations. A quick example of procedure generated content in this case is a unit which is a farm, another unit which is a rabbit population, and grass land units. Each has their set of rules which act as you might expect them, but when the rabbits eat the grass, breed, eat all of it (the grass, by it's rules, couldn't regenerate fast enough) and start destroying the farmers crops and by extension threatening his life, it generates situation.

By multigenerational I mean you don't stop there - lets say the farm is destroyed, producing a vagabond. The rules of the vagabond are followed and he moves to join the local bandits. The local bandits are strengthened enough to stop the trader units passing and an economic downward spiral occurs. Keep running generation upon generation.

With units who's rules aren't specifically designed to create a situation, but do interact with other units, and by running several generations of results, a completely unknown situation can be generated. One which no one would have thought up. Truth is stranger than fiction, if I may refer to procedure as truth :)

Looking at the situation and being moved to make something a goal to win (eg, clear the bandits, or even clear the bunnies) is another step and the most vital (without it, it's all just 'shit happens'). But I think it's a relatively fun and intuative step and should be easy enough when the time comes.


* This is the name I'm using for it - some might not agree it's the right name


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Vulpinoid on October 25, 2007, 06:41:47 PM
There's also an interesting numerical analysis/method for determining appropriate encounters that someone wrote up at http://www.epiphanies.org/games/cr_ep.pdf


That's a good resource. I'd probably err between the two methods of XP distribution and set the wghole thing up in excel, or a flash based program that I could use to plug numbers in and get XP out. But of course, this relies on a similar character level mechanic as found in D&D.

Back to the core topic though, if we are looking at the "main encounter" for a session, I'd consider a system where a core encounter difficulty was modified by +2d6 as was proposed in the original post. Characters are paid a certain amount of resources for taking on the challenge based on this core difficulty +d6. This is where the employers of the group know half of the difficulties that might be faced by the group.

The twist I'd use is that once the characters had accepted the job, roll the other d6 (or keep it secret from the players), and they only discover the true difficulty of the job once the remaining obstacles are encountered. The secret die could be a 1, and therefore the job is easier than initially expected, or it could be a 6 and there could be some true nastiness in store for them. On the whole though, the character have an inkling of how difficult it will be and shouldn't get too far over their heads (as long as they take note of the events happening around them).

V


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 06:31:25 AM
Characters are paid a certain amount of resources for taking on the challenge based on this core difficulty +d6. This is where the employers of the group know half of the difficulties that might be faced by the group.

Hmm.  The Imperial government needs a job done that they only know a certain amount about, and they set a price based on that knowledge.  That all sounds right.  No die-rolling should be needed for this, just guidelines on how much the empire pays for stuff.

The twist I'd use is that once the characters had accepted the job, roll the other d6

It does indeed make some sense that there be some disparity between what the imperials think is going on and what is actually going on.  I think, however, that the nature of the Challenge situation needs to be determined first, and then the Imperial perception of it logically determined based on that nature.  Whether the empire is willing to up their pay if a mission was harder than expected is a good question.  I would guess the answer is, "Not without mid-mission negotiation."

There are also payment questions for any given Challenge situation:
1) does the Empire already know about the situation
2) how easy is it to contact an Imperial that will quote you a price, pay you, get you help, etc.

This is interesting, but I fear this thread getting sidetracked, so let's please steer away from all discussions of Level Of Difficulty for now.  I think Callan may be on to something that is more what I'd like to discuss.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 09:07:23 AM
Currently I'm looking at multi generational procedure generated* situations.
. . .
With units who's rules aren't specifically designed to create a situation, but do interact with other units, and by running several generations of results, a completely unknown situation can be generated. One which no one would have thought up. Truth is stranger than fiction, if I may refer to procedure as truth :)

This is 100% appropriate to my "relies on in-gameworld logic" mandate.  And the resulting complexity and details will help tremendously in lending missions the proper color.  Bravo.  Some tough questions, though:

A quick example of procedure generated content in this case is a unit which is a farm, another unit which is a rabbit population, and grass land units. Each has their set of rules which act as you might expect them

So, are you suggesting that the game designer (me) provides the GM with an exhaustive list of units (to cover the different areas of the world) complete with rules that are thorough enough to describe their interactions with all other units?  That sounds desirable, yet utterly impossible.

With these units and rules, the GM then picks an arbitrary starting state, and then:

but when the rabbits eat the grass, breed, eat all of it (the grass, by it's rules, couldn't regenerate fast enough) and start destroying the farmers crops and by extension threatening his life . . . the farm is destroyed, producing a vagabond. The rules of the vagabond are followed and he moves to join the local bandits. The local bandits are strengthened enough to stop the trader units passing and an economic downward spiral occurs.

proceeds to "run" all this in his head for some arbitrary duration until he's decided it's ready for the player characters to stumble across it?  Unless all the rules of all the units in play are very clear and simple, this also sounds pretty impossible.

Were you thinking of writing some software to handle this or something? 

Or did you just have more elegant ideas of designer and GM tasks than I'm coming up with?

Looking at the situation and being moved to make something a goal to win (eg, clear the bandits, or even clear the bunnies) is another step and the most vital (without it, it's all just 'shit happens'). But I think it's a relatively fun and intuative step and should be easy enough when the time comes.

I agree that having a reliably realistic and complex scenario awaiting the player characters should make it easier for them to find ways to latch onto them...  I dunno if "easier" is still "easy", though.  With no GM guidance to the situation-formation process, it actually strikes me as a complete crapshoot as to whether the variety-of-goal-options I'm hoping for will actually arise or not.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: masqueradeball on October 26, 2007, 10:56:16 AM
The reason most RPGs don't give strict guidelines for encounter design is because difficulty is an amazingly variable thing when considering a wide range of character abilities. In Dungeons and Dragons, for instance, CR's are completely inappropriate if your party is weak in a given character type (undead, for instance become exponentially more threatening if your party has an extra rogue instead of a cleric).
How does this pertain to your question? Well, I guess I'm saying that I would be able to give advice (maybe not good advice, but advice) on how to generte encounters if I had some idea of the scope of your characters. Otherwise, its hard to make any suggestions.
Also, what your describing sounds like some methods of adventure design I've seen presented out there. My advice would be to start out by creating a reward that the players can receive and a method that they find out about this reward, and then create a number of encounters, each keyed to a different set of character abilities. There could ba combat way to get the reward, a magic way, a social way, etc... and your game could provide rules for building each. Then each adventure could have one reward, a number of challenges that would lead to the reward and then the encounters would be keyed to a map or time line that the characters could explore/move through. The decisions that they then made as which encounters to take on would determine how challenging it was to gain the reward, based on their strength. To make more complex adventures, you would simply add more rewards or more steps towards achieving a single reward.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 12:10:53 PM
I would be able to give advice (maybe not good advice, but advice) on how to generte encounters if I had some idea of the scope of your characters. Otherwise, its hard to make any suggestions.

The players' strategic options are limited to the options they would have if they were actually in the gameworld, possessing the knowledge, skills and equipment of their characters.  Said skills correspond to what might be expected of a human lviing in medieval times, ranging from farmer to veteran solider.  Some characters will be good at sneaking, others at shooting with arrows, others at striking with swords, others at reading mannerisms to detect lies.  All of these can be improved with the points gained through playing.  No superhuman abilities will be gained, but the occasional supernatural possession may be found (usually more Nifty than Badass).  Some players will be good at coming up with ruses, others at giving tactical orders, and others at speaking in convincing or charismatic fashion.

These examples are not all-inclusive, just representative.

My advice would be to start out by creating a reward that the players can receive

Might be sensible.  I'll go through this with an example:
The Empire will pay 5 shillings to anyone who can drive off a small band of Orcs attacking the town of Fjotdale, plus an extra shilling if you can prove you actually killed all of them.

and a method that they find out about this reward

Empire posts a sign where the West Road meets the road to Fjotdale.

and then create a number of encounters, each keyed to a different set of character abilities. There could be combat way to get the reward, a magic way, a social way, etc...

GM determines (through whatever means, let's not discuss that now) how tough the Orcs are, and figures that the PCs could not take them in a head-on fight.  There are several things that might work, though:
- picking them off one by one
- leading them into some sort of trap
- enlisting 3 or 4 more fighters to help
- other things that the players may come up with that the GM hasn't

One of the players is a good smooth-talker.  Another player's character is particularly stealthy.  A third player has the best fighter, and a fourth player has the best archer.

The GM relates these to his list:
- archer picks them off
- stealth guy tries to lure them into separating, where they can be picked off or trapped; or, stealth guy tries to lure them all into trap
- smooth-talker convinces imperials to lend weapons and locals to lend bodies
- fighter kills individual orcs that have been separated from their group

How does this turn into a list of potential encounters?  Should it?

and your game could provide rules for building each.

This is the step I'm hung up on.  How's the game text going to help the GM take all the options above and Make It So?

the encounters would be keyed to a map or time line that the characters could explore/move through.

