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Title: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 08, 2011, 09:26:47 AM
Session 2 was fun. (Here's some about character creation and session 1: Lamentations of the Flame Princess is made of lies (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32094.0). Please don't bring discusson of that thread's topics into this thread.)

The PCs' guide, Phillip the converted Mioonkhtuck, abandoned the PCs on the edge of Rechgawawanc territory, perhaps made nervous by the idea of cannibal giants. Eventually they tried to follow him, but got lost in the forest. At night they encountered a pair of spider-monsters, one of which Brom killed when it leapt upon Brother Leobald. The rest of the night, the other complained from the darkness that it was lonely because they had murdered its spouse, and begged one or another of them to come out from their camp and console it in its grief. None of them did, even after it promised them that it had hidden gold, arrowheads, and a silver crucifix in a deep well, and would be willing to lower them down on its line to retrieve them.

They eventually found their way to the trappers' camp, which was celebrating a bounty of colony scrip. (Zef, a trapper, had taken an antique Vikano-dwarfish gold bedknob down to the colony stockade for trade, on the camp's behalf, and had returned with the shares.) They had a pleasant, companionable, and drunken evening. In the morning, Brother Leobald (and most likely the dwarf Van Joost) left Northward to visit the crazy old man with the mountain lions, the source of Zef's antique Vikano-dwarfish gold bedknob, about whom we know nothing else. Brom and Leike stayed in camp to work, being now in the camp's debt, and had an unfortunate then hilarious time wading through giant leeches and baiting wolverines with poisoned offal.

Both Meg and Rob were nodding off during the game, so we called it pretty early.

I want to say what I've taken to be my job, as GM, in this game:

1st, wherever the PCs decide to go and whatever they decide to do, to contribute things to the game that I personally find entertaining, without worrying whether the other players will find them as entertaining as I do. Timid, malicious, talkative spider-monsters? Wading through giant leeches to bait wolverines with poisoned offal? I'm having lots of fun. I hope the other players are having fun too, but whatever, if they aren't they'll drop out.

2nd, to provide, occasionally, opportunities for the PCs to recover lost treasure (which is how you get XP in Lamentations), without worrying whether they'll decide to take them or decline them. If they want to follow the spider-monster to its hidden spoils, and presumably fight it to retrieve them, they can! If they don't, they won't. It's not my job to decide for them, only to offer.

3rd, to make the safe, conventional life - settling in a place to work a job - under no circumstances a source of XP (this is by the rules), but more, to make it appalling and horrible, unthinkable to a person of imagination and spirit.

I've taken it as NOT my job to concern myself with dramatic satisfaction. I don't try to contribute pacing, dramatic escalation, climax or resolution at all. Brom named her sword "Sad Anticlimax," to celebrate killing the spider-monster, and I foresee plenty of anticlimaxes and non-climaxes in this game. It feels a little odd, like I'm not quite holding up my end of the deal, but I'm resolved.

I almost killed Brom! For the wolverine I rolled a damage die with more sides than she had hit points. It happened without my really realizing it, but then afterward, we were a bit whoa. Life on the edge of the dice.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 08, 2011, 02:25:24 PM
I like the point about the GM having fun!

But why is it not "NOT my job to concern myself with dramatic satisfaction. I don't try to contribute pacing, dramatic escalation, climax or resolution at all."  ?

Particularly the pacing.  Doesnt a poorly-paced game lead to people dropping off and calling an early night?


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: James_Nostack on November 08, 2011, 02:57:56 PM
Vincent wrote:
Quote
I've taken it as NOT my job to concern myself with dramatic satisfaction. I don't try to contribute pacing, dramatic escalation, climax or resolution at all. Brom named her sword "Sad Anticlimax," to celebrate killing the spider-monster, and I foresee plenty of anticlimaxes and non-climaxes in this game. It feels a little odd, like I'm not quite holding up my end of the deal, but I'm resolved.

This is well observed, and better phrased than one of my complaints about sandbox play in the other thread.  This family of games is very odd about anti-climax.  In my experience as a player and as a DM, I've found that play will demonstrate what the players aren't yet ready to handle (usually via the "red shirt ensign on Star Trek" method of surprisingly horrible death), but once the players are ready to handle something it's very anti-climactic. 

