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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Meramec on February 01, 2010, 07:02:57 PM



Title: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Meramec on February 01, 2010, 07:02:57 PM
So I gather three friends for an impromptu session of D&D.  They’ve all played the first WOTC edition of the game extensively and one has significant experience with the second AD&D offering, but I’m the only one with knowledge of the 70’s/80’s era games.  I grab a random module from the basement and we sit down to play.  The only thing close to a rulebook that we have is a reference sheet out of the module which details equipment to buy, saving throws, and gives the attack matrix for the first level characters.

I have never read the module and we go from zero to playing in about 15 minutes.
 
“You are gathered here in this town to fight against the growing tide of chaos and find great treasures to benefit all of mankind…”

That’s all the stage-setting needed. It’s D&D, we know we are here to engage in group problem-solving within a dangerous and magical fictional environment.  We don't need motivation to explore the dungeon anymore than we need motivation to build a road in Settlers.

I’m writing this account because it was the first time I’ve run a game in over a year and I came away with some thoughts about some of the events.

Thought the first:  Bregens McDrinkerton and the hot elf.  After a sound defeat at the hand of some 3 HP goblins (the players were getting used to the way this version of D&D works) the players went in search of hired help. The module included a list of 20 NPC’s which I commandeered for use as the pool of available mercenaries.  But how to go from the players wanting to find a hireling to the actual decision of who goes along for how much?  I had zero rules at hand for this and I am not expert enough of a DM to wing such a thing. I need a system in place that will say “given conditions x, character y will join the party for price z.”  Given that, I can adapt it to fit the creativity of the moment (interpret conditions, flesh out the character, adapt the price to the situation.)  Absent this system, however, I am lost.  So, I had the players toss 2d6 and if they rolled high they could hire a guy for a cut of the loot and if they rolled low it would take more convincing.  The players immediately caught on and bought into it and it worked. However, I wish the game would handle this more explicitly, perhaps a system whereby the player can generate an NPC to hire without DM input. 

The place to find hirelings is, of course, the tavern. I describe the place pretty lamely “It’s a tavern, lots of off-duty soldiers here, and  a barkeep, and some random adventurer-looking guys.”  One of the players immediately says “I walk over to the hot elven adventuress and beguile her with my charming ways.”  The player, by saying this, added an element to the game world that I as DM did not include already. He did not ask “is there a hot elf adventuress?”, he simply made it so.  I absolutely loved that, as I then got to riff off of it and we were off to the races.  The downside is that it still hinged on a 2d6 roll, which the player bonked, and the other players were unable to contribute while the other player was being shot down by the elf. (I mean, even The Game of LIFE has a mechanic where you can do stuff (bet on the wheel) while it's another player's turn. I would love such a thing for D&D so players were always involved even when they are not center stage.)

While I gave the others an equal chance to find their own henchmen, they didn’t get nearly as much into it, simply stating they wanted a “strong guy” or a “magic-user looking guy”.   I feel that these players could have gotten into it more if they had a rules-system they could have used for inspiration.

The module gave two characteristics for each NPC, things like “talkative and cautious” or “courteous and nervous”, and I found these things surprisingly helpful . I was able to go from that seed content to build up the NPC’s a bit.  It culminated when I told the player (same one who invented the elf) that there were two dwarves available, one was “brave” and the other “lazy.” I started writing down the brave dwarf’s stats, assuming that is who he'd pick, when he says “I want the LAZY dwarf. His name is Bregens McDrinkitude.”  This dwarf went on to become a star, getting in the way when the party wanted to ride to the dungeon (He doesn't feel like getting on the horse) or outfit him with a missile weapon (He's not in the mood to bother reloading the crossbow.)  Without the seed content in the module, this would not have happened and this NPC would never have had any life to him.  In contrast, another player called his hirelings “Zachary the Fighter” and “Phillip the Cleric” and put zero effort into considering their characterizations.  I think some rules to help him along would have increased the game experience for everyone.  As it was, the game relied on the imagination of a single player to carry the weight for the personalities of the NPC’s.

Another player, less flamboyant but still a thinker, rolled low on his attempt to hire a fighter.  I decided that the guy would go along if the party first outfitted him with some plate mail.  Not able to come up with enough coin for that, the player, surprising me, said “Sorry, we don’t have that much money. But, is there anything we could do for YOU?”  Instantly, Lizardius the Great was born and the party was off to help the world-famous lizard man hunter slay a den of the vile folk.  (The module provided this encounter as a numbered area on the overland map, and I just tied this character to it.)  Here, the 2d6 roll created some great moments from a failed roll due to the play of the player—he effectively narrated his way out of the dice-based resolution of the situation.  I thought that was a lovely thing and wish that there was more of that implicit in the rules.  (Contrast to where the failed roll ended the elf seduction because the player didn't follow up.)

Thought the second:. Yes, lizardfolk children can burn.  The assault on the lizard man lair was a fun tactical bit of play that involved the setting of a large fire.   The attack was going very well for the party and the few survivors of their initial strike were trying to flee by getting close to the fire, putting it out with mud, and then going through.  The lizard men were at equal strength to the PC’s at this point, so the players didn’t really want to just charge.  They were pretty much ready to let them flee and declare victory until I mentioned that one of the women was carrying the bag of the clan’s treasure.

This created a question of how to get the treasure without killing the noncombatant lizard man children (they were there in the module…)  One player had his character leave the area and prepare to track the fleeing humanoids to steal the treasure later.  One, however, decided the fact that the lizard men were standing next to the fire to be a sign.  He tossed the rest of his flaming oil into the fire…and play just kind of stopped. 

“Dude, you shouldn’t have done that.” 

The other players admonished him for the act and for the rest of the session all three of them, even the player who did it, referred to the exploding of the noncombatants as a bad move (although they still took the loot, of course.)   I saw this as a great moment—they faced a real dilemma, lose treasure or kill the innocent, and they made their choice.  I think the fallout from that event should have a rules-based interpretation. I know that is anathema to the 70’s era D&Ders, but there comes a time when saying “if you were a good DM you could make this awesome” gets a bit old for me.  I’m just like, come on, I want to be a better DM, so please give me some rules to help out!

These are players whose only RPG exposure is D&D of a pretty traditional sort. Yet here they are, adding semi-narrative elements on their own.  If it were only a “game”, then they would have just said “OK, it’s not against my alignment to do this, and this action nets me XP, so I’ll do it” and moved on.  But no, they stood there like gods and judged the characters (and the player, a bit.)  And this happened without support from the rules and without detailed characters (one player didn’t even give his guy a name.) Imagine what this play could have become had the rules helped out! 

Now, I don’t think we want a ruleset that drives play inexorably towards these sorts of dilemmas, but when play naturally gets close to them I would love rules that help get something out of it. 

Thought the third:  What’s flanking do, again?
What’s a D&D play report without a mention of the combat rules?  My goal was to keep things tense and visceral and as far removed from the WOTC D&D tactical miniatures experience as possible.   To this end, I never had them roll for initiative, used miniatures only to set the marching order (they eventually had 7 characters in the party), made all my die rolls in the open, and had them roll all their attacks simultaneously.  The best way to speed up combat that I have found is to stop asking each player, in turn, what they want to do like we’re playing Monopoly.  This is battle, man!  It’s a fight, what do you think you’re going to do?  Roll a d20, that’s what!  I would say “OK,you are all in melee with the goblin horde. Their AC is 7.  Your turn.  Roll your attacks, tell me your hits, and let me know if you want to do anything specific.”  One guy decided to fight defensively, another helped a fallen companion, but mostly they just attacked.  The roll to attack, roll damage, repeat, cycle did not get boring because the fights were over in a manner of minutes.  A really fun D&D combat experience for me.  (It was the slow pace of WOTC D&D that drove me from the game.)  The other players liked it, too, because they got to make important decisions and solve problems (the whole point of the game) about when to advance, when to flee, what weapon to use, etc.  Also, they were not limited by needing to look up the rules for something, If they wanted to push a guy down some stairs or throw a table or whatever we just rolled with it and I resolved it favorably for them to keep going with the creativity.  I think here is a good place where rules get in the way—the play is meant to be fast-paced and off the cuff to best engage the mind in the way I am looking for in an RPG (which is different from what I look for when engaging my mind in something like MTG or Whist).  Referencing specific rules for aiding another or drinking a potion during a fight slow that down.  So, while I have been whining that this game system doesn’t have enough rules, perhaps in combat it has just enough.  (But could I explain how I ran this to someone else and have them do the exact same thing....I don't know.)

This 5-hour game session gave me things to think about and consider.  I hope this post is appropriate for this forum.  I tried to convey my reflections on what happened.  (But perhaps I'm not focused enough, as I touch on several different points here.)

Regards, and game on!

John



Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 01, 2010, 08:09:26 PM
Hi John, that's a good account you gave!

With the burning lizard children, it doesn't sound like the other players were judging the characters choice, it sounded like they were trying to indicate to the player he had played the game wrong and should not play that way again? That's how the account strikes me. It doesn't sound like they judged the player a bit, it sounded like they judged him alot and that's all they judged. Personally I think it was a challenging moral moment and interesting and I'm wondering if you have some players who want nothing like that? Which causes a...schism, really.

Also, which player set them alight? The one who had invented the holt elf and lazy dwarf?

It's pretty tidy that you did all that in five hours!


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Ar Kayon on February 02, 2010, 03:48:09 AM
I would have immolated the lizard folk too.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 02, 2010, 06:55:03 AM
Hi there,

First, holy shit, what a great game, and what a great play account. Welcome to the Forge, too!

My brief responses, which I hope you're interested in discussing ...

