Author Topic: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?  (Read 4799 times)

Ron Edwards

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Second session playing Hank! He's third level now - we all seem to be leveling up simultaneously, as an occasional session reward, and I am pretty sure that actual experience points are not involved. A glance into my shiny new DM Guide lets me know this is actually legal by the rules.

I confess I'm considering multiclassing with warlock whenever it seems numerically strategic, to max out the goth badassery beyond all imagining. The only thing after that would be to get with a tiefling girlfriend.

I chatted a bit with Shawn (misspelled his name above) the DM and the store owner beforehand, and one of the topics was alignment. I had been a bit surprised to see the term "unaligned" on the sheet and related it to Hank as a character concept. We all know what this kind of character always is: the biker. Call him a cyberpunk solo, a vampire, Wolverine, whatever, but that's what he was, is, and always will be. I mentioned that the art lies in preserving genuine sinister content, because otherwise he's just a guy with swastikas for no reason riding a Harley for no reason. Specifically, "unaligned" couldn't mean "gets along with everyone," it had to be some kind of nihilism to be playable, and that had to be factored into the fact that this is a team combat game, so it couldn't be out-and-out bad guy stuff. Keep this conversation in mind, as I proceed.

This time, most of the original players returned, so Tom (last week's player of the bard) and I (clutching my photocopied Hank with a gleam in my eye) were joined by three others, representing Omo the Short (halfling rogue), Severren the half-elf paladin, and the human cleric - all rather good and two of them most lawful.

The table feeling began a little differently this time, with behaviors I can describe only as "gamer," including beginning statements of agreement with "No no no" and a flurry of one-liners thrown repeatedly into the void as opposed to dialogue. I received some hairy eyeballs about playing a blackguard with a paladin and cleric around although I think that was pro forma - this group is very much into lip-service alignment, and the whole "unaligned" thing is still baffling me too; apparently the cleric, whose player was all about Law, is unaligned.

But that settled down into much more fun and interactive play as soon as the SIS got rolling. Again, the players at this table really like playing and are perfectly good at encouraging one another and being sympathetic to one another's characters' welfare. The fellow playing the cleric was pretty hilarious (enthusing "I got two whole turns before I had to start healing everyone!!") and the drama that ensued at the very end of the fight was all based on emergent role-playing drawing on prior sessions, especially his.

So the context of our fights is nigh-painful: the classic city-adventure on-the-rails. Factions! Need a job! Employers betray you! Find a faction leader who's cool! Do what he says! We were "investigating" for our "employer," which means following clues laid down with bright red paint on them, and "discovered," rather, were effectively pointed straight at, the designated foes of the session. Said very fast: We went to go see the mustache guy and he said we had to go see Duke Silvershield and we did and he said we were great and could do what he said from now on and we got our passes to the upper city and he said there are fires so we went to go find out who's setting the fires. I only snarked a little about how the Duke got played up to the nines regarding how his spies are all over the place and know everything, so it is puzzling why he needed hulking men in plate armor, unfamiliar with the city to boot, to "investigate" civic crimes. Oh, and there was some stuff about laws about public dueling being changed; the goody guys in the group wasted a bunch of time trying to decide whether to stop one.

Deep breath. We got to the fires and there was a shady-looking kid 'cause our perception rolls said so and they wouldn't let me catch him with my evil voice-power granted it would have probably killed him but so what, then the halfling talked to him and got the map of where they were setting all the fires because of course they let this kid carry that around and give it away to halflings, so then we ran to the nearest place on that map and saw bad guys who our perception rolls said obviously were about to start a fire there. Fight!

Thing 1: two paladins in a fight are a serious handful of mayhem in 4E, even compared with the truth of that statement in all other post-1978 D&D systems. Opponents go down as if lawnmowed, although the thugs in question were frighteningly high in hit points. (My DM Guide informs me they must have been "brutes.")

Thing 2: a real honest-to-whoever cleric is a pulsing fountain of restored hit points. I'm used to the rather limited, spell-slot-depleting, hands-on-only, single-target Cure spells - this "wave my hands and y'all get a ton o'points back, hear?" business is like being sprayed with sparklies. With one of these guys around, a character like mine is nearly unkillable. (As it happens, Hank didn't even get scratched until near the end of the fight.)