There's this range where the DM considers an enemy likely very devastating, yet the players end up surprising themselves and killing it after a hard-won battle.  That's a good range to work with, but it's hard to get it right.  If you wanna talk about how do that, I have some thoughts about that, but don't wanna de-rail the thread.

Another variation of anti-climax is when the players plan the hell out of something, and then either
* it all goes perfectly according to plan (gee that was dull), or
* something random happens and the plan gets totally blown to hell and is useless (god why did we waste so much time planning)

So one way to address that is to have the plan backfire in exactly the worst way, at the worst time.  To my eye, that seems like a philosophical betrayal, but on the other hand, the players are telegraphing that they really want to play a heist movie with all that meticulous planning.  They're asking you to screw them.  But of course if they know for certain that you're screwing them, you lose all their trust and it sucks.  So I would suggest maybe making a list of several spectacularly bad ways for the plan to go wrong (and a chance it goes right!) and let the dice decide.  Apparently in this style of play, making a completely loaded, unfair, b.s. random table is totally fine, so long as you're not actually taking away luck and playing the world "fairly."  (I think this is a serious intellectual weakness in the OSR broadly, but whatever.)

Also!  Get ready for Entire Session of Preparation or Aftermath Play.  Ugh, I hate that session.  But, it too is part of this style.  I've come to regard it as a palate cleanser and plot-thread gathering type of thing, listening to what players are interested in doing next.

stefoid wrote:
Quote
  Doesnt a poorly-paced game lead to people dropping off and calling an early night?
I can't speak for Vincent, but in our own games it's more like, "The players set the pace."  If the players want to spend 4-5 hours exploring a cave, they'll do that.  If they get badly hurt and want to retreat after Hour 2 and go back to town to handle business there, they will.  Some folks might leave the game early, but that doesn't mean the others can't keep playing.  (These style of games typically don't require the entire group to be there every night.)



Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 08, 2011, 04:02:33 PM
Yeah, no, here in the probability-space of first level, ain't nobody controlling pacing. The dice are, and they've got no dramatic sense whatsoever.

I can accept this or cheat. I accept it. This is the game we signed up to play.

James, this isn't really a planning kind of outfit, at least not yet, so I haven't had to worry about any of that.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Moreno R. on November 08, 2011, 04:04:26 PM
Hi Vincent!

What you describe is very, very similar to the way I GMed AD&D in the '80, before turning little by little to illusionism, except for a specific point:

1st, wherever the PCs decide to go and whatever they decide to do, to contribute things to the game that I personally find entertaining, without worrying whether the other players will find them as entertaining as I do. Timid, malicious, talkative spider-monsters? Wading through giant leeches to bait wolverines with poisoned offal? I'm having lots of fun. I hope the other players are having fun too, but whatever, if they aren't they'll drop out.

I didn't worry at the time about drama and pacing (I despised the railroading ways used by dome GMs to get them), but my principal preoccupation at the time was to contribute things to the table than the players would find entertaining. Because... well, their appreciation was the bigger reward I did get, and by the other hand it was the "duty" of the GM as written in the manuals.

Thinking about it, this preoccupation caused me a lot of stress and burnout, so jettisoning it is probably a very good idea: but I still find difficult to understand how the GM can find entertainment in what he add if he doesn't get appreciation for the same things from the player. For example, the talkative spider-monsters I suppose worked only because the other players found them equally entertaining and talked with them (or interacted in some way).  What if they had simply said "well, whatever" and proceeded to kill them with swords and spells, without talking?
Probably the second time you would gave chosen a different kind of monster, and again and again, until you had found what your players find entertaining (or frightful, or in any case worth interacting in some way in the fiction), and stick with that.

Can you talk more about this point?


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 08, 2011, 04:55:58 PM
Yeah, no, here in the probability-space of first level, ain't nobody controlling pacing. The dice are, and they've got no dramatic sense whatsoever.

I can accept this or cheat. I accept it. This is the game we signed up to play.

James, this isn't really a planning kind of outfit, at least not yet, so I haven't had to worry about any of that.

-Vincent

Whats dice got to do with pacing?  whats pacing got to do with cheating?


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 08, 2011, 05:06:37 PM
Moreno: It's a skill I've been cultivating since starting Apocalypse World. I figure that if what I'm saying entertains me, my enthusiasm will rub off on everyone else, and I won't have to make myself nuts trying to guess what they want. And if it doesn't, well, at least I've had fun! Their having fun is their lookout.