1. Regarding the hot elf, it seems to me as if it wasn't only the player who let the ball drop with the low roll. Nothing stopped you from including the character just because you liked her and looked forward to playing her. The roll meant she didn't easily become a hireling, and the player's cessation of play toward her means she didn't become a hireling at all, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't become an active NPC in the ensuing events. (The possibility that occurs to me is that she becomes the player-character's romantic stalker, but the range of options is practically endless.)

This leads to a bigger and more abstract issue regarding what a failed roll of this type means at all, but perhaps that can wait.

2. Did you utilize any alignment talk or rules whatsoever? It would be very interesting to me to know whether and how you've encountered that concept and set of rules in previous D&D play as well.

3. You know what you did with the combat rules? To a certain extent, you re-invented the Tunnels & Trolls combat system. If you'd pooled everyone's fight rolls into a total for each side (and still permitted individual actions as an alternative), then you'd have made it all the way.

Cool! I am so psyched to see this thread. Plus an old-school GURPS thread going on too? My cup is runny!

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Tim C Koppang on February 02, 2010, 08:09:12 AM
You just made me nostalgic.  The first thing you did when you grabbed old school D&D was mod it!  What's more, because you were light on "official" rulebooks, you added rules in the places where you wanted them, and started scaling back the rules where you wanted to streamline them (combat).  From the sounds of it, this all happened partly out of necessity, but all very naturally.  This mirrors my first experiences with D&D so closely that I thought I was having a flashback.

I'm also curious to hear how you used alignment rules, if at all.  When the one player burned the lizardmen, you made it sound like alignment was irrelevant and that everyone was suddenly aware that the guilty player had crossed some unspoken line.  These moments of out-of-character judgment cropped up a number of times in my own D&D games.  I always found them odd.  We'd be happily chugging along making crude comments and killing fictional kobolds.  But then, as if out of nowhere, the group would call out one player and say, "Too far!"  It was a weird bit of group regulation.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: JoyWriter on February 02, 2010, 08:53:06 AM
One, however, decided the fact that the lizard men were standing next to the fire to be a sign.  He tossed the rest of his flaming oil into the fire…and play just kind of stopped. 

“Dude, you shouldn’t have done that.” 

First part I love is that everyone decided that was a bad idea, then stuck with the consequences. The next bit is that you really wanted to hit them with those consequences, make things in the game matter and not just be brushed past, however light your intentions for the game.

I’m just like, come on, I want to be a better DM, so please give me some rules to help out!

Couldn't agree more, even if the "rules" are just guidelines of how to work it out. From my experience, the first thing is whether you want it to be

reputation with the victims, (now the lizardmen hate your guts, and either you will have to fight them again, or you need them and they wouldn't help you to save their life, or you start a war of retaliation between them and some guys who know you) which can be done by considering the attitude and memories with which different factions relate to your group, as well as who they might associate with you (maybe you're nothing to do with that lord over there, just sorted out some kobolds for them, but the lizardmen might not see it like that),

godly kerbstomp (delayed preferably, perhaps next time you meet some priests they refuse healing or threaten to sic an angel on you unless you sort things out with the lizardmen) which requires you to put a bit of thought into that god's morality and why their not calling archons out on all the goblin invaders,

or reputation with your fellows (there are links between the people you know and them which are partially friendly, and you have to do a coverup to stop it damaging your existing relationships) or something else entirely.

Other solutions include having someone else do it to you/your mates, and use that as evidence why they're "so evil", leading to embarrassment/shame among the group, and a guaranteed kick the dog (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KickTheDog) moment, as you already know the group consider that to be going too far.

In another sort of game, it could just get you arrested


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: JoyWriter on February 02, 2010, 08:54:27 AM
I gammy'd up the quote tags a bit there.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: NN on February 02, 2010, 01:04:32 PM
Some thoughts on your thoughts

- the main thing seems to be get all the players into player-invention and "failiure can mean complication"

- Its B2 , right? because that adventure is deliberately underwritten.


1. hot elf hirelings
makes me wonder: what are hirelings actually for?

- to effectively be PCs (in which case, do recruitment 'rules' matter?)
- a resource to be managed (balance the extra resources you can win by having them vs. the resources they cost)
- redshirts to keep PC death down
- trusted henchmen to specifically help their PC employer (for games with high inter-character conflict)

i think this is murky in the original game, but your solution would depend on your choice.


2. consequences

-alignment problems as already mentioned

im not quite sure what a mechanical rules would help, as theyd get factored in to the decisions, and so maybe stop interesting stuff.

-reading your account, i had a vision of the party having to later prove their heroism in front of some powerful good npcs...and their audience is suddenly interrupted by a fire-scarred lizardwoman and a militant druid screaming "babyburners". Also I imagine Lizardius as a mammallian-supremacist-maniac who know thinks the party are fellow travellers.

..reminds me of a D&D game a played about 5 years ago. We were stomping around Basic modules - twisted a bit to fox those who'd read them - and we acted like a bunch of xp-obsessed thugs. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of consequences...but in fact the DM was craftily biding his time...we ended up having to defend the Keep On the Borderlands against a angry coalition of everyone we'd ever pissed off.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 02, 2010, 04:23:51 PM
Hmm, yeah, just noticed with the combat that it's an opt-in system. Instead of going from player to player pedantically as if they are going to do some special action (when they are most likely just going to attack), everyone just rolls an attack unless they opt-in to a special action. That's alot more ergonomic! I'll tuck that idea away in my head, hehehe...


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Meramec on February 02, 2010, 10:02:41 PM
Wow, thanks for all the responses!   The welcomes and thoughtful posts are much appreciated.  Reading them and writing the following has really helped me put more of a name to some of the issues that were tickling my brain during the session described in my play account.

Callan:   Yes, the player who invented the elf also burned the lizardfolk (he was the only one who noticed “oil flask” on the equipment list because the others mostly just looked at weapons and armor.)   I’m still trying to think whether they were judging the player or the character. The answer may be that they simply don’t differentiate the two.  I think that if the entire game were a series of moral dilemmas that they would tire of that quickly, but I also think that having them arise naturally is fine because it just creates more interesting problems to solve.  I don’t think they are interested in “exporing a character” per se, but they are interested in trying to get out of tough situations, and sometimes those situations can be tough not because of the enemy has 100 HP but because he has 1 HP and is holding a baby.  

I see moral dilemmas in these games as another sort of problem to solve, albeit one that sometimes can have a longer postgame resonance .  The only issue is that the contraints are all self-imposed by the individual player. Without rules for what happens when you make one moral decision or another, you could have one player who takes these questions seriously and another who decides to steal from the collection tray because he needs 10 more gp’s to buy some armor.  You’d effectively have two players at the same table playing different games.  And this isn’t even necessarily a bad situation, it’s just something that needs to be understood and perhaps made explicit (at least in the mind of the DM (at least when I’m the DM.))  My response below to Ron’s alignment question contains an experience of mine where forcing moral dilemmas did indeed lead to problems, but I don’t think it has to even when the players involved aren’t necessarily there to explore such things.

I think if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’d admit that I had the lizardfolk women carrying the treasure precisely because I wanted to force this issue.  So I think it’s relatively straightforward to generate such situations from the DM’s chair, but you don’t want to do so if the other players don’t like such play.  (But, this applies to everything—you don’t run a game of court intrigue with a group itching for dungeon exploration.  My players used to sing out “Da-da-da-da-da, Inspector Gadget…” whenever there was even a hint of a mystery in an adventure…)

I wish there were a way for the players to generate these situations, though.  They can direct so much of the action and make the game their own through choosing where to explore in the game world, whether to settle down or lead a bandit horde or serve the Goddess of Goodness and Light (at least when you play D&D in an open-ended setting-based way.)  But they can’t force these sorts of dilemmas themselves, because they require DM and other-player buy-in.  They could possible create them in the way the player created the hot elf, but it seems to me it needs a bit more support than that.

Ron:  Yes! Absolutely I could have included her more in the adventure. She did remain as a recurring character in the tavern, but given the low roll she emerged more as an aloof figure than anyone really interesting.  If this were a campaign she likely would have evolved into something else, but we only played a few hours.  

The problem I run into as a DM is that the “game management” portion of the role demands a lot of my energy and my creativity takes a hit. I simply wasn’t creative enough in the moment to do more with the hot elf without help.  I was thinking “OK, this player has taken 5 minutes just on this encounter and the other players are twiddling their thumbs and are bored, so I’d best move on to their characters soon” and as a result of my distracted play (and lack of helpful creative input from other players/rules) the hot elf never even got a name.

The thing about her was that she was created by the player, and I wish there were a way to encourage such creativity on the part of all the players.  Perhaps that is a DM skill and I should just blatantly state “OK, tell me something that is happening in the tavern and how you interact with it.”  Huh, that might actually work, and it might be awesome.  (But I fear that if it’s not an actual rule that the game works this way some players may get annoyed with me in a personal way for “forcing” such play on them.  If it were in the rules, then they’d roll with it because that’s part of “the game” (especially if it were tied into the XP system explicitly.)  Maybe I’m just completely off base here, though, regarding player psychology.)

Regarding alignment, I ignored it completely in this session.  My understanding of 70’s era D&D is that alignment has little to do with worldview and everything to do with which cosmic forces you “align” yourself and I find that notion to be unnecessary in my games.

In my previous D&D play, alignment has only ever served to cause problems.  In my teenage play, it was completely messed up as we tried to figure out what “alignment” real people would have and many a session devolved into “your character so wouldn’t do that because he’s NG and that’s a CG action!” or childish philosophy of many sorts.  In my experience perhaps the greatest negative in AD&D is its treatment of alignment.  I feel that its loose use of the words “good” and “evil”, etc. can very well lead people who are smart but of limited perspective down an alley that, in my view, is detrimental to the development of a person’s philosophical worldview.  The AD&D books advocate the DM tracking the characters behavior on an alignment chart, which implies that the DM can discern “good” from “evil” actions and the players all enjoy the same level of understanding of such things.  Whether committing a small evil to serve a greater good is laudable or sinful is a matter of deep importance to the human experience in real life, but it is the sort of thing that the AD&D alignment system can end up leading kids into arguing over in ways both unproductive and hurtful to their longterm development as people.   But, perhaps this is taking the topic in another direction completely, so I’ll stop here.

