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Title: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 04, 2009, 01:25:07 AM
Is anyone else here as big a fan of adventure games as I am? (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Scratches, Nostradamus...)

I really like puzzles in games; maybe problem solving is a better term, but in adventure games at least, its a puzzle framework. As a DM, I like to include puzzles in my games, whether it be a simple cipher puzzle, interpreting a sketch next to a lever or statue, a riddle, figuring out how to get into a room...

Its challenging though, isn't it? creating and running good puzzles, which in RPGs tend to be more like obstacles, traps, or problems to solve or move past. I know that for sure, a Day of the Tentacle framework for puzzles in a Table Top RPG would fall apart pretty fast, because of the freedom the PCs have- and the power levels.

In your games, what are the best problems or puzzles that you gave to your group, or had given to you by your Game master?

I've found that it works best to just throw obstacles in the way without an obvious solution, and especially no planned solution, and let them go at it, but its a bit of a disorganized and inconsistent approach. Its always interesting seeing how they solve it eventually, and i'm amazed at how certain eventual success is unless I meticulously plan to thwart them. Its pretty cool.

How does everyone else do it? As time goes by, i need more and more new ideas to keep things fresh and non-repetitive. Can anyone present specific examples, or even resources? I'll show you mine if you show me yours ^^

ps: This is a neat little post by the monkey island guy, btw: http://grumpygamer.com/2152210


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 04, 2009, 09:13:01 AM
Hiya,

This topic needs a little more from you first - specifically, one actual puzzle that you actually played. Talk about its details, what happened, what the players did, how hard or easy it was, how it worked relative to the other issues of play, or anything else. I'm not looking for thousands of words, but even a short, solid couple of paragraphs will make this thread work.

Everyone else, hold off from posting, please. The Forge is not a survey site. Others' experiences will be great to read about as well, but for now, right now, the thread author must provide an account of actual play.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 04, 2009, 02:59:14 PM
That make sense.

1: There was the first cipher I made, a while back: There was a piece of parchment with about 5 lines like in hangman, a pen, and the words Beowulf [insert line number, i forget which, a passage relating to treasure] written in elven; so the trick was for them to search the library for said book, which unfortunately couldn't be a fictional in-world book without me making up gibberish for it, so after they did so they got a physical copy i had on hand; and then to figure out that the numbers referred to line number instead of page number, an aspect of poetry writing; and then that the text had to be written in elven, like the inscription.

It went well, took about 10-15 minutes, but took some trial and error at the end because they thought the number meant something else for a while. Overall, i felt the puzzle felt arbitrary (though it was a scholar's sanctum they were breaking into) and that i overestimated player knowledge a bit; i'd also prefer to not use outside aids, or such obviously puzzle-based design as a cipher-locked secret door- something more integrated would be better.

2: a gargoyle holds a bowl, and written in giant is something like: i offer up my red, hot sticky life to Atreus. So, to progress to the altar room beyond, they need to fill the bowl with blood, but its a good aligned party, so part of the challenge is finding an ethically suitable source of blood, and then heating it somehow if it had to be transported. They also need a translator, but this is a minor inconvenience, and I can add one easily enough in a room nearby since the character who speaks giant can't read it apparently. An easy one, but should be fun to run.

I think this one will go well.

3: Another involves drinking the near-but-not-quite-lethal dose of a poison in a chamber- 40mL for an adult in a suicidal chamber where people offer up their souls to a gem to be reincarnated soon afterwards. there's a child-size cup, 30mL, an adult size cup, 70mL, and a super-size cup, 100mL, and a fountain. Too much and they die, and too little and it wont do much nor trigger the effect- a captive elf will describe the needed dosage and results of drinking it, and how it will unlock the gem, and how his partner died in a botched attempt. They came across the poison fountain earlier, and though they tried to get the goblin to drink it, the goblin was prudent and they wisely waited for more information before indulging, aided by an inscription of a person drinking and their heart flowing towards a gem, which luckily seemed ominous to them. Figuring out the dose will be easy for them using the cup puzzle, and the sized cups adds a bit of comedy to the otherwise dark situation.

4: a huge pit trap surrounded by large sarcophagi; not strictly an obstacle, but more of a danger: the way they solved this was interesting because they dragged over every one of the big stone coffins and connived to lean them against each other using opposing force to wedge the doors open so they could shoot down at the ghouls below through the gap. It wasn't necessary, but I'm glad they did it because it was hilarious to run. It took some decent rolling to pull it off i decided, since it was a pretty demanding feat of improvised engineering. They were pretty happy about pulling this one off.

5: navigation puzzle, where all passages lead in the same direction, and are blocked off, but its only apparent after exploring thoroughly and mapping along the way; they then went looking above for another way down (at each node there was a ladder leading down to the underground area they were in, multiple entrances) which led to the final area, estimating where said way-down would be, and found it in a barn under some hay, leading to a ton of loot and a snake boss. They figured it out pretty quick once the map was near-complete, and felt good about solving it, since the cave-ins were recent and it seemed logical.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Simon C on August 04, 2009, 04:32:52 PM
I've had largely very negative experiences with puzzles like the ones you describe.  It seems like they're pretty successful in the group you play with, but as a player, I find them intensely irritating.

I think it's something about how a lot of the games where you'll find this kind of puzzle, you'll also find encouragement of intense character-perspective play, that is, you play with what your character knows.  Puzzles seem to break with that type of play.  To me, puzzles always felt like this weirdly seperate part of play, like you'd play for a bit, then stop and sit around trying to figure out a riddle, and then jump back into playing again.  It was weird and jarring.

I'm not sure if I'd find it as annoying now. 

Of the examples you posted, the ones I find most appealing are the ones that reward exploration of the game-world through the characters.  So, the pit trap and the navigation puzzle are more appealing to me.  It seems like they're your preferred ones as well.  Is that correct?  I guess that's because these puzzles don't encourage as much disconnect between player and character, but that's a guess.

I've run a couple of puzzles as well.  The most successful of these was a room with a grid of tiles on the floor.  Each tile would light up and spark with electricity when you stood on it, and stay lit.  Stepping on an already lit tile would give you a jolt (a few HPs damage), and touching a door while any tiles were lit would give you a big jolt (a die for every tile lit).  The players tried out a few things first, before one of the players figured out there was a route through the room that would result in all the tiles being lit when you got to the door on the other side.  The cool part about this was the character standing on the last tile, with all the tiles lit, worrying about whether touching the door was the right thing.  If he was wrong, the shock would probably kill the character.  When the character opened the door without a shock, everyone cheered.

So that was ok, I guess because the puzzle itself was pretty simple, and the real challenge was about risking your character on having the right solution. 


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 04, 2009, 05:59:47 PM
Quote
Of the examples you posted, the ones I find most appealing are the ones that reward exploration of the game-world through the characters.  So, the pit trap and the navigation puzzle are more appealing to me.  It seems like they're your preferred ones as well.  Is that correct?  I guess that's because these puzzles don't encourage as much disconnect between player and character, but that's a guess.

I entirely agree with you- they don't break the players out of the game, and they're the most natural sort to occur without some outside force, DM or architect, building it into the scenario. The navigation one is my favorite by far, and without copying it i'd like to introduce a lot more that are like it, or as successful as it was.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 04, 2009, 06:08:39 PM
I also find that puzzles interrupt flow and pacing less if there are more of them, and if they're optional or if the tackling-of them is player initiated, and if they're 'naturally occurring' and/or story/character/setting/scenario integral. When they're less-so than that, it helps if they're funny and if there's a joke involved, often some irony of conflicting character and player knowledge, or a blatantly absurd obstacle for the players that is sometimes circumvented by players defying it or refusing to solve it- like a riddler who gets tortured or threatened for the information instead of answered.

Only the best-designed and integrated puzzles, I find, can be taken really seriously. If i made the poison puzzle too serious, it would suck; however, if one of them dies and we all laugh at it (while being horrified), it'll work out excellently. What I want to be able to do is make the really good puzzles though...


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on August 04, 2009, 10:54:47 PM
The SomethingAwful.com forums has a 60 page thread titled "What's your worst experience with role-playing?", and poorly thought-out puzzles have a pretty significant representation in it.  The big complaint voiced there is something you've already largely avoided, though, that puzzles can too easily turn into a game of "guess what the DM is thinking".

Intentionally avoiding a planned solution does a pretty good job of circumventing this, although there is still an issue.  If you're open to the players overcoming the puzzle in whatever manner they want, how do you decide which plans they come up with are valid and which are faulty?  If you're too harsh the puzzles starts slipping back into "guess what the DM is thinking" territory, while if you're too lenient the players can just say any solution they can think of and it becomes less a challenge and more a story-telling moment (this can actually be pretty cool, although it depends on the type of game you're running).  

I think that the fact that the pit and navigation puzzles focus more on in-game exploration is one reason they sound appealing, but I think that their open-endedness is another huge draw for them.  They seem like the puzzles with the most loosely set 'win' conditions, allowing for a lot more flexibility of thought to be put into solving them.  The gargoyle one sounds interesting to me for this reason, too, although it's a bit more controlled.  The cup one and the translation ones both have pretty rigid answers they have to find, and seem like they both run the risk of being really frustrating and game-flow-destroying if the players approach them the wrong way.  Those are the two that seem to me to toe the 'guess what I'm thinking' line, although it sounds like you're pretty good at offering proper information/clues to keep things from stagnating too badly.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on August 04, 2009, 11:33:51 PM
Strictly speaking, it's always guess what the GM is thinking - it can't slip back into it. <soapbox>Gamers tend to blame it on the other guy, rather than attribute it to themselves giving up imagining it as fictional events</soapbox>

AzaLiN, you've already talked about some things that integrate them more. Another might be a real life time limit - after which, as one suggestion, all the players roll their character int and the best roll gets told the solution (or just tell them all the result after the time limit ends). If they figure it out before the time limit, kudos and XP or whatever. Indeed, just kudos is enough, but who doesn't love currency as well!? One issue, perhaps a murky one, is how often we tend to play out a scene as determined by how long the fictional events take to play out in real life. It's a very 'were here for the fictions benefit, the fiction isn't here for our benefit' way of doing things. A real life time limit on completing the puzzle may seem odd (or perhaps it wont?), but it makes play about the puzzle, rather than play being about the fiction and how long it decides to play out.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on August 05, 2009, 08:13:09 AM
Strictly speaking, it's always guess what the GM is thinking - it can't slip back into it.

Yeah, this is a good point.  I guess maybe my focus should be more on how to make the way the party finds the solution less. . .blind?  The frustration came from when several options are presented/thought of that all, on the surface, looked equally valid, but only one would work.  The walls of the room sprout spikes and move in to crush everyone, so some players try to force open the door to get out and others try to use some of the junk laying around the room to jam the walls.  The correct answer was to cast stone to mud on the ground and hide under the level of the walls, but nobody guesses it so they all die.

I guess there are to main ways I can think of to make this more manageable.  If you give the players clues/more information they can make a more informed decision, and if you leave the solution open-ended it allows the players to come up with creative answers.  In the above example this might be a distorted spot on the stone floor, where someone had used this solution earlier, as a clue, or just letting the players roll/autosucceed at opening the door/jamming the walls as open-endedness.  I feel like clues are somehow less satisfying, just because it forces the players to conform to a specific solution they didn't come up with.  On some level you have to read the DM's mind even if there is no pre-decided One True Way to solve the puzzle, but I feel like there is a big difference between 'guess the specific thing I'm thinking' and 'guess what I'd allow'.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Daniel B on August 05, 2009, 11:06:10 AM
Good to see others aware of the "Grumpy Gamers" work    X-)


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on August 05, 2009, 02:41:01 PM
Hi Misha,

Well, with the preset solution, you can sort of measure it's difficulty in terms of the 'multiple choice's involved, the more choices, the harder it gets as the more options a player has to consider. From what you describe, there were dozens of options, perhaps even more than a hundred. Part of that difficulty (something that multiplies the difficulty) is that the options aren't explicitly presented - if you presented them with four explicit choices, that makes it alot easier. Perhaps too easy with four. Though it also removes the 'player invents their own move' factor.

Speaking of open ended solutions, there are even more options, hidden ones at that, to consider. That makes it a really hard difficulty level. Indeed I would think the difficulty is impossible to control - it could spiral to really high levels, perhaps even OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!!!!1! (sorry, bad dragon ball meme joke).

What I'd recommend is to put a choke on that difficulty by giving the players two chances to solve the situation. The first would be an open ended solution they could try. If they fail that, they get a second chance with X number of explicitly presented options (with X being perhaps just a (low?) single digit in size to keep it at the difficulty you want it). If they beat it on the open ended solution, they get alot of bonus XP or bonus treasure or something, because this is the awesome imagination challenge mix thing (though beating it on the multiple choice is good too, it's just not as hard/not engaging the difficulty of dealing with an SIS).

Well, oddly enough I like the solution I just came up with (and it's almost ironic in that I'm finding a solution I didn't think of before now).


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 06, 2009, 06:00:42 AM
Spike puzzle... I think the key to that puzzle is to slow things down.

Make the spikes move in real slow-like, so they have time to try 4-5 failed options before hunkering down and doing some real problem solving. They'll obviously try to open the door, or jam the mechanism star-wars style- gotta give them the chance to rule out the most obvious options early on. Otherwise, they'll die for sure- that's why timed puzzles suck sometimes... the nice thing about good puzzles is the player isn't pressured to produce a solution on the spot, they can think about it and experiment a bit, which encourages looking for the best solution instead of the fastest maybe-solution.

I'd allow them to jam the mechanism- temporarily- while they problem solve to find a way to get out in actual safety, and I'd put a big fat clue for the jamming solution which basically functions as a stop on the timer until they get a better idea. A weird mark on the ground like you said would be a good clue- it wouldn't actually provide a hint, but if you came up with the answer it would partially confirm it for the player, right?

As for the solution itself, better give the group one or more scrolls of stone to mud earlier that adventure, because the wizard might not have something like that memorized, and he may use several of the scrolls too early by being too clever with other problems earlier. If this isn't done, there's a chance that the DM is just murdering the party at this point :D

Further, the group may decide on an option that, although clever, would not work, and maybe just because of knowledge they lack about the unseen parts of the puzzle, and thereby release the mechanism to try their chosen solution. Again, there could be over 100 possible solutions to this puzzle, more if the wizard has strange spells memorized, which can lead to dozens of extra combinations! The scrolls will help out as a metagame hint- best to integrate it somehow, perhaps with the previously-solved-this-way-theme - but giving too many hints ruins the fun utterly- its the DM leading the players, and not the players being clever and brainstorming. Just be sure to emphasize that the floor is SOLID STONE.