Stefoid: You must be thinking about something other than I am.

I don't control how long a fight lasts, who wins, or whether anyone gets what they deserve. I don't control how long they wait for Phillip before they set out after him, or whether they track him down or get lost trying. I keep up a verbal pace by saying fun things, but I can't control the narrative pacing at all. The only way I could would be to (a) call for die rolls when they aren't appropriate; (b) neglect to call for die rolls when they are; or (c) ignore or fudge the results when we do roll. Cheating!


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 08, 2011, 06:50:14 PM
Moreno: It's a skill I've been cultivating since starting Apocalypse World. I figure that if what I'm saying entertains me, my enthusiasm will rub off on everyone else, and I won't have to make myself nuts trying to guess what they want. And if it doesn't, well, at least I've had fun! Their having fun is their lookout.

Stefoid: You must be thinking about something other than I am.

I don't control how long a fight lasts, who wins, or whether anyone gets what they deserve. I don't control how long they wait for Phillip before they set out after him, or whether they track him down or get lost trying. I keep up a verbal pace by saying fun things, but I can't control the narrative pacing at all. The only way I could would be to (a) call for die rolls when they aren't appropriate; (b) neglect to call for die rolls when they are; or (c) ignore or fudge the results when we do roll. Cheating!

I think we are more or less in agreeitude about pacing - I do mean narrative pacing, and OK, knowing when to roll is one important element of pacing.  But by deciding when you think dice rolls are/are not appropriate is pacing.   Two different people are going to have two different ideas about that, unless the game rules are very specific about it (like they are in AW, which is an exception in that regard to most of the games I am familliar with).

Another important aspect of pacing is when you decide to ask players what they are doing, or other similar ways the GM determines the moment to moment focus of the game.  Scene selection I guess you might call it.
GM1: OK, so youre heading to Blurkenstopf to see the King?  What are you doing?
GM2: OK, so youre heading to Blurkenstopf to see the King?  After three days on the road, you arrive in the town.  What are you doing?

Two ends of a spectrum - the first GM thinks its appropraite to focus on how the characters get there.  The second GM doesnt.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Caldis on November 08, 2011, 07:22:54 PM

My thoughts on pacing would be on a different angle rather than via the dice.  When you are providing opportunties for the players but it's up to them whether they jump or not it seems to me like they have control of the narrative and the pacing.

I'd echo James' thoughts about anti-climax.  I always found it tough to find a balance between challenging threats that could really kill the characters and making it so easy that they were never in danger.  If they can easily die, play can grind to a halt while they check every nook and crany for traps and monsters etc. and lead to boredom at the other extreme a zillion billion goblins charge forward straight in a line and hack and slash and people get bored of rolling the dice.

*of course i'm not all that familiar with Lamentations so maybe it solves some of these problems that D&D seemed to face.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 08, 2011, 09:03:36 PM
This is interesting to read, do continue reporting on your game. I've been meaning to write about our campaign for ages as well, but seem to never get around to it. Probably something to do with being insanely busy with big conventions and publications.

And indeed, my experience is that one of the key ways my own, pretty hardcore sandbox OSR D&D differs from your bog-standard narrativist game with dramatic coordination is that pacing responsibilities are on the players, not on the GM: as the GM your job is merely to entertain yourself, provide organic setting/situation (barf forth dungeonstuff as someone might say) and referee whatever it is that the players get up to. Whether what they get up to is three hours of bickering over supplies followed by one random encounter, or an efficient delve that accomplishes many encounters, several fights and plentiful treasure, that's definitely up to the players and how they run their party interactions, planning and execution. Last Wednesday we saw the players flub their pacing, and consequently we only ever had time to taste their actual goal before having to stop for the night; last Sunday the players were motivated and aware of the dangers of failed pacing, and thus they were effective in not only executing (and failing in) their Wednesday plan, but they also deviced and executed an unrelated plan, ending up with 11,000 fantasy-Roman sestertius and 4000 talents - a veritable fortune. Players succeeding in pacing is what makes all the difference.

Thinking about it, perhaps one reason I don't have time for session reportage is that we actually played three sessions last week. Heh.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2011, 09:08:06 PM
Give the players the power and responsibility to skip over stuff that won't be fun to play through.  Remind them of this. (http://www.shrikedesign.com/games/delve/pacing.html)  Boom!  Pacing that doesn't require GM management.