So the main thing about the fight was the guy on the rooftop who shot arrows into half of us, survived being dropped two stories onto his face, stabbed the fuck out of the halfling and then the bard, and nearly got away. It turned out to be "James," a character known to the other players: apparently a lithe, mysterious, intriguing, pops-up-everywhere, defiant hottie female rogue-type character with a strong whiff of magic. She'd been having cryptic conversations with the cleric character every session, and knew too much, and wouldn't tell him anything. According to the other players, Diplomacy and any other social skill just bounces off her, and Shawn even mentioned that her motivations effectively proofed her against such things.

Oh yeah, that reminds me of another thing we talked about prior to play, when I mentioned the bipolarity of experiences with 4E, that it either butchers you all or no one at all. Shawn was quite pleasant and up-front in stating that he's a habitual fudger, adjusting damage rolls in particular as he sees fit, and that he keeps player-characters alive by default. He likes the stories as they progress and sees no reason why the draconian death rules (which look awful permissive to an old gamer like me) should ruin anything. Keep that in mind too.

Well, James was clearly a menace. Not only simply bushwhacking us and shooting us and stuff, but up to mysterious badness right when our whole point in life is root such things out of Baldur's Gate. The guy playing the cleric had apparently really enjoyed her presence in the game as a player, but acknowledged very clearly that his character definitely decided she'd gone over the line and needed killing. Let the record show that he made this statement prior to Hank finally slaughtering the biggest thug (it took two hits) and charging all the way across the battlemat to cut off James' escape, as the others surrounded her too.

Much to my annoyance I rolled low on the first strike and missed her. Someone else got in a blow or something, and Shawn said, playing her on her turn order, "All right, I surrender," and had her drop her sword. As it happened, I'd rolled tops for initiative and Shawn had rolled the lowest for James, so that order had been set all through the fight. So unless everyone stood down - which all the other players basically did - the next move was mine.

You guessed it. I did not exit combat and speared the bejeezus out of her. Some of you have role-played with me, so you know I have not done this for 35 years for nothing. Hank stood tall, choking up on the spear with one hand, getting the longest reach-back on it with the other, and brought it almost straight down into her body so hard that he went to one knee. Prefaced by an exultant snarl.

Now, this was not a total dick move, as I knew well that our party featured no less than three healing-savvy characters, and Hank had no intention of following up with the kill-the-helpless move on this obviously valuable character. I knew that she was slippery as an eel, and that the only way to control her movements was to render her completely helpless. That meant bleeding-out status, and my pals could ensure that she would live.

Shawn flinched. The other players all shuddered. He tried to get the other players to stop me, and I coolly pointed to the initiative rules - it was my go, no one else's. Nevertheless the paladin was somehow empowered to interfere, if he could roll higher than me on an attack roll to grab Hank, which he failed to do. Shawn, to his credit, swallowed hard and went by the rules, and I rolled a 27 to hit or some absurd shit like that, then my damage roll was satisfyingly high and punched her into the negatives.

After I told the others "heal her if you want to," I think Shawn figured out that I wasn't griefing and went with it almost cheerfully. We played out the triumphant return to our boss with the help of some NPCs. It was actually pretty fun to disguise her magically as a sack of potatoes and take her to the duke, and no table-talk or anything else indicated that I was being tagged as a problem player.

I did learn, only then, in table-talk during the last scenes of play, that James was Shawn's original NPC who he'd injected into the published adventure, his one alteration of the textual material we were playing. And here's another interesting detail he provided: that our session actually got us through two sessions of planned plot, I assume by eliminating a whole evening's worth of "find and capture James after she escaped you."

There is a line which separates "grim dark loner character" from "dick player" in the context of illusionism (although Shawn's illusionism is very relaxed, and the only reason I don't call it Participationism is because we're at least supposed to pretend). Hank's basic nihilism means he gets to deliver genre-savvy snarks about the tasks and obvious next steps, not for me to ruin people's fun. Fortunately, no one seemed to tag me as the griefer and we all ended by congratulating one another on "getting through" this much story in one session.