I have some rules in place for communication between GM and players about who wants to play what kind of session.  The GM then uses this info to guide his prep.  However, the game cannot include any sort of "map or timeline" which makes the players view any encounters as having been put there for their benefit.  Everything in the world can be ignored if the players so choose, and ignoring any one situation shouldn't cause play to stop.  Likewise, if the players in the above example decide, "Well, let's go kill orcs," and just wade into their camp with swords drawn, the characters should all die, and the players will be more strategic next time.  This (and other failures) is something the GM should not prevent from happening.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: xenopulse on October 26, 2007, 01:08:23 PM
Here's my core question for you:

You say the challenge needs to conform to the laws of the world, but do the game mechanics actually have to simulate those laws?

Beast Hunters' solution is to have the mechanics be open, with the specifics determined by the narrative. Those mechanics don't simulate in-game causality, that's left for each action and the GM's adjudication. That is, each action grants a certain amount of advantage, taking all the narrative details and circumstances into account, but that advantage is handled the same whether you're sneaking or fighting or laying traps. Similarly, the damage that's inflicted is generic and can represent a multitude of things, it does not model any particular injuries or morale in different ways (other than the mental/physical/social categories).

If you want a system that actually models the laws of the world, which also simultaneously allows a wide range of tactics and a balanced creation of challenges, you've got a very ambitious project ahead of you, and one we can't tackle without knowing the specifics of your system.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: J. Scott Timmerman on October 26, 2007, 01:58:46 PM
I think accomplishing what xenopulse is suggesting is primarily a matter of making context-dependent options available and necessary regardless of specific situation.  Here, I'm not talking about the more broadly defined Situation, simply about having mechanics adaptable to different types of conflict. 

It's something I'm attempting to do with the basic logic behind my system as well.  Basically, my suggestion (and it may feel like hitting your head against a brick wall sometimes) would be to start with axiomatic notions of in-game-world logic, but only those notions that apply to the outcome of conflicts.  Think directly about how these apply to Player options.  For instance, does the weight of an unconscious peasant matter?  Or is it simply enough to say that we can separate elements like so "This is a peasant that no individual PC can lift" and "This is peasant that a PC could lift individually."

That way, when setting up Conflict in the Scene, you decide directly, is "lift without help" an option, or not, rather than having to either in preparation or arbitrarily decide during gameplay what the weight of the peasant is.  I find that even in D&D, which has explicit mechanics for lifting certain weights, we often ignore the rule anyhow.

Perhaps this can be done with everything, so that every Conflict in every Scene can be broken down into simple options such as this.  These simple options work within in-game-world logic, because the scenes were designed that way.

Sets of typical ways of manipulating the Scene from within itself could be covered in system, and others could be creatively made up (preferably in advance) by the GM.  Anybody who exceeds the GM's creativity here by thinking of an option that the GM didn't should be rewarded just for that with success.

This idea kinda came from computer text-based RPGs (Yay, LORD) which had simple logic.  Also, I don't like making arbitrary in-game decisions against the players. 

I think that maybe Callan's idea for generating conflicts through elements of setting is great for thinking of ideas, but for setting up the conflicts themselves, it's probably easier if we have a simple handle on most of the variables.

I don't know much about Beast Hunters, but from what I've heard, its mechanic doesn't appear to get the context-sensitivity David might be looking for in making Challenges.

Or maybe this whole post is just too obvious...

-Jason Timmerman


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 02:14:11 PM
You say the challenge needs to conform to the laws of the world, but do the game mechanics actually have to simulate those laws?

Well, in certain areas they do, and in certain areas they don't.  Lendrhald physics work like real-world physics, and no mechanics are permissable which fail to make resolutions work out accordingly.

In terms of generating in-gameworld content (e.g. Challenge situations), I don't really care what the process is as long as the results make sense given the laws of the world. 

I got all excited about Callan's idea on the hope that he has some thoughts toward implementing it that he will soon share...  If your point is that the process itself may not get me anywhere, then yeah, agreed.

Beast Hunters' solution is to have the mechanics be open, with the specifics determined by the narrative. Those mechanics don't simulate in-game causality, that's left for each action and the GM's adjudication.

Resolution outcomes must mirror real-world causality.  So either the system has to handle that, or the GM does.  I would feel like a lazy designer if I just said, "GMs, use your own knowledge of How Stuff Works to arbitrate everything ad hoc."  Is there some other option I'm missing?

the damage that's inflicted is generic and can represent a multitude of things, it does not model any particular injuries

So then a player or GM decides what happens?  I am fine with players and GMs adding color to outcomes.  I am not fine with letting them determine what the outcomes are -- see previous point.

If you want a system that actually models the laws of the world, which also simultaneously allows a wide range of tactics and a balanced creation of challenges, you've got a very ambitious project ahead of you, and one we can't tackle without knowing the specifics of your system.

Yeah, it's very ambitious.  Let me reiterate, though, that as long as everything comes out opaque and plausible, I'm happy to have the GM get as Meta as he wants during his prep.  Roll-on charts, how-to steps, checklists, whatever will help in building the types of challenges I've described (i.e., allowing players to choose between multiple ways to Step On Up).  Intricate connection to the processes of the world is just a nice bonus.

I'm not sure which specifics of my system are actually relevant here.  As for what the players can do while the game is running, just imagine yourself with a sword and the ability to use it, walking into an unfamiliar place and seeing a monster in the distance.  Supposing you were as brave as the characters we play, what would you do?  Whether you decide to track it, kill it, take a tentacle, or use it to terrorize your estranged father, you're welcome to try.  My current effort is to provide as much assurance as possible that those options be present (though I am okay relying somewhat on player resourcefulness) and (most importantly) fun/rewarding to tackle.

If that all makes sense to you and you still need to know how our mechanics attempt to model reality, then ask away.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 02:51:58 PM
Jason,

I definitely think we're on the same page about a lot of stuff.

making context-dependent options available and necessary regardless of specific situation.  Here, I'm not talking about the more broadly defined Situation, simply about having mechanics adaptable to different types of conflict.

Sounds good... just want to make sure, though, that we're talking about mechanics that determine what's in the world (i.e., nature/identity of Challenge situation).  I don't intend for this thread to discuss my task resolution system any more than absolutely necessary.

start with axiomatic notions of in-game-world logic, but only those notions that apply to the outcome of conflicts.  Think directly about how these apply to Player options.  For instance, does the weight of an unconscious peasant matter?  Or is it simply enough to say that we can separate elements like so "This is a peasant that no individual PC can lift" and "This is peasant that a PC could lift individually."

Sure, only worry about what you actually need to worry about, no need to go charting and graphing every last environmental detail...

The thing is, with the players determining what gets played, the list of potential things the GM needs to worry about is infinite.

That way, when setting up Conflict in the Scene, you decide directly, is "lift without help" an option, or not, rather than having to either in preparation or arbitrarily decide during gameplay what the weight of the peasant is.

"When setting up Conflcit in the Scene."  Please elaborate (with an example if you don't mind). 

Agreed 100% on not wanting to include more work than necessary during prep and on avoiding on-the-spot arbitrary determinations when conveninetly possible.

Perhaps this can be done with everything, so that every Conflict in every Scene can be broken down into simple options such as this.  These simple options work within in-game-world logic, because the scenes were designed that way.

And the GM can be helped to create this how exactly?

Sets of typical ways of manipulating the Scene from within itself could be covered in system, and others could be creatively made up (preferably in advance) by the GM.

When you say "covered in system" do you just mean that the book provides the GM a list of ways in which PCs might tackle situations?  (I'm already working on one, in fact.)

Anybody who exceeds the GM's creativity here by thinking of an option that the GM didn't should be rewarded just for that with success.

Success must depend on whether or not it would actually work in the gameworld.  The GM's job is to arbitrate this to the best of his ability.  If in-gameworld logic is totally mute, then sure, what the hell, be nice, indulge the players.  But that's won't come up often.

for setting up the conflicts themselves, it's probably easier if we have a simple handle on most of the variables.

A time-efficient way to achieve that would be awesome.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Callan S. on October 26, 2007, 03:47:58 PM
Hi David,

One thing is clear - when players step on up, they fuck up the causality of the world. They really do fuck it up - because their skill, or lack there of, is from outside the game world - it is not part of its causality. Whatever the results of their step on up, it is a stain on the game worlds causality - it's a stain that will spread, butterfly effect, across the whole game world over time.

Can I ask - do you have in mind that if the world is perfectly derived from causal procedure (with every little bit derived from that which came before) then that simply must mean that anything the players do WILL be a continuation of that causality? That if the game world is presented perfectly enough, the player wont have any choice that is outside of causality. That the only things it's possible to do would also be part of a proper causal continuum?


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 04:20:46 PM
Callan,

Huh?  Is this germane?  I want you to tell me how to implement the ideas form your last post!

Re: causality, the players' only ability to affect the gameworld comes via their characters.  So the only way they could fuck it up is by making choices that their characters wouldn't make if they weren't being run by players.  The gameworld can simply assume that these people (the player characters) are mildly insane* and no causality is upset.  These insane people have no superhuman powers, so their ability to change the world significantly is nearly zilch.  Opportunities to invent world-altering technology will not be presented. 