In my adult D&D play, I’ll illustrate the issues I’ve had with it through an example.  I joined this campaign a month or so into it (the players were all good friends) and noticed they were using the Book of Exalted Deeds and the party included a character who had chosen the Saint template and another who took a Vow of Poverty. ( I consider the Book of Exalted Deeds to be far more objectionable than the Book of Vile Darkness, although I consider both to be WOTC extensions of the alignment problems started by TSR in AD&D.)  Well, the rules in that book explicitly state that these sorts of characters are to face moral issues during play head on.  So, I decide that it would be interesting if I make an evil character who is trying to repent of his ways and change his alignment from NE to LG.  I play my evil-aligned character, however, as a good character: he gives away his own magic items to party members, sacrifices his character’s life to save another character, etc.  I also made him suggest evil things, because he was still trying to redeem himself and I thought it would be interesting to see the reaction of the Exalted characters to his redemption quest.  I wanted them to be my character’s mentors.  Well, it turns out that they never saw past the “NE” on my character sheet and never enjoyed what I was doing.  They judged my character based on one letter rather than on my out-of-game stated goals with him and his actions during play.  Later, over a few drinks, we talked about it and the Saint’s player said “You know John, I just don’t enjoy having to make hard moral decisions constantly while playing D&D.”  Turns out, of course, that he took the Saint template because of the mechanical boost and really had no interest at all in the sort of play I was introducing.  And I believe it all came from the alignment line on the sheet. I could have made a true neutral character who suggested evil things and was trying to become good and play would have proceeded much more smoothly because the player would have felt less need to oppose my character (he’s not “evil”, after all) and could have just ignored or laughed off my suggestions rather than feeling he had to intervene.

Anyway, that’s my wordy reflection on alignment.  I just don’t find it well-supported in D&D and I think with players who have significant experience with the game the notion of alignment is way too riddled with thousands of tiny slices of their personal gaming history that me saying “Alignment means X in this campaign” can’t modify their understanding of it. I drop alignment completely from my D&D games.  Maybe others have found it added value to their play, but I have not.  So, in this play report alignment does not factor in to the possible repercussions for the burning of the lizardfolk noncombatants.

Finally, regarding your last point, I’ve never played Tunnels and Trolls.  I ported to this D&D game a simultaneous combat system I use in a game I threw together myself (which has a very different resolution system in its native form.)  I’ll have to check out the T&T system.

JoyWriter:  Yes!  I wanted to make this event have consequences.  The immediate consequences were that the character’s hireling started to view him with disdain, but the character died shortly thereafter and so this was never fully explored. (Actually, now that I think about it, the character died because he sipped a Potion of Poison that was found within the lizardman treasure… perhaps consequences WERE meted out after all!)  Thank you for the suggestions, now what I want is good solid content like that in a table so during play I can dice for the kernels of retribution.  What I want is a table that says “Roll Thy Die Herein When a PC Doth Indecently Act” and has entries like “betrayal of a henchman” and “action draws the ire of a local assassin”, and “traveling bard makes an epic poem from the misdeed and plays it in the local playhouse”, etc.  I want the game to give me a seed that I can expand, reduce, ignore, or embrace as I see fit during play.  Additionally, the players being aware of such a table would transform “oh, that’s just role-playing” actions into “wow, this is important” actions.  If this happens then I think we have a new dynamic of play afoot because the players now know there are rules in place and that the imaginary things they do relate directly to a physical roll of the dice which will generate more imaginary things to change the course of the adventure.  Without that “physical roll of the dice” step, it is simply “the DM making stuff up” and I think the players (well, at least my players) will feel that they are not actually plugged into this aspect of the game and therefore their actions don’t matter because they aren’t sure what the parameters are for how I’ll interpret or respond to their actions (is this the time he does nothing or is this the time the forces of Roald the Most Excellent One chase us out of town?)

Huh, I think this is the first time I’ve actually adequately verbalized this idea, even to myself.  I think I can go work on that table now!  Thanks for the comments!  (To be clear: I’m not looking for a system that will exactly resolve every single possibility. I just want some help along the way.  It’s just like combat—the rules for hitting and doing damage are there to provide a creative base for the real ebb and flow of the battle, which is driven primarily by the DM’s determination of what actions the enemies take—flee, charge, parlay, split up, cast spells, etc.  The combat rules help me figure out when the goblins are scared for their lives and when they’re sure the party will become the first course in the Dark Deathless One’s Feast.  I want, in a like vein, rules that do that for other situations, that help my limited creativity along in a way the players know and can anticipate, yet not predict completely.)

Tim: As I stated above in the response to Ron, I completely ignored alignment.  I have zero interest in D&D pseudo-philosophical arguments regarding the morality of killing the children of Chaotic humanoids.  I never would have used the children of such creatures in anything I prepared (I consider goblins and their ilk to be nearly supernatural evil incarnate forces whose only reason to exist is to oppose those who enter the depths of the earth), but I was sticking with the module and it, indeed, detailed lizardman and goblin family units.  That said, there is a clear line (at least during the play given in this account) between killing Chaotic beings who are threats to innocent folks (which is what the initial attack accomplished) and hammering them more than is necessary (by torching them while they were retreating.)  I have no interest in D&D as a “kill monsters and steal their treasure” game.  What happened in the lizardman encounter was that the killing of the children changed the nature of the fight from “righteous defense of the Realm of Mankind” to “we are now simply thugs.”  I guess the players subconsciously picked up on that and objected.

I, too, think the group regulation that comes up at seemingly random times during a game as violent as D&D to be interesting and weird.  I think there is something important to that, but right now I can’t think clearly about what that may be.

Anyway, glad you liked the D&D recap!  Of course I modded it!  You HAVE to in order to play it at all!  This is what I love so much about the White Box version of D&D—it’s not actually a game at all, but a collection of paragraphs which point you to where a game might be, if only you add in a bit of your own creativity.  It’s like that game NOMIC, where the point of it is to change the rules as you play until someone wins (unless that rule has been changed.)  D&D is about a “feel” more than “rules.” The AD&D hardcovers are the most evocative game text I’ve ever read, yet the game rules have all sorts of problems.  This is why the “rules” are there to simply guide.  Perhaps this is what I am after in rules for this game—a way of generating “guides” to my creative play.  I don’t know. Haven’t thought about it at length in these terms yet. But thanks for bringing up the “you have to mod it” aspect of D&D, as I think that is critical to any understanding of the game.

More thoughts in the next post.

Thanks!

John


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Meramec on February 02, 2010, 10:03:35 PM
NN:  Yes, I’d like rules that help all players create things in the world and know ahead of time the sorts of results that can come from certain actions (outside of it being up to the DM’s judgment.)  The “underwritten” nature of B2 is actually more of a feature than a bug to me—it’s a setting that provides just enough content to create so many different types of game experiences.  The problem is that I don’t have rules to help me do things with the game that I want to do, not that the module is deficient.

In this game the hirelings help solve the problems.  The dungeon is too dangerous for the 3 PC’s alone, so they solve that issue by enbiggening the party.  So, the hirelings act very much like a resource to be managed. The equipment charts give rules for managing many resources through cost constraints.  The spellcasting rules dictate how to manage other resources through different constraints.  This would be another resource, and I want a table (what’s it with me and tables?) that says “Rolling Yonder Die on This Here Tableau Shall Be the Determinant of the Class, Race, Sex, Ability Scores, and Personality Traits of Just Such Hireling as the PC Shall Recruiteth” and the roll is modified in a way knowable to the players.  Maybe you get +1 to the roll for every 10 gp you spend in searching for a recruit. Maybe if you are a cleric you have access to a special table where you can get religious zealot hirelings. Maybe if you are from the Barbarian Lands of Zuugut you get access to crazy half-stag guys with antler guns.  Or whatever.  I want the players to know that the availability of this resource—hirelings—is not just determined at the whim of the DM.  I want there to be rules that as a DM I can use to help guide the acquisition of this resource.  I am not creative enough during play to do all of this and enjoy myself.  But I am creative enough to take the seeds given by the table and run with them.

I love your characterization of Lizardius!  What a wonderful way to evolve his character!  He was fun to play and over the top. I had him insist that the party split up to assault the lizard men and it was fun to see them try to convince him that such a plan would lead to their certain death.

It comes down to two things: (1) wanting the play experience to be a “game” where there are fixed encounters that can and do stop the progress of PC’s when they are not adequately solved and (2) wanting to have enough freedom to riff off of things and force the game to go places that add to the play experience.  Sometimes these work at cross-purposes.  A normal encounter is easy to write to satisfy (1) but then when I am making stuff up to respond to, say, the consequences of a moral dilemma, if I have no rules to follow then it is all (2).  I want to be able to say “OK, you lied to the good priestess, therefore the consequences will be determined in part by Table XXII.   You chose to drink all night instead of helping the peasants stop the flood from ruining the fields, therefore your consequences will be determined in part by Table XVII.”  I want these tables to provide some direction, some measure of severity and type of consequences, that the players know about ahead of time and choose to endure due to their actions.  It could be because they make a reasoned game decision that the value of the gems they steal from the blind merchant is worth the consequences given by Table IX, or it could be because they just want to see what happens when a gluttonous character runs rampant with no care in the world.