I hope they can see that line. Its existence is really the only thing that makes this kind of game any kind of fun for me, and the line won't exist unless the DM/GM trusts the player. I've been down this road many times and I really, really hope Shawn and the others get it. I'll tell you about Asrovak D'Ursini and Rolemaster in a later post, to explain what happens when the table does not.

Best, Ron

Eero Tuovinen

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2013, 07:37:00 AM »
Hah, that was a quite interesting tale - I'm glad you're enjoying your 4th edition expedition. To me this seems like the exact sort of play that I've provisionally tagged "simulationist for D&D"; unless I miss my guess, it's the clearly dominant mode of play for the 4th edition. I guess it sort of limps along if you're into vanilla fantasy railroads :D I myself get a massive bug under my skin from the illusionism and end up even more cynically ironic than you apparently did here. I suppose I should just learn to enjoy the whirring dials and gauges (really, I think that players are basically just supposed to be bemused by the interactions of their power-sets so they don't mind what happens in the game on a more foundational level) and ignore the man behind the curtain.

Regarding your griefing, I have a friend who was in a very similar situation this summer in a AD&D 2nd edition campaign. The DM was basically running on nostalgic fumes (2nd edition was his game of choice in his teenage years), the game was set in the Forgotten Realms and it was very, very traditional TSR in aesthetic terms. Meanwhile the player base was coming straight out of my own considerably more hardcore campaign. The result in this one player's case was a massive rise in the ironic content of his play, he apparently simply couldn't take the Forgotten Realms and its fantasy tropes quite seriously. While this same player used to be an absolute cornerstone of our earlier campaign, in this more TSR-flavoured one he started playing witty parody demihuman hecklers. It came to a head in a very similar situation to yours here, when the heckler's elven tourist (he's a very creative player, and here he was running with the theory that the only reason an elf would become an adventurer is because of oblivious, snotty colonialist attitudes towards human civilization) ironically killed some human civilians to find out what would happen. In his case it went to a serious discussion of Alignment, as the party was supposed to be Good.

Mike Holmes

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2013, 05:20:08 PM »
Yeah Ron, it's a very thin line between being proactive with that sort of play and sliding into becoming "That Guy." The worse part is that, even if you succeed, some player who has come across "That Guy" in the past may not catch on to what you're doing. Sounds like you've gotten lucky on that count so far.

Note that "That Guy" is very similar to "My Guy" in that you're using your authority over your character to force play to be the way you want. "That Guy" isn't malicious, but he may push play into territory - dramatic perhaps - in which the other players are less comfortable, or just uninterested.

When I do this stuff in similar games, I use some techniques of voice to make clear when I'm in character and when not, and usually actually explain after I have my character be a jerk just why I'm doing it and how it's actually helping moving things on. I might say, for instance, "By the way, though my character Bivilex the Sorcerer believes that we should turn back, but I'm counting on all of your characters to ignore him for the craven coward that he is." Often the problem is simply that folks are used to role-played actions being directly indicative of player desires. When that may well not at all be the case. Ron didn't want to kill the NPC, because of the obvious irreparable damage it would have done to the GM's plot (and cool NPC). But he did want his character to act all gothy as was appropriate for the character. So he used the system to both act in character, and yet keep things moving forward.

On the other hand, the fact that a full nights worth of prep on the DM's part got skipped (and you knew it would, Ron!), means that you're maybe just a leeetle bit That Guy. :)

Sounds like the GM can adapt, however. Maybe he'll even learn. :)

Callan S.

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2013, 02:15:01 AM »
Atleast someone got mashed into the ground/rendered brutally unconcious! Even if it was the GM PC. Actually, that's probably as good as any PC getting mashed into the ground! Shawn took his lumps well as well, which is good (once he knew it was about brutal beatings rather than perma death. And that was brutal! Dropping to your knee while spearing her? You bastard! lol!)