*or innately gifted at strategy, or whatever


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Rafu on October 26, 2007, 05:10:33 PM
To put it straight in very "D&D-like traditional roleplaying" terms, is what you need a method to instantly set up encounters and whole "adventures", in quasi real-time, just as the players decide to bite at one of countless adventure hooks offered to them?


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: J. Scott Timmerman on October 26, 2007, 05:38:59 PM
Aloha David,

Sounds good... just want to make sure, though, that we're talking about mechanics that determine what's in the world (i.e., nature/identity of Challenge situation).  I don't intend for this thread to discuss my task resolution system any more than absolutely necessary.
I was referring to Challenge creation, primarily.  But my point extends to task resolution, since task-res mechanics will be an extension of how the elements you add to the Challenge will function.  And how they function will be intimately intwined with how challenging they are.

The thing is, with the players determining what gets played, the list of potential things the GM needs to worry about is infinite.
Hmm.  But Infinite can still be Limited.  The "can" and the "can't" define themselves against each other.  The GM only really needs to think of the things that could dramatically affect the outcome of the situation.  Everything else just happens.

Answer me this: why does it matter whether the character does something, unless it's important?

My feeling is that, as a GM, I don't want to be the arbiter of causality, so I either shirk it off on the mechanics, or give the players the benefit of the doubt.  But it sounds like you don't want to provide any aberrant drift from in-game causality here; as little 4th-wall breaking as possible.  I hadn't thought about how my ideas might work in such a system.  Causality is the sacred cow on my barbeque.

That way, when setting up Conflict in the Scene, you decide directly, is "lift without help" an option, or not, rather than having to either in preparation or arbitrarily decide during gameplay what the weight of the peasant is.

"When setting up Conflcit in the Scene."  Please elaborate (with an example if you don't mind). 
I had assumed that "Setting up Conflict in the Scene" was what this whole thread was about.  The GM creates a town/building/field/whatever, and sets up all the elements within it, with one or more Conflicts in mind.  Without Conflict, the only other reason we even need a scene is for Exposition, and when we're just getting information, why do we need mechanics at all?

If you're instead talking about setting up the Challenge for the entire Session, you can't be expected to think of how every little element in every Scene is working at once.  From that level, just think about what Scenes you need, and how they might be linked based on player decisions.  In that sense, the level of the Challenge is really not even decided until you get down to the Scene level, when deciding the attributes of various elements (including NPCs) becomes important.

Perhaps this can be done with everything, so that every Conflict in every Scene can be broken down into simple options such as this.  These simple options work within in-game-world logic, because the scenes were designed that way.

And the GM can be helped to create this how exactly?
Most importantly, by simplifying what decisions the GM really is making.  It's like structuring department heads at a company: the GM shouldn't have to micromanage every little detail (like the weight of a peasant).

To that end, start thinking of Conflict from the top down.  Start with the overarching game, and then work down into greater details only when necessary.  Of course, if this feels too artificial to you, to engineer conflict, perhaps I misunderstand the point of this thread.

Sets of typical ways of manipulating the Scene from within itself could be covered in system, and others could be creatively made up (preferably in advance) by the GM.

When you say "covered in system" do you just mean that the book provides the GM a list of ways in which PCs might tackle situations?  (I'm already working on one, in fact.)
I wasn't thinking that precisely.  I was referring more to the task resolution system itself.  But having a list like that could definitely be helpful.

Best of luck with your system.

-Jason Timmerman


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 06:06:57 PM
Jason,

I think you've played some games that go about setting things up in a different way than games I've played.  There seem to be a few definitions whizzing past me here.

When I quoted "When Setting up Conflict in a Scene", the key word was the word you omitted in your response: When.

It sounds to me as if you are suggesting distributing GM prep tasks so they occur in small intervals interspersed with play.  I imagine your process thusly:

Before the game, the GM comes up with the basics of a Challenge and some ideas for small mini-challenges within the big challenge.  The play starts.  The first mini-challenge the players pursue becomes a Scene.  The GM then halts play when a mini-challenge is chosen so he can prep the particulars of that Scene.

Is that right?

I see some upsides and downsides to this, but before I go into them, I want to see if I understand you thus far.  (That's the point of this thread: the process by which the GM prepares challenges (and sub-challenges).)


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Callan S. on October 26, 2007, 07:01:14 PM
Callan,

Huh?  Is this germane?  I want you to tell me how to implement the ideas form your last post!

Re: causality, the players' only ability to affect the gameworld comes via their characters.  So the only way they could fuck it up is by making choices that their characters wouldn't make if they weren't being run by players.  The gameworld can simply assume that these people (the player characters) are mildly insane* and no causality is upset.  These insane people have no superhuman powers, so their ability to change the world significantly is nearly zilch.  Opportunities to invent world-altering technology will not be presented. 

*or innately gifted at strategy, or whatever
It's relevant, as you've been asking about gamist challenge design. For example, someone makes a $5 bet you can't run 20 laps of a field. You run 20 laps, but then they don't pay you out the money. Does that strike you as gamist?

Now, they could bet money, or watermelons, or just pure flat out personal recognition of your feat. Recognition of your own qualties as a human being - not some fictional character. My design had 'paying out' as first priority. I don't think it will help you, as you ascribe the players only ability to change the gameworld are with their characters, there is no recognition of a players own personal smarts, cunning, or guts. And the 'gameworld assumes these people (PC's) are mildly insane', making any recognition occur only at a purely game world level only because that would causally make sense.

I don't think gamism is possible if your not paying out. My ideas on proceduraly generated content are only for people who want to pay out, due to their mechanics, and ethic. I'm adding this as a side note post to further detail the idea I posted before.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 26, 2007, 07:31:35 PM
as you ascribe the players only ability to change the gameworld are with their characters, there is no recognition of a players own personal smarts, cunning, or guts.

No recognition?  If I invite you to play a game where the stated objective is to tackle in-game challenges without getting our characters killed, and you agree that that sounds like fun, and we both do it together, and succeed by using our characters strategically, why wouldn't there be recognition around the game table?  We kill the monster, we come up for air (the game's term for ceasing immersed play), we high-five each other and talk about how ingenious the trap we rigged was.

If I'm not up to your level of strategy, maybe you're getting high-fives from another player while I draw up a new character (cuz my old one's dead -- and got no loot out of the deal to boot).

If everyone at the table agrees that this is why we're here to play, isn't that Gamist?

I realize that having a more formalized reward system would make it more obviously Gamist, but I'm trying to have my cake (un-fucked-with immersion) and eat it too.

If my game winds up not being suited for your procedurally-generated content (and I don't think I can tell yet if that's true or not), I don't think it's because my game is aligned against rewarding player smarts, cunning, or guts.

Note: your point about recognition occurring at a gameworld level is astute, but not problematic, as players will often basically be playing themselves.  The real-world high-fiving might be appropriately accompanied by character high-fiving if anyone felt like playing it.  Not that I expect them to, because once the Challenge is done, it's time to come up for air and think about the next one.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: J. Scott Timmerman on October 26, 2007, 09:18:33 PM
I think you've played some games that go about setting things up in a different way than games I've played.  There seem to be a few definitions whizzing past me here.
Let me know if I'm ever using jargon.  I realize at the very least I've used some terms in, if not necessarily forgite ways, then at least in ways I've heard from other sides of the indie gaming community.

Before the game, the GM comes up with the basics of a Challenge and some ideas for small mini-challenges within the big challenge.  The play starts.  The first mini-challenge the players pursue becomes a Scene.  The GM then halts play when a mini-challenge is chosen so he can prep the particulars of that Scene.

Is that right?
That's a pretty fair analysis of my method, except for the "halts play" part.  Like you said, I come up with simplified ideas for the "mini-challenges," which most often correspond to a single scene.  But I don't find myself needing to stop to stat out every NPC.  I have a reasonable idea of what they can do, and that's good enough.

But the When you speak of is really dependent upon the GM.  Some people like to halt the game to do that.  Some people are just good enough at improvisation that prep happens on the fly.  I prefer to plan enough material for an entire session beforehand.  My games just seem to flow better that way.  It would seem thus far that you have a different idea of how Challenge creation works best for you.

-Jason Timmerman


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Callan S. on October 27, 2007, 11:43:06 PM
If I invite you to play a game where the stated objective is to tackle in-game challenges without getting our characters killed, and you agree that that sounds like fun, and we both do it together, and succeed by using our characters strategically, why wouldn't there be recognition around the game table?
The recognition is meaningless. It's nice, it's supportive, but meaningless. If you bet me $5 in front of a group of friends that I can't do twenty laps, but I do so and all my friends are high fiving me, that's really supportive. But if you don't pay me the five bucks, is that gamism? If you made the bet with me, but wont pay up the recognition because your busy ascribing it all as qualities of the game world - well, is that gamism?

Quote
We kill the monster, we come up for air (the game's term for ceasing immersed play), we high-five each other and talk about how ingenious the trap we rigged was.
Who decides when you come up for air? During this post it doesn't seem like you would enjoy 'coming up for air' while prepping the games material. It strikes me that perhaps you might have split the GM'ing jobs in your group - you might take on a full on 'run the world' job, while someone else in your group actually organises the gamism part (including when people 'come up for air').