Dunno if LotFP's rules preclude that, though.  If it's like most of the D&D I played, I imagine there's a large and undefined gap between "what you roll dice for" and "what's worth playing through".


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 08, 2011, 09:21:46 PM
This is interesting to read, do continue reporting on your game. I've been meaning to write about our campaign for ages as well, but seem to never get around to it. Probably something to do with being insanely busy with big conventions and publications.

And indeed, my experience is that one of the key ways my own, pretty hardcore sandbox OSR D&D differs from your bog-standard narrativist game with dramatic coordination is that pacing responsibilities are on the players, not on the GM: as the GM your job is merely to entertain yourself, provide organic setting/situation (barf forth dungeonstuff as someone might say) and referee whatever it is that the players get up to. Whether what they get up to is three hours of bickering over supplies followed by one random encounter, or an efficient delve that accomplishes many encounters, several fights and plentiful treasure, that's definitely up to the players and how they run their party interactions, planning and execution. Last Wednesday we saw the players flub their pacing, and consequently we only ever had time to taste their actual goal before having to stop for the night; last Sunday the players were motivated and aware of the dangers of failed pacing, and thus they were effective in not only executing (and failing in) their Wednesday plan, but they also deviced and executed an unrelated plan, ending up with 11,000 fantasy-Roman sestertius and 4000 talents - a veritable fortune. Players succeeding in pacing is what makes all the difference.

Thinking about it, perhaps one reason I don't have time for session reportage is that we actually played three sessions last week. Heh.

Nobody bickers over supplies for three hours unless they have GM1.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: JasperN. on November 09, 2011, 01:48:35 AM
While I agree that its a good idea to place pacing in the hands of the players and actively free oneself from a burn-out-producing GM mindset, Id argue that I as a GM would find it boring to watch the other players divy up their treasure for an hour. I mean, I wouldnt have treasure to divy up, so, effectively, Id be pushed out of the game. The only time I can add ideas to the game is when the characters are actually doing something, and thus Id rather nudge my players into situations where Id get a chance to play, too. Vincent, in your opening posting you make it sound like stepping back from being responsible for pacing is some kind of liberation, and I guess in a way it is, simply because its an outcome of the realization that you, as a GM, are not, in fact, the sole provider of fun/action at the table. The rules should contribute. The other players should contribute. Okay, but getting to the interesting situations in play is something Id press (regardless of whether Im a player of GM), simply because its more rewarding for me - not becauseI feel I have to entertain everyone, but because I feel everyone should entertain me. Its one of the major reasons why I, as a GM, skip shopping, uneventful travelling etc. and rather be like: "Yeah, yeah, you kinda have the usual stuff you need for the task at hand, it cost you reasonable amounts of money, and you got to X more or less in one piece." I find these parts of play boring, because I can add very little as a GM and theyre boring to watch as a GM-spectator ("5 gold ...mumble, mumble ...oh, and lets have a shovel, dont forget the shovel ... is it gonna rain?...") I wanna get players to a point where I can do stuff, too, and see what they come up with as a reaction. If I have to sit back and just watch others do stuff, itd better be something good. Funny, Ive never seen this about my GMing til now. Do I rob players of something by fast-forwarding to what to me are the interesting parts? I always thought it was in their best interest and now I see that, honestly, its in my best interest, first and foremost. Still not wrong, necessarily.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on November 09, 2011, 02:42:16 AM
Hey Jasper, I guess this is something people like you and me just have to take at face value.

OSR guy: And the great thing about it, if something interesting happens well know its not because the GM wanted it to happen, it just happened, you know?

Jasper + me: Dude, wtf?

But hey. In a slightly different context, someone once said, [this kind of role-playing] writes stories like football does, and I guess thats right. Still not my cup of tea, but I guess I kinda sorta get what they like about it. Maybe.

I loved the spider, though. Did you come up with that on the spot, Vincent?

- Frank


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 09, 2011, 08:39:58 AM
Uh. No seriously guys, I disclaim responsibility for the game's pacing. Advice for how I can better pace the game, or worries about how the game's pacing might go poorly, are plain misplaced. It's not my job!