Since they are wearing metal armor, depending on the strength of the spikes i may decree that the fighter gets pinned with everybody else hunkering between until the trap designer comes along to investigate why the trap is jammed and simply captures the party. There's no quicksaves in [most] TTRPGs, so there shouldn't be a lot of TPKs going around {though 1 or 2 deaths is fine!] In fact, assume in this case taht the party will get captured like this, because the stone to mud solution would be easy enough to overlook, and this way the party really can feel clever for overcoming the puzzle, since you 'built it for them to fail,' and therefore reward them with the trapper coming and getting ambushed because the party's fine.

Least, that's my 8am thoughts on the subject. It seems like a basically good puzzle, just too hard and killy with 1/100 working solutions- better if it was 1/10 workign solutions somehow, perhaps steal the wizards spell book and just leave scrolls. anyway, i'm napping befor ework


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Daniel B on August 07, 2009, 12:49:31 PM
The spike puzzle violates Ron Gilbert's "should be like a box, not a cage" rule. Meaning, if they get frustrated, well, tough luck, they're screwed.

Personally, I've found puzzles up to the level of those 7th Guest/Myst type computer games, in addition to being impossible for the GM to build and implement (and balance!) regularly, they're too slow for tabletop gaming. I've put puzzles on the level of what you  might find in N64's Legend of Zelda or Banjo Kazooie (I'd give more examples but that's the limit of my experience).

For example, there was a "puzzle" I'd posted about earlier in Actual Play; the PCs were presented with a gadget that pulled a troll apart at regular intervals, making them think it was in trouble but in fact it was a trap .. later in the game the puzzle was that they needed to find a piece of equipment that the leader of a guild of Tinker Gnomes had never heard of before. The solution is somewhat obvious, and indeed my players were able to figure it out relatively quickly.

Anything less obvious and I find they tend to get frustrated quickly (even if the puzzle SEEMS really obvious to me). An example of this type is when the PCs would find just a magic gift hidden on the top of a chandelier in a run-down mansion. All they needed to do was burn a rope holding up the chandelier. The rope was out-of-reach, high above near the ceiling. To burn it, they needed to line up a continual-flame torch with a backwards telescope (to magnify the torchlight). They figured out the magnification, and saw the rope holding up the chandelier in the other room (which itself was out-of-place, as all other chandeliers were held up by metal chains) but left the door closed every time they tried, so the light couldn't fall on the rope. Needless to say it was frustrating as a GM to have them so close to the solution!

Daniel


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: cra2 on August 10, 2009, 08:00:02 PM

Personally, I love inserting the three P's (puzzles, props, and physical challenges) into my games.
I have hundreds of them.

It's a welcome 'break' from rolling a die (or flipping a card, or pleasing the gm and/or group concensus).  But can't be over-used.  Usually only averaging once or twice a session (and my sessions are long - 8 hrs).

example - actual blacksmith puzzles (where you try to figure out how to separate the two twisted pieces of metal).
I'll throw them at one of the players when they get manacled and tell 'em that when they can get the pieces apart, their PC is free.

It's WAAAYYY more visceral and challenging than letting karma (dice/cards/etc) decide it for you.
And you should SEE those player faces light up when they figure it out and hold the pieces up for all to see like a 7-yr old beaming, "I did it!"    That player would never have remembered rolling a 17 on his "escape artist" check, but he'll never forget when he himself saved the party from the approaching ogre guards by using his noggin to escape his bonds.

Note:  I still let their stats/skills influence the challenge.  For example, if they rolled high, they get the easier puzzle or more hints, etc. 

And, I try to either a) use challenges that involve most/all of the party, or b) make the challenges short - 5-10 min max.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Evlyn on August 14, 2009, 05:46:01 AM
Anyone tried to use puzzle to address premise or character issues?

I once used a puzzle that asked the player to touch a stone engraving while naming someone they truly love.
One player named her character close companion (the two players where not a couple IRL) and I asked her if the door open.
She said "I don't know", she was kind of hoping that I tell her or not if there was true love between their characters.
I told her that she have to choose as a player if her character have such feeling.
We discussed a little and when I asked again if the door open, she said "no".
The player playing her companion liked the answer, and his character opened the door naming the other character.
It was a nice dramatic moment.

A other puzzle I improvised asked the players to choose from a set of small sculptures, one that represent something they hate and to offer it as symbolic sacrifice to a stone idol. One player tried to push a other player character to make the offering. But that player resisted and it was starting to escalate into a argument when a third player decided to make the offering.
She choose something representing a element of her past to sacrifice. I dint describe the small sculptures, each player could invent any sculpture they wanted to be in the set. I was hoping that the player would reveal something about how their character sided of felt toward the present issues of the game, but it was ok. I took note about the player highlighting this element of her background in hope of using it in a other game session.

These are not "real" puzzle I suppose. I could have removed the puzzles "instructions" to complicate things, but I was worried that if I do this, the players would try to resolve those puzzle like a game puzzle and would be afraid to "risk" their character on them. Well, there was also no apparent physical risk involved. Each time the puzzle was about opening a sacred or magical door.
 


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: cra2 on August 14, 2009, 07:19:56 AM
These are not "real" puzzle I suppose.

Those sound like great roleplaying moments but I don't see how they're "puzzles."
But then again, I haven't looked up the strict definition of puzzle lately so I could be wrong.

I would think (again, without looking it up) that a puzzle is some sort of challenge that has a set solution (or solutions) you have to come up with in order to resolve the challenge.  Like having to match certain symbols to their counterparts on a door in order for the door to open.  Only the right symbols in the right places will work.  Whereas in your description it semed more like they could've decided and described the sculptures as anything and they would've been right.  That just sounds more like a task to complete.  A neat one.  But just a task.  Like, saying someone has to pay 5 gold pieces to get by the statue.  That's not a puzzle, that's a task.  In my mind, a puzzle would be that you have to figure out the exact AMOUNT of gold pieces to give the statue, or else he attacks.  etc, etc.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Evlyn on August 14, 2009, 08:19:46 AM
I agree with you.

But what I found interesting is that, in the game, those task felt just like puzzles. Like there is some stereotype coming from video games puzzles scenes that you can use to make a pseudo puzzle achieve the same role as a real puzzle.
It make the players stops, thinks about how to overcome the challenge, wonder about the solution, dread a error, etc (i know, this is not a complete description of the role of puzzles in a game). Those pseudo puzzle felt satisfying to overcome just like some other puzzles and bring some variety in the pallet of challenge to overcome to explore the "dungeon" and can sometime put some character issues in the spotlight. Just like puzzle, players can't relies on their character stats or ability to overcome those task and there is some kind of choice involved. Well also, more clever pseudo puzzle who use more puzzle dressing could be designed, mine where quickly improvised.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on August 14, 2009, 04:58:17 PM
Hi Evlyn,

While not making a narrativist agenda by themselves, those two 'puzzles' would seem to be very supportive of a narrativist game if one were being played. They offer a hurdle that can only be overcome by, basically, an expression of the characters true personality. That's really interesting that you developed that! I hope you do more and give some actual play accounts here to read in future :)


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Evlyn on August 16, 2009, 06:00:12 PM
Hi Callan,

I don't know when I will have the opportunity to use similar oriented "puzzles", but I will see what I can do.
I am trying to run a game of Insylum and I have some doubts about how to deal with the escapades into the Nightworld while addressing player character issues. I dint think about it, but maybe I could focus a large part of the gameplay around symbolic puzzles or pseudo puzzles, like many survival horror video game do. It will kind of be in the "genre".
(But I think I would prefer to try to use again those "puzzles" in a fantasy colored game, Insylum is kind of a confusing game)
 


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 19, 2009, 08:59:06 PM
Update: Puzzle Outcomes from 4 sessions.

So, there was the gargoyle-blood puzzle, the cups puzzle, the imprisoned elf problem, the missing rope problem, the canopener problem, the illusionary orc, the cracked floor, and the negotiation. They all went great except the cracked floor, which I thought might be too hard so I had a simpler solution prepared just in case i was right :(

"I give my warm, hot, life xxxx to Atreus" and a cup, was the gargoyle puzzle. they had to fill it with a lot of blood- they decided to split the task amongst the whole party, and with one complication they succeeded, though were weakened for a whilely. Easy but let them debate and guess.

Cups: need 40ml and you have 30ml, 70ml, and a 100ml cups. they used the 70ml cup as a weapon earlier, but solved it nonetheless. simple puzzle, and quick.

The elf problem didn't have a set solution, but using holy attacks on the lock eventually broke it while, with one complication, the other members smashed through the ceiling into the cell, where the elf was imprisoned.

The missing rope had no set solution: they solved it by piling coffins and then using mage hand to tie knots while ascending a tower with the stairs rotted away. Quick and elegant.

The canopener problem was simply to use the device to open the stone sphere- force the players to find new uses for simple items and think creatively.

The hard puzzle was figuring out that the one player of the half-orc was actually an illusion. His lack of combat usefulness was a clue, his inability to break things another, his blood not helping the blood puzzle was yet another factor. It took all session for the goblin to figure it out and go hunting for the real character, a wizard.

In the cracked floor, they were stuck on a level of a dungeon with a cracked floor. There were a few small hints, but not enough- one section could be smashed through, but the rest not. the right spot was in the center, roughly, of the circle of cracks, which covered half the level, and could also be found by listening, following flickering torches, or pouring water into the cracks to find one that had a hole, but it was too hard and I had to give it to them a little- there weren't enough clues, and they weren't trying enough of their options with the cracks, focusing on other possibilities instead. next time, more clues.

In the negotiation, the elves were going to backstab them, but by preparing carefully and negotiating carefully, they managed to turn it into a fair trade with them instead. Not bad.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 19, 2009, 09:06:21 PM
Each puzzle worked out well, with most being pretty easy or quick by design with an occasional hard one. The players felt pretty good about solving them, and when I could i left out a preset solution so that they would have more options and more satisfaction- a constant series of easy-medium challenges each a step towards an ultimate goal, which was how I figured Day of the Tentacle to be like, and except for the cracked floor puzzle (an experiment in linear rpg play, since half life is linear and i never minded), i tried to avoid 'caging' the players, giving them multiple problems to work on in whatever order they liked. I tried to keep in line with Ron's thinking, and it went pretty well. the hardest part was the pacing, but by having a distant goal taht every sub goal related to nicely, and each relating to the story pretty nicely, the pacing managed itself and the players, when interrogated by the inquisition later, could recall almost every bit of story i put into the place and the way the cult even operated, supplying other details i hadnt though of yet also, giving a lot of credit to Ron's story-puzzle combo idea. I'm sure that using puzzles to teach school subjects, or to relay narrativist goals can/does work equally well.

For the next segment, I'm trying to do a really open ended exploration setup that will be a sandbox and a series of non-linear puzzles across a geographic area. The trick will be keeping the players from just leaving the entire area, luring them to the plot- or else, to initiate their own plot- and scaling the encounters so that they won't be too high or low level for different areas.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on August 20, 2009, 03:45:22 PM
It sounds like some nice material! Do you see a pattern in how to make these puzzles, or are they each sort of crafted individually rather than derivations from a certain pattern?

But on 'keeping the players from just leaving the entire area', eek! Why are you concerned about that? There could be a number of reasons so I'll start with a basic question: Can't you just say 'See this area? You can't leave it. Cool? Okay, moving on with the game...'?

Quote
luring them to the plot- or else, to initiate their own plot
Second eek!

How important is plot here? It's atleast a secondary priority or such, right? You know sports callers, when they report a game and in doing so they kind of tack a story onto the events of the sports match? Isn't that's all that's needed?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 20, 2009, 11:14:58 PM
Quote
Do you see a pattern in how to make these puzzles, or are they each sort of crafted individually rather than derivations from a certain pattern?

The puzzles- not really any pattern, mostly just takes at familiar puzzles that I've tried to improve in some way- combined with some color that I like, and whenever possible, something story integral. I start with either an interesting puzzle idea, or a color/story idea, and then I combine it with the other. I'd like to tell the story with puzzles, fights, and problems as far as possible. The less narration, the better. As for the problems/obstacles, I've been trying to just make a tricky situation without a planned solution, and make sure it isn't impossible- indeed, easy is best- just hard enough to make the players feel clever. Climb out of a steeple somehow? I didn't even know the player would play a wizard with mage hand that session, there were dozens of ways to solve that connundrum. I try to make it funny too, since it is a little unrealistic, and blend the humor with horror for a revulsion effect over the long run.

Except for the part about developing an area thoroughly, and combining storytelling and puzzles, the below section is a little off topic for the puzzle thread, just to warn ye

Quote
on 'keeping the players from just leaving the entire area', eek!

yeah, I was thinking of putting up a huge invisible wall to avoid illusionism. I don't want to pretend they have can do something they can't. What happened last campaign is the party just fled the country after robbing some nobles, and left for the boring neighboring country. I'd like to put a lot of work into a specific area, and I can't do it if they wander over the whole world map at every moment- i'd like to focus on quality over a medium-large area instead. So, large invisible wall should be fine, especially since there's a strong humor tone [that will blend into horror over time, muw haw haw]

Quote
Second eek!

What I want to try with this particular campaign, which will be a little less open ended than I usually do, is tell a story with puzzles, fights, and problem solving elements over many adventures. The story will be an adventure hook [hopefully!!!!], and learning the story will help to solve and reveal further problems, and on and on. I want to avoid leaning on the story too heavily- the focus should be on gameplay and roleplaying, but I want to experiment with storytelling using this approach. Each story fragment should feel, if not like something interesting to know, then a part of a map or a piece of a puzzle to advance further into the campaign- a wedge to dig deeper with for more gameplay and roleplaying. Another reason I don't want them leaving the area- I can't develop anything in detail if i dont know where it is, and its blatant backstabbing to just move dungeons wherever they travel- illusionism, which I want to avoid except where its funny... which isn't often. There's been a touch of railroading, but it's been comically blatant and we've had a lot of fun with it, since I only want to use it for certain things to initiate other things.