You might say its you, but during this post I see a full on aversion to coming up for air. If you do do it yourself, I don't know how at the moment. While splitting GM duties across the group is a pretty common pattern, if not recognised as being such. If it is that way, you yourself don't need to do any gamism stuff at all - you should be focusing on what you call cake - causally generating the world. But the other guy, now that's a different subject to talk about - however, that subject probably wouldn't appeal to you (which makes sense - your a world runner specialist - specialists love their speciality!)

Quote
If I'm not up to your level of strategy, maybe you're getting high-fives from another player while I draw up a new character (cuz my old one's dead -- and got no loot out of the deal to boot).
It's a blunt question, but do I get a high five from you? Or even a solumn 'Congrats, you won/did better'?

Basically my idea for procedurally generated content involved quite alot of system determined coming up for air, for just the reasons you made in your post - how do you do it all without it taking up all your time? Well, exactly - if you don't come up for air, then the only playing your ever going to do is procedurally generating the world (as the world is so big and detailed). That's a flat out simulationist agenda, as I see it. That's one reason why people do simulationism - because it can so thoroughly engage them. To do it properly is to be fully engaged by it, no room for something else like gamism.

I think help on designing challenges really depends on who in your group determines when you come up for air. If you do it yourself, how you do it will be key to making challenge design simpler.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 28, 2007, 08:52:51 AM
Callan,

Could you please explain this reneged-upon promise without the metaphor?  I am viewing the recognition aorund the table as the $5.  You are clearly viewing something else as the $5, but I don't know exactly what that is.

As for when you come up for air, and who decides that, I will post the current rules in the next post.  The way these rules are structured is based on the idea that it's no fun to try to force every activity related to pay into an "immersed" mode.  Repetitious travel, shopping for goods, etc., should often be "fast-forwarded" through to get to the next challenge.  I've seen no need to define some sort of scenario of "okay, this si where the challenge officially ends, you all must come up for air now", prefering to let the players agree upon that naturally.  If you think there's something to be gained by changing that, I'm certainly open to the idea.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 28, 2007, 09:08:12 AM
there are two general modes of play:
1) In The Gameworld
2) Up For Air

Players can spend as much time as they like in either of these modes.  What's important is that everyone agrees which mode is occurring at every instant of play.

When you are In The Gameworld, you will use certain rules intended to facilitate a sense of "really being there".  When you wish to Come Up For Air (for whatever reason), these "being there" rules no longer apply.

In addition to In the Gameworld/Up For Air, there is one other factor that determines which rules apply in play: Challenge Situation or not.

A Challenge Situation concerns something the players wish to achieve, wherein success is not guaranteed.  If the players wish to befriend the mayor, then ANY opportunity to help or hinder their chances of this becomes part of the Challenge.  A situation where the guards of the city gate are rude to the player characters is a Challenge Situation, because the actions of the player characters may or may not lead to an incident that damages their reputation in the city.

Most character activities that players and GMs concern themselves with are related to Challenges.  Exceptions include purchasing goods at established prices, getting from one point within a city to another along a route that has previously been traveled, spending a second night at an inn, and other types of repetition.  In scenarios where the players have come to form expectations of safety and mundanity, it is the GM's job to tell them when they need to switch modes.  "You're just falling asleep when you hear a sound... ready to Dive Into the Gameworld?  Okay, go!"

No Non-Challenge Situations are intended to be played In The Gameworld.

However, that does not mean that the entirety of every Challenge must be played In The Gameworld.  During any part of a Challenge, players may wish to Come Up For Air in order to discuss something as themselves rather than as their characters.  Still, all character actions where a) success is not guaranteed, and b) success or failure impacts the Challenge at hand, must be done In The Gameworld.

 RULES FOR MODES

Rules for playing when you've Come Up For Air in a Non-Challenge Situation:
1) no one can speak in-character (including the GM).  describing the gist of what characters say is fine: "I thank the bartender and leave."  But NOT, "'I thank you, innkeeper.'  Now I leave."
2) no one can initiate a Challenge Situation without consulting all the other players.  One player's desire to "get to business" should not cost other players opportunities to have their characters "take care of down-time stuff".  Note that all that is required is consultation, not joint participation.  If Player 1 wants his character to engage a Challenge while Player 2's character is elsewhere, Player 2 cannot veto this.

Rules for playing when you've Come Up For Air in a Challenge Situation:
1) no one can speak in-character (including the GM).
2) no one can have their character perform any action.  announcing an intent to perform an action is fine, though.

Rules for playing In The Gameworld:
1) players must be consistent in their expression of a character's speech
2) players must keep Character Appearance sheets up-to-date
3) players must keep bandages and any other physical symbols of their character's condition visible and appropriately placed.
4) players must describe character actions in the first person: "I enter the cave," not "my character enters the cave".
5) players must do their best to rely on their characters' knowledges when speaking and tackling challenges.
6) the GM must be able to answer any and all questions about the characters' environment. 
7) four types of speech are permissible:
a) speaking in-character
b) describing your character's actions (or, for the GM, describing any features of the characters' environment)
c) requesting information about something within your character's perceptual environment from another player.  "Hey, GM, how high are the walls?  Hey, Player 2, does your character look tense?" 
d) requesting Coming Up For Air
That's it!  No other talking!

Don't worry, you'll still get to chat about computer games, work, friends etc. when you Come Up For Air.  In fact, this is part of what Coming Up For Air is for! 

How smoothly the transition from playing In The Gameworld to Coming Up For Air goes depends on how in-synch the players are.  It's like taking a bathroom break from a video.  When one person says they want to break, and others want to keep watching, some compromise must be reached.  "Okay, we'll break right after this scene ends!" works well for most movies and most roleplaying Challenges.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: masqueradeball on October 28, 2007, 09:13:08 AM
Um... I think maybe this thread's gotten a little off topic. Maybe not though, not my thread...

Anyway. So are we talking about generating challenges or balancing them?

To generate encounters, there's a whole series of options. I think that something akin to Callan's system that might be more manageable would be to make a list of threats that exist in the campaign world and use points to determine when those threats manifest: example: Orcs live beyond the mountains and come down for raids. At the start of the campaig their is 0% chance that the orks will raid. On day one, for each of X factors present, the chance increases (factors could include the weather, how long its been since the last orc raid, how much activity is going on in the ogre tribes that put pressure on the orcs, etc...) by X%. Then at interval X (say once a month) you roll to see if the orks raid. The raid would then increase the chance of other threats arising.
Though this is book keeping intensive, your limiting yourself to only keeping track of as many different threats as you think you'll need to keep the players busy.

Now, about balancing:

Really, D&D 3.5 has the best to date encounter creation and balancing mechanics around. 14.5 encounters per level that should take at least 2-3 sessions to complete with a % break down of how many encounters out of the set should be X higher or X lower than the character's level.

The problems are this:
1) Outside of traps and monsters this system breaks down pretty rapidly. The original D20 Star Wars tried to adjust this by having skill check DC's tied to Encounter Levels, but they dropped it for unspecified reasons. It seemed unclear to me playing that game which skill rolls were considered challenges or part of challenges and which weren't.
2) The game assumes a balanced party of four players.
3) The game doesn't provide accurate guidelines for creating new monster/trap challenges, its simply provides examples that are supposed to, when combined with game play give the DM an intuitive sense of how to design.
4) The slew of source material constantly widens the base of what is possible, giving clever players ways to complete challenges while circumventing danger.

The system I offered early assumed that you would have a similar system to the one offered in D&D, i.e. that you would have encounters with "levels" or challenge ratings or whatever that would indicate what skill level a character would need to be at to successfully deal with them.

The suggestions were meant as a way to diversify D&D's basic approach and provide guidelines for how to make such a system more inclusive. Since your game uses real world mechanics, it should be far easier than in D&D to create encounters with predictable out comes (see problem #4 above).

If I knew how your system worked, I could provide an example of point-by-point rules for balancing encounters, without that knowledge I can only make generalised suggestions.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 28, 2007, 09:31:26 AM
Quote
If I'm not up to your level of strategy, maybe you're getting high-fives from another player while I draw up a new character (cuz my old one's dead -- and got no loot out of the deal to boot).
It's a blunt question, but do I get a high five from you? Or even a solumn 'Congrats, you won/did better'?

That is a damn good question.  (My short answer is, "Nice job man!  Kick ass!  Damn, I wish I hadn't decided to jump that Orc...")  It gets convoluted, though:

Despite the fact that you performed better than I did, the thing you succeeded at was a goal that I too was striving toward.  So I've lost in the sense that my ability to effect the gameworld in future play is diminished (my new character won't have as much gear or XP as my old one) and that I don't get the loot from this particular mission... but I've also won in the sense that I contributed (or at least put forth a genuine effort) to the "team" victory.

A much clearer situation of losing happens when the group can't achieve their goal.  "We're getting creamed, forget the emerald, run away!"  Especially if one or more player characters die in the process.  Poor strategic performance ought to result in this not too infrequently.

I have tried to think of ways to make winning and losing more concrete, but I haven't come up with anything better that doesn't wind up fucking with the opacity of the in-game reality.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 28, 2007, 09:54:25 AM
I think maybe this thread's gotten a little off topic.