(Also, the rules don’t actually have to be tables per se. I’m just stuck in table mode right now. Could be lots of other things—the point is that dice need to be thrown (a) in a way the players can predict and (b) which help me resolve things creatively and within given parameters (say stealing from the local cobbler has different scale consequences than stealing from the Most Luminous Luwana who sits beneath the Tree of Precious Light in sacrifice for the misdeeds of the entire Nation of Olrathe.)  Now, maybe it’s obvious that these things should have different consequences, but it would be good if there were rules to help. I mean, it’s also obvious that a Red Dragon is harder to kill than a Kobold, and yet we still have HD and saving throw rules.)

I am not seeking rules that cover every situation or dictate exactly what happens every time. I want them to hint at what happens and provide just that bit of direction that I need in order to help the game take flight.

I think the existence of such rules is important for two reasons.  One, my creativity often requires some basic elements which I can then combine.  A randomly generated fighter who is “courageous and talkative” could be realized as a noble leader recalling stories of his childhood lessons from his grandfather, the great general who defeated the Scourge. He could also be realized as a boisterous drunk going on and on about his licentious conquests and always dragging the party into trouble by charging ahead.  The exact realization is determined by my creativity on the spot, but the seed content is the same either way and without any seed content all I can typically manage is “Yup, it’s Bob the Fighter. He’s Bill the Fighter’s brother.”  I want the game to give me some seed content.  I want rules to generate this so that during play I can use it.

The other reason it’s important is that it helps frame these “moral dilemmas” as an actual part of the GAME.  Often my players look at the exploring and fighting as “the game” and the other stuff as “the role-playing” and they participate in the latter just for kicks and get irritated when others are taking too long.  I want them to see the “role-playing” part as equally within the game. I want them to have fun inventing stuff to do in town and getting excited when faced with a moral dilemma as well as finding a thrill in surviving the Dread Sorcerer’s Exotic Trapped Mansion and rolling that crucial 20 to fell the golem about to deliver a TPK.  And, at least in my experience, if the “role-playing” aspects are not covered by any sort of rules, then they are de-emphasized by some players and the players who do go all out for them end up siphoning fun from the players who don’t.

Perhaps this is all just a “well, a good DM could handle this” thing, in which case this entire meditation is for my own benefit in running a game.  But I think it’s possibly more than that. I think it could be a useful structure for organizing an approach to play a bit more generally.  But, since I am just me and not other GM's I don’t really know for certain.

Thanks again for the great responses! I’ve worked through a lot of my own thinking about how I want to run these games by writing the above.  Sorry if it’s a bit of a ramble at times—I’m pretty much processing aloud here.  The more I read around this site the more I think I like it.  Thanks!

All the best, and game on!

John


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Daniel B on February 03, 2010, 01:29:59 AM
Hello John,

loved your account! :)    Hope this thread isn't over, because I have questions for you, on something you wrote in response to Callan. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm putting you on the spot; I'm genuinely curious.

Callan:
<snip>

I see moral dilemmas in these games as another sort of problem to solve, albeit one that sometimes can have a longer postgame resonance .  The only issue is that the contraints are all self-imposed by the individual player. Without rules for what happens when you make one moral decision or another, you could have one player who takes these questions seriously and another who decides to steal from the collection tray because he needs 10 more gp’s to buy some armor.  You’d effectively have two players at the same table playing different games.  And this isn’t even necessarily a bad situation, it’s just something that needs to be understood and perhaps made explicit (at least in the mind of the DM (at least when I’m the DM.))  My response below to Ron’s alignment question contains an experience of mine where forcing moral dilemmas did indeed lead to problems, but I don’t think it has to even when the players involved aren’t necessarily there to explore such things.

I think if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’d admit that I had the lizardfolk women carrying the treasure precisely because I wanted to force this issue.  So I think it’s relatively straightforward to generate such situations from the DM’s chair, but you don’t want to do so if the other players don’t like such play.  (But, this applies to everything—you don’t run a game of court intrigue with a group itching for dungeon exploration.  My players used to sing out “Da-da-da-da-da, Inspector Gadget…” whenever there was even a hint of a mystery in an adventure…)

I wish there were a way for the players to generate these situations, though.  They can direct so much of the action and make the game their own through choosing where to explore in the game world, whether to settle down or lead a bandit horde or serve the Goddess of Goodness and Light (at least when you play D&D in an open-ended setting-based way.)  But they can’t force these sorts of dilemmas themselves, because they require DM and other-player buy-in.  They could possible create them in the way the player created the hot elf, but it seems to me it needs a bit more support than that.

<snip>

You mentioned that having two players at the table playing different games (e.g. one taking moral questions seriously and the other treating it more video-gamey) is not necessarily a bad thing. I happen to agree with you, though I wouldn't want to make it explicit to the players (as it would be like someone standing up during a movie and yelling "You're watching a movie!") It sounds to me like you're actively going about confronting the issue of player-buy-in as a GM but that, in the past, you have dealt with it only during the game as it's come up. This is as opposed to wondering about it in hindsight.

My questions are: How have you been dealing with it? How successful has it been? After this actual play post, with everyone else's responses, will you be making any changes in the future?

Next, I just wanted to point something else out: you also expressed a wish that the players could generate the really juicy in-game situations on their own, but I think you answered that wish in the same response.

I would again want to make these situations creep into the game subtly, so as not to ruin the experience. Obviously the players are going to be aware of stuff they introduce themselves, and even of the potential for conflict, but what they won't see is the precise manner in which things will go so, so badly. How to make this happen? I think the trick is to motivate the players to introduce "damaged" but "substantial" content into the game, because such content will invariably lead to some interesting conflicts in the game. Bregens McDrinkerton. Why in god's name did they choose him?! Clearly a tactically bad choice, and yet.. a far more interesting one, as your post demonstrates.

If this "substance" is worked into the game currency and made cheaper than "tactics", you'll get a more interesting game in the long run. (I'm actually building a game .. I've been trying to keep this principle in mind, but your post has reminded me I've gone off-track a bit.)

Thanks again for your post.

Daniel B


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Meramec on February 03, 2010, 06:15:36 AM
Hi Daniel, thanks for your response.  I want to give it full consideration and get back to you, but right now I can only post the following thought I had about giving context to the way-too-long post about the table resolutions.  Although what I have to say here does touch a bit on how I am seeking to engage players who are interested in different aspects of the game.  I love your bit about adding "damaged" content and how that may mirror the choice of the lazy dwarf over the brave dwarf even though that choice was tactically inferior.

Here is a more refined version of what I’m talking about when I say I want the rules to help me resolve dilemmas.  Give moral dilemmas a sort of stat line like monsters. They would have a Severity, Scope, and Persistence score.  Then there is a table which gives creative bits to work with. One entry may be “a disgruntled swordsman; a bloody necklace; and a broken, wasted dream.”  So in a high Severity, Scope, Perisistence resolution this could become a high-level warrior, clutching the last memory of his wife who was murdered as a direct result of the PC’s misdeed, who is going to remain a thorn in the side of the PC for a while.  In a low Severity, Scope, and Perisistence resolution it could be an 80-year old beggar who gave up his adventuring ways too early who is jealous of the PC’s status and who interferes with him in some personal way, perhaps calling the local guard on him accusing him of stealing a necklace.

The table provides the seed content to aid my creativity, the stat line for the dilemma itself provides the parameters for the resolution to help give my creative decision regarding its interpretation some boundaries that everyone playing understands BEFORE the action is undertaken (this is the part that is vital to making this part of “the game” and not just “OK, John is doing his own thing now, when are we getting back to the adventure?”)

Then, the players would be all like, “OK, setting lizardfolk children afire, what are the stats on something like that?”  And I’d go, well, Severity is pretty high because it’s wrong, but Scope and Persistance could be low because it’s a remote area and they are Chaotic after all.  Then they go “OK, great, the treasure’s worth it!  Burn ‘em!”  And I get to roll on the table and they look forward to the resolution because now it’s an actual part of the game and not just the DM imposing his own unpredictable sense of justice on their character’s actions while detracting from the “real game” of exploring the world and problem solving. 

This gives those who are not interested in moral dilemmas a way to engage them through resource management and it allows those who do like to engage them to be confident that their choices will be reflected in the game.

And then you make the table work out somehow so that the outcomes aren’t always purely negative so that "doing bad things" isn't always equivalent to "bad tactics", and you have yourself a new way to completely engage the players in activities traditionally relegated to “oh, that’s just role-playing and DM judgment.”  Now decisions made outside of combat and skill check type situations involve rolling dice to determine in part what is imagined next, just like decisions made during combat involve rolling dice to determine in part what is allowed to be imagined next.

John


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 03, 2010, 03:23:18 PM
Perhaps you could just assign a budget for each act? And each time you introduce element based on their seedy or goody two shoes past, you spend some of your budget. How much is each point of budget worth? I'd probably leave that to A: trying to be consistant as GM in this, B: Watching the audience and if they think you got too much for too little and use up a few more points of budget if so and C: Keep in mind gamist players will still look a little pouty if it gives them even a chance of reducing budget/their obstacle/the thing in the way of them winning.

Another thing might be to make budget bitter sweet - yes, it brings adversity in, but make it that each point used also grants players XP. That way they don't quite know whether to hate it or love it (ha, cop that, players!)

Finally, to avoid 'John is doing his own thing and assigning himself whatever budget he wants' per act it'd be interesting to have a scaling chance of zero budget, based on how much budget you assign the act. So you have a tiny percentile chance of getting no budget at all, and the more budget you declare for the act, the higher that percentile roll gets.

Also that, to me, makes for a sometimes chilling world, where you burn the children and...there are no consequences...this challenges the GM as well, as sometimes inside he might be screaming that there should be consequence, but there is not. What to make of such a world, eh?


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: athornton on February 03, 2010, 08:23:26 PM
My response is, "but dude, a good DM DID make this awesome."