And this wasn't about saving the plot, surely? This is second guessing the range of the social contract (I mean, I'm not seeing any discussion going on) and getting close to the edge of it, where slightly unpredictable end of game results can happen (and the murmerings of the surprise ending seem to indicate some appreciation of that surprise ending).

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We went to go see the mustache guy and he said we had to go see Duke Silvershield
Oh my, I think you are playing the latest D&D encounters program that I happen to also be playing (but I'm playing in a 5E playtest group)
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Oh, and there was some stuff about laws about public dueling being changed
Yep, you are!

As far as I can tell it's mostly made up, yet still overall railroaded even so.

I was thinking of making a post about authority in that game - in one session some town guard took one PC away for questioning and...we all let it happening - I even said at the time that basically town guard can pull infinite reinforcement. The GM said something that seemed to suggest it was okay to do something - but we still did nothing and one of the main NPC's (one from the Balders gate video game) got another PC to cause a distraction while the NPC auto rescued the PC taken in for questioning. I'd assumed at the time that oh, maybe we can take on the town guard, but the flamefist mercenaries were the infinite reinforcement folk that you tip toe around. Then in a latter sessions we run into the town guard who tell us to clear off, we go as if to attack and the GM tells us straight if we do, we will go to jail and we will never get out. But he also wants us to go do stuff - I'm not sure he realises that if you can't mess with authority, then only conventional, status quo affirming actions remain. There's nothing we can do until some NPC's tell us it's okay to go fight in X place. I mean, yeah, it's like your game - okay, tell us what were doing. But it gets painful when the GM asks you what your doing, when there's nothing you can do unless he decides you can.

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2013, 09:26:25 AM »
Hi Callan,

During the fight, the halfling player-character did bite the dust hard, but was up and running again after the cleric's blanket "heal y'all" action. The bard was also looking 0 hit points in the face at least once, and the paladin and cleric were whittled down a ways. I was lucky or statistically protected anyway, because the cleric had also raised all our armor classes by 2, so Hank was at AC 23 for the fight, a tough nut for brute characters to hit. I get the idea that Shawn had DM'd Hank only once with his original player and wasn't quite prepared for what a mechanics-savvy bastard of a build he is, especially in combination with allies. I can relate, actually.

The railroading is pretty painful not in terms of protagonism and player agency, but in its astonishing flimsiness. I can only say that the standards for such things seem to have fallen badly since the early 1990s. Come on, the kid just gives away the map to the halfling? There's a map of the arson targets in the first place? People have to set fires by hand in a magic-rich world? You're right that Shawn is following a published script - Duke Silvershield only spoke his assigned lines, read directly from the page - so I'm not slamming him, but rather that apparently the authors of said script, for the game as a whole, have zero respect for their audience.

I have lots to say about griefing, power-builds, the line we're discussing, being That Guy, and all related stuff. For now, and also relevant to Callan's point, the idea that genuinely capturing James was ruining or truncating a planned session never crossed my mind.


Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2013, 10:49:35 AM »
If dumb-ass illusionism is standard play for the 4th edition, then it's horribly misplaced, even tragic. If there were ever a system to permit the rest of play to be about setting up fights in the most effective, enjoyable, and emergent way possible, then D&D 4E is it. The DM Guide is quite thorough in setting up the points of fights but is depressingly orthodox in laying the entire context, point, meaning, emotional content, and consequence of a fight, if any, on the shoulders of the GM's prep and plan. If there's anything computer-gamey about 4E - an accusation I otherwise find more and more sterile by the minute - then that's it.

The problem with focusing strictly on tactics of a fair fight is evident from Melee (the single game anyone should know if you want to know what "skirmish" means in role-playing): once the points are spent and the details chosen, if the points aren't broken, and if all the options are "balanced" ... then all of a sudden play becomes less fun than you expected. Why? Because it's just a dice-off at that point, and you might as well have left all the imagination and character-sheet making out of it, and roll dice to see who rolls higher and therefore wins.

(Wizard is more interesting because a duel can change the terrain so drastically and therefore affect the effectiveness of one another's subsequent tactics; i.e., play can canalize the options-set into new and unpredictable configurations. It still has some of the same problem, though.)