My job does include setting and holding standards for when we roll dice and use other rules, and those standards do affect the game's pacing, but I'm not taking pacing into account as I set and hold them. Frank's right: the game's narrative comes out of play, a result or even a byproduct. It's not a concern of play. Same as for football or Chess or any other normal game. It feels weird, but I'm pretty sure that'll go away with familiarity. No fixing required.

Frank, yeah, I came up with the spider on the spot. I've primed myself really well - it's just me doing my Vance impersonation. Thanks!

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Roger on November 09, 2011, 02:26:37 PM
3rd, to make the safe, conventional life - settling in a place to work a job - under no circumstances a source of XP (this is by the rules), but more, to make it appalling and horrible, unthinkable to a person of imagination and spirit.

Could you talk a bit about what you did to fulfill this role?  That sounds like something that would be fun to hear about.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: happysmellyfish on November 09, 2011, 02:27:45 PM
I'm about to start running an OSRIC campaign, embracing the sandbox concept wholeheartedly. One thing I'm uncertain about is the treasure economy, and basically how much freedom I should have in generating rewards.

Vincent - what would have happened if the party had taken your spider bait, and traipsed out to the treasure? After the (probable) fight, would it have been a random amount of coinage? Would it just be that monster's lair? Or something else?

I don't want to mess up the tight economy - although maybe I'm over thinking it. Even so, I have absolutely 0 D&D experience, so anything you can shed on this would be helpful.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Marshall Burns on November 09, 2011, 02:32:26 PM
3rd, to make the safe, conventional life - settling in a place to work a job - under no circumstances a source of XP (this is by the rules), but more, to make it appalling and horrible, unthinkable to a person of imagination and spirit.

Could you talk a bit about what you did to fulfill this role?  That sounds like something that would be fun to hear about.


I'm interested in this as well. I've been working on a game with a similar structure, and the solution I arrived at was to make all PCs, by definition, people who for one reason or another can't or won't fill a functional role in mainstream society. At worst you're a sociopathic psycho killer, and at best you're, like, a farmer who has had it up to HERE with trying to make a living with a farm and so has abandoned it to seek his fortune. All of them are unhinged in some shape, form, or fashion.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 09, 2011, 02:37:25 PM
Uh. No seriously guys, I disclaim responsibility for the game's pacing. Advice for how I can better pace the game, or worries about how the game's pacing might go poorly, are plain misplaced. It's not my job!

My job does include setting and holding standards for when we roll dice and use other rules, and those standards do affect the game's pacing, but I'm not taking pacing into account as I set and hold them. Frank's right: the game's narrative comes out of play, a result or even a byproduct. It's not a concern of play. Same as for football or Chess or any other normal game. It feels weird, but I'm pretty sure that'll go away with familiarity. No fixing required.

Frank, yeah, I came up with the spider on the spot. I've primed myself really well - it's just me doing my Vance impersonation. Thanks!

-Vincent

Vincent,  on what basis do you decide that rolling dice is appropriate?  Also, who chooses the next scene and if/when you do that, on what basis do you do it?

thanks


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Georgios Panagiotidis on November 09, 2011, 03:18:02 PM
I figure that if what I'm saying entertains me, my enthusiasm will rub off on everyone else, and I won't have to make myself nuts trying to guess what they want. And if it doesn't, well, at least I've had fun! Their having fun is their lookout.

That's pretty much where I am right now, both as a player and as GM. All I can do is drive towards the things that make the game exciting for me and hope that the others are willing and able to riff off of that and spin it towards something that excites them, too. Crazy southern accents are one way of getting there. ;)

But especially when it comes to one-shot games with people I haven't really played with before (at a con for example), I've also found myself forced to pick up the slack. Especially as the GM. I've met quite a few people who - for one reason or another - aren't used to pushing the game forward themselves (be it in terms of plot, theme or style). So I sometimes take it on myself to set a course. I guess you could call some of it pacing, but I link it closer to direction or even form.

Given your comments how the dice control the pacing in your game, does that make things refreshingly unpredictable or frustratingly uneven? I've played and run fantasy-style games which were vaguely comparable to what you're describing here, and I've had both experiences. Our Warhammer games were unpredictable in the most entertaining and exciting sense of the word, but our few stabs at D&D just made the whole experience very draining.

What do you think makes the dice-based pacing work for you?