I realize this is counter intuitive, and against a lot of RPG doctrine, but its also against my regular practice and I think I can make it turn out but it'll take a deft hand...

====================
If my posts seem a little incoherent, it's cause i'm struggling to find time to write them. Any questions and I'll fill in any details I left out/muddled.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 21, 2009, 11:37:37 PM
Quote
would think (again, without looking it up) that a puzzle is some sort of challenge that has a set solution (or solutions) you have to come up with in order to resolve the challenge.

Any specific puzzles you have in mind that worked out well for ye?? :D


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on August 26, 2009, 01:42:13 PM
Drawing a blank for some puzzles right now. I need about a dozen decent ones to allow multiple avenues of exploration. I want to use a cipher for messages between elven groups, but I don't know how to make one that will be easy enough to solve PnP, without being too simple. Anyone have an example/hint? all the ciphers I've done have been in cpu games, with rotating knobs and stuff.

I think a book cipher could be good.

I also want an unfinished monument in the middle of nowhere that they find, and later on find bricks and diagrams for it in another area, but I'd like to do it so that its more of a puzzle and less obvious than that. Finishing the monument will unlock an area or trigger some stuff.

I'd like a puzzle that involves comparing local maps to regional maps to figure out where they apply to, but in PnP [pen n paper], without a lot of trial and error, skill checks, or hours of mapping, I'm not sure its feasible.

In Nostradamus, the Last Prophecy, there's a neat puzzle at the start that involves creating a disguise accurately. There's not really any pictures in PnP, so I'm not sure I can run a similar one without vexing the players!

I'd also like some sherlock holmes deduction moments, but a bit easier on the players, and without providing too many clues. I'll need to indicate that there's a deduction to be had, and yet i can't find my Arthur conan doyle books right now. Any clever tricks you recall him using/scenarios? I know that the part about figuring out somebody's profession by callouses has some potential for coolness [good ol' perception checks]

Lastly, since the party is a mixed evil-good mostly-violent group, has anybody a suggestion for designing puzzles that involve NPCs, especially evil NPCs, that don't end in torture, threats, or murder?

==================================

Not many puzzles last session, but let me say that the makers of the Dungeon Delve product never expected such comprehensively superior tactics to be used against the 'Delve's' inhabitants. Without modifications, unless the party just rambos in mindlessly out of a desire for a thrill, there's no challenge in them! More puzzle-outcome updates to come approx. weekly...


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on September 05, 2009, 12:49:24 AM
Puzzle-solving doesn't seem like much of a group activity- it really only takes one brain and a little determination. I think the players realize this, because usually with any slightly-tough puzzle, they just sit back and let the wizard and/or the swordmage handle it, only getting involved when those 2 fail to find a solution- which is fair, honestly. Its just duplication of efforts. Therefore, I'm not so sure that these sorts of puzzles occasion more than sporadic appearances... sadly...

If I'm not mistaken, I think I'll have more success with a problem-solving orientation instead of a puzzle-solving one. Sorry to create a distinction that's so unclear, but what I mean by problem is something like a tunnel going down with no rope or ladder, and a puzzle is more like a riddle or a safe-combination or a cipher. With problems each player can find a different acceptable solution, and then debate which is best, generating a lot more engaging and useful activity than a puzzle.

I also think that any puzzle or problem that's included should have multiple elements that need to be resolved before the problem goes away. For example- instead of entering the single correct key-code into the wall panel, you insert each of 6 special keys or numbers obtained elsewhere, involving 6 elements instead of 1. What i'm thinking is that this way, each player has something to do- get a key [somehow], and the group reduces the problem in chunks. defeating 10 orcs in combat is similar: the problem has 10 elements and you reduce it 1 chunk [orc] at a time, and actually, about 60hp per orc at a time, allowing for further combination of efforts.

One problem I'm working on is a docile town that is in danger of an orc raid: each player has a lot to do to get the town ready to defend itself, since the problem has so many elements to it and has to be in chunks, and there's so many ways to do it. Assuming the players don't just leave town, lol.

On another note, is there a way to make exploring a wilderness area interesting in a table-top game? In keeping with sandbox ideas, I wouldn't mind a bit wilderness area that's there to explore, but I can't imagine how to make it interesting to do so- its so much easier in cpu games.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 05, 2009, 02:14:25 PM
If they sit back, perhaps their just not into any sort of gamist puzzle solving? I don't see anything that would stop them thinking on the answer, except disinterest.

Finding a different acceptable solution is just watering down the gamism - and if they aren't into it, you can never water it down enough. Rather than watered down, completely gone and they are free to give the 'solution' that just perfectly slots into the dream they have, is what they will sit forward for. It'll be all about maintaining that dreams integrity.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on September 07, 2009, 03:01:49 AM
Could you clarify a bit? I think a word or 2 got left out

Quote
Rather than watered down, completely gone and they are free


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 07, 2009, 01:29:30 PM
I'll rephrase it - The ones who sit back probably dont want more acceptable solutions, they just want whatever fits the dream. They probably get no real life buzz from finding solutions - that's why they sit back and leave it to the sword mage/wizard.

I'm thinking if they are sitting back now, it doesn't matter how many acceptable solutions you allow in, they just don't get a real life buzz from finding solutions/overcoming real life puzzles. They would only be happy when it ceases to be a real life puzzle entirely and it's just the dream of a puzzle. Zero step on up, all dream.

Well, that's what's coming up on my radar as a fairly strong blip. That doesn't mean it's right, it just means it's worth mulling over and checking is any evidence toward that exists.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on September 08, 2009, 01:21:43 AM
Quote
The ones who sit back probably don't want more acceptable solutions, they just want whatever fits the dream.

I get you now. I'm remodeling the campaign- I'll hopefully be using puzzles to unlock/reveal new areas of the sandbox, a task they can leave up to whoever they wish, while incorporating more combat and roleplaying elements. The structure of the campaign as I'm modeling it... I'd love to discuss elsewhere, I summed up some ideas here, its not for sure yet:

http://scrollean.blogspot.com/

But basically puzzles will serve the specific role of expanding the size and depth of the sandbox as they start to scratch at the edges of the box. More when its not so late...


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on September 16, 2009, 08:36:51 PM
Good results with the warm up method. I put 3 very hard fights leading up to the puzzle section, and when they got to the puzzle they were so determined to beat it that every player participated and stayed up an extra hour that night to finish it, to 1 instead of 12 when our host planned to end things.

The puzzle itself was to uncover clues about how to get the cave witch to appear in a large, mushroom-forest area underground and grant them entry to the otherworld: they had to perform a specific dance to specific music to a lit fire; they learned the steps by reanimating dead dancers and copying them, using comprehend languages to learn the musical notes, and eating ceremonial mushrooms that gave further visual clues about the ritual they were performing. If they did parts in the wrong order it would ruin the ritual, they'd be attacked, and they could move on and the room would reset as they went deeper down the tunnel. As to incorporating story, the witch is a barrier to keep out the unworthy, and since they had to fight the witch afterwards, it will be seen that the people of that culture refer to swordplay and combat as a dance, which will have further magical effects in the future.

It wasn't an ideal puzzle, but it really cleared up whether the approach would work.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: chronoplasm on September 18, 2009, 01:52:59 PM
I haven't run this in an actual group yet, but I have been brainstorming a puzzle-type encounter for 4E.
Various users on rpg.net have given input on it here:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=474052



Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 18, 2009, 06:20:29 PM
It sounds like those hard fights drove home a certain approach to the game, AzaLiN!

Speaking of them, an old curly question is what is the established procedure if a character died, or the whole party TPK'ed during those hard encounters? I'm asking about previously established procedure, rather than what you might make up on the fly if it happened. It's a hard question - I'm just asking out of interest in terms of what you've developed on the matter. :)


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on September 20, 2009, 01:07:45 AM
I ruthlessly butchered the paladin earlier tonight. Everyone looked pleased. He was coup de graced 4 times (2 misses). Now that the party is negotiating with the orcs that killed him, they're talking in the presence of the head on a stick in the command tent. Its gold. The point is, I think that PC death is being well received so far. I've arranged a good game-world reason for the influx of new adventurers (specifically, they're being lured in the same way as the actual PC party was, by chasing pact stones and trying to get into old ruins). Um, the game-world right now is a semi-mystical place that they can't get out of without getting the help of a powerful faction, or satisfying the one who lured them there.

But for TPKs, I'm working on game-world mechanics to handle them. I think they're important for gameplay, in this case. The party has several raise dead scrolls, they've used 1 already, but those don't address TPKs. I want it to be so that they can be TPK'd up to 3x per session without slowing things down too much, and I want a game-world solution that will usually result in the PCs just getting back on their feet and back into the fight, but surely with a decent helping of 'permanent' death as well. I think I have one, but I want to think on it more before implementing it. (3x is max, there should be less, what i mean is that I want them to be only a minor hiccup in gameplay). It'll probably revolve around custom rituals, or artifacts, and a certain amount of permanent PC death will still occur. Lots of treasure to make up for paying for these rituals.

For puzzles- this one is more problem-like. They actually negotiated with the orcs, surprising me, as I mentioned above, and what the orc demanded was 20 human scalps to prove their intentions. So, to get the scalps without betraying either faction of the 4 factions they're working for, they're harvesting undead scalps right now, and theorizing about using doctored animal hides. The hard part is doing so despite being 3 levels too low for an even close to standard fight. I'm letting them powergame and double-deal, and its been good so far. The nice thing is that after they betray the orcs (for various pre-decided reasons), because there's so many of them, and the nature of the setting, he continues to be an important NPC afterwards, attacking whatever faction they side with as revenge. I'm using 'hit point stacks' to address lag in big combats (somewhere on this site http://arsludi.lamemage.com/?s=stack i couldn't find the exact link).

The next thing i want to implement is puzzle random encounters (for random encounters, I actually use the dice very little, and just harass/ambush/track them constantly outside of town, according to how the pacing seems to need). The PC location when the encounter occurs determines the location of the puzzle/setting. It should give me huge options to improvise during play.

Its 3 am here, so forgive me if this is a little scatter brained.

Chronoplasm: I love your encounter. Would you mind if I borrowed it? I especially like how the PCs can circumvent it- they'll be very pleased with themselves when they disregard the boat-ferry aspect and that's when they really beat the puzzle. So, they have 2 satisfying solutions, just make sure they realize the conditions of the puzzle include encumbrance and gnolls trying to escape, and be sure to remember that the PCs might just negotiate with the gnolls to cooperate for a few hours.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: chronoplasm on September 21, 2009, 09:17:09 AM
[quote author=AzaLiN link=topic=28444.msg269689#msg269689 date=1253437665

Chronoplasm: I love your encounter. Would you mind if I borrowed it? I especially like how the PCs can circumvent it- they'll be very pleased with themselves when they disregard the boat-ferry aspect and that's when they really beat the puzzle. So, they have 2 satisfying solutions, just make sure they realize the conditions of the puzzle include encumbrance and gnolls trying to escape, and be sure to remember that the PCs might just negotiate with the gnolls to cooperate for a few hours.
[/quote]

Go ahead. I want to see what other people can do with it.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 21, 2009, 02:54:15 PM
Hi Azalin,

Sounds nifty. I guess I was asking in terms of any sort of resistance on the matter, which it doesn't sound like you have. For example I was talking with a friend who was GM'ing, after the game, and he was basically saying he would fudge deaths because 'it wouldn't be very fun to die'. So I said why not have it as a rule that you can't die, just get your butt kicked to a corner and you crawl away into cover, or such? He wouldn't go that way either, yet he wanted to maintain the idea you could die (which was obviously an illusion).


Hi Chronoplasm,

Ack, just read that thread you linked to! It's almost a condensation of all gamer shit responces to challenge, from over three decades! Working outside the box is great, but when you can actually solve the puzzle within the box but can't figure out how to do it, you aught to admit you've failed at doing that before resorting to outside the box/knocking out the gnolls/etc moves. But do they? This is precisely how fiction typically destroys challenge, because "Oh, I knock them all out" - wow, that was hard to think of! What a challenge it must have been to figure that one out!

Working outside the box often leads to just really limp solutions. Not to mention the very first responce post, which just rejects it overall - if someone's into gamism, why are they identifying a puzzle/challenge, and rejecting it? Because they aren't into gamism. Or their into some sort of bitterest gamer gamism, where the fiction has gnawed away challenge so much all they have left with is something that's solved by knocking out all the gnolls/something completely weak ass. A thousand times better to have a fox and geese problem (which defies some options the fiction insists are there) than to just default to that.

Anyway, I think the key issue there is that you try and solve the puzzle while staying withing the puzzles 'box'. And if you can't, you admit it (a key element of gamism) and then go on to a solution that solves it from outside the box. I'll post that in that thread - watch for the alergic responces (for people who don't want to do gamism and are alergic to it, fair enough - but you'll see other alergic reactions from people not in that situation).



Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 21, 2009, 03:31:08 PM
I'll just clarify, I'm refering to the responces to your initial challenge idea, Chrono. Your puzzle situation is good, but I'm looking at my sentence structure and it could be read the wrong way, so just clarifying just in case!


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: chronoplasm on September 21, 2009, 04:34:37 PM
I got it. :)

I think I have a possible solution:
Dangle a shiny special prize in front of the players. This is their reward if they play the game by its seemingly arbitrary rules. If they sidestep the parameters of the challenge, but succeed, they are still rewarded but it will be a lesser reward.
A good way to explain these arbitrary rules might be with a bit of simple magical handwavium. Perhaps the reason the gnolls fear and refuse to swim the river is because it is enchanted somehow?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 21, 2009, 05:14:23 PM
I was thinking basically the same thing, though in terms of XP. The most XP for solving it in the box, and perhaps a third or a quater (or some such reduction) of that if you solve it by a means outside the box. Or in terms of explicit esteem, solving it in the box gets the most, while solving it outside gets some approval (it's good, but not as hard to do). Trying to go outside the box without admitting it was too tough and they give in, no esteem....actually, as I write that, I realise the XP thing from above gives the wrong message for that (and indeed so does your prize idea, if it was going for that). Because they could shift to the lesser XP solution without having admitted the in the box puzzle was too tough. It's like they get esteem without having to admit their prior failure. Which I think bypasses the point of even giving an in the box challenge, as I'm thinking about it at the moment - it's basically being ignored, in that case.