If instead of either bog-stupid illusionism or dice-off tactics-only fights, which of course you can't lose for real or you stop playing, 4E support materials were something new that identified and celebrated something old, genuinely to break with the orthodoxy, then I think that would have been very exciting. My same old refrain: go back to the 70s, and you'll find some instances - think about what Hargrave must have been doing at his table, for God's sake! Think about what kind of utterly freaky, fantasy-lit based inspiration was involved when people were playing like that and Michael Moorcock was writing stories that featured such demons as The Things Which Are Not Women ... at the same time.

Providing a no-holds-barred combat engine as a vehicle for this kind of craziness would have been a niche strategy, but a good one - not only distinguishing 4E from computer play, which cannot do what I'm talking about, but also from Pathfinder's absolutely accurate and arguably more honest death-lock grip on AD&D2 style orthodoxy.

Troy_Costisick

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2013, 02:37:04 PM »
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The problem with focusing strictly on tactics of a fair fight is evident from Melee (the single game anyone should know if you want to know what "skirmish" means in role-playing): once the points are spent and the details chosen, if the points aren't broken, and if all the options are "balanced" ... then all of a sudden play becomes less fun than you expected. Why? Because it's just a dice-off at that point, and you might as well have left all the imagination and character-sheet making out of it, and roll dice to see who rolls higher and therefore wins.


Ron, I just want to make sure I understand, are you characterizing melee combat in 4E as basically a dice-off game?

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2013, 05:56:20 PM »
Hi Troy, I don't have the experience with the game to say. A few people's comments have indicated it's one way that play can go. I speculate that if all play between fights were non-consequential, i.e., that all fights were prepped and fixed and played, and that if character builds did not result in certain unpredictable factors during combat (a lot of hit-bonus-hit and AC and hit-point boosting, nothing more), then yeah - it'd be just like the boring way to play Champions. That way to play is a relentless grind of the superior force gradually whittling away the other side, maybe leavened a bit by a lucky hit here and there, but given four-to-ten characters on each side, and with really no way simply to take any individual flat out until the end, then the law of averages always, always carries the day.

Given my limited experience with the game, my inclinations are going the way they went with Champions, to specify the starting color and sub-subgenre expectations quite precisely, and to diminish both the average permitted defenses and (in the case of Champions, I don't know about 4E) the broken attacks. That way fights can turn out unpredictably based on dice and tactics in the moment alike.

Mike Holmes

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2013, 07:44:09 PM »
Not sure what you mean about diminishing defenses and broken attacks in Champions.

In 4E, you are pretty well locked in to a certain level of effectiveness, and the lack of range of mechanical options (even though they're larger than in other editions) means that things can get boring pretty quickly. Hence why I've said it's a good idea to rush through levels like your DM is doing. Things do change when you get new powers.

I didn't say it's a good tactical game. Just the least terrible version.

Callan S.

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2013, 08:59:29 PM »
Hi Callan,

During the fight, the halfling player-character did bite the dust hard, but was up and running again after the cleric's blanket "heal y'all" action.
It's a bit of a side point, but the variability on how much you sit out seems wack to me. I mean, you might do something stupid, get dropped but the cleric is after you in initiative so you're healed before your next turn (at worst you give up your move action to stand up). Or maybe you play well but get unlucky but end up missing turns or even out for the rest of the fight if no one has heals left. Had the same impression in world of warcraft, where dying basically means the negative of having to jog back from a spawn point to where you were, but it was arbitrary how far that was, so no matter how good or bad you were, you could end up with a bigger negative, arbitrarily.

That said, heh, rogues often crumple - glass cannons, either shining bright with damage output or fall, fall, falling!

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The bard was also looking 0 hit points in the face at least once, and the paladin and cleric were whittled down a ways.
*indifferent shrug*. Might raise tension in the moment, but if getting face mashed is the lose condition, they didn't get face mashed.