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Moreno R. on November 09, 2011, 10:39:54 PM
Re: the pacing of D&D / LotFP:
I agree with Vincent about this. There is a clear correlation between "playing well" in D&D and having less risk, and therefore less tension, less drama, less pacing. Given a menace or trap prepped by the GM, and given that the GM shouldn't try to kill all the party all the time with overpowered opponents, if you attack it right in the face with no thought or carefulness or planning, you get a "dramatic battle" where if you are unlucky with dice, your character die.
So, if you plan well, fight on a terrain chosen and prepared by you, use movement rates, the area of spells and coordination to minimize the risk and maximize the damage (in a work: if you play well) you get a very mundane and short battle, with small risks, and big rewards (the treasure is the same, but you didn't waste what you already had in a desperate fight).

I know some GMs that didn't like this, and every time they started to ask for absurd rolls, making everything insanely difficult, playing monsters as if they already did know our plans, etc. It was really aggravating, and the principal result was that the players stopped caring. Why try to think a strategy, if it will inevitably fail?

But there is something that did leap at me in your post, Vincent. you said that you improvised the big  talking spiders at the moment. This mean that (1) they were not in your preparation from the game, and (2) they were not already written up with stats?

They were the result of a random encounter roll? (LotFP has them?) or did you choose to put them there? If you did choose to put them there, and it wasn't for the pacing of the game, what was the reason? Did you stat them quickly at the table or did you play them only as "color" and no real threat? If you did stat them, how did you choose their HP and attack values? Did they were poisonous?

From these question follow another one, based on a characteristic that make the preparation of a D&D game a very time consuming task, if you don't cut corners.  The monsters and npcs are to be statted in detail (or not if you want, but this is the sweet call of illusionism: little by little I stopped making all that work and began to "wing it", and after a while all the fights were bogus). How much preparation did you do for these two sessions?

I am asking because this thread (and the previous one) are reminding me of my old AD&D games, and I am trying to remember the different factors that pushed toward illusionism.  For many people the principal one is the inverse relationship that playing well has to pacing. One of my friends began to railroad the game to have "more exciting stories" but that ruined the game so much that I never wanted to play like him.  Other factors are the one I already cited, the work needed to prepare a session (and when I work to create an adventure, I want the player to play it. Not a single statted monster or drawn dungeon has to go to waste!), the PCs mortality (losing a 1st level character because of a bad roll is one thing, but when a character has been played for two years you have a big pressure to fudge rolls to avoid killing him), and the way even the most complete preparation is always missing some npc or place where the PC go. And so the GM start to improvise more and more...

How do you address these problems in the game?



Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 14, 2011, 01:28:02 PM
Let's see!

Roger and Marshall, about making the safe life unthinkable: So far the PCs have had two brushes with the safe, sensible life of settling down and doing a job.

The first, in the colony stockade: one of the founding fathers of the colony stepped up before the newcomers, including the PCs, and announced that for men of able body there was a variety of work available. They could dig wells, fell trees, shift boulders, saw planks, or dredge clay. For women and children, they could weed, pick and sow, or they could clean houses and laundry. The work would be fulfilling, in that it would leave them little time or energy left for dissatisfaction! In return, they'd be entitled to a stipend of colony scrip sufficient to their needs - provided that their needs did not exceed a cot in the men's, women's, or children's bunkhouse, as appropriate, and two meals of boiled grain and salted rabe per day - plus a least-share of the colony company's annual increase. For children half a least-share.

The PCs unanimously decided not to take him up on it.

The second, in the trappers' camp: two of the PCs, Leike and Brom, undertook to repay the camp for its hospitality by labor. Two trappers, Able Pauvel and Able Anders, took them and dressed them in astringent stinkweed-saturated cowls, to keep off the giant leeches, and gave them a leather bag of poisoned offal. Their job was to wade through the giant leech infested swamps to the mucky islands where large weasels (wolverines, approximately) made their dens, to leave poisoned offal for them to eat. If they found any dead from the last baiting, they were to carry them back. Leike, being very small, the trappers encouraged to wedge her way into the wolverines' dens and leave the poisoned offal deep inside, where the young were more likely to find and eat it.

Leike did no such thing. The first den they came to, a wolverine rushed out, biting Brom and knocking him sprawling. He subdued it with sleep magic and they carried it back. They resigned the job at once.

In short: nobody in this world is entitled to safe and fulfilling employment. To settle down in this world means to submit to terrible exploitation and the worst working conditions I can dream up!