I can't tell; I'm figuring that'll become clear once I have a better idea of what certain folks are getting at.  For the moment, I don't want to cut anyone off without being sure that something's off-topic.

So are we talking about generating challenges or balancing them?

Generating them.

make a list of threats that exist in the campaign world and use points to determine when those threats manifest: example: Orcs live beyond the mountains and come down for raids. At the start of the campaig their is 0% chance that the orks will raid. On day one, for each of X factors present, the chance increases (factors could include the weather, how long its been since the last orc raid, how much activity is going on in the ogre tribes that put pressure on the orcs, etc...) by X%. Then at interval X (say once a month) you roll to see if the orks raid. The raid would then increase the chance of other threats arising.
Though this is book keeping intensive, your limiting yourself to only keeping track of as many different threats as you think you'll need to keep the players busy.

Good thoughts.  Thanks!  I have anticipated character parties wandering around the world looking for trouble, but there are certainly also reasons why they might want to stay in one place for a while, so having some sensible way to generate, "Boom!  New threat appears!" would be good.  Orcs, natural disasters, extreme weather, civil strife all should have the potential to impact the game.

The primary goal of this thread, though, is more to say, "The GM is prepping a situation that he expects the players will want to tackle as a Challenge.  How should he go about making sure that the players can tackle it on various levels?  How can the game text guide him in this?"

Let's say some mind-controlling daemon is using the peasants of a small village to construct and enchant a golem that the demon will then control as its body.  Now let's say that some die-roll determines that this Challenge be Extremely Difficult.  The GM now has to set something up so that the players have more options than just:
a) destroy the demon and free the villagers (too difficult), or
b) die / give up and leave the demon to complete its plan

The GM is now thinking, "What else can the player characters do here that would be challenging and a fun accomplishment?  In what way should I make this 'extremely difficult' (hidden information? demonically strong peasants?) in order to allow that?"  I'd like to help him out.

Really, D&D 3.5 has the best to date encounter creation and balancing mechanics around.

I'll dig out my DMG soon and check it out.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Vulpinoid on October 28, 2007, 12:41:55 PM
The primary goal of this thread, though, is more to say, "The GM is prepping a situation that he expects the players will want to tackle as a Challenge.  How should he go about making sure that the players can tackle it on various levels?  How can the game text guide him in this?"

I think this is the crux of the topic.

And this is like trying to predict the weather. There are so many variables in play that trying to resolve them all is a quantum impossibility. You can predict where the characters will head, but not necessarily how long it will take them to get there.

How long does the hypothetical GM have to resolve and generate new encounters for their party? Are they preparing for a solid week between games with no full time job or studies to get in their way? Are they generating meaningful encounters on-the-fly which are still attuned to the principles of the gameworld?

How much leeway is being given to the players? Are we looking at a purely character driven storyline, where the players can immerse themselves in the game world by exploring at their own whim? Is it a setting where the character will be ordered to follow specific mission and therefore be forced into certain types of encounter at the whim of the GM?

If you're trying to get all of these options resolved into a coherent and "easy to use" system that doesn't require high end computing power sitting along side you and displaying options on a screen, personally I don't think it can be done.

Good luck if this is what your attempting. I hope you prove me wrong.

V   


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: masqueradeball on October 28, 2007, 02:31:27 PM
After reading your golem example, I think some of my original thoughts would still be a good basis. First, make a list of available avenues for tackling the problem, hopefully spread over a large range of skill or character types so that any player character who makes the right choices has some chance of success. This is assuming that you want all PCs to have said chance, which isn't exactly realistic, but for game play's sake, I'll assume that a goal/concern. Once you have all the avenues laid out (one combat, one social, etc... probably divided along whatever lines are used to divide character skills (classes, skill groups, governing attributes, whatever)... place keys in the game world that would suggest the outcome.

For instance
Starting from your example lets create a list of solutions:
1) Combat: Find and kill the demon.
2) Social: Here I'll expand a bit on your initial premise. What if the demon is a child/novice and his master/father is angry that he's escaped into the world. If he can be found and convinced to help (which his anger makes possible) he will force his son to return using his superior power/authority.
3) Magical: More expanding required: If the characters can find the three pieces to the ancient Ars Demonica than they can learn the ritual to exercise the demon.
etc...

As for the extremely difficult part, I would control that through three means: the cost of making the attempt, the skill level required to succeed related check (how hard the demon is to hit, how hard the demon's master is to persuade, etc...) and the consequence of failing. The cost of making the attempt could be measured in in game time, actual money or player resources. For instance, if it would take three months to find the Ars Demonica and would require in investment of manna to restore it, both of these would be "costs to attempt. The skill roll would be split between the difficulty of the rolls and how many rolls, on average, the player would be required to make. Armor Class and Hit Points cover this in D&D and similar games for fighting monsters. The social mechanic could have something like Wits and Resolve. The search for the magical book would have different difficulties for investigation checks and maybe to total amount of successful checks required before the final clue would be revealed. Finally, the cost of failure would be split between injury, potential death, insanity, loss of resources, loss of status/fame, whatever would be significant within the context of the game.

Each of these things would have associated point values. The relevant difficulty level would have a total number of points that would they would need to add up to, and the rule book would have some extensive lists of potential costs/rolls/loses that could be selected from to build the encounter.

As to the keys, or what I said earlier about map/timelines, I'm not talking about pigeon holing or leading the players by the nose, what I'm talking about is putting in place the information the PC's need to see course X as a possible solution and determining how they will/can find it.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on October 30, 2007, 08:48:00 AM
Nolan,

Thanks for expounding further, I now have a much clearer idea of your suggestions.  Some of them sound pretty appropriate.

make a list of available avenues for tackling the problem, hopefully spread over a large range of skill or character types so that any player character who makes the right choices has some chance of success.

Thinking about it in terms of "solution avenues" is probably a good way for GMs to build the kind of challenges that I'm aspiring toward.  Perhaps a prior step would be for the GM to think of multiple solutions -- after all, pursuing different avenues will accomplish slightly different things.  This is largely what I would like to help GMs with: thinking up multiple "solutions", some of which even hopelessly outclassed PCs could pull off.

Unfortunately, your "range of skill types" suggestion is more well-suited to games with magic use and, as you said, "classes, skill groups, governing attributes" etc. that have significant separation.  My game enforces none of these (though players can certainly choose to be specialists if they want).  Plus, I don't think designing an entire avenue with the idea in mind that, "One character could make this work while the rest just sort of watch," is to be aimed for -- such specialized circumstances should probably be sub-avenues, so, y'know, everybody gets to contribute at some point.

More often, the range I had in mind was more of picking who, when, and how to (for example) fight, as opposed to whether to fight or socialize.  But maybe there's a good way to synthesize both...

Once you have all the avenues laid out . . . place keys in the game world that would suggest the outcome
. . .
1) Combat: Find and kill the demon.

So I guess a "key in the gameworld" would be a way to achieve this, right?  The location of the demon, any sources of information re: that location; the demon's weakness, any sources of info re: that weakness; etc.

2) Social:

Social is never an option for dealing with Evil.  Dealing with humans, definitely.  Perhaps the PCs could try to lead the entranced villagers away, in hopes of breaking the demon's influence over them.  Encouraging GMs to think of ways in which this could be done is a good call.

3) Magical: More expanding required: If the characters can find the three pieces to the ancient Ars Demonica than they can learn the ritual to exercise the demon.

The game includes a "quest mode" in which this book could be a big deal and pretty much the whole game could be about getting it.  If, on the other hand, the group is playing "extended mode", it's probably best for solutions to be kept local.  So instead of a book that gives you power over all daemons, a book that gives you power over just this one would be more appropriate.  (This would be a GM note to not accidentally break the world.)

Reminder to self: think about viability of exorcisms.

As for the extremely difficult part, I would control that through three means:
1) the cost of making the attempt,
2) the skill level required to succeed related check . . .
3) and the consequence of failing.
(numbers mine)

Interesting, I hadn't thought about it in those terms.  I'd been thinking of "difficulty" as #2. 

#3 is that the bad thing you wanted to stop happens, and/or you don't get paid, and/or you die.  But tweaking those ahead of time instead of simply letting the situation's other facets dictate is a possibility...  I wonder if maybe a "lower difficulty" mission should result in a "enemy would rather humiliate you than kill you" formulation or some such.

As for #1, maybe "higher difficulty" missions could entail more avenues wherein costs are included.  Missions with lots of bribery, quid pro quos, or even just obstacles that rob you of gear get pretty harsh even if no "to hit" #s are raised.  Maybe a good option to point out to GMs.

Each of these things would have associated point values. The relevant difficulty level would have a total number of points that would they would need to add up to, and the rule book would have some extensive lists of potential costs/rolls/loses that could be selected from to build the encounter.

Being aware of your options to inflict costs upon the players is good.  I actually have a list of "types of threat presented by monsters" along similar lines.

As to the keys, or what I said earlier about map/timelines, I'm not talking about pigeon holing or leading the players by the nose, what I'm talking about is putting in place the information the PC's need to see course X as a possible solution and determining how they will/can find it.