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The railroading is pretty painful not in terms of protagonism and player agency, but in its astonishing flimsiness. I can only say that the standards for such things seem to have fallen badly since the early 1990s. Come on, the kid just gives away the map to the halfling? There's a map of the arson targets in the first place? People have to set fires by hand in a magic-rich world? You're right that Shawn is following a published script - Duke Silvershield only spoke his assigned lines, read directly from the page - so I'm not slamming him, but rather that apparently the authors of said script, for the game as a whole, have zero respect for their audience.
I presumed the flimsiness is part of the telegraphing of 'hae, follow my script!', without explicitly saying that.

I have trouble even thinking of it as being an actual attempt to manipulate the players unbeknownst. I'd wonder about the mental health of the author if that was actually the intent?

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I have lots to say about griefing, power-builds, the line we're discussing, being That Guy, and all related stuff. For now, and also relevant to Callan's point, the idea that genuinely capturing James was ruining or truncating a planned session never crossed my mind.
What surprises me is that it didn't cross Shawns mind either - some element of dynamic play event appreciation in him, perhaps?

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2013, 10:23:01 PM »
I think I've managed to compile the complete list, which I submit are conceptually entirely independent, but are easily mistaken for one another. We have:

That Guy as griefer: there to ruin others' fun
That Guy as power-tripper: there to exult in visting whatever he or she wants on other characters and on fellow players, through narration-wrangling, rules-applications-misapplications, or both
That Guy as wanting some, any agency: when there comes a chance to inflict permanency upon the fiction, he or she does it
That Guy as agenda-clash: he or she wants something else fundamental out of play than everyone else, and it shows
That Guy as dark & edgy: he or she plays characters who send off all the signals of possible evil or amorality, and who may well do things the other characters won't
That Guy as snarker or genre-highlighter: frequently, possibly continally, calls attention to the logical flaws in or especially obvious tropes of played situations
That Guy as testing or finding the boundaries of Social Contract (good one, Callan): does things which border on uncomfortable for others, despite being within the bounds of the established fiction and system of play
That Guy as Color: when his or her character is involved, narrates as easily and frequently as the designated narrator, up to and including Director Stance content

In the fall of 1985, I was GMing the first genuinely successful, aesthetically rewarding, and socially rewarding RPG in my life: 3rd edition Champions. Every so often, we reached out to others, either friends who'd expressed interest or people in the local gaming scene, to join us to see if they'd like to play. This first Champs game of mine was very sprawly and between player-characters and GM PCs, reached about twenty-five heroes in the course of a couple of years of weekly play.

Two of the guests stand out and had a deep effect on me and my understanding of RPG systems. They were, without question, power-trippers with practical echoes of griefers. They were experts at that and earlier versions of Champions, and therefore quite devastating when playing a game like that which relies so heavily on shared standards of "what's OK" in the fiction. As I've written, many times, "superheroes!" is a useless touchstone for such standards - you have to be way, way more specific than that. We didn't have any good way to stat it, knowing only that successful, i.e., fun players in this game simply happened to have come from the same exposure to the same comics.

Some of Champions was flatly broken. Certain attacks, the infamous HKA and RKA killing attacks, were so over-powered they weren't funny; a certain defensive power shoehorned into a supplement had been built to stop them, and was itself absurdly over-powered. Certain math was broken, especially when the "charges" concept was included in a power, such that powers relying on charges were both very powerful and completely non-tiring to use.

Other math (the elemental control) was routinely misunderstood among the subculture of players, such that half the people you met thought it worked the wrong way, and half of the rest knew it didn't, but did it the wrong way anyway in order to exploit the others' misunderstanding. On top of that, unsurprisingly, when someone made a math error in generating his or her character, it somehow always went in favor of the character's effectiveness.

One important distinction in the mechanics is Actual Points vs. Real Points. Actual Points is what your character would cost if all mitigating/reducing factors were not considered; Real Points is what you have to pay with all those factors in effect. I found it handy to impose a ceiling on the ratio between the two, after the first utterly disastrous guest played; when I explained it to the second, he was offended and accused me of muzzling the players. One of our first, successful new players also complained bitterly when I insisted that he spend experience points always to bring his character's ratio down, until it reached an acceptable level to me.