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: David Berg on November 14, 2011, 04:14:26 PM
Ha ha ha!  I was going to ask you if you would have been better off just establishing "regular jobs suck" before char-gen and using that as an assumption during play, so you wouldn't need to spend effort confirming it.  But that confirming sounds hella fun.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Callan S. on November 14, 2011, 06:39:22 PM
It'll sound off kilter, but in the warhammer quest board game, if you stayed in town too long, you just auto retired. Basically an auto kill for the character. That an encounters where either you leave now for the next dungeon or retire. Curious the number of women that wanted to marry our grubby character, but that's random town encounters for ya.

Actually what comes to mind as a funny mechanic would be a disgust meter. Your character tries to live the civilian life, but things just disgust them. When your disgust meter goes up, you get bonuses in combat or such (but the meter goes down over time). So, get disgusted for awhile, then back into the dungeons.

Otherwise apart from the no XP rule, it sounds like an application of very traditional force, to force a certain character choice? Essentially to get over a procedural leak in the system, eg "What if the players just decide to grow cabbages forever?" or suchlike. The warhammer quest example is one kind of plug for that leak (actually come to think of it my disgust meter isn't a plug either, it's only an encouragement to go to adventure).


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 14, 2011, 07:38:58 PM
Happysmellyfish, about how much treasure: I have no idea! Or rather - I have the game's price lists to guide me. If they'd gone and recovered the spider-monster's spoils, I'd've just judged by eyeball, like, what it's spoils would likely be, then gone to the book to figure out their value. Throw in a hook or clue too, by whim, most likely.

As it happens, this spider-monster really did have arrowheads (which count as money) and a silver cross, but it didn't have any gold. We all knew it was lying about the gold. The well where it was stashing its spoils might have been something interesting, though.

Anyway, my personal judgment of what a monster's spoils are likely to be is what guides it for me in this game. It's not my job to worry about how quickly or slowly the PCs are advancing, just to sometimes give them an opportunity to recover treasure. If they want more treasure than I'm offering, it's on them to come up with a plan.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: rabindranath72 on November 15, 2011, 06:29:29 AM
I'm about to start running an OSRIC campaign, embracing the sandbox concept wholeheartedly. One thing I'm uncertain about is the treasure economy, and basically how much freedom I should have in generating rewards.

Vincent - what would have happened if the party had taken your spider bait, and traipsed out to the treasure? After the (probable) fight, would it have been a random amount of coinage? Would it just be that monster's lair? Or something else?

I don't want to mess up the tight economy - although maybe I'm over thinking it. Even so, I have absolutely 0 D&D experience, so anything you can shed on this would be helpful.
Just go with the treasure tables and random rolling, and you can't go wrong. The tables are designed for a certain level of treasure in the campaign, which in turn is tied to the difficulties of the challenges via monster and dungeon level. I am not sure that the OSRIC tables mimic exactly the AD&D distributions, but knowing the authors, I suppose they are quite close.

Cheers,
Antonio


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 15, 2011, 08:16:12 AM
Stefoid, on when to roll and how I choose scenes: Oh, it's all logistical, not dramatic. We roll for the outcomes of uncertain actions, dramatically significant or not, dramatically satisfying or not. Same with scenes. I can maybe go into this, but it's complicated, and we'll need to find a good starting place first.

I hope that "oh, it's all logistical, not dramatic" answers your question. Does it?

Moreno, on prepping encounters: In Lamentations, statting up a monster at the table is trivially easy. I suppose I could stat them up in advance, but there's no reason to, the result will be the same.

I have a random encounter table prepped, yes - well, it's a capricious encounter table. It's a list of monsters they're likely to encounter in this monster-infested wilderness, in rough order of most common to least common. I chose the spider-monsters from it by whim.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 15, 2011, 12:06:24 PM
Stefoid, on when to roll and how I choose scenes: Oh, it's all logistical, not dramatic. We roll for the outcomes of uncertain actions, dramatically significant or not, dramatically satisfying or not. Same with scenes. I can maybe go into this, but it's complicated, and we'll need to find a good starting place first.

I hope that "oh, it's all logistical, not dramatic" answers your question. Does it?

yep, ta.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: David Berg on November 15, 2011, 01:53:49 PM
Re: logistics and scenes, is it a case of, "If Vincent deems a