Quote
A good way to explain these arbitrary rules might be with a bit of simple magical handwavium. Perhaps the reason the gnolls fear and refuse to swim the river is because it is enchanted somehow?

I'm inclined to think anyone who wants gamism and some reasonbly solid fiction as a side dish, with apply polyfiller to any gaps in the fiction, so to speak. Hell, I do that with TV when they do something that doesn't quite make sense. And you did say blood river after all...sounds nasty to me! I wouldn't go in! (see, I'm doing it even as we speak!)

While I think people who don't want to fill in those gaps, either don't want gamism to begin with or don't realise that a few tears and gaps in the fiction is better than flawless fiction that, as in the bitterest gamer, presents challenge rarely/on a monkeys might fly out of my butt basis.

I'm actually thinking you don't need arbitrary rules, just explicit notification of the puzzles boundry line "Knock the gnolls out you say - well, that's something that seems like it'd work, but it's an action that's outside of the puzzles boundries. I assure you, it is possible to solve the puzzle without doing that. *slight teasing in voice* But if ya wanna say you give up then we can look into that...."


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: FredGarber on September 22, 2009, 09:34:44 AM
Just an FYI, before you try this:
With four gnolls and four guards, and a two person canoe ?  There is no "In the box" solution.

And the "standard" puzzle of 3x3 requires (at more than one point) two gnolls to row alone, and one to return alone to the guards with the canoe: not likely.  There's even one point where all three gnolls are on the far side, and all three guards will be on the starting side. 

I agree with the poster in the other thread that if my GM gave me a "standard" puzzle like this I would just roll an INT, and then go Google the answer.

-Fred


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: chronoplasm on September 22, 2009, 09:47:26 AM
Just an FYI, before you try this:
With four gnolls and four guards, and a two person canoe ?  There is no "In the box" solution.

And the "standard" puzzle of 3x3 requires (at more than one point) two gnolls to row alone, and one to return alone to the guards with the canoe: not likely.  There's even one point where all three gnolls are on the far side, and all three guards will be on the starting side. 

I agree with the poster in the other thread that if my GM gave me a "standard" puzzle like this I would just roll an INT, and then go Google the answer.

-Fred

Heh. Yeah, I guess that's one of the problems with using puzzles in games. Sometimes the DM screws up and makes a broken puzzle. Heh. :)  It's a good thing I haven't actually subjected any players to this yet. I'll get it fixed up somehow.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 22, 2009, 02:19:47 PM
I sat down with it and it works out

1. Player takes one gnoll to the other side

2. Player takes another gnoll (G2) to the other side. By strict wording of the puzzle, they attack when they are superior in numbers to PC on that side, and the PC is staying in the boat. He's not on that side! The wording doesn't describe them running off or anything, so they can be left there. Also it fits my imagination in that the player turfs the gnoll out of the boat and gets out of there pronto - but as I said before, I'm willing to patch the fiction to support the gamism. If you only want the fiction to happen how it'd just seem to happen...that's either sim or bitterest gamer territory.

3. Player takes another player (P2) to the other side. The both get out and now they equal the gnolls numbers, who are now co operative.

4. They send G1 back in the boat.

5. G1 brings over G3 in the boat. And lest we get onto the likelyhood of this, this is something that shits me - if someone says they're into the challenge, why, as soon as the fiction of the puzzle doesn't seem quite right, do they toss out the challenge? If they're doing that, in practical terms, they're not there for gamism. Preserving the integrity of the fiction has first priority with them, if they're doing that. And once it's first, gamism is not.

6. G3 is deposited on the other shore, where P1, P2 and G1 are. G3 is sent back again, because he's a filthy gnoll and can do all the work! >:)

7. G3 brings P3 over to the other side. There's just G4 and P4 on the other side now.

8. G3 brings G4 over.

9. G3 brings P4 over and then gets out himself. Ta da! Solveable! Where's my cookie!?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 22, 2009, 02:27:09 PM
That should be G1 being sent back in step 6 and doing all the work in the following steps. Gnolls...they all look alike, it's not hard to mix 'em up!


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 23, 2009, 09:17:11 AM
I don't really think the gnoll puzzle plays to the strengths of RPGs.  It might be a fun puzzle to solve in a puzzle-book, but I think putting it in the context of an RPG just weakens it.

Callan, you're saying you don't understand why someone dedicated to the gamist agenda would try to come up with an alternate solution/'realistic' interpretation of the rules?  I think it's because the gamist strength of roleplaying games is that they present more complicated situations than board games/puzzle books can.  RPGs allow for 'outside the box' thinking because they give a human arbitrator who can take unexpected solutions to problems and use common sense to determine how well/poorly they work.  If you discourage that kind of thinking you're minimizing the big advantage RPGs have over other puzzle-providing hobbies.

The other reason I think is that a big part of the gamist mindset is often a desire for maximum efficiency/power.  This desire has a bad habit of encouraging min/maxing, breaking games, and taking the easy way out of puzzles, but it's not at its heart a bad thing.  It's the desire to push forward, forward, forward.  Burning passion and a desire for limitless expansion, pushing the limits of what you can do in a constant effort for self-betterment.  The moment you start doing anything but the most effective solution to a problem you're limiting yourself unnecessarily, an action that's the antithesis of this desire.  There's just something painful about having an effective and easy option hanging within reach, but then sitting down and taking the sub-optimal route because that's the way the GM wants you to do it.

It's a weird distinction, but I think 'Situations' are a lot better suited for RPGs than 'Puzzles', although there's so much overlap between the two it's a bit like drawing a distinction between being 'angry' and 'mad'.  Basically, I think that rather than tossing a logic or sudoku or math puzzle at the party with a totally predetermined 'correct' answer it's better to just provide a situation that if handled poorly could be dangerous, and if handled well could provide benefit.  The blood and sarcophagus/pit trap puzzles from earlier in the thread are good examples.  They allow the players to keep approaching the game creatively and don't ask for any artificial reduction of efficiency.  They take advantage of the fact that there's a GM sitting at the table that can understand complicated solutions, as opposed to the gnoll problem which a computer or answer-booklet could just as easily handle.

That said, 'not taking full advantage of the strengths of RPGs' isn't that bad of a crime.  If the players all like puzzles like the gnoll boat thing and state beforehand that they'd enjoy a RP session that occasionally turns into a logic puzzle then you should absolutely put puzzles like that in.  I've just seen a lot of trouble bubble up when the player's don't actively like that sort of thing (and not just because they're an 'imperfect gamist' or anything) and the GM just won't stop throwing that kind of puzzle at them.  Although it can be really jarring to suddenly have the game for all intents and purposes stop being a RPG and turn into something else, it is something that lots of RPGs do.  4th ed D&D basically turns into a board game during combat, and this is fine, but only as long as it's something the players are aware of before-game and actively desire.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: FredGarber on September 23, 2009, 01:42:33 PM
I sat down with it and it works out

2. Player takes another gnoll (G2) to the other side. By strict wording of the puzzle, they attack when they are superior in numbers to PC on that side, and the PC is staying in the boat. He's not on that side! The wording doesn't describe them running off or anything, so they can be left there. Also it fits my imagination in that the player turfs the gnoll out of the boat and gets out of there pronto - but as I said before, I'm willing to patch the fiction to support the gamism. If you only want the fiction to happen how it'd just seem to happen...that's either sim or bitterest gamer territory.

rings P4 over and then gets out himself. Ta da! Solveable! Where's my cookie!?


1. Gnolls are not Kobolds.  They're seven foot tall hyena-men.    Nobody's "Turfing" them out of a canoe, especially when they're religiously afraid of the water  :)
2. Your solution depends upon bending the rules ("Stop biting, Mr. Gnoll!  I'm in the boat, not on the shore!") as much as ignoring the canoe and building a raft does.

There's too much fiction you have to bend to get to the number crunching, for me.  If I wanted to sit around and number crunch with people I'd stay at work :)

You get a bent cookie :)

-Fred 


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 23, 2009, 04:00:08 PM
Hi Misha,

Quote
I think it's because the gamist strength of roleplaying games is that they present more complicated situations than board games/puzzle books can.
Well, let's test whether they do present more complicated situations.

To get the solution I did, I had to sit down for some time and think about it (and I did look at the goose and fox puzzle, which is similar, so it would perhaps have been harder without that).
Now looking at the RPG.net thread, you have people...knocking the gnolls out. Or tying them to a tree. Did they have to scratch their heads for these solutions? Was it hard to think of? Even a more complicated one, like using cone of cold to make an ice bridge, does that require much thinking? And as you say yourself, that'd be innefficient anyway, using a daily when you could tie them to a tree or knock them out.

With the bitterest gamer, it's noted that naturally flowing fiction rarely delivers challenge. What hasn't really been looked at is how the idea of fiction, even if a challenge is presented, erodes the challenge level way, way down. I think you'll find RPG's actually present LESS complicated situations than board games/puzzle books - perhaps giving the illusion of more complexity, but when push comes to shove, the thinking involved is lower.

But keep in mind the model I said before : Try an in the box solution first for the most points. If you can't manage it, admit it and then go for the fiction/outside the box method, for not as much points, but points all the same. Less points, because it's simply not as hard - thinking of tying them to a tree does not involve a mental work out at all. Most of us would just be repeating past games in doing that, even, which involves no thought.

Quote
There's just something painful about having an effective and easy option hanging within reach,
Well, I'm talking in terms of designing and about not making that option be within reach at all (for the initial in the box attempt). It's a bit hard to talk about design when you've already decided it will be within reach and have closed the case on considering the alternative.

Currently, in terms of self improvement, it looks like someone who's on the bench press and has the option of 10kg weights or 1kg weights and is saying "But it's painful to not take the effective and easy option" and I would say yes, no pain no gain! So I'm saying sever your damn option to have 1kg weights from the design! :) Well actually I'm being pretty soft still - you are forced to try 10kg, and if you can't, you admit it and then you go onto the 1kg weight. You might argue it's more than 1kg, but honestly, if you can't do the 10kg weight, it's definately less than 10kg, that's for sure!

Can we talk about severing that option that you say is within reach? I can't make you obviously, but at the same time you don't have a line of arguement in saying it's always within reach - that's just your design choice to keep it in reach and not how it has to be (as if it were as fixed as the laws of physics or something).


Hi Fred,

Really chrono thought he'd stuffed up and had no fixed solution - really I'm humbly suggesting that works as a solution. If he decides to adopt it as the fixed answer, then I'm right. If not, then I'm not right. That will determine who, if anyone, is bending the rules, rather than you or I deciding it/arguing it. And really I haven't won in the proper sense, let me disclaim - the solution aught to have been set prior to me trying to figure it out. Making up a solution then getting the designer/GM to okay it - where's the challenge there, eh? Your right, it's just alot of making stuff up and bending words. If your workplace is politics, better to stay at work then. :)


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 23, 2009, 06:04:40 PM
Relating to the gnoll problem, you have some interesting points, but I still don't think it's well suited for inclusion in an RPG session.  Difficulty isn't the issue; it's more that it a) has to be forced, somewhat unnaturally, into the fiction and b) it requires an extremely different approach than the expected line of play.

In response to a), it's not that the puzzle isn't fun or challenging, but by putting it into the RPG you suddenly mutate either the rules of the RP world or the puzzle itself.  Either you have the option of the easy way out hanging over you or you just completely change the rules of the game temporarily while the puzzle's in effect.  Either way it just doesn't flow well with the game.  If the players enjoy that kind of puzzle in general they'll probably enjoy it, but the artificial changes you have to hack into the system to make it work leave that compromise of system just hanging over them as they do so.  They might enjoy the puzzle, but will they enjoy it more than if they were just doing it outside of the context of the game?  I don't really buy the idea of the gamist as a Platonic ideal, with no attachment to the setting or the story.  By virtue of the fact that they're playing a RPG rather than a board game or filling out a puzzle book they obviously find the fiction to be important on some level, even if not a large one.

It's true that situations generally aren't as 'hard' as puzzles; there's no one 'right answer' to them, although there very much are 'wrong answers'.  They're about gathering information and trying to figure out what path of action grants the maximum reward for the minimum risk..  When I said that they're more complex I meant that there are countless variables that have to be considered when deciding how to respond to them.  Even so, a well-made computer program could solve the gnoll problem, while even very basic situations would be incomprehensible to it.  The thing is, the human brain is all about dealing with this type of complexity, so it seems easier to us.  Situations are all about dealing with and minimizing uncertainty and once you've done everything you can to minimize the risk taking the leap into the unknown.  It's not hard in the way that that a logic puzzle or lifting weights is, but it's still exhilarating in its own way.

Which brings me to b).  That process of minimizing uncertainty and then surrendering to chance is the basic form of RPGs.  It's what people are expecting, so you can be pretty sure that everyone present will enjoy it.  Changing the type of challenge isn't bad by itself, but it's not something you should do without knowing your audience and being certain they'll be for it.  It's similar to if you decided that the number of push-ups you can do in a minute will determine how much damage an attack does; if one of the players hates doing push-ups it's going to be a game-breaker for them.  Even if the player enjoys push-ups there's a chance they'll dislike it due to being in a roleplaying mindset rather than an exercise one.  Offering the 'less XP if you just knock them out'  option lessens this to an extent, but it just makes issue a) worse, and I still feel like a well-run RPG should offer XP and other rewards for the players engaging in activities that they enjoy.  Otherwise you just end up with the dilemma of "Well, I can either not have fun or I can be ineffective," which really isn't fun for anyone.

But hey, if you know the players and know they love computational puzzles, then you should absolutely toss stuff like the gnoll puzzle in.  Issue b) is really more of a social contract thing than anything else, I think.  I've just heard a lot of people frustrated because "I came here to roleplay, not solve riddles all night."

The gnoll example is a little weird for this discussion, because it completely ignored cheap-ways-out when it was designed, so of course the basic out-of-box solutions are going to be simple and unsatisfying.  The blood example from earlier on in the thread is a better example, where the party had to weigh the risk of each being weakened by splitting the blood between each of them with the risk of a blood substitute not being accepted with the moral risk of sacrificing a hireling with the risk of hunting down a monster to use the blood of with the risk of sacrificing one of their own to let the party advance (okay, I'm not sure if every one of these options were present during this specific example since I don't have details, but the point remains valid).  There's always the risk that a situation like this will have a no-brain easy solution that the GM just didn't consider, but skilled design can considerable lower this risk.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 23, 2009, 08:34:15 PM
Misha, this is, as I'd expect, going into fiction first (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28608.msg269477#msg269477) territory.
Quote
suddenly mutate either the rules of the RP world or the puzzle itself.
Rules of the RP world, you say? And who determines these rules? A council of elders somewhere? May I meet them, person to person? Of course, there isn't any such council and yet your very certain, I'm sure, that such rules exist, like just about every other gamer I've ever spoken with.