I think I get it.  If I've said something in this post that demonstrates that I don't get it, please elaborate.  I'll try to post a synthesized, "GMs, here's a process" soon.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 01, 2007, 10:55:52 AM
How long does the hypothetical GM have to resolve and generate new encounters for their party? Are they preparing for a solid week between games with no full time job or studies to get in their way?

This is what has happened in the past, with the results being:
1) great games, and
2) quick GM burnout

So, I'm attempting to ease the burden on the GM, if possible, by giving him tools to maximize efficiency of his prep.

Are we looking at a purely character driven storyline, where the players can immerse themselves in the game world by exploring at their own whim?

Yes, but with one huge qualifier: the players must all agree to play characters who will pursue dangerous missions for simple reasons like money or thrills. 

If you're trying to get all of these options resolved into a coherent and "easy to use" system that doesn't require high end computing power sitting along side you and displaying options on a screen, personally I don't think it can be done.

Well, I don't intend to do all the work for the GM to the point where he can just push an Idea Ball into the Challenge Combine and get something playable.  But I do want to help him prep what he needs and only what he needs.

Note: low-end computing power is fine... throwing up some simple number-cruncher on my website is certainly an option...


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 02, 2007, 12:52:11 PM
Okay, here's what I came up with.  My first thought is that it seems like too much work.  Please feel free to offer suggestions, but you should probably read my next post first.

I have divided prep up into 3 phases for clarity of presentation.  Phases A and B will often overlap, and can be done in whatever order the GM sees fit.  Phase C can likewise occur simultaneously with A and B if the GM finds this suitable; the below order is just an organizational assist for those who want one.

PHASE A - Creating the challenge

1) Come up with a situation that you think the players will want to tackle as a challenge.  Such situations should provide opportunities for rewards, in the form of local esteem at the very least, and Imperial payment at the almost-very-least.
Example:
"Something has posioned the water of a village, but both times someone's gone upstream to investigate, they've disappeared.  The villagers are so desperate for help, they're offering a mule, two chickens, and two sacks of chicken feed to anyone who can solve the predicament.  The culprit is some sort of mutant animal with a weird power or two."

2) Make the Difficulty Randomizer Roll.  Then assign your Evil Threat / Tricky Puzzle / etc. the according stats / complexity / etc.  See also steps C5 and C7.

3) Map any dungeons/tunnels/mountain passes that are an intrinsic part of the challenge.

PHASE B - Placing the challenge in the world

1) Review material on the relevant area of the world.  Be particularly aware of any features that are new to the PCs.

2) If you have questions about how anything in the area works, make up sensible answers.  Simplest solutions are best.

3) Give appropriate names to any nearby places (villages, mountains, roads, etc.) the PCs may encounter or discuss.  Also draw up a list of appropriate names for people.

4) Make a map of the area.

PHASE C - Making the challenge playable

1) Think of multiple "solutions" to the challenge, ranging from various forms of utter personal victory over it (hack it, burn it, cage it) to a subtle contribution against it (tattle on it).  See our list of What The Empire Pays For for some ideas, and add your own as appropriate to the context of the specific situation, and, most importantly, to the desires of the players.  Some groups like saving a damsel in distress for its own sake; others don't.

2) Make a list of available "avenues" for achieving those solutions (at least 1 ave/sol, possibly more).  Try to cover different player problem-solving options:
hacking, shooting, sneaking, thieving, moving, trapping, convincing, deceiving, paying, trading, building, induction, deduction, and combos of these

3) If you've come up with more avenues than you need, pick the best ones (2 to 5 avenues, depending on the obviousness of the situation).  Don't throw away any notes you've already made, though -- the players may initiate something on their own that coincides with one of your discarded ideas.

4) Go through your chosen avenues and decide upon "elements" to make these avenues viable.  A cave, a helpful villager, a road, a careless Orc sentry, a sundial, etc.

5) Also decide upon further "elements" to threaten and challenge the PCs (if not already covered).  Think about the costs of pursuing each avenue, in terms of time, money, equipment, renown, etc.

6) Give an identity (name, location, relevant timing & stats) to each of your elements.  [Note: Maybe this step need not be done before play?  Maybe ad-libbed during play?  Maybe GM dictates "come up for air" when avenue is chosen, and does step #4 then?]

7) Note the reuslt of a failed pursuit of each avenue you come up with.  Occasionally, it will differ from "die" or "don't get paid".

8) Map any relevant areas not previously covered by other maps.

9) Maybe make a timeline or flowchart to track how and when your elements come into play.


Supporting notes:

What The Empire Pays For
- Killing/destroying Evil Threats to Men
- Neutralizing Evil Threats to Men
- Organizing/leading local missions to kill/destroy/neutralize Evil Threats to Men
- Providing info/resources that will enable the empire to kill/destroy/neutralize Evil Threats to Men
- Acquiring special objects

Note: "human threats to the Empire and its citizens" can be appended to "evil threats to men".

Possible Assistance
- 1-100 villagers (with no combat experience, except in certain areas)
- 1-10 independent mercenary adventurers
- 1 mercenary adventurer band
- 2-6 Imperial soldiers stationed at roadhouse
- The Legions


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 02, 2007, 12:55:25 PM
I am thinking of ditching the whole "let the PCs wander around in the world and decide what to tackle" angle and replacing it with, "let the players talk out-of-game about what to tackle next and then have the GM prep that and just plop them into it".  The GM will have to cover a lot fewer bases that way.

World atmosphere and richness suffers, but maybe Step On Up benefits.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Callan S. on November 04, 2007, 10:30:59 PM
No! :) If what I PM'ed you about is somewhat true, world atmosphere and richness doesn't suffer, but is developed in another way for another purpose. It's developed as a stake for the gamist gamble/play, like money is used as a stake in a poker game or whatever. World richness might be a very apt word! Bit sketchy on how right now, but you'd have a sort of 'get pumped about the game world' session. Through that process some object or such in the game world would be identified for each player - and it can only be something they talk about excitedly. Once identified, this is their stake - like having some money to put down on a gamble.

Don't take it as a see saw, that world richness has to go down for gamism to go up. That way will ruin the stakes from the outset (unless you actually roleplay for cash/roleplay for who pays for the pizza).


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 05, 2007, 12:23:14 PM
By "sacrificing richness", I just meant that without actually "being immersed" for encounters with road wardens, tax collectors, impoversihed villages, etc., the impression of the world that the player is left with is less multifaceted.  I would think that if my only experience of a place was running and jumping and killing, the place wouldn't quite feel "real".  But if I am trying for Step On Up play, I feel like maybe I shouldn't expect the players to WANT to "wander around in the world" more than absolutely necessary.  Regardless, for now I'm going to try to focus on the Step On Up reward structure, and only the "immersionist" concerns whose intersection with that are make-or-break (richness probably isn't).

you'd have a sort of 'get pumped about the game world' session. Through that process some object or such in the game world would be identified for each player - and it can only be something they talk about excitedly. Once identified, this is their stake - like having some money to put down on a gamble.

If I can figure out a way to do this without giving the players too much information that their characters wouldn't know, and to maintain a functional "we're doing this together" mission, then this would be fantastic.  Some problems with those, though:

Keeping the players playing at the same time:

I wonder about letting each player pick a separate stakes.  What happens if the various stakes have nothing to do with each other?  Is it the GM's job, after the stakes have been set, to arrange the world in such away that the stakes do have something to do with each other?  If the players assume this'll happen, it'll feel really contrived when it does.

Getting all the players to agree on a single group stakes would make life much easier... the downside of course is that usually someone will "just go along with it" without actually being pumped.

Keeping players ignorant about the world

One of the best ways to make immersion satisfying is to keep player knowledge and character knowledge as close together as possible -- reactions to in-game events are more genuine.  So how do the players pick what they want to play without lots of "just wandering around in the world"?  My solution thus far has relied mostly on the players telling the GM what they want in general terms to start, and then getting more specific once their characters have gone out and done stuff and discovered things that interest them.  Things called "Destinations" are chosen by the players... not sure whether or not these qualify as Stakes in the sense you're discussing.  I'm still fuzzy on the identity of the $5 in your $5 bet analogy.  I'll post my current text on Destinations shortly.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Vulpinoid on November 05, 2007, 07:25:58 PM
One of the best ways to make immersion satisfying is to keep player knowledge and character knowledge as close together as possible -- reactions to in-game events are more genuine.  So how do the players pick what they want to play without lots of "just wandering around in the world"?  My solution thus far has relied mostly on the players telling the GM what they want in general terms to start, and then getting more specific once their characters have gone out and done stuff and discovered things that interest them.  Things called "Destinations" are chosen by the players... not sure whether or not these qualify as Stakes in the sense you're discussing.  I'm still fuzzy on the identity of the $5 in your $5 bet analogy.  I'll post my current text on Destinations shortly.

I'm starting a new campaign now in a "sandbox" type setting.

What I've done so far is to set up a group of character history events and link them to a long term goal that the character wants to achieve and a secret that the character wants to keep hidden about this event in their past.    All of these character aspects are linked to the nemesis at the end of the campaign, but hopefully it will take a few sessions for players to link these aspects together (after all it is in their best interests to keep their own secrets intact due to XP bonuses). Hopefully these aligned background facets will be a motivating factor for the characters to personally pursue similar goals.