It was also the first, count it, the very first game with psychological limitations like "will not kill" and similar. So the local standards for how binding these limitations really are - despite the book being explicit that they applied utterly - varied greatly. Plenty of Champions games became slaughterhouses.

My interest in play, I would later find, was very much like that of the authors as evidenced in their supplement Strike Force: all about embracing the disadvantages, spending experience as a psychological and logistic development process, and committing first and foremost to emerging character arcs. Whereas a great deal of Champions play, nationwide, focused on dealing damage as the primary method of effectiveness and setting one's personal footprint on play.

So much for me as Champions GM. Let's look at me as a player in the 80s, as described in on making the same character over and over:

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... my "character profile" ended up looking like multiple takes on a narrow range of issues. It wasn't as if I were playing the very same person over and over, but the motifs and the issues did get raised over and over, in different ways.

Asrovak d'Ursini - sinister shadow-mage with snake familiar (Rolemaster)
Vivianne - undead sorceress with shadowy-dark scary spells (GURPS; setting Cynosure)
Rico - kick-butt latino speed freak, with venomed fingertips (Cyberpunk) (editing in: Mexican! not "latino," what was I thinking when I wrote that ...)
Serpentine - sexy snake-powers babe, with narcotics-powers + kicking butt (Champions) (editing in: Unlike the others on this list, she was a GM PC)
Nocturne - shadowy occult superhero, lots of darkness and intangibility and magical scariness (Champions)

Most importantly, to turn to theme rather than motif, all of these characters had terrifically dysfunctional family backgrounds, often being related to major villains in the game, often exiled/detached from family.

Let's look at the Rolemaster game, run by that same player who did work out in our Champions game but complained bitterly. The game was notably "converted" from his old D&D, game notably using some old supplement as background, and notably allegedly playing through (or creating) the GM's in-progress fantasy epic intended for publication.

My character was Asrovir D'Ursini, as described in the list above, and it's fair to say that Hank is channeling him just a little. I seem to remember Ed, the GM, having a beggar come up to ask him for money, who got zapped with a pain spell. In the 4E game, last week, this beggar thing happens all the time, and when two of them came up to Hank as he pursued the annoying kid, I had him shoulder through them - which gave rise to statements of wonder on the other players' parts, for some reason - and even narrated that he smartly and simultaneously elbowed each one in the eye.

Well, the whole story of that game ended fairly bitterly. Two of us could not stand the egregious railroading, the insane time-sink of resolving ordinary acts with those mechanics, and the increasingly-obvious non-viability of building a fantasy novel or intended award-winning series of novels through playing this game. All of which was compounded by absurd social and sexual soap opera concerning two men and two women in the group, one of whom was me.

So ... let us count the ways. As I see it, I was That Guy in the dark & edgy, agenda clash, needing agency, and social-contract straining. But as the group was written up for a research paper at the U of Chicago, all of us pseudonymized of course, the author minced no words that "Rick" was a typical power-gamer who could not be trusted to play with any integrity toward the fiction or regard for the group.

And not too long after that, playing Nocturne, which in the interest of not typing all damn night, I refer you to In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh - most of the thread is not relevant to this one, but I'm pointing to the last post on the second page, mine, to provide the example I'm talking about. Consider whether John thought himself to be providing Color-character bit of his own (minor damage in Champions was utterly trivial), or to be teaching a lesson to me as a player ("play right or I'll damage your character").

It's interesting to be wading in the same waters now, from a very different perspective: the old guy, the publisher guy (although I'm not sure they believe that I know Mike and Rob), the obviously-skilled Color player, and despite mild snarking, upholder of Social Contract.

Callan S.

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Re: [D&D 4E] Vryloka + Blackguard: would you let your daughter marry one?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2013, 08:32:34 PM »
Is leaving someone to be attacked the same as directly attacking them with your character?

It's when rules on not attacking each other seem 'obvious', yet are actually ambiguous in scope, that people will commit to RL social bond breaking activity. Just need two or more people who all think there is only one reading/one interpretation. The next part - there actually being more than one reading/interpretation - is the easy bit to supply.[/falorn philosophy]