You modify your own physical behaviour to match these rules, and yet...can you even name the origin of these rules of the RP world you speak of? Who invented them? Where did they come from? And yet your changing your own lifes course to follow rules that you don't even know the origin of? Whatever it is that twitches and turns those rules, eventually determines atleast part of your own lifes direction - yet you don't know what it is that twitches and turns those rules (and in doing so, twitches and turns you as a human being)? And you'd advise me to adhere to rules you couldn't name the origin of, as well? That I must craft with these rules firmly in mind?

That's religion.

I know I'm not getting onto your other points, but they are smaller circles inside the largest circle that are these 'rules of the RP world' you talk about. We couldn't find any common ground on the smaller circles because of the big difference of your largest circle. Or maybe I'm wrong and you can describe the origin down to an individual - but even then, that will have been your choice to be loyal to that guys plan (or if it's your own plan, loyal to your own), which isn't an arguement by itself for me to follow his/your 'rules of the RP world'. I simply don't operate with some 'rules of the RP world' hovering over my shoulder.

Sorry to get all Richard Dawkins in your thread, AzaLiN. :( I'm trying to cut off as early as possible.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 24, 2009, 09:41:54 AM
You're making some weird assumptions about where I'm coming from.  The rules aren't religion, they're an agreement the players make with the GM about how conflict is resolved/etc.  The Council of Wizards won't pepper your house with lightening bolts if you break 'the rules', but the game does start creeping into Calvinball-type territory.  It's not the end of the world, but it does seem distasteful to me, like using a lens-flare in photoshop.  Don't do it unless it's really appropriate for the setting/audience.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 24, 2009, 02:01:42 PM
Can you or your GM write down all the rules of the RP world you mentioned, Misha? If not, then your following rules/altering your real life behaviour to follow the directions of an unknown origin. Also in terms of any rules that are printed, you only use them if the fiction seems to call upon their use, right? Your talking fiction comes first. I'm talking rules come first - start with rules and fiction only happens if the rules prompt fiction to be made and fiction only decides things if those same rules grant it a capacity to decide something. Fiction first vs rules first is probably an even bigger divide than that found between nar vs sim creative agendas, and such like. Regardless of my feelings on whether somethings a religion, I have a very different approach but you started this arguement as if I have your approach, but I'm doing it wrong/not meeting the requirements of your approach. I think I've pointed out some things but I'm taking up space, so I'll leave it at saying there is a large divide between our mutual approaches.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 25, 2009, 08:02:44 AM
Oh, oops, you were talking about the 'rules of the world' as opposed to the 'rules of the system'?  What I meant was that it was awkward just going 'by the way, combat doesn't work here, you're going to have to resolve this scene as a puzzle' without any justification from the fiction.  If you mean more like 'by the way, the gnolls are going to cooperate with you/not murder you if you're on the boat and they aren't', then go buck wild as long as you're not being contradictory with what you've already established.  I still think it's awkward forcing the party to shut off the intuitive part of their problem solving minds and relying completely on computational problem solving when intuitive problem solving is the one thing RPGs do better than anything else, but as long as you're not flippantly contradicting 'rules of the world' you've already established in play, then yeah, do what you want.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 25, 2009, 05:07:52 PM
What would you do if it did flippantly contradict the 'rules of the world'? Reject the challenge? Because new material fitting into the game world actually has first priority, ahead of consideration of the challenge?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 25, 2009, 07:38:18 PM
I wouldn't straight up reject it as a player, but I would find it obnoxious.  It'd be like if a character in a movie's identity changed for a scene without reason or explanation, like if there was a scene in Conan where Conan inexplicably strides in wearing a robe and wizard hat and just throws fireballs at his enemies rather than using a sword, and then after that scene it was never done/referenced again.  Fluid identity/setting can work well as a technique (Exit the King makes fantastic use of it, for example), but it's not something you can use unless the entirety of the game is built to facilitate/benefit from it.  Compromising the consistency of the fiction or 'rules of the world' or whatever isn't the end of the world, but I wouldn't do it flippantly.  I'd either do it for a crowd of players who are expecting it and agreed to it, or I'd build the entire campaign in a way that takes full advantage of the newfound fluidity.  Doing it out of the blue without a plan would just feel sloppy to me.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 26, 2009, 01:26:23 AM
Well, there's another thing you apparently have to obey, coming up
Quote
but it's not something you can use unless the entirety of the game...
Again, where is the council of elders who decided it's not something you can use? This is what fiction first seems to do - it seems to simply generate what you can and can't do out of thin air. It's never attributable to a person, it's always just 'how things are'.

But I'm getting into all that again. I'll put it this way - if with a particular product, the instructions have not told the person to imagine stuff (which is clear from just reading it - and by clear I mean it has given no instruction to do imagine things) and yet they insist on imagining things and then when the next rules 'flippantly contradict the rules of the game world' they call it obnoxious, the problem was this person wasn't following the rules.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 26, 2009, 08:26:02 AM
Again, where is the council of elders who decided it's not something you can use? This is what fiction first seems to do - it seems to simply generate what you can and can't do out of thin air. It's never attributable to a person, it's always just 'how things are'.

But I'm getting into all that again. I'll put it this way - if with a particular product, the instructions have not told the person to imagine stuff (which is clear from just reading it - and by clear I mean it has given no instruction to do imagine things) and yet they insist on imagining things and then when the next rules 'flippantly contradict the rules of the game world' they call it obnoxious, the problem was this person wasn't following the rules.

What I mean is that the parts of the game it weakens, such as the ability to use past information to plan ahead (important to some flavors of gamist play), immersion (I don't think it's the be-all end-all of roleplaying like some players, but it's not something I'd toss away without a reason), and so on will usually detract from the enjoyment of the players more than whatever the benefits you're getting out of it unless it's a natural conclusion of whatever style of game you're running.

The 'unless the entirety of the game' bit is kind of related to my general GMing philosophy, that you should try to make every part of the game support every other part of the game.  Have an experience in mind and give the players a world and opportunities that provides that experience.  If the players aren't flowing well with what you had in mind you should try to match their tone, but once you've worked out an experience with them that works try to make sure everything you do enhances that experience rather than distracts from it.  Err, this explanation is a little vague and probably doesn't communicate what I mean very well, but getting into it for real would be a pretty dire derail.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: DWeird on September 26, 2009, 09:09:10 AM
OK, so if I get Callan right, what's good about the boxed gnoll puzzle is because you CAN attribute it to a single person - the GM who challenges his players to solve it.

Now, while still in Callan's point of view (not putting words in your mouth here, but trying to develop the chain of thought I glimpsed and see if it makes any sense to you), I'd have the following issue: game text trumps GM any time. My character's ability to knock out gnolls is based on skills, items and spells I have. These are based on challenges I faced and choices I made during chargen. These are based on the rules that are provided in the game text.

So what is the GM doing when he's saying "solve this puzzle without using these other tools you have"? He's either:

A) being an asshole who's removing pre-defined segments of the game that have higher authority than his decree (the series of game text applications that lead to my character's current gnoll-knocking abilities) on an unjustified whim. It's roughly equal to a player declaring that "we won't be using hotels in this game" after I've developed half the board into those.

B) issuing a challenge that I can either take or leave. "Well, I see you've developed half the board into hotels... How about, for a more interesting game, you don't use them, eh?" It's perfectly valid for me to say "screw you, you already lost!", take the boring hour it takes to reduce him to bankcrupcy, and be over with it. I don't become less of a player because I turned down a challenge that did not have any basis in the original rules, that we did not agree on in advance, and did not have any precedent in our prior play.

Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm being a good sport in turning down the challenge, nor does it mean that Monopoly without the hotels wouldn't have made that particular game more interesting. But a good sport =/= a good player. As far as I can gather, gamism is primarily about being a good player - solving challenges to the best result with least effort wasted, and not being a good sport - solving challenges in a pleasing, aesthetical and ethical way.

So if a GM is presenting a challenge that removes options that I had present before, it's equal to him saying "you're too good a player. How about a handicap to our strengths on the same level?".


God knows what any of this has to do with puzzles, though.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 26, 2009, 02:36:09 PM
Misha, if the designer decides to use past information or immersion, then those things are a concern. If/where he doesn't, they aren't. It's not a matter of fact that the designer is forced to have those things all through his design, if at all. And I'm saying that as a fact of the situation, like the laws of physics, rather than a right a designer has. Indeed a designer is stuck in that position, physically. We could enshrine that as a right, but whether we do, designers are stuck there either way.


Hi DWeird,

Do you think there can be gaps in a games procedure, where what to do next and who has higher authority have been left blank?

If you don't, well, everything I've said stems from dealing with such gaps in traditional RPG's. If you do think such a gap can exist, what is your policy in dealing with such a situation as it arrises, or even dealing with such gaps in the text before any game session?

Also, if you take it those gaps can exist, is someone who says game text trumps the GM, when there is a gap on that procedure, actually being A themselves? Since no one is in a higher authority position because of that gap, but that person is acting like they are?


Azalin, this seems to be getting out into the larger circle/infrastructure of the game (in terms of the big model, were looking toward the outer enclosing circles). I think it's relevant, but relevant like if you'd brought up a fuel injection system for a car, and were talking about the chasis that holds it together and I'm talking about using one that isn't rusted through.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 27, 2009, 08:26:40 AM
Callan, I'm trying to figure out where the disconnect in our two lines of thought are.  I'm not talking about what you theoretically could do as a designer, and I'm not talking about designing a campaign from scratch (as I've said a few times so far, I do think that it would be possible to build a game that benefits from rather than is hurt by disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world').  What I'm talking about is expected player enjoyment in a game that isn't specifically built to accommodate disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world'.  When I say 'you shouldn't do this' I'm operating with the assumption that player enjoyment is at the top of list of goals as a designer and what I really mean is 'more often than not it will detract from player enjoyment if you do this'.

I'm also operating under a few assumptions about the game these puzzles are being inserted into.  First, I'm assuming that it isn't explicitly built to work with breaks in the 'rules of the world'; that the system doesn't encourage it; that you haven't discussed it and gotten the thumbs up from your players for doing it.  Second, I'm assuming that you aren't already positive that the players will enjoy it; if you know that your players all just absolutely love doing boat puzzles during an RPG then you should throw them in.  In the context of this thread, though, if there wasn't uncertainty over what types of puzzles a player would enjoy this thread would not have been posted.  My point isn't, as I've said a few times, that you should never do it at all period ever.  My point is that unless you have good strong reasons to expect that everyone at the table will love it when you shatter 'the rules of the world', they probably won't.  If player enjoyment is not something on the table right now then I totally concede to all of your points, but how could it not be?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 27, 2009, 03:28:16 PM
Quote
What I'm talking about is expected player enjoyment in a game that isn't specifically built to accommodate disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world'.
How do you know it isn't specifically built to accommodate disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world'? By that I mean, beyond hearing your assertion on the matter, what could another person look at themselves to indipendently confirm that?

In terms of expected player enjoyment, if they expect something which is merely assertion and not actually supported by the game texts, they are simply bringing baggage to the table. It's possible for anyone to come to any game, even a card game or board game, with some sort of assertion which isn't part of the activity at all. How are you discriminating between assertions, or could I come to a game with you and say this game isn't specifically built to accomidate us not wearing funny hats? Seems absurd? So how is the assertion (it isn't specifically built to accomidate disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world') proven to be any less absurd?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on September 27, 2009, 09:50:56 PM
How do you know it isn't specifically built to accommodate disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world'? By that I mean, beyond hearing your assertion on the matter, what could another person look at themselves to indipendently confirm that?

How do I know what isn't?  Specific to this thread, D&D4th ed absolutely isn't built for it.  D&D1st ed has intentional gaps in the rules that actively does facilitate building the rules for each engagement largely from scratch, although I still wouldn't use the boat puzzle for the intuitive/computational reasons I stated before.  Not specific to this thread. . .it's a case by case basis, and there's no easy instruction I could give to determine if a game text is appropriate or not.  That's a topic way bigger than this thread.  Basically, though, the more a system is about having the mechanics to handle any situation, the less suited it is for cutting out those mechanics at times.  The more surreal and nebulous the setting is the better suited it'd be for warping the 'rules of the world' at times.  The less competitive and serious the encouraged mood is the more open it is to warping the 'rules of the world'.  Of course, it's a lot more subtle than that in practice.

In terms of expected player enjoyment, if they expect something which is merely assertion and not actually supported by the game texts, they are simply bringing baggage to the table. It's possible for anyone to come to any game, even a card game or board game, with some sort of assertion which isn't part of the activity at all. How are you discriminating between assertions, or could I come to a game with you and say this game isn't specifically built to accomidate us not wearing funny hats? Seems absurd? So how is the assertion (it isn't specifically built to accomidate disregarding pre-established 'rules of the world') proven to be any less absurd?

You don't think players should come with expectations and assertions?  I don't think that ridding yourself of expectations is nearly as important as just making sure your expectations line up with those of the other players.  The system sets the general type of play that happens, but there's still a lot of wiggle-room for personal GM-styles.  These assertions become ugly when haven't been discussed and they start conflict between players.  If assumptions haven't been negotiated pre-game it is important not to assume that your assertions are exactly how the game is going to be played and any other method is wrong, but I think the assertion that 'the way in which the game is run should work with, or at least not against, the game-system' is a fair and common one.  I see the boat puzzle as working against the D&D4th ed system.

Saying that a system 'isn't built to not accommodate' something that is generally not assumed to be a part of roleplaying is kind of meaningless, since the amount of stuff you do do in a game is limited by time and energy, while the amount of stuff you don't do is infinite.  It's not that hard to determine if a system is built in a way to accommodate funny hats, though.