Yet in addition to these, the character will be able to choose other goals more personal to the players expectations within the game.

If we look at the game as an episodic series, at this stage I'm looking toward using the character facets I've generated to work as the series story arcs, while player chosen goals and motivations will work as episode storylines.

Knowing in advance what those goals are and how they tie together I can have some kind of approximation of the type of events that will be pursued by the characters, I can write these aspects up in more detail and hopefully the richness and texture of these storylines will help bring those characters with less storyline stakes into the scene. Especially since players will be told in advance that if they are willing to indulge another players storylines during one session, they will themselves be indulged in another session.

Over the course of a few games, everyone should have been the focal character for a scene (or even a whole session if it's proving worthwhile for the whole group) at least once.

It's sort of veering away from the topic of the thread, but as character's evolve and players present new goals into the mix, it does me give an indication of the type of stories they want to follow (and therefore the types of scenes I should be preparing). Logically following on from this, if a character is acting in a coherent manner and the player is staying true to their characters goals and ideals this should keep the flow of the story moving without seeming to contrived.

I guess it all depends how the GM presents the scenes.

V


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Callan S. on November 06, 2007, 04:52:38 PM
Hi David,

When it comes to developing the gamist stake (ie, something the player thinks is cool to lose to someone else or gain himself), you seem to slip into full on simulationist play in order to get that stake. It's kind of like were about to play poker for a cash stake...and you leave the game, running out the door to your day job since you need money for that stake. But you've stopped playing poker.

Way back before you ever roleplayed, you would have thought something in some imaginary world was cool, right? When I was young, not having roleplayed yet, I thought the gun on Megatrons arm was way bad ass cool! Silly example (I hope you remember first gen transformers), but I didn't need to have roleplayed and explored and immersed in a world in at an ignorant level to get excited about that. Introduced to gamist play, gettting that gun or losing it to another player is an awesome stake.

If people in your group will only think of game world stuff being cool if its in the context of this explorative system you describe (playing ignorant, nothing contrived, etc), then they are devoting themselves to the integrity of that system. The more devotion there is, the more it excludes gamism. And really that devotion doesn't pay off unless its absolute and the dream has full integrity, as I understand this post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019).

I think people can and do think game world stuff is cool without devoting themselves to its integrity. I like megatrons gun, I like sonic screw drivers, I like down to earth operatives under terrible pressure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callan_%28TV_series%29)*. Your posts questions bring up dream integrity issues, when A: I don't think that gets in the way of thinking stuff is cool and B: I don't think a hybrid is possible (just the idea of it damages the integrity of the dream). I don't think working up a game world stake might have problems to overcome, but I don't think these are the problems.

Quote
I wonder about letting each player pick a separate stakes.  What happens if the various stakes have nothing to do with each other?  Is it the GM's job, after the stakes have been set, to arrange the world in such away that the stakes do have something to do with each other?
I think the group would work out a way for them to have something to do with each other. I think I've addressed the idea of contrivance in doing that.

Quote
Things called "Destinations" are chosen by the players... not sure whether or not these qualify as Stakes in the sense you're discussing.  I'm still fuzzy on the identity of the $5 in your $5 bet analogy.  I'll post my current text on Destinations shortly.
I'd really like to hear about the work you've done on 'Destinations'. And I didn't use any analogy. I get the feeling your going to suddenly think 'Gah, he couldn't have meant THAT when he said $5, he just meant it as analogy'. Again, there was no analogy :)

* Don't let this make you think I'm not using my real name as my handle! :)


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2007, 10:56:09 AM
If people in your group will only think of game world stuff being cool if its in the context of this explorative system you describe (playing ignorant, nothing contrived, etc), then they are devoting themselves to the integrity of that system. The more devotion there is, the more it excludes gamism. And really that devotion doesn't pay off unless its absolute and the dream has full integrity, as I understand this post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019).

I think that's the crucial issue here.  I don't see why it shouldn't be possible to get just as pumped about saving a village in a gritty, immersive game as about getting Megatron's gun in a (e.g.) competitive, unrealistic game.  The excitement and investment comes from the Challenge: "Can I pull this off?"

If there's no real suspense about pulling it off and no one really cares if they pull it off as long as it's played a certain way, then yeah, that had better be Sim if it's coherent, cuz it's not Gamism.

Do you think intense devotion to the dream necessarily excludes Stepping On Up, or that it's just hard to make both happen at once?  I full accept the latter, and am doing my best...

What if play were structured with a certain goal, agreed on by the players, as the stakes (see Quest Mode in next post).  The goal is an in-gameworld outcome.  Once that goal is either achieved or rendered impossible to achieve, the game is over.  Team PCs wins or loses.  Is that fun gamist play, or do you see "an in-gameworld outcome" as being a problematic stakes?


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2007, 11:04:51 AM
CAMPAIGN TYPES

Before the players create characters and the GM creates Challenge opportunities, it is important to establish what kind of Campaign the players (collectively) are looking to pursue with these characters.  Lendrhald provides rules for making characters and Challenges in three distinct types of Campaigns:

1) A Single Challenge.  This type of play requires the least preparation for everyone.  It's exactly what it sounds like: a finite mission that can often be resolved in a few hours of play.

After the Challenge is over, the players may want to use the same characters to pursue another Challenge.  This should work fine.  However, there will be no cumulative progress over many successive Single-Challenge games, as the characters and Challenge opportunities have not been developed for that purpose.

2) An Extended Campaign.  The game can go as long as players want it to go, and the result should be more satisfying than the sum of the individual Challenges.  This type of game is wired for cumulative and long-term progress toward flexible goals.  Much of the content of this book is intended to enable this type of play.  This type of play requires up-front prep by the players and continuous work between sessions on the part of the GM. 

3) A Quest.  This type of play requires just as much up-front preparation as an Extended Campaign, but has a different focus.  Character goals and Challenge opportunities are all designed with a specific end point in mind.  All players must design characters with a shared purpose of the moment, or at least multiple purposes served by the exact same end.  Once that end is achieved (or rendered impossible to achieve -- e.g., all PCs killed), the game is over.

A quest to find and kill a certain evil man in a small village is basically a Single Challenge, while a quest to learn the true nature of a unique, possibly magical gemstone and use it for whatever it can do may resemble an Extended Campaign.  Our advice is: if you want to play something simple, play a Single Challenge, if you want to play something so extensive that you may or may not play long enough to finish it, play an Extended Campaign.  The central notion of a Quest is that you WILL get to the end of it, and either succeed or fail -- just like a Single Challenge.  Unlike a Single Challenge, a Quest may be a combination of many different Challenges that each act as steps toward the Final Challenge.  The length of the Quest must not exceed the players' interest in their characters' motivations for that Quest.  "I wish to avenge the dishonor of my family," as the *totality* of a character's motivation, probably won't be fun to play for months and months.


Everyone must agree on one campaign type.


The GM will then prepare accordingly:

1) A Single Challenge - a single Challenge

2) An Extended Campaign - many Challenge opportunities.  The players, through their characters, decide what Challenges actually get played.  They, and the GM, must be entirely aware of this as the persistent state of affairs.  It does not matter what the GM has prepped: if the players want to send their characters in a certain direction, that is the direction they'll go.  How can any GM prepare for this?  The key is to divorce logistics (stats of enemies, difficulty levels of physical situations, puzzles) from contexts (the identities of the enemies, the locations of the physical situations, the effect of failing or succeeding at the puzzles).  This is discussed further in Chapter 9: Making Challenges.

3) A Quest - a series of Challenge opportunities which lead toward resolution of the Quest.  As with an Extended Campaign, players may not be forced (and should not even be overly influenced) by the GM to follow a certain path.  However, the focused nature of the characters' goals should make it very easy for the GM to guess which opportunities the players will take.  If he wishes, the GM can do a very large portion of his total prep for the game before the first session.  It is always a good idea to have something in mind for the Final Challenge before play begins.

PLANNING CHALLENGE OPPORTUNITIES

The fun of playing a character in Lendrhald is not about contributing to the content of the world.  Rather, it's about experiencing that world "from within", immersing yourself in your character's perspective – which is, to some degree, ignorant and powerless.  So, don't tell your GM specifics of what you'd like to encounter!  If you do, it will be very hard to think in character terms, rather than player terms, when you get what you asked for!  ("Ah!  The crying child that I, the player, requested, has been provided for me by my buddy the GM!" as opposed to "Look!  A crying child!  What's wrong?")

The GM needs to take his cues from your character's Life Goal and construct rewarding challenges.  He should solicit player feedback and suggestions, but only on the broadest level -- "You guys wanna keep tackling social obstacles, or have some dungeon-crawl options out there?" -- to guide the most general parameters of his preparation.


The Life Goal

For Single Challenge games, characters do not have Life Goals.

For Quest games, characters have only one part of a Life Goal: the Destination.  All characters in a Quest must have the same Destination (or different Destinations achieved by the same accomplishment).