Let me unpack that a little:

1) if you want rules that tell you what should have happened when you set noncombatants on fire to get some loot, then OD&D is the wrong game system for you.  D&D 3+ is probably a better fit.  (there are ways to cheat: like, use Microlite 20/74, which gives you a very fast-and-loose experience, but, hey, it's still d20, which is to say 3E, which is to say, feel free to drag whatever you want back in).  But, really, if you want to play a rules-light system, then, well, yeah, you don't get to complain if the rules don't help you with your rulings.  That said, hey, you rolled with it and you did fine.  So why sweat it?

2) So, you got something to happen that your players were talking about.  That's kinda the point.  Your job is to facilitate the players' having fun.  Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that--especially if you get wrapped up in conceptions of how the story arc *should* go, or where this set of encounters must go in order to make the philosophical point you're going for or in order to drive the plot to the Big Uber-Conclusion you're looking for.  But really, you're there to create a space for people to have fun (which can itself sometimes be memorable--and it's GREAT to hear people say "hey, remember that time when..." *decades* later).

3) Players make their own fun.  Sometimes, really, you're just there to roll dice and nod.  I had a great example of this last week in my own game, when a random item I'd never meant for anything other than minor dungeon dressing, plus a random bit of description to add color to the game session, led to a way for 3d-level characters to defeat a massively-more-powerful vampire.  I was in no position to deny the power of the story one of my players created out of random scenery, because *her story was way more compelling than mine*.  So sometimes you just sit back and let the narrative win.  The description of that session is at: http://athornton.dreamwidth.org/3930.html


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 03, 2010, 09:35:33 PM
I'm pretty sure John didn't do so by sheer personal power - he used a series of tools and techniques (often housed within rules) and I think he's asking for more rules on the matter because he knows that's how it worked.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Daniel B on February 07, 2010, 07:07:38 PM
Here is a more refined version of what I’m talking about when I say I want the rules to help me resolve dilemmas.  Give moral dilemmas a sort of stat line like monsters. They would have a Severity, Scope, and Persistence score.  Then there is a table which gives creative bits to work with. One entry may be “a disgruntled swordsman; a bloody necklace; and a broken, wasted dream.”  So in a high Severity, Scope, Perisistence resolution this could become a high-level warrior, clutching the last memory of his wife who was murdered as a direct result of the PC’s misdeed, who is going to remain a thorn in the side of the PC for a while.  In a low Severity, Scope, and Perisistence resolution it could be an 80-year old beggar who gave up his adventuring ways too early who is jealous of the PC’s status and who interferes with him in some personal way, perhaps calling the local guard on him accusing him of stealing a necklace.

Oooooy, this goes strongly against my GM instincts. The fact that genuine moral dilemmas can't be statted is part-and-parcel of what makes them juicy! For the people to whom stats matter more than moral content, the Severity, Scope, and Persistence numbers will be just more numbers, and won't make them feel anything. (In fact, it would probably cause the reverse effect!) For the people that care about the morality of the Lizardfolk situation, the numbers won't make any difference to their own emotional response. I don't care what "Severity" number the book assigns to killing a baby .. it's high in my book! That's an extreme example, but you get my point I hope?


The table provides the seed content to aid my creativity, the stat line for the dilemma itself provides the parameters for the resolution to help give my creative decision regarding its interpretation some boundaries that everyone playing understands BEFORE the action is undertaken (this is the part that is vital to making this part of “the game” and not just “OK, John is doing his own thing now, when are we getting back to the adventure?”)

Then, the players would be all like, “OK, setting lizardfolk children afire, what are the stats on something like that?”  And I’d go, well, Severity is pretty high because it’s wrong, but Scope and Persistance could be low because it’s a remote area and they are Chaotic after all.  Then they go “OK, great, the treasure’s worth it!  Burn ‘em!”  And I get to roll on the table and they look forward to the resolution because now it’s an actual part of the game and not just the DM imposing his own unpredictable sense of justice on their character’s actions while detracting from the “real game” of exploring the world and problem solving. 

This gives those who are not interested in moral dilemmas a way to engage them through resource management and it allows those who do like to engage them to be confident that their choices will be reflected in the game.

And then you make the table work out somehow so that the outcomes aren’t always purely negative so that "doing bad things" isn't always equivalent to "bad tactics", and you have yourself a new way to completely engage the players in activities traditionally relegated to “oh, that’s just role-playing and DM judgment.”  Now decisions made outside of combat and skill check type situations involve rolling dice to determine in part what is imagined next, just like decisions made during combat involve rolling dice to determine in part what is allowed to be imagined next.

To further explain, I think what you're effectively trying to do is make people engage in morally sticky situations, but by putting it in the rulebook to give it that level of authority which even the GM traditionally must respect most of the time (despite "rule zero") as well as giving it some sort of rules structure so that the GM is not at a loss to handle it. (If you're trying to engage the players in emotional content through resource management .. well .. that's like trying to include a video-game obsessed child in active sports by giving him a Soccer video game!)

You didn't impose your "own unpredictable sense of justice on their character’s actions". The adventure came with the stats of Lizardfolk mothers and children included. The players set the fire. One player made it worse. The players themselves all judged the morality of the situation, without the question being imposed upon them. This is where I think the magic comes from, and what boosted your adventure from a run-of-the-mill dungeon-crawl to a memorable one that they'll think back on in the future.

I'm not claiming that some sort of support from the rulebook wouldn't be helpful; I just don't think it could come in the form you're suggesting. How about a "burning sandbox" approach? (where by "burning sandbox", I mean that the PCs have the same freedom as in D&D, but their environment is set up to be a lot more emotionally incendiary, and likely to burn them, or at least cause unexpected emotional fallout. It's just a suggestion!)

Would your experience ever have occurred if the "lizardfolk mothers in a fire" result were listed in a table? Even worse, if the players had access to that table?

Dan B


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 07, 2010, 09:03:09 PM
Hi John,

Opposite to Daniel assuring you you didn't impose anything, I'm thinking you want to, to some extent, impose your sense of justice. BUT within a set of rules, rather than just doing things that nobody has consented to. That way they know your just working the rules system rather than getting in the way of a familiar and fun set of rules. Am I understanding you to any degree?


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: contracycle on February 08, 2010, 04:43:07 AM
I agree with the view that the Lizardman situation pretty much played out well enough as is, but I sympathise with the idea of there being some sort of systematic prompt for this sort of thing.  In all probability, this incident was invented not to create a moral problem, but to create a tactical one.  Of course, the tactical problem implies a moral issue, but thats probably not the reason it was introduced.  Similarly, I agree that the hot elf can be reintegrated in any number of ways that makes the player's invention of her relevent, and thus give her a bit more presence than a run-of-the-mill NPC.

But, I would probably have blanked out on the hot elfs possibilities, just as I would probably not develop the lizardman scenario any further.  At best, what I might do is stage some sort of revenge attack on the party by outraged lizardmen, but without revealing to the players why this happened it will be experienced with no more significance than a random encounter.  If you GM in a framework of What Would Happen, as I do, and even I suspect if you do so in terms of challenge, these alternate and more dramatically interesting ideas don't necessarily occur to you.

I'm not too keen on the systems so far proposed, as I'm not convinced they're really appropriate for the reasons others have mentioned.  But as the OP suggests, having some sort of prompt for this sort of thing would be useful, would be more likely to prompt an idea than my relatively dry and mechanistic habits of thought.  Maybe, in my revenge attack, I would include some sort of clue indicating what motivated it, but that will still rely on the players being perceptive, lucky and interested enough to notice the clue and realise the relation.  Whereas if I borrowed something from the much-maligned 3-act play structure principle of "get them into trouble, get them into more trouble, get them out", I would probably end up with something meatier and more engaging.  But it is not intuitively obvious to me how I would actually do that, or structure it so that the players were aware of it.

I don't think that any of this sort of intervention goes against the general grain of my/our play style.  Even working within the framework of What Would Happen, sooner or later you need to select between different possible things that could happen.  Selecting for the more interesting and engaging option does not necessarily undermine the general practice; it certainly could happen that the hot elf goes on her way and is never seen again, but it would be less interesting than if she returned in some way.  Thus. this is not significantly about moral choices or anything ofd that nature, it's really a sort of sense of the suitably dramatic.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: athornton on February 08, 2010, 08:10:39 PM
Oh, maybe I see something here I didn't before.

We can all name systems in which the mechanics are designed to push the players into situations where there's a lot, emotionally, at stake, and reward putting it on the line.  Vincent Baker is one of my favorite designers for games like this: Dogs in the Vineyard seems like it could be used to play this sort of moral conflict with a lot of mechanical support (so could Poison'd).

But....can you do this, and still be playing D&D?  That I don't know about.  That is, is there a way to keep the things that make D&D D&D (and what would those be?  Six stats with a range of 3-18?  Classes and levels?  d20, roll high, to hit?  Saving throws?) and still provide mechanical support for moral (as opposed to tactical) conflict?

Hackmaster introduced the Alignment Audit, and just like the rest of 4th edition Hackmaster it was a joke on one level, the sort of crazy over-the-top crunch that you'd add to AD&D if you were an obsessive-compulsive chart-maddened designer on a meth binge (I mean, really, the thing used vector algebra to figure out what happened to your alignment), but on another level it was sort of eerily compelling.  I took it as a parable of why Gygaxian Alignment doesn't work if your players are optimizing the gamist rather than the narrativist elements of play, but it could as easily be a pointer towards "look, if you're going to try to take alignment seriously, here's what you're going to have to do."  As an aside, Hackmaster 4th is really very interesting to read as a deconstruction of late-1st and 2d edition AD&D.