Funny hats. . .are the specific hats appropriate to game being run?  I don't think I'd enjoy being forced to wear a 'funny hat' all game session, but if they were somehow appropriate to the characters the other players and I were playing this would be mitigated in some ways.  I do think that being forced to wear a propeller beanie in a game of serious political intrigue or supernatural horror would detract from the mood of the game, but I wouldn't mind/would potentially enjoy wearing a plush spiked helmet while playing a barbarian in a goofy-themed game because it'd be reinforcing my self-image as a barbarian.  I'd still react against it partially if it was sprung and forced on me without being discussed before hand, though.

How are funny hats different from consistency?  Roleplaying games are usually built in a way that consistency makes the game more enjoyable for the vast majority of players.  I can't point to a specific rule in a specific system that does this, but actual play experience has taught me that there is an extremely strong correlation, and presumably causation, between consistency and player enjoyment.  It's something players expect, and as much as you might ask 'but should they expect it?', breaking that expectation without prior warning is going to both weaken the gameplay experience due to the games being designed with the assumption that they'll be run in a style using consistency and due to the fact that you'll be shattering their expectations. 

As I see it, when you run a game for people you need to be at least vaguely aware of what their expectations are.  If you don't know what they are you should talk to them to find them out.  If their expectations don't match up with the game you want to run it doesn't mean you can't run it, but it does mean you need to work with them to make sure their new expectations line up with the game you're running.  That said, it's of course always possible to actually use breaking expectations mid-game to your advantage; this is something that can work really well in getting people into the mood for a horror game, for example, but it has to be done for a specific effect if you want the players to enjoy it.  Breaking from what your players are expecting just for the hell of it does a lot more harm that it does good.

This is bleeding into the much much much larger topic of 'what techniques work best to help establish what styles of play'.  If you want me to spell out for you exactly how to determine which styles of play (and oh my god they are infinite) a specific technique, such as 'breaking world-rule consistency', or even just 'consistency', is helpful or harmful to you are going to be disappointed.  The topic is just far too vast to break down via forum-post, and is much more of an art-form than a science.  I do believe that consistency is, by default, a good thing, though, and that it should only be broken when you have a plan, and never just flippantly.  Doing so will, far more often than not, lessen the enjoyment of the players, and is therefore undesirable on a practical, rather than theoretical, level.  A creative designer with a broad vision could undoubtedly turn it into a positive thing, but I recommend against doing it in a casual 4th edition D&D game with friends who aren't pre-established puzzle addicts.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 28, 2009, 01:01:43 AM
Misha, I really don't believe you've been arguing against doing it without prior warning all this time - I think you've been arguing against doing it at all, ever. Even the last sentence of your last post doesn't have a caveat toward letting the players see the idea in advance and decide for themselves - you just decide for them they wont like it, by arguing a GM/designer out of ever presenting it to them to begin with. Probably because you just don't like it.

But regardless what I believe to be the case, you've said your piece on the matter and so have I. So I'll leave it there...ah heck, I'll say this on 'gaps' - I could write a game that has gaps in it and they wouldn't be there to facilitate anything. They would just be gaps. A game where 'they are just gaps' is thus quite possible. Which is good reason not to be entirely certain that gaps in a game are facilitating anything. If it's possible for gaps to just be gaps, it's possible the gaps you think are facilitating something are just gaps that are gaps.

Cheers,
Callan


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: AzaLiN on September 30, 2009, 01:11:42 PM
Game world and Gamism

If I'm not mistaken, in movies stories don't unfold naturally. They follow a certain plot arc- intro, ascending action, peak, reversal, climax and resolution- and it seems to me this isn't how things happen in real life except in rare escalating scenarios. The movie world seems to conform to the dramatic world.

Likewise, in Legend of Zelda Link to the Past, and other games, the world is designed to facilitate the game, not the other way around- although, certainly, the opposite approach is used elsewhere.

The Resident Evil mansion makes no sense. Its still awesome.

In a gamist game, the game world has to be illogical. Fact is, its illogical to get into so many fights with monsters or find ANY puzzles at all in a real medieval setting. NPC reactions to bloody, sword wielding maniacs in town, aggressive bargaining, shops, the idea of the PCs forming an adventuring party- they're all concessions to the drama or the gamism.

Thus, the gnoll puzzle doesn't violate how the game world works. It just needs to be made an understood part of that world, that, "in this world, when you come to a river with a 2 person boat, its a puzzle, and that's as natural as rain, much like insane villagers who won't tell you what you need to know until you collect the quest item or get revenge on the butcher for the food poisoning.' An abstracted world.

That being said, although when you combine gamism with world-logical-ness, you can go too far in either direction, but if you're trying to run gamist puzzles and you spend too much time focusing on the world being logical, then of course every puzzle will jarr the players like crazy. Likewise, in a gamist game, when NPCs start acting logically and the world starts working normally, that's also jarring.

A neat trick, borrowed from the Old School, is to have dungeons. Logical world, plus dungeons where logic doesn't quite apply and puzzles and random fights make sense.


Do GNS terms apply here?

A gamist world (puzzles) is one where everything's a competition and a challgenge, set up to facilitate the game.

A simulationist world is a consistent world that makes sense that you join with.

A narrativist world is one where you get what you want if you try hard enough, or want it badly enough, or its dramatic enough

and gamist-simulationist is one where the world is made of puzzles and challenges, and your a part of that world, working through it all like everybody else... That sounds sort of badass to me :D


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on September 30, 2009, 04:15:16 PM
Well put, Azalin! That artificial structure that facilitates actually getting at what you want to get at. Otherwise the world just mosies on as it would - and much as alot of real life isn't particularly thrilling or enlightening, so to the game is not thrilling or enlightening. Except on rare "remember that one time, years ago" occasions that the nar and gamism essays already talk about groups who rely on that for their play forfilment.

If you can manage it, plausibly following the game worlds rules is nice. But I think it's better to suceed at that artificial structure and yet fail at plausible game world rules than to suceed at plausible game world rules and yet fail at having that facilitating structure. If someone wants to ignore that structure every time plausible game world following is harmed, I don't think they want gamism/nar.

Though I'll say your summing up of nar isn't really correct. I wont' say this is perfectly accurate, but if you have two compeating beliefs or desires but physical circumstances say you can only hold onto one, which do you choose? How does one choose between beliefs and desires? By what criteria? Only at the moment of play will we see the choice made.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 01, 2009, 08:56:49 AM
The issue isn't realism, which I agree isn't especially helpful, but self-consistency.  If monsters occasionally stop being monsters and start being puzzle pieces it makes it hard to plan ahead and strike a path of expected effectiveness, which destroys some types of gamist play.  I guess it all goes into the flavor of gamism you want to provide; is the game the story of a team of adventurers going out into the world and seizing treasure/XP, or is it a series of semi-connected challenges you sequentially provide the players to overcome?  Both provide gamist challenge, but they are both very different from each other.  I have a slight objection to the latter, although this conversation has made me realize that it's more personal preference than anything else, but I do feel like the one big thing that tabletop games can do that video games and board games and so on can't is to reliably provide challenges that must be approached with creativity and ingenuity rather than computation and efficiency to solve.  The Resident Evil mansion is excellent, despite being unrealistic, but forcing rigid Zelda-esque 'I'll only answer your question if you do this fetch quest for me' challenges on players feels like a waste to me.  I guess my objection isn't that it doesn't work as an RPG, but that it would just work better as a video game.  If you remove all the flexibility and intuition from a RPG system you just end up with a video game with really slow combat, so why not just play a video game instead?

Well, I guess there are plenty of reasons for that, like money, social interaction, the fact that you can design a RP campaign in a few hours in your room while a video game takes a full staff months to years to program, but still.  Flexibility is the one thing roleplaying games can do better than any other type of game.  Flexibility doesn't mean un-challenging, it's just good at setting up a different type of challenge.  That said, I guess there is something to be said for streamlining everything other than the challenge you're specifically interested in providing.

But man, "Solve this math problem to continue" just seems like a pain in the ass to me, even though I really do enjoy them in a non-RPG setting.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on October 01, 2009, 02:04:40 PM
Well, making it it harder to plan ahead makes it harder - which is a good quality! And in terms of gamism, you play the game your actually presented with in the moment (or don't), not the game you imagined would happen - this doesn't destroy some types of gamism, it destroys the missplaced idea of what the game would be.

And here we don't end up with a slow combat, we end up with a reasonably difficult fox and goose puzzle (though azalin still hasn't attached a fixed solution to it yet, so he hasn't finished this work yet). I'm kind of thinking that if the self consistancy is damaged at all, the entire package (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019) collapses for you, Misha, and that's why your taking one breach and then saying ALL the flexibility and intuition are gone (which is a pretty broad sweep of the brush based on just one fox and geese puzzle, otherwise). Have a look at that link and see if 'the package', especially with it's resiliance against potential violation, is what you enjoy first and foremost.

I'm pretty sure narrativists breach that package regularly as well "My ex turns up just at this moment!?". Though I think alot of sim players have managed to absorb stuff like this until it becomes a game world rule (like a trope) that the ex turns up at so and so point as an act of game world causality rather than forcing a moral issue into play (forcing it in just as much as forcing in a fox and geese puzzle). So it might be hard to see and I might just be writing a distraction here.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 02, 2009, 12:52:42 PM
Well, making it it harder to plan ahead makes it harder - which is a good quality! And in terms of gamism, you play the game your actually presented with in the moment (or don't), not the game you imagined would happen - this doesn't destroy some types of gamism, it destroys the missplaced idea of what the game would be.

This actually is a good example of my big problem with GNS.  Well, not GNS itself, even, but how people use it.  Gamism is a category of play, not a Platonic form.  There are tons and tons of sub-categories of gamist play, and someone who enjoys one will not necessarily enjoy the others.  Telling your players "Shut up, this is gamism, you like it, and if you don't it's just because you have faulty expectations" strikes me as really really really simplistic.  When you run a game you should be factoring in what your players tastes are, and 'Gamism' isn't a taste so much as an umbrella hovering over a multitude of similar but distinct tastes.  The players should be doing their best to enjoy whatever you provide them to, but you have to meet each other half way.  Blaming it entirely on your players being small minded is just a way of running from the responsibility of running an enjoyable game.

Also, hard does not universally equal good in almost any form of Gamism.  A certain level of difficulty is needed, but more is only better to a certain point.  By that logic telling your players that they have to memorize and recite 1000 line poems to cast spells, that their damage outputs will be determined by how many pushups they can do in 5 minutes, or that to succeed they have to roll all 10s on 5d10 would be uniformly good things.  Removing the ability to plan just cuts out entirely a form of challenge, and while it does make other aspects of the game more difficult there are many many many other ways to set an enjoyable difficulty without removing entire blocks of challenge.

Have a look at that link and see if 'the package', especially with it's resiliance against potential violation, is what you enjoy first and foremost.

You're making weird assumptions about my priorities.  I am discussing this topic with you, so this topic is at the forefront of my discussion.  This in no way means that it's at the forefront of my enjoyment.  The package is a small positive thing that can be sacrificed if by sacrificing it you gain a larger positive thing.  What I'm against is sacrificing it to gain either nothing or a one-time small thrill.  I really don't care almost at all about how well the game matches up to 'what an Elf is *really* like' or the Star Trek universe or reality or whatever.  Internal consistency with facts already established within the realm of play seems like it should just be a basic tenant of how to run an enjoyable game, though, even if the only consistent element is inconsistency.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on October 02, 2009, 08:15:33 PM
In saying my post I'm thinking of a group of players who are there to try a new game - like it is when you try a new board game or card game. I have a few reasons for this, but regardless that's where I'm coming from. Your 'you should meet them half way' thing seems to be talking about players who are not there to try a new game.

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Removing the ability to plan just cuts out entirely a form of challenge, and while it does make other aspects of the game more difficult there are many many many other ways to set an enjoyable difficulty without removing entire blocks of challenge.
Equally being able to knock out/tie up the gnolls removes the fox and geese challenge. It's a matter of which challenge, as designer, you decide on having. Mind you, if players are all telling you what you should have but then insisting they aren't being uninvited co-designers, that'd be problematic.

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You're making weird assumptions about my priorities.  I am discussing this topic with you, so this topic is at the forefront of my discussion.  This in no way means that it's at the forefront of my enjoyment.  The package is a small positive thing that can be sacrificed if by sacrificing it you gain a larger positive thing.  What I'm against is sacrificing it to gain either nothing or a one-time small thrill.
I don't think I am making weird assumptions - for you clearly any esteem given for solving the puzzle inside the box is less than the small postitive you call the package. You call the esteem a one time small thrill, apparently smaller/less valuable than the positive thing you call the package. And previously you called it "Solve this math problem to continue" without even a nod to any esteem given for solving it - as if it were only a matter of continuing.

Regardless, I'm talking in terms of valuing the esteem given for solving the fox and geese puzzle considerably more than valuing a perfectly intact package. If someone values 'planning ahead' more than that esteem on offer - perhaps it is gamism, but it's not a set of priorities I share. My advice revolves around those priorities.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 03, 2009, 08:16:08 AM
In saying my post I'm thinking of a group of players who are there to try a new game - like it is when you try a new board game or card game. I have a few reasons for this, but regardless that's where I'm coming from. Your 'you should meet them half way' thing seems to be talking about players who are not there to try a new game.

Okay, I think this is probably one of the big divides in our perspectives.  I've been approaching this from an angle of 'spice up your D&D game', since that seemed like how it was presented in the OP.  I've said a bunch of times that if you have some good reason to believe that the players will especially enjoy these types of puzzles then it's not so bad to throw them in; having an open license of 'let's try something new' isn't quite there, but it's close.

Equally being able to knock out/tie up the gnolls removes the fox and geese challenge. It's a matter of which challenge, as designer, you decide on having. Mind you, if players are all telling you what you should have but then insisting they aren't being uninvited co-designers, that'd be problematic.

Well, it opens up the choice for the players to ignore a type of challenge, it doesn't remove it.  It lets them choose for themselves if they'd rather gain the esteem for beating it without the KOing or if they'd rather just bypass it.  Also, shouldn't the players always be factored into the designs?  The players should always be co-designers, albiet in a completely passive way.

I don't think I am making weird assumptions - for you clearly any esteem given for solving the puzzle inside the box is less than the small postitive you call the package. You call the esteem a one time small thrill, apparently smaller/less valuable than the positive thing you call the package. And previously you called it "Solve this math problem to continue" without even a nod to any esteem given for solving it - as if it were only a matter of continuing.