For Extended Campaigns, the Life Goal becomes a little more complex and far more important.  In open-ended games, where the player characters can and will go any which way, the GM needs to form some expectations of what the players want to play; similarly, the players need to come to some consensus about what they wish to play.  Creating a Life Goal for your character is a way to let everyone else at the table know what you want to play.

A Life Goal is a statement about where your character would eventually like to wind up.  This MUST be something that would be a source of satisfaction to the player.  Achieving a goal you no longer care about is less fun!  There is no rule against players changing their characters' Life Goals; indeed, if you are getting bored with yours, change it!  However, the most effective way to achieve long-term satisfaction over Extended play is to pick a really good Life Goal and stick with it through the entirety of play.

Given that characters will be starting with virtually nothing, a Life Goal does not have to be overly dramatic to qualify as a massive accomplishment.  Most of the population of Lendrhald are subsistence farmers, and earning a much better lot in life takes some doing!  Here are some example Life Goals:

- Retire wealthy to raise a family.

- Have your name known up and down the West Coast as a killer of monsters.

- Become a landed noble with a title and some influence over the people of a region.

- Found a guild that will outlive you.

- Become the biggest combat badass you know of.

- Find a worthy cause or master to follow.

The one attribute a Life Goal MUST have is that it must be, in your eyes, advanced through tackling the Challenges that are Lendrhald play; and, further, the *types* of Challenges the players agree they want to play.  If everyone wants to get in lots of fights, don't pick a Life Goal of being a monk!  Remember, you will not be forced into any Challenges -- there should be a reason why your character *wants* to do this!  (See more on this in the next section, Backstory.)

Once you have come up with a Life Goal that you think is cool and inspires you to go ahead and play your character, it's time to define the two things that will best allow the GM to create Challenge opportunities you can pursue with that character.  These are Path and Destination.

A Destination is the more immediate version of the Life Goal.  A Destination en route to the Life Goal of "become a landed noble" might be "make friends with an influential noble", or "get a noble drunk and wager him his title for something" depending on what Path you follow and your character's personality.  Destinations get changed all the time, as goals are fulfilled, abandoned, or modified.  What's important is that you always have some idea in mind of what you would like to be working on accomplishing next.  This way, the GM can provide you with content you're interested in because it gets you somewhere meaningful.

The player should always let the GM know how quickly he wants or expects to achieve his current Destination, so the GM can either make that possible or tell the player to re-think things.  Since all first-time players must start their characters from relative poverty, some Destinations simply will not be achievable without extended play.  If you want to meet your first Lendrhald objectives quickly, make them modest.

A Path is a description of what motivates your character, and a predictor of what choices he will make.  A Path can have implications on matters outside of your Life Goal.  Think carefully about the personality you wish to play, and whether you *can* play it (Lendrhald includes no stats and rules to help you do this!) before you pick a Path.  E.g., a player who wants his character to forego personal gain in order to help others should probably not choose the Path of Power, even if his Life Goal is a position of some influence.  If the Path of Power is pretty close, however, he might wish to change the name a bit to be more reflective of his true intentions (Path of Leadership?).  Customize away!  The Paths provided here are the most general categories, which we expect will play well with others in an Extended Campaign.

Path of Renown (achieve fame or notoriety)
Path of Plenty (achieve wealth, spouse, safety, nice home in nice place with nice things, etc.)
Path of Power (gain control over your environment & other people – subtle influence to overt domination)
Path of Humanity (save Men from Evil!)
Path of Creation (build something lasting that will outlive you – book, building, organization, custom, etc.)
Path of Sevice (find a cause, organization, or religion that you wish to devote yourself to in perpetuity)
Path of Hate (kill, destroy, or inflict suffering upon certain people, places, or objects)
Path of Growth  (increasing knowledge, strength, or mastery of some skill or craft – personal improvement for its own sake, rather than as the means of achieving some other strong desire)

In a Quest game, any of these can be used as a way to simply get “even” if your character starts out in some bad situation.  A Path of Renown could simply be the quest to clear yourself of a bad reputation or bounty; a Path of Power could be to escape from slavery; a Path of Growth could be to learn what the tattoo on your ankle means.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2007, 11:25:53 AM
For anyone reading who doesn't want to go through that whole blurb, the most relevant topic of the moment can be found about 2/3 of the way down, at:

"A Destination is the more immediate version of the Life Goal . . ."


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: Vulpinoid on November 08, 2007, 01:37:35 PM
This is an interesting set up. It's like setting up a social contract between the group at the start of play, where each players combines their interests to determine a collective goal and theme for the game while giving them the scope to explore their own storylines in the longer term forms of play.

I like it.

I think that's the crucial issue here.  I don't see why it shouldn't be possible to get just as pumped about saving a village in a gritty, immersive game as about getting Megatron's gun in a (e.g.) competitive, unrealistic game.  The excitement and investment comes from the Challenge: "Can I pull this off?"

I agree with you on this point, which is seriously making me wonder whether I understand the whole GNS paradigm. But then again, it could be just that different people have radically different interpretations of how GNS works...some of whom are incredibly staunch in their beliefs.

I think that if you're going to get the adrenaline pumping over an issue, you should have an emotional connection to it. This may come in the form of a vested interest in the storyline, or a physical $5 note. Otherwise you might as well say "if I roll a 1 on this d20 I get Megatron's gun"...with no context linking it to anything, you don't get as excited about the physical act of rolling the die. After all, it's not like the physical act of rolling the die will cause the gun to manifest in the players reality.

(...of course, if this is the case, what are you doing on a roleplaying forum?? Go out and change the world.)

Actually, I think that it's more likely for someone to get pumped about saving a village in a well crafted and immersive game; and less likely to get pumped about mechanics completely devoid of story or context.

But maybe that's just me.

V

In the context of the topic heading, I guess that we are now looking at ways for the GM to make challenges that are meaningful to the life goals of their characters. Challenges that will make the destinations meaningful for both characters and players alike.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2007, 03:04:35 PM
Michael,

My understanding of the relevant GNS concepts is:

All roleplaying includes Exploration.  Any Creative Agenda can have relatively low or high degrees of exploration of any of Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color.  High-character-exploration Gamism or high-setting-exploration Narrativism are totally possible -- "high-exploration" does not dictate "Simulationist".  As I understand it, if an effective Gamist reward structure is in place, then you're playing Gamist, regardless of your degree of exploration of any component(s).  If you are playing a very high-exploration game with no Gamist (or Narrativist) reward structure occurring, then you might be playing Simulationist, or there might be no coherent C.A. at all.  If everyone is on the same page that the payoff of play is all about enjoying the imagined experience and its resilience against violation (see Ron's "constructive denial" post that Callan linked), then Sim oughta be happening (other confounding factors notwithstanding).

Ron's take on high-exploration pseudo-Gamism can be found in his essay on Step On Up -- it's called "The Bitterest Roleplayer in the World".

I'm going to start a new thread in Actual Play discussing a game I played that may have had some Sim moments and some Gamist moments.

Away from theory and back to the point of the thread, this thread has officially been derailed from "helping the GM of my game make challenges" to "helping make sure that the challenges I'm making actually are played as Challenges (in the Gamist sense) and not just 'something to do while immersed'."  I'm fine with this change of direction, because my former concern can't be resolved without discussing the latter.  I think I missed the proper point to close this thread and start a new one, so I'd just like to continue the discussion in progress.

Quote
Actually, I think that it's more likely for someone to get pumped about saving a village in a well crafted and immersive game

Makes sense, right?  The problem is how you get there.  If you've grown attached to the village because you spent a lot of time wandering through it and experiencing its quirks and conversing with its people, then you likely (but not definitely -- I hope) weren't playing Gamist while you were doing that.  A game can have all kinds of fights and dramatic PC victories and failures and still not be Gamist.  The question is whether the actual players are being challenged and could flatly lose.  I'm a little fuzzy on exactly what counts as losing in the abstract -- I have a better sense of it in the context of well-described actual play. 

I played a game recently that had a lot of Gamist appearances -- tons of strategizing, plenty of informal recognition of strategic prowess around the table -- that Ron ultimately diagnosed as Simulationist.  The more I described our game, the more it became clear that the GM wasn't really going to let us all die and fail in our mission, and that most of the player friction in the game came from breaking the simulation, and that most of the shared enjoyment amongst us came from "doing it right" ("it" being basically "X-Men-style dysfunctional superhero tac team in World of Darkness").

Lendrhald is not supposed to be that game.  The world of Lendrhald is a place that I personally would love to play Sim; but my current effort is to make Gamist play happen there, because in a world that feels so real, I really like trying to accomplish stuff (i.e. winning -- I think).  Players don't have to give a fuck about the world at all, they just have to trust that it works in a predictable manner when they try to do stuff (resolution rules that model real-world physics) so they are on top of their options when they try to beat Challenges.  A lot of the immersionist stuff is there so everyone knows exactly what they can and can't do during a Challenge and no one ever says, "I can/can't do X?  That doesn't make sense."

Will provide links to above references if requested; no time right now.


Title: Re: [Lendrhald] helping GMs create Challenges
Post by: David Berg on November 09, 2007, 01:47:51 PM
I'm going to start a new thread in Actual Play discussing a game I played that may have had some Sim moments and some Gamist moments.

Here it is. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25179.0)