I thought I had a point when I started this post; now I'm not so sure.  I guess my point, if any, is "can D&D be made to do this?  Or once you've bent it to be able to do that, is it no longer D&D anymore?"  I think that's going to be a very subjective call, since I don't think there's going to be any real way to come up with an unproblematic consensus on what Essential D&D is.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: JoyWriter on February 10, 2010, 06:53:11 AM
I can understand that moral puzzle angle, I actually think it's a more healthy way to approach moral situation; where if you see a trade-off you try and subvert it so you can get both sides, or avoid both dangers as much as possible. All too many moral dilemmas that people pose presuppose no compromise solution, which I think is a pretty dangerous thing to teach people. But this bit is more important:

The table provides the seed content to aid my creativity, the stat line for the dilemma itself provides the parameters for the resolution to help give my creative decision regarding its interpretation some boundaries that everyone playing understands BEFORE the action is undertaken (this is the part that is vital to making this part of “the game” and not just “OK, John is doing his own thing now, when are we getting back to the adventure?”)

I've said this before in more words, but I think active choices include prediction (passive agreement is going along with what already happened, actively choosing a future event means seeing a bit of it before it happens). In that sense getting players to agree to unknown stuff is a trade-off between unpredictability and predictability, and putting bounds on things. So I totally agree with you in that sense, but I think there are two ways to do this; one is getting the rules to be the boundary, another is making yourself more consistent so that you can form those boundaries:

The distinction doesn't have to be between pre-written random tables vs arbitrary changeable GM, if you make structures that allow you to be more consistent. For example, you could explain that you are going to take a certain set of principles and use them to make stuff happen, and people could agree to that, but if you're anything like me, 2 hours in when getting tired, and trying to make sure everyone is having a chance to contribute, you might break those rules. You can wait for that to happen and then allow players to call you up on those rules, pulling back, or you can set up systems to take over the more automatic "state tracking" stuff you were doing and focus on making sure you keep that, with reminders to keep you on track.

In other words, people will be willing to trust you to be a portion of the game's rules if you are principled and trustworthy (well, they'll trust you if you're much less than that if the game isn't very important), so you don't need to worry about being seen to act as the "avatar of the rules" especially as you yourself will be writing those rules! To a certain extent, people are already trusting you in just that way with all the hacks you're doing.

I think there is massive value to random tables in causing cool stuff to happen, but in my experience they are valuable because they force you to react to something different, act as a prompt if you're getting into a rut. They don't back you up much in your decisions. Now having said all that there is one way I can think of using randomisation, and that's for producing unexpected connectivity: Depending on the person, it can be very easy to focus almost all of your attention on the thing in front of you, the specific event and the players. (It may even be required by the system you use or the density of colour vs the pacing etc.) So when it gets all head-underwater, it's useful sometimes to add in different themes or relationships that you might not have expected.

Now that's probably still not very clear, but basically what I'm talking about is creating a list for yourself of interesting background groups/conflicts on one side, and themes on the other. So every now and again you can force-ably link things into "the plot" rolling on this table you've made of about 10 broad setting themes (either in the form of group agendas, issues or conflicts), which are there to cross-cut stuff and gain depth from each particular application. This kind of thing will often shift dramatically who and why the big bad is, and add the possibility of any scene being "important" according to one criteria.

As for ways to populate this random table, you can pull ideas from books you read, or even poems (a surprisingly dense source of themes if you pick the right kinds of collections), particularly ones you have a bit of a handle on but wouldn't know where to start; applying them to the situations that come up will give you a place to start!

But back to principles and why they can be more effective; with those examples I gave in the first post I tried to add to each consequence a pattern behind it that is consistent enough to be understood; not merely saying "the gods'll smite ya" but turning it into a general thing that happens, including to characters that are not the PCs.

So putting those two together, you might have the theme of "children" come up randomly, but then the moral feedback system that engages is the same one that has always been operating. In terms of your table/stats, the content that you start with is defined by the table (or you if you come up with stuff), but it's severity is not marked on a single table, but according to it's correspondence to certain patterns. In terms of old-school intuitions it's more like trap trigger conditions.

You can make it so you get away with even the most dodgy acts if you do it out in the wilds, or you can use the same random connectivity approach to say that perhaps this secluded spot is actually visited by a set of druids every winter, so they'll find all the burnt bodies and have an idea what happened. That can be done by the same approach; table of travel/trade situations, and rolling to see if any apply, then attaching the "other end" of the connection either to the nearest or most logical town, or just randomly selecting one.

Loads of possibilities!

I wish there were a way for the players to generate these situations, though.  They can direct so much of the action and make the game their own through choosing where to explore in the game world, whether to settle down or lead a bandit horde or serve the Goddess of Goodness and Light (at least when you play D&D in an open-ended setting-based way.)  But they can’t force these sorts of dilemmas themselves, because they require DM and other-player buy-in.  They could possible create them in the way the player created the hot elf, but it seems to me it needs a bit more support than that.

You've hit on something super-interesting there, when players take on GM-like roles, contributing stuff because they think it will do a cool thing to the story, rather than because they are all hunkered down in their characters psyche. I see it a lot in new roleplayers who are already practised at using their imaginations collaboratively, and there are quite a few games that focus on it as the primary focus of play (Universalis comes to mind immediately).

Looking back it seems the "hot elf" actually already did require player buy in, and he didn't really get much of it! Player-supplied content can flop just like GM-supplied content, which in itself isn't so bad. As to support to make it interesting, with the sort of system I outlined above, you could have players suggest themes for the setting at the start, and periodically you could assess what you're doing with them and whether to change them. The players would still be able to suggest avenues of conflict, but they wouldn't know when they would appear. There are a lot of other ways to do it, and I'm almost tripping over myself avoiding braindumping into this comment field, so I'll leave it there for now.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Meramec on February 10, 2010, 05:49:46 PM
athornton: Thanks for the vote of confidence and point taken regarding the rules-light system.  I guess I want a rule system to help resolve things, but not in the sense of “any given action can be thrown into this black box and out shall be spit a YES or NO”.  Rather, I want the resolution to spit out some creative hooks that I can then use to drive play as the spirit moves me.  I want a social resolution scheme that doesn’t say “Roll d20+diplomacy vs a 25 DC to see if you convince the hot elf to join the party”, but that says “Roll to access a list of parameters to give the DM some guidance in how to resolve the action.”  These parameters could be “she hates the party but will come along anyway” or more crytpic like “secrets are kept, wine is imbibed, and her past will haunt”.  This way it’s not just a board game.  Since I’m not a good enough DM to come up with that sort of creative material on my own during play, I want my resolution system to do it for me.  I guess this is “rules-heavy” perhaps, but not in the WOTC D&D way where you have to roll to see how many feet you can jump and all that.

I did facilitate the players having fun, but I want more than that. I want it to be reproducible to some extent. I want to be able to write down the resolution rules I used and be able to play out the same scenario again and see how the rolling of different creative hooks drives play in other directions. I want to be able to play the same adventure over and over, even with the same players, and have different outcomes.  I also want it to be enough of a “game” that there are player-knowable rules governing the manner in which I, as DM, am allowed to introduce new content into the game as a response to their actions.

Your “sit back and let the narrative win” scenario is awesome.  You introduced creative hooks that the players grabbed a hold of to drive play in new directions.  That is the essence of what I am trying to do here, except I realize that to do that consistently I need help—I need rules which aid me in generating these creative hooks.

I find myself in conflict between the “game” of it and the “narrative” of it.  For example, there were several chase sequences that I completely flubbed because I didn’t know how to resolve the “game” part of it.  I lost the “narrative” completely because I was just like “OK, so the bandits know the woods better than you and are just as fast as you therefore you can’t catch them” because that seemed reasonable from a “game” standpoint.  It completely ruined the “narrative”, however.  I am trying to link the two via resolutions a bit more strongly, but without each completely losing their individual souls.

You ask if you can add these elements and still be playing D&D?  Well, I don’t so much care whether I am still playing D&D as much as I care whether the game I am playing is the one I want.  My understanding of Dogs in the Vineyard is that the mechanics drive play towards moral dilemmas and then the mechanics are there to resolve the situation on the moral level as opposed to the “can I do it?” level.  If you are willing to shoot the 8-year old in the face, say, then you can do anything—the only thing stopping you from accomplishing something is putting up on the player level with the morality of what it costs your character.   I am not really after that. I still want the “can I do it?” to be determined in part by stats on the character sheet (to me, that makes it a “game”).  I just want some direction for how to adjudicate the results.  It’s just a system to tack on to D&D or any other game of its ilk, not something to redefine the entire way a player thinks about the game.

I’d say Essential D&D is just open-ended imaginative group problem-solving within a magical and dangerous environment.

Adding to that a system whereby players can challenge themselves in some way--morally, spiritually, intellectually--is not severing D&D from its own essence. 

Daniel: point taken Re: the “severity” of killing a baby.  It seems from one perspective the reason to have moral dilemmas during play is to reflect on the situations as players (if I read your soccer video game analogy correctly) and that if it becomes just another number-crunching resource management process then such reflection is robbed from the players.  I guess I was hoping to split the difference—allow the players who want to engage in the moral dilemma for “narrative” or personal reasons to be so absorbed while not alienating the players who are not interested in such play.  I can see how it could end up satisfying neither rather than drawing both in perhaps.

I don’t think I want a table with “lizardfolk mothers in a fire” as a random encounter—what I want is a table that helps guide me as DM how to resolve the fallout from setting lizardfolk mothers on fire.  As you point out, the adventure as written provided for this possibility, and it also provides zero guidance as to how to turn it into a “burning sandbox” where the non-combat results of the actions are adjudicated within the “game” without the DM just “making stuff up.”

I like your notion of "burning sandbox" where moral dangers abound just like physical ones.  This is a great way of summing up some of my wordiness in previous posts.  To me, in order for the moral dangers to be a real part of the "game", then there must be rules to cover how to resolve their outcomes.  And this is what I'm driving at with all the talk of "tables" full of content to help focus the way I as DM am allowed to introduce stuff to the imaginary field of play in response to various actions.  (In comparison, the combat rules do this: if I roll a 1 for the goblin attack, then I am not allowed to add to the imaginary events the element that "the goblin hits you for 8 points of damage" because the resolution system says the 1 is a "miss".  I just want a similar system for noncombat resolutions.)

Callan: I don’t know that I’d say I want to “impose my sense of justice” or anything, although I suppose by statting up the moral fallout of encounters I am necessarily saying that the writer of the moral dilemma gets to impose his or her sense of right and wrong on those playing the game.  This leads to more issues, I think. You must have some human arbiter in the loop regarding these things and the game must impose some sort of consistent definition of good and bad else you have players taking the same action but assigning to it different morality stats.  I need to think on this more. Thanks for the question.

contracycle:  the revenge attack is a fine idea, but I have two issues with that:  (1) I am probably too lazy to come up with such a thought on my own in the heat of play and (2), even if my laziness is overcome by surge of creativity I feel like I am no longer playing a “game” because I am introducing elements to the imaginary world based on absolutely no input from the system at all.  I feel that to play the “game” means to introduce elements in a way at least partly prescribed by the game. If I am playing Temple of Elemental Evil and take out the green slimes on the stairway to the moathouse dungeon then I am actually NOT PLAYING that adventure.   So, I want each scenario to have the ability to be respected on its own, in a sense, and any ad-libbing I do must be through the prism given to me by the scenario. 

For the lizardman situation, I want there to be a system in place to tell me the parameters acceptable for the fallout of the action.  Is a revenge attack appropriate? What is the severity?  Are there higher powers invovled? Do the hirelings find out?  Etc.

I don’t want every step planned out, but I want some creative push to help me come up with stuff and to reign in and focus the things I add to the imaginary world that are not already given.

I don’t know that I want a rules system to drive players into troubled situation. I just want one that helps me resolve the non HP related results of them when they arise.

JoyWriter: I like what you say about boundaries using rules or my own internal consistency.  I guess I see value in the resolution being a formal part of the rules, as this establishes at the social level that the “game” actually does include such things.   And although I reference “tables” a lot, I don’t really care if the resolution is in table form.  Tables are just a shorthand way to write “some sort of systematic method.”  It could be a full-on state machine whose transitions I’d calculate on the fly or a list of short poems which I'd allow to move me towards some path. 

Another reason for this is because it is just more rewarding for me. I’d rather PLAY the game while DMing than see the DM role as just providing fun for the “players” (as if I weren’t one of them.)  Getting to riff off of awesome seed content within a constrained way is really fun and rewarding and lets me as DM actually play in a way that I can’t do without the rules.  So my goal here is one-part “help DM figure out what is going on” and one part “give the DM a game he can play, too.”

I love your idea about the list of themes and conflicts.  This is close to what I am getting at.    I need to further study your post to be sure I really understand it.

I am not too excited about getting hunkered down in character-psyche necessarily. I want the players to add content to the story because they think it will be cool, for whatever definition of cool they have at the moment. Sometimes it’s because “my dude is mad at his father for leaving when he was 5” and sometimes it’s because “yeah, I watched Die Hard today so I think it will be awesome when this inn we are staying at gets taken over by criminals.”  Whatever.  Just so long as we have a system in place to give parameters to what is allowed to be generated and players can decide from session to session what they want to get out of their play.

The way it is now, when a player decides to "role-play" a long encounter with a barkeep or something, the other player get tired of it after a few minutes and view this as a disruption and a waste of time. I want to get to the point where the player wanting to "role-play" can do so in a way facilitated by the rules (spend his "generate encounter" power on this or something) so that the other players see it as part of the "game" and not an imposition on their time at the table.

Much of this could be a reflection of my play group and may not generalize to other groups.  This could be why some of my desires here may seem a bit off to some.  I do think there is value, however, in accommodating a group of people who may want something different out of play that evening but who all want to play the same game together.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 10, 2010, 07:49:53 PM
Callan: I don’t know that I’d say I want to “impose my sense of justice” or anything, although I suppose by statting up the moral fallout of encounters I am necessarily saying that the writer of the moral dilemma gets to impose his or her sense of right and wrong on those playing the game.  This leads to more issues, I think. You must have some human arbiter in the loop regarding these things and the game must impose some sort of consistent definition of good and bad else you have players taking the same action but assigning to it different morality stats.  I need to think on this more. Thanks for the question.
I didn't mean impose absolutely your sense of justice - I mean imposing an influence. Imposing it to a degree. The amount you can impose it being limited by mechanics and so your going no further than the mechanics they know are there.

This is what you did with the lizard women and children carrying the treasure - as you noted, you realised you were pushing a pressurised issue toward the players. Because their responce and how it turns out is interesting.

I mean, I think your sensing that if you impose too much you'll determine that responce yourself, which makes play pointless. But if you don't impose at all you wont get pressurised situations. I'm thinking your looking at mechanics to help regulate that? Or does it seem way off?


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: athornton on February 11, 2010, 09:08:03 PM
athornton: Since I’m not a good enough DM to come up with that sort of creative material on my own during play

Bah!  (See below)

You ask if you can add these elements and still be playing D&D?  Well, I don’t so much care whether I am still playing D&D as much as I care whether the game I am playing is the one I want.

YAY!  Seriously, yay.  Playing the game you (well, you and your players) want is the important thing and something that a lot of Serious [Insert System Here] Gamers lose sight of, in my opinion. 

I'd suggest reading a bunch of different systems and seeing what works for you.  Weirdly, Trail of Cthulhu (or maybe Gumshoe which is the generic form--and which I haven't looked at) might fit--the mechanics are all about "what does your successful (usually investigative) action cost you?" rather than "is the action successful?"  Which is weird at first, but it grows on you.  Well, grew on me, anyway.

As far as introducing creative hooks and letting that steer the story--I didn't even realize I was introducing the hooks.  I don't think you really need rules support per se although I understand wanting your players to not think your decisions are arbitrary.  I think what's needed is to realize that stuff you just threw out there may be taken to have significance by your players, and then the confidence to--and this is the part I struggle with--not say "no."

That is, yeah, it's your story you're telling as the DM, but the awesome comes from the player actions.  And so if they suggest something awesome, even if it's something you were totally unprepared for, the right answer is usually "yes"; sometimes "yes, and..." or "yes, but..." but, usually, "yes."  But to do that you have to believe that no lasting harm will be done if things veer off in a direction you didn't expect.

I find that reminding myself that it's a game and that there are five of them and one of me, and so if I didn't get to use my super-duper planned encounter, well, that sucks for me, but if they pulled off something they're still going to talk about ten years later (true story: just after Thieves in the Forest came out, one of the very first 3d-party 3E modules, we fired up a brand-new 3E game.  The players went about it the wrong way, met the wererat, had no silver weapons yet, and one of them grabbed a fistful of silver coins and socked him....and rolled a 20.  The moment is still remembered) then that was a win.  And they'll never know that Draco The Irritable was really supposed to be in the Tower of Deceit and not actually where they found him in the Caves Of Unreasonably Foul Odor three weeks later.

I don't think rules help with this.  Experience as the guy behind the screen helps with this--those nights when it went off the rails, in my experience, it wasn't because I let the players do what they wanted to do.  And players who will tell you "DUDE, THAT WAS F*#@*$)N' AWESOME!" help a lot--especially when you're all like "I didn't do anything here...it was all you guys.  All I did was roll hits and narrate NPC death scenes." I do have a Dastardly Trick, which is (I think) yet another Jeff Rients (if you don't read jrients.blogspot.com, you probably should) great idea: the Big Purple d30.

I have a Big Purple d30 at my table.  Once per session, each player, and I, get to roll it instead of whatever die we'd usually roll for....whatever.  Last session my group took down a vampire they shouldn't have because a Magic Missile did 23 points of damage.  Letting the DM roll it once per session means that even if Otto The Flatulent is going to get pasted a lot faster than you planned for him to, he can put the hurt on someone.  Players....usually use it for damage rolls, actually.  I don't know why such a stupid trick makes everyone (DM included) feel more in control, but it really does.

But, in some sense, all RPG rules are really just Dumbo feathers.  My advice would be, scout around and see what you can find between the full-on morality-poker bet-and-bluff game of Dogs and the "morality, schmorality; how many XP did I get" of straight-up classical D&D.  As I've said, I think Trail of Cthulhu might be an interesting place to start, but the Sympathy rules from Dying Earth could work, or a Humanity Point tracking system, or lots of other things.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Daniel B on February 13, 2010, 12:29:14 PM
athornton:
I find myself in conflict between the “game” of it and the “narrative” of it.  For example, there were several chase sequences that I completely flubbed because I didn’t know how to resolve the “game” part of it.  I lost the “narrative” completely because I was just like “OK, so the bandits know the woods better than you and are just as fast as you therefore you can’t catch them” because that seemed reasonable from a “game” standpoint.  It completely ruined the “narrative”, however.  I am trying to link the two via resolutions a bit more strongly, but without each completely losing their individual souls.

O_O   .. yow! Very interesting!

A quote from Ron Edward's essay System Does Matter (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/system_does_matter.html):
Quote
I have heard a certain notion about role-playing games repeated for almost 20 years. Here it is: "It doesn't really matter what system is used. A game is only as good as the people who play it, and any system can work given the right GM and players." My point? I flatly, entirely disagree.

"Whoa," you might say, "my GM Herbie can run anything. The game can suck, but he can toss out what he doesn't like and then it rocks." OK, fine. Herbie is talented. However, imagine how good he'd be if he didn't have to spend all that time culling the mechanics. (Recall here I'm talking about system, not source or story content material.) I'm suggesting a system is better insofar as, among other things, it doesn't waste Herbie's time.


When I first started reading this post, I was of the opinion that the juicy narrative stuff necessarily *had* to be at least considered beforehand, if not outright fully prepared for, because of the limitless possibilities for such things. Therefore it was pointless to build rules for their resolution, lest you risk building parts of "system" that a lot of Herbies out there must waste their time culling.

However, you make a great point!! Your comment on trying to link the systems without losing the souls of either really struck me. Not an ugly mongrel of game and narrative, but an economic and aesthetically-pleasing union of the two such that the two halves complement each other to make a whole greater than the sum of it's parts.  If I may propose: the gamist rules should be like a swiss-army knife, handling all the mechanical issues quickly and efficiently, but should neatly sliiiide out of the way when the players (and GM) collectively decide the encounter is more elegantly handled "narrativistically".

How interesting would your game have been if the battle with the bandits began fully within the game system, maybe with a touch of the narrative system to handle the budding romance between a PC and the hot elf adventuress bandit (and with some link handling it's effect on the battle), before switching fully into narrative mode when the bandits escape into the forest, since the normal gamist rules simply fall flat in this domain.


I don’t think I want a table with “lizardfolk mothers in a fire” as a random encounter—what I want is a table that helps guide me as DM how to resolve the fallout from setting lizardfolk mothers on fire.  As you point out, the adventure as written provided for this possibility, and it also provides zero guidance as to how to turn it into a “burning sandbox” where the non-combat results of the actions are adjudicated within the “game” without the DM just “making stuff up.”

I like your notion of "burning sandbox" where moral dangers abound just like physical ones.  This is a great way of summing up some of my wordiness in previous posts.  To me, in order for the moral dangers to be a real part of the "game", then there must be rules to cover how to resolve their outcomes.  And this is what I'm driving at with all the talk of "tables" full of content to help focus the way I as DM am allowed to introduce stuff to the imaginary field of play in response to various actions.  (In comparison, the combat rules do this: if I roll a 1 for the goblin attack, then I am not allowed to add to the imaginary events the element that "the goblin hits you for 8 points of damage" because the resolution system says the 1 is a "miss".  I just want a similar system for noncombat resolutions.)

For a system like this to be feasible, I think it would either need to be tailored to a specific adventure, or you would need to find some way to pare down the problem. Even within a single setting, there's too much scope for a simple catch-all table. However, you switched me on to the idea of trying to find a system that could resolve general non-combat encounters of the "moral" variety.

JoyWriter: Another reason for this is because it is just more rewarding for me. I’d rather PLAY the game while DMing than see the DM role as just providing fun for the “players” (as if I weren’t one of them.)  Getting to riff off of awesome seed content within a constrained way is really fun and rewarding and lets me as DM actually play in a way that I can’t do without the rules.  So my goal here is one-part “help DM figure out what is going on” and one part “give the DM a game he can play, too.”

I like this. It's something I've strongly believed in for a while. If even the GM is not engaged and entertained by the very game he's running, the players certainly won't be either. You're right; if the system itself provides little nuggets of content into play that the GM wasn't expecting (outside of the content introduced by the players'), it certainly would be a breath of fresh air.


Thanks again for the original post, Meramec


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: contracycle on February 15, 2010, 07:31:05 AM
Seems to me the lizardman situation is a classic Revenge plot.  Or at least, it could be assumed to be a revenge plot, although it could also be a "falling prey to cruelty" plot.  That kind of stuff is easy enough to determine, and could be selected from an appropriate list (such as those lists of plot archetypes that already occur).  What is much less clear is how you actually go about building a revenge plot such that it is more than just another simple encounter.

I think the same applies to the chase situation.  Chases by their nature demand immediate creation of setting elements, and usually elements more interesting than "the road stretches out before you endless and straight".  Anyone who has, say, played for example Grand Theft Auto will be aware that the are in which the chase occurs produces different kinds of hazards, and can spill over from one area to another.  But this is very difficult to systemtize in RPG, and would need to be contextualised not just for setting as a whole but for small local regions within a setting.

In both cases the key problem, IMO, is content creation rather than system or even conflict resolution.  The conflict res mechanics of HeroWars, for exmaple, do not IMO serve any better at producing interesting content for chases, even if the mechanical problem of the chase is much better represented by a conflict res mechanic.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: LostSoul on February 15, 2010, 11:05:09 AM
You might want to check out Kellri's Encounter Reference .pdf.  It's got a ton of random tables for all sorts of different things.

Here is the link to the blog (the .pdfs are on the right hand side): http://kellri.blogspot.com/


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Callan S. on February 15, 2010, 06:49:46 PM
But, in some sense, all RPG rules are really just Dumbo feathers.
I think they're dumbo feathers as much as a guitar is a dumbo feather to a guitarist - as if he could do what he does without the 'dumbo feather'. Some people might want to treat rpg rules that way (which at it's full philosophical extension is air guitar, AFAICT), but I'll leave a dissenting view against the idea that all of roleplay and it's rules always and only work/exist in a dumbo feather way.


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Meramec on February 22, 2010, 03:14:44 PM
Daniel,

I think you've nailed what I'm getting at here with your comments about rules that come into play when needed and recede when they are not and rules to help engage the DM.

I the end, this post was for me to discuss and work through some issues that crop up in my play that I want a game to address.  Like most gamers, I am working on my own "design", and I firmly believe the rules affect the play.

You read a lot on "old school D&D" forums things about "superior players and DM's will generate awesome play" regardless of rules.  But I think rules can add value considerably.

Take one example:  say a game has a social skill.  Now, lots of games have these.  In WOTC's first D&D offeirng, you roll your diplomacy or intimidate check and consult a table for the result.  What if instead you roll your check and, depending on your success, you were given "points" to spend during the social engagement as a PLAYER.  You could spend a point to say "wait, I didn't know the guard was going to attack me if I made fun of his armor, let me say something else isntead" or you could spend a point to ask "how do I think this guy will respond if I ask about why his wife hasn't been around lately?"  Things like that which actually add ot the game but retain the nearly freeform nature of a social encounter.  I think with such a ruleset in play you could have markedly superior "role-playing" encounters than you can without (at least with some segment of players), because the "game" would now officially cover such things in a way that empowers the PLAYER, not the character.   In fact, I think one of the greatest things a ruleset does is direct how a player thinks, and having rules that get a player to actively think along more dimensions is a plus.  So putting some "tactics" or "resource management" into things like talking to the barkeep after the latest foray into the dungeon seems desirable to me.  It allows more easily for the possibility that danger, excitement, imagination and story may emerge from sources not statted with hit dice and AC's.

Anyway, this is the direction I'm heading with most of my "resolution" notions.  The idea that you roll a die, add your modifiers, and consult a chart for resolution bores me these days.  I want something else.  I love the "old school" D&D's focus on player skill and flexibility (the canonical example being the searching for traps sequence), but I think there are ways to capture that with technology much different from that found in 70's era games.   

Thank you all for your comments, and thanks to everyone who helped my thought process here.  I'll try to post more on the Forge, although learning the jargon used here will take some time. I still have no solid idea what is being said on many of the threads here!

Take care and game on!

John


Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Jeff B on March 04, 2010, 08:35:47 PM
John,

I'm really late seeing this thread, but wow!  What a fantastic account, and a DM expressing so many of the key issues in making an experience great.

As others have noted, I was also struck by your approach to rolling the melee round and avoiding the person-by-person interrogation about their actions, which constantly leads to a waste of time.  I remember so many games where, after 10 minutes of bickering, my turn FINALLY came around.  I'd roll a 6, of course.  "Miss".  There it was -- my 3 seconds of active play time for the hour. 

Great thoughts, and I'm keeping your idea of "everybody roll melee attacks!" for use later.  Many thanks.

Isn't it contradictory how source material is good, but over-documented game systems are bad?  Just look at what you did with a tiny book, tiny preparation time.  Eight million volumes of the latest edition sourcebooks were simply not needed.  On the other hand *something* was needed to help with those high-potential moments in the game.  It is not possible for the DM to think of everything, and there is no time for him to sit and wonder -- the game must go on.

In exchange for your great insights, I'll trade one back to you that I hope you will find thought-provoking.  I am determined to construct a resolution system in which the DM never rolls any dice.  Instead of the DM frantically playing 10 goblins and rolling dozens of dice (doing the work of several players), the DM instead says, "The goblins attack.  Roll melee defense.  John and Judy, you have two goblins each on you.  Fred, Estelle, Louise, you have only one goblin each to deal with."  And my rules system will essentially do the rest, leaving the DM free to absorb the combat results, mark damage to his many goblin monsters, move figurines perhaps, and the zillion other mental tasks a DM is engaged in.  Who knows, it might even give him time to throw color and flavor into the encounter!   The whole fight is resolved without the DM touching a die.  Instead of rolling for a trap that might spring, the DM says, "Joel, roll vs. trap avoidance".  I think you get the gist of it -- old habits and language patterns will have to change, but I think it's the way of the future.  The trick is, a simple resolution has to determine which party was hit (if either) and how much damage was taken.  But I'm confident I will eventually solve that problem.  I think making the DM diceless is part of next-generation RPG gaming.  :)

Thanks again for sharing your terrific experience...you sound like a great DM!

Jeff



Title: Re: [D&D] Hot elves, morality, and the missing initiative roll
Post by: Jasper Flick on March 05, 2010, 03:23:04 AM
"Players roll all the dice" is a very valid and easy houserule for D&D. It's not too uncommon to see it used in the 3rd version and up. I definitely prefer it for large skirmishes, though I like still like to roll the damage as GM.
(WotC even has a version in one of their books for 3e, but got the math wrong.)