Regardless, I'm talking in terms of valuing the esteem given for solving the fox and geese puzzle considerably more than valuing a perfectly intact package. If someone values 'planning ahead' more than that esteem on offer - perhaps it is gamism, but it's not a set of priorities I share. My advice revolves around those priorities.

The esteem from solving a math problem?  For me, significant esteem comes in way harder from coming up with a brilliant and unexpected solution to a problem than from solving a fixed-answer puzzle by rote, even if you have to put more effort into the rote solving.  It's true that the unexpected solutions to the boat puzzle are pretty lackluster, but the boat puzzle is poorly built to take advantage of them, so of course it's not going to encourage good ones.  The thing is, there's no way to brilliantly answer the boat puzzle, there's just the expected way, so any esteem you receive is more based on how quickly you were able to come up with the answer than on how glorious your answer was.  Single-answer computational puzzles put a hard cap on esteem that I really don't like.  You can't really shine with them, you can just not fail.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on October 03, 2009, 03:11:05 PM
Okay, I think this is probably one of the big divides in our perspectives.  I've been approaching this from an angle of 'spice up your D&D game', since that seemed like how it was presented in the OP.  I've said a bunch of times that if you have some good reason to believe that the players will especially enjoy these types of puzzles then it's not so bad to throw them in; having an open license of 'let's try something new' isn't quite there, but it's close.
Not so bad? It sounds like your working from some sort of moral code that encapsulates this?

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Well, it opens up the choice for the players to ignore a type of challenge, it doesn't remove it.  It lets them choose for themselves if they'd rather gain the esteem for beating it without the KOing or if they'd rather just bypass it.
I think I gave that option earlier in the thread, but they had to admit they couldn't beat the in the box version first.
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Also, shouldn't the players always be factored into the designs?  The players should always be co-designers, albiet in a completely passive way.
Again the word 'should', which you've used through several of your posts, like a moral code is being invoked?

You might want to reflect on whether there's a design issue here or whether your personal moral code is the thing that's being broken. If I was designing a new, more lethal kalashnikov and you have a moral issue with killing, that doesn't mean my modifications to the gun are badly designed. You wouldn't be discussing design at all, really.

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It's true that the unexpected solutions to the boat puzzle are pretty lackluster, but the boat puzzle is poorly built to take advantage of them, so of course it's not going to encourage good ones.
I don't think there's a great deal of constructive input from you in saying scrap it and think up something else - basically all your doing is trying to take away from what's already been made, and offering no substitute to replace it. I'd actually call it destructive. Is there any substitute you could think up? I think you should hold off saying to scrap the in the box boat puzzle until you have a substitute you can offer, if you want to offer a constructive alternative.

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The thing is, there's no way to brilliantly answer the boat puzzle, there's just the expected way, so any esteem you receive is more based on how quickly you were able to come up with the answer than on how glorious your answer was.  Single-answer computational puzzles put a hard cap on esteem that I really don't like.  You can't really shine with them, you can just not fail.
I'm thinking of starting a new thread on this. Basically a bunch of people who hear an idea and go 'wow, that's great'...means jack shit. In real life it's not ideas that sound great that are great, it's ideas that when applied to physical circumstance, actually work, that are great.

Humans have a massive capacity for bullshitting themselves. The only thing that cuts off bullshitting is when push comes to shove and the idea is tested against something that's bullshit proof. In real life, that's physics - think your parachute overcoat will work and you jump off the eiffel tower and die? Clearly you were wrong.

Roleplayers seem to bullshit themselves that the GM is where push comes to shove - when the GM is human and just as vulnerable to bullshitting himself as anyone else.

But they bullshit themselves that hey, if the dice get rolled and this is called a game after all, their brilliant idea must have faced a bullshit proof test and hey, the GM is saying they get so and so, so wow, it must have been a brilliant idea! In groups all over the world today, parachute overcoats (so to speak) WILL work. Because all those groups are bullshitting themselves that there was any real way it could fail.

So no, I don't have alot of esteem for out of the box answers. I think some bullshitting is good for brainstorming, but is basically incapable of failing (except where you don't bullshit the GM with the type of bullshit he needs to bullshit himself) and if it can't fail, it's hardly worthy of massive praise.

This actually brings design idea to mind...if someone has this 'brilliant' idea they firmly believe would work, the system is they then correlate it to a physical task - ie, they believe it will work as much as, say, them hitting a dart board (at all) at 10 feet (with a dart). Or at whatever range. If they fail at this physical task, so too does the 'brilliant' idea.

The thing with that is that is they have to make a call with their own bullshit - if they think it's really such a good idea, while are they comparing it to hitting a dartboard at 1 foot? Surely if they are capable of such a brilliant idea, they are capable of assuredly hitting the dartboard at a longer range? So goes the actual challenge. We could even correlate the RL range to difficulty - an easy task is 2 feet. It's not such a brilliant sounding idea if the player with the idea then classes it as an easy test.

Anyway, I digress and I know that idea will sound to you like the noise you get when you put a microphone near the speakers it outputs too - just a feedback scream.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 04, 2009, 09:44:23 AM
Not so bad? It sounds like your working from some sort of moral code that encapsulates this?

Kind of?  It's not moral, it's purpose.  The reason that I am running a RPG is for player and personal enjoyment.  If I have reason to believe that something will take away from that enjoyment, then I 'should' not use it.  Words like 'should' or 'bad' or 'good' only have meaning when attached to a purpose or goal, but don't we have one assumed?  I didn't think this needed to be explicitly stated.

I don't think there's a great deal of constructive input from you in saying scrap it and think up something else - basically all your doing is trying to take away from what's already been made, and offering no substitute to replace it.

I gave some earlier in the thread; I really liked the blood and sarcophagus puzzles.  It's a situation where there is risk involved and information must be gathered to make a good decision.  Another example might be a swirling black portal built into a wall that destroys anything placed in it; it's not something that halts the game until it's 'solved', but if people are reckless and don't gather any information on it first (seeing what happens when they shove a stick in it before poking their arm in, etc) it could easily be very dangerous (the portal is actually pretty harsh, and should be kept for a high-mortality game).  A treasure chest hidden behind an enemy too powerful to fight evenly works, too.  The group has to find a way to lure the enemy away, and if it's well designed some (subtle) clues on the enemy's preferences should be discoverable/have already been revealed.

They don't sound impressive, but the uncertainty gives a tension that a puzzle with only 100% right/wrong answers can't.

I'm thinking of starting a new thread on this. Basically a bunch of people who hear an idea and go 'wow, that's great'...means jack shit. In real life it's not ideas that sound great that are great, it's ideas that when applied to physical circumstance, actually work, that are great.

Humans have a massive capacity for bullshitting themselves. The only thing that cuts off bullshitting is when push comes to shove and the idea is tested against something that's bullshit proof. In real life, that's physics - think your parachute overcoat will work and you jump off the eiffel tower and die? Clearly you were wrong.

Roleplayers seem to bullshit themselves that the GM is where push comes to shove - when the GM is human and just as vulnerable to bullshitting himself as anyone else.

So no, I don't have alot of esteem for out of the box answers. I think some bullshitting is good for brainstorming, but is basically incapable of failing (except where you don't bullshit the GM with the type of bullshit he needs to bullshit himself) and if it can't fail, it's hardly worthy of massive praise.

This actually brings design idea to mind...if someone has this 'brilliant' idea they firmly believe would work, the system is they then correlate it to a physical task - ie, they believe it will work as much as, say, them hitting a dart board (at all) at 10 feet (with a dart). Or at whatever range. If they fail at this physical task, so too does the 'brilliant' idea.

Actually, you just answered your own critique pretty well right there.  There are a few things you can do to keep it from just being a 'the GM decides arbitrarily if you succeed or fail' exercise, which would just be an inferior boat puzzle.  The first way I already mentioned, it's by forcing some basic information gathering.  Proper information placement can be tricky, and I can get into it a little if you want, but it opens up into a pretty big topic of its own.  The other way is what you just said. . .kind of.  If the idea they come up with is almost incapable of failing, just say they succeed.  Usually, though, the idea will fall into a more gray area, where it has a chance of succeeding but it's not so certain that the GM should just hand-wave the success into the game.  Darts could work for this, but I think the more traditional method is just to make a skill roll, with difficulty based on how practical the idea is.

Setting the difficulty level is still bullshitting to some degree, but it's a lot less bad if you just remember what you were lecturing me about earlier, that RPGs and reality don't need to match perfectly.  The parachute pants idea you mentioned before is an okay example, depending on how over the top you want the mood of the game to be it could either be automatic failure, an insanely hard roll, or a moderately hard roll; what's important isn't that you're mirroring reality, but that you're mirroring the mood-based decisions you've already made within the game.  Letting the parachute pants succeed in a game all about gritty realism wouldn't work, while not letting it succeed in a game where you already let someone fly by flapping their arms really hard also wouldn't work.  Convincing the GM that your idea is appropriate and has good odds of working is still largely based on bullshitting, but the human brain is really good at taking weird bullshitty ideas and weighting them on a scale from "It'll never work" to "It might work" to "Oh, goddamn it, of course that'll work".  It's not a science, but it's one of the core things the human brain is built to do quickly and (relatively) accurately.

The thing that separates RPGs from other types of games is that it's the only system that uses the human brain as the processor to determine what does or doesn't happen, and if you just dismiss things like estimation of if an idea is feasible or not as 'just bullshitting', then why are you even into RPGs as opposed to any other kind of game?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on October 04, 2009, 03:45:18 PM
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Kind of?  It's not moral, it's purpose.  The reason that I am running a RPG is for player and personal enjoyment.  If I have reason to believe that something will take away from that enjoyment, then I 'should' not use it.  Words like 'should' or 'bad' or 'good' only have meaning when attached to a purpose or goal, but don't we have one assumed?  I didn't think this needed to be explicitly stated.
Well, I think it does, since it doesn't seem achievable. There will be something that you enjoy but the players don't (here I'm pretty certain Chronoplasm likes his boat puzzle, otherwise he wouldn't have made it). Water it down and your taking away your own enjoyment (because it's watered down - you would have done that already if you enjoyed it), which you 'should' not do. Don't water it down and your taking away the players enjoyment, which you 'should' not do. Cue an Asimov three laws of robotics type internal conflict!

There are plenty of activities and products in the world which have not been tailored to the people who are the players - they cope in that world, presumably. So I think that goal does need to be explicitly stated.

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and if it's well designed some (subtle) clues on the enemy's preferences should be discoverable/have already been revealed.
I'm still seeing this as taking away what is already a good puzzle, then handballing back the actual vital part of making another one. If it's well designed? Weren't you going to design that? And I'm not sure I even get the black portal as a puzzle - what's to solve?

Maybe it's early in the piece to judge, but so far you haven't provided a substitute and these things you say you should not do have taken away material (if followed). They don't seem productive rules on what one shouldn't do. Again, early in the piece to judge, but I suspect it'll be a trend.

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They don't sound impressive, but the uncertainty gives a tension that a puzzle with only 100% right/wrong answers can't.
I think this is drifting over from challenge and into a 'certain feel'.

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Darts could work for this, but I think the more traditional method is just to make a skill roll, with difficulty based on how practical the idea is.
I think you've missed the key elements/reversals - the player calls the distance/difficulty himself/level of esteem himself, and it's an act of skill on his part to hit with a dart, his own skill, which is supposedly also coming up with a good idea. While no one can have skill at rolling dice and thus they can complain that they and their idea was brilliant and the dice were just against them. Rather than taking in any sense of humility that hey, if they aren't that good at throwing a dart, perhaps they aren't that good at making up a successful idea?

And it doesn't answer my critique - I've just made up another boat puzzle, essentially. I've coupled an imaginative spectrum to a real life life task just as much as the boat puzzle is a real life task. What I've made is rules first - what I critiqued was fiction first. It's not another 'oh, if the fiction seems to call for a dice roll, then we will roll - though if that roll stuffs up the fiction, clearly the fiction is in charge and thus we'll work out some way of ignoring the roll...' fiction first fest.

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what's important isn't that you're mirroring reality, but that you're mirroring the mood-based decisions you've already made within the game.  Letting the parachute pants succeed in a game all about gritty realism wouldn't work, while not letting it succeed in a game where you already let someone fly by flapping their arms really hard also wouldn't work.
And you wonder why I think your talking about simulationism first and foremost? Your almost shouting that the package decides if something is hard or not - rather than someone at the table simply deciding they want to present something that's hard.

Basically anyone diciding something that goes against the 'mood' is athenema to you, right? That's why I call your ideas sim or religion even, because you can't simply decide as your own man to present a hard game, you can only present whatever it is that the mood tells you you are allowed to present. Your a follower of that mood. Ignoring my comments on sim or religion for now, everything I've said is based on deciding what you do as your own man, not as a follower.

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The thing that separates RPGs from other types of games is that it's the only system that uses the human brain as the processor to determine what does or doesn't happen, and if you just dismiss things like estimation of if an idea is feasible or not as 'just bullshitting', then why are you even into RPGs as opposed to any other kind of game?
This is a bit like asking how someone can enjoy wrestling if they don't believe it's real.

Someone on this forum once gave the example of a general from hundreds of years ago who would, outside of battle, present imaginary attacks from various hills or terrain around him, to his collegues. Basically to brainstorm ideas. I don't imagine he thought his solutions would win, because such hubris would probably have killed him off earlier. But instead he worked on solutions in advance of the problem showing up, so he'd have some plans to consider if it ever came up instead of it suddenly happening and coming up a blank. Maybe he'd use none of the stuff he made up, but atleast he'd have more resources to draw on when the real life moment hit. He was preparing for life, he was not sinking (immersing?) into a fantasy. And I'm pretty sure Ron's spione is trying in some way to prepare for real life, as well. But that's nar, of course.

But I'm probably stuck in something similar to trying to describe an enjoyment that comes from not thinking it's real, to someone who does think it's real.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 05, 2009, 09:01:49 AM
Well, I think it does, since it doesn't seem achievable. There will be something that you enjoy but the players don't (here I'm pretty certain Chronoplasm likes his boat puzzle, otherwise he wouldn't have made it). Water it down and your taking away your own enjoyment (because it's watered down - you would have done that already if you enjoyed it), which you 'should' not do. Don't water it down and your taking away the players enjoyment, which you 'should' not do. Cue an Asimov three laws of robotics type internal conflict!

There are plenty of activities and products in the world which have not been tailored to the people who are the players - they cope in that world, presumably. So I think that goal does need to be explicitly stated.

I. . .what?  So, if enjoyment isn't your goal, what is?  I understand that infinite enjoyment for all people involved isn't possible, but that doesn't mean that maximum enjoyment isn't a good goal.  Different people can even have different weights attached to how important the GM enjoyment vs. the average player enjoyment vs. a specific player's enjoyment is, but how could it not be your primary goal in making a game?  Even if it's something like 'improve yourself' I really don't see darts or solving artificial computational puzzles as more useful in everyday life than practicing creative problem solving, even practicing it on artificial problems, and if the game isn't enjoyable people aren't going to play it long enough to improve themselves anyway.

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Maybe it's early in the piece to judge, but so far you haven't provided a substitute and these things you say you should not do have taken away material (if followed). They don't seem productive rules on what one shouldn't do. Again, early in the piece to judge, but I suspect it'll be a trend.

Are you saying that I've given rules on an alternative, but not given any good reason why you shouldn't use the boat puzzle?  Your words tend to the vague sometimes and I don't want to misunderstand you.

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I think this is drifting over from challenge and into a 'certain feel'.

And it doesn't answer my critique - I've just made up another boat puzzle, essentially. I've coupled an imaginative spectrum to a real life life task just as much as the boat puzzle is a real life task. What I've made is rules first - what I critiqued was fiction first. It's not another 'oh, if the fiction seems to call for a dice roll, then we will roll - though if that roll stuffs up the fiction, clearly the fiction is in charge and thus we'll work out some way of ignoring the roll...' fiction first fest.

What?  Where did I ever say anything about ignoring the roll?  It's all about positioning yourself for maximum advantage before the roll, but when the roll happens it happens.  Do you just believe challenge is not possible without a pre-imagined answer?  Just because the GM has to judge the merit of a solution doesn't mean that it's suddenly all holding hands and telling each other how smart we all are.  Judgment calls like that are impossible not to have in an RPG, and if you're not comfortable with that then why are you even roleplaying as opposed to any other sort of game?  Just because a rule is being channeled and interpreted through the GM mind doesn't mean it's not a rule.

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And you wonder why I think your talking about simulationism first and foremost? Your almost shouting that the package decides if something is hard or not - rather than someone at the table simply deciding they want to present something that's hard.

Basically anyone diciding something that goes against the 'mood' is athenema to you, right? That's why I call your ideas sim or religion even, because you can't simply decide as your own man to present a hard game, you can only present whatever it is that the mood tells you you are allowed to present. Your a follower of that mood. Ignoring my comments on sim or religion for now, everything I've said is based on deciding what you do as your own man, not as a follower.

The mood isn't a Sim thing, it's impossible not to have in any form of game, story, art, whatever.  It's the type of challenge in a game, it's the themes and emotional tone of a narrative, it's the way that you feel (or, the way the artist is trying to make you feel, at least) when you experience a piece of art.  How is this so alien to you?  An RPG should have a way that it tries to make the people who play it feel, a mood it wants to give them, and that mood can be absolutely any creative agenda.  If you just go 'oh, challenge is challenge, I'll toss in whatever I feel like as long as it's difficult and if they don't like it's because they're not True Gamists' you're designing with a blindfold and a hammer, using theory as a way to ignore rather than explore reality.

And how the hell does creating a goal for myself and following it make me a follower?  What the hell does that even mean?  I could understand if it was following someone else's lead, but I'm not.  I'm following my own.  Is the only way not to be a follower to just wander blindly?  I have a type of experience I want to provide the players, a certain kind of challenge, and I want to do things primarily that enhance that type of experience.  Yes, I am following that goal, but how the hell does following my own lead make me a religious follower?  If following design goals makes me a package-worshiper, then the definition of 'package' you're using is far too broad to be useful.

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Someone on this forum once gave the example of a general from hundreds of years ago who would, outside of battle, present imaginary attacks from various hills or terrain around him, to his collegues. Basically to brainstorm ideas. I don't imagine he thought his solutions would win, because such hubris would probably have killed him off earlier. But instead he worked on solutions in advance of the problem showing up, so he'd have some plans to consider if it ever came up instead of it suddenly happening and coming up a blank. Maybe he'd use none of the stuff he made up, but atleast he'd have more resources to draw on when the real life moment hit. He was preparing for life, he was not sinking (immersing?) into a fantasy. And I'm pretty sure Ron's spione is trying in some way to prepare for real life, as well. But that's nar, of course.

But I'm probably stuck in something similar to trying to describe an enjoyment that comes from not thinking it's real, to someone who does think it's real.

But. . .that's exactly the type of challenge I'm talking about.  He took an abstract situation with no set answer and tried to determine how likely it was for a certain answer to the situation to lead to success.  It wasn't a puzzle with an absolute correct answer, like what you've been talking about, but a situation that he had to feel his way through based on past experience and his own judgment.  And yes, I agree that that form of problem-solving does a lot more to help you prepare for life than learning how to better throw darts or solve boat puzzles, even if the exact situations you come up with probably won't come up and it would be hubris to assume that your solutions would automatically succeed.

The only difference between what I'm suggesting and what he did was that he would think up 'okay, if I did this how likely would I be to win the battle?' while I'm suggesting that after you assign a likelihood you roll a dice to find out what the actual outcome in the game is.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on October 05, 2009, 03:59:16 PM
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Different people can even have different weights attached to how important the GM enjoyment vs. the average player enjoyment vs. a specific player's enjoyment is
Can we wrap up why I brought this up? You've been saying what people 'should' do - given other people have different weights, as you say, perhaps you should (oops, there I go as well) be instead outlining your set of weights and the value you see in that set, rather than saying what they 'should' do. That's what I've been getting at.

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Even if it's something like 'improve yourself' I really don't see darts or solving artificial computational puzzles as more useful in everyday life than practicing creative problem solving
You enquired about my posts and I tried to describe them further. If you don't see it - to try and go any further would involve trying to convince you. And I only set out to describe my posts further.

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Are you saying that I've given rules on an alternative, but not given any good reason why you shouldn't use the boat puzzle?
No, I've said you've dismissed the boat puzzle but offered no replacement.

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What?  Where did I ever say anything about ignoring the roll?  It's all about positioning yourself for maximum advantage before the roll, but when the roll happens it happens.  Do you just believe challenge is not possible without a pre-imagined answer?  Just because the GM has to judge the merit of a solution doesn't mean that it's suddenly all holding hands and telling each other how smart we all are.  Judgment calls like that are impossible not to have in an RPG, and if you're not comfortable with that then why are you even roleplaying as opposed to any other sort of game?  Just because a rule is being channeled and interpreted through the GM mind doesn't mean it's not a rule.
I think here and further down your mostly telling me 'how it is', rather than asking for further information about my posts. I'm just describing my perspective rather than trying to justify how it clashes with your perspective.

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But. . .that's exactly the type of challenge I'm talking about.  He took an abstract situation with no set answer and tried to determine how likely it was for a certain answer to the situation to lead to success.
For the guy I described, no, he didn't decide how likely a certain answer would lead to success. He looked at actions he could take.

This never has a correct answer (until the actual RL moment comes) - it's just making up potential actions. That's why the boat puzzle is part of play, because you can actually win at that.

I made a game based on this years ago - any set of actions described would do, but the more props (provided by a random generator) you included in the solution, the more points you get. The difficulty was in using all the props, while the solution wasn't judged by any other person at all as to whether it'd 'work' or 'be successful'.

To further describe my perspective (without justifying how it might clash with any other perspective), I think judging whether the actions would be successful is rather like Richard Dawkins 'orbiting teapot' criticism. That criticism of imagined assertions being that there's a teapot orbiting the sun, but it's too small to be seen with telescopes. Can you disprove it's there? No. So if you can't prove it doesn't exist, does that prove the teapot does exist? No, of course not. Same with judging whether the parachute jacket would work under a certain 'mood' - can anyone prove it wouldn't work? No...so does that prove it would work? The capacity for groups to be convinced it would work, especially if their prized PC's life is at risk, is amazing - when really it's neither proved nor disproved. It's just in limbo. It's not that the human mind is good at judging abstract situations, it's that the human mind is good at jumping to conclusions where none can be made.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 06, 2009, 08:28:27 AM
Can we wrap up why I brought this up? You've been saying what people 'should' do - given other people have different weights, as you say, perhaps you should (oops, there I go as well) be instead outlining your set of weights and the value you see in that set, rather than saying what they 'should' do. That's what I've been getting at.

And my point was that no matter how you weigh those things, the things I say you 'should' do mostly add to all of them.  The only one they might not with is 'GM happiness', but any GM that's the primary goal for is probably not going to be enjoyable to play with at all.

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You enquired about my posts and I tried to describe them further. If you don't see it - to try and go any further would involve trying to convince you. And I only set out to describe my posts further.

I don't get into discussions not to be convinced.  If I'm arguing styles or opinions with you it's because I think you have an interesting idea and I think that there's a chance that I'll agree with it once it's fully described.  If I press on you and tell you there are things wrong with your assertions it's to make sure I don't get a half-assed explanation.

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No, I've said you've dismissed the boat puzzle but offered no replacement.

What?  I offered the Situation as an alternative to the Puzzle.  My whole point was that things that you need to find the one correct answer to work less well in D&D than situations that have to be understood and used creatively to profit from/avoid damage from.  I even offered examples of what I'm talking about from earlier in the thread: blood, sarcophagus, orb.  Those three are all fairly different, but all are more or less what I'm talking about.

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I think here and further down your mostly telling me 'how it is', rather than asking for further information about my posts. I'm just describing my perspective rather than trying to justify how it clashes with your perspective.

I am attacking your perspective, but it's not to 'educate' you or anything dumb like that.  I just want you to explain yourself, and I'm putting pressure on the weak points of your explanation in hopes that you'll justify them.  The fact that you seem incapable of telling the difference between different types of challenge Gamism, just assuming that if a person likes Gamism they'll like any type of challenge, is one of those weaknesses.  You have already given me a good deal to think about, and I appreciate that, but your last few posts have felt more like evasion and accusation than explanation.  Accusation of accusation.  I am listening to you, I promise.

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For the guy I described, no, he didn't decide how likely a certain answer would lead to success. He looked at actions he could take.

And presumably weighed their expected effectiveness?  He probably didn't assign a numeric ranking system, but if he wasn't on some level judging the effectivenesses of the various actions he could have taken he would have had no reason to do any of this in the first place.

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To further describe my perspective (without justifying how it might clash with any other perspective), I think judging whether the actions would be successful is rather like Richard Dawkins 'orbiting teapot' criticism. That criticism of imagined assertions being that there's a teapot orbiting the sun, but it's too small to be seen with telescopes. Can you disprove it's there? No. So if you can't prove it doesn't exist, does that prove the teapot does exist? No, of course not. Same with judging whether the parachute jacket would work under a certain 'mood' - can anyone prove it wouldn't work? No...so does that prove it would work? The capacity for groups to be convinced it would work, especially if their prized PC's life is at risk, is amazing - when really it's neither proved nor disproved. It's just in limbo. It's not that the human mind is good at judging abstract situations, it's that the human mind is good at jumping to conclusions where none can be made.

That's why you assign a single person to arbitrate all this, the GM, who isn't the owner of any of the 'prized PCs'.  It's not about proof, it's about judgment calls.  Are you uncomfortable with having a person be the arbiter of reality rather than reality itself?  It can certainly be abused and misdone, but common sense, although insufficient for science, usually works just fine for gaming.  If this is something you can't accept, though, this issue goes way beyond puzzles and into the basic concept of what RPGs are.  In any interaction that isn't purely mechanical, there will always be that arbitrary decision that has to be made.  RPGs thrive on those arbitrary decisions, though.  They're what RPGs do better than board, video, and war games.

And besides, you're not deciding if the teapot exists or not, you're deciding on what the odds are that the teapot exists.  Reality is dictated by the dice in cases where there is uncertainty, the GM just gives the odds.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Callan S. on October 06, 2009, 01:52:20 PM
Misha, I think you making multiple assertions which you are certain are true, then your telling me to prove my assertions in light of yours - as if only my assertions could be flawed and they have to fit in with your assertions which are apparently 'true'. I really don't see any nod from you toward the idea that your own assertions could be just as flawed in themselves as you think mine are, all I see is you telling me RPG's are this, or RPG's are that, with a fervor. Have you spent time, even just thirty seconds, trying to think of ways that your assertions are wrong? It's okay if you did but couldn't find any, because atleast that's trying - the thing is, alot of people fall into confirmation bias, where they will form a hypothesis and only ever look for evidence that proves it, and never try to disprove their own hypothesis. How much time have you spent trying to disprove your own assertions?

Also I have no interest in convincing you for it's own sake. I'm interested in developing actual, physical texts (and somehow have come up with two ideas during this thread, which is good) and my discussion has been a means to that end. If your interested in that, I'll continue, otherwise I wont even if you will go on to think that that's somehow admitting you were right all along.


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: otspiii on October 07, 2009, 08:39:54 AM
When I debate, I debate from a platform.  I don't even necessarily believe in some of the things I've said as anything more than theories, but when I debate I throw them up there anyway as assertions in the hope that people will bring attention to their flaws.  The way that I really feel about design is that you need to be able to see things from as many perspectives as possible, and that every one of these perspectives should be as tightened and refined as possible.  That's not a position I can argue from, though, so I just pick the perspective that I think will both be pressured by and put pressure on the viewpoint at hand.

It's frustrating when your defense just becomes "Well, you're just not open minded enough," because that in no way helps me understand the strengths of your position.  If you think my assertions aren't correct then call their weak spots out, or defend yours, don't just cry that I'm making assertions.  In the end, usually, both assertions will stand, but they'll both be better understood and will have had some of their weak points removed.  Trust me, I'm way more interested in the ways your assertions don't work within their own framework than in how my perspective overrides yours.

You seem very quick to try to assign people who disagree with you to various defective thinking methods.  Are you sure you aren't falling into some of your own traps?


Title: Re: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 08, 2009, 06:20:19 AM
It's time to close the thread. The points have been made, and now the discussion is turning into what-I-meant and why-I-said-it, without much content beyond defending those secondary or even tertiary levels of the conversation.

Norm, if you want the thread to continue, contact me by private message. Otherwise, everyone, it's time to put this one to bed, with no more posts.

Many thanks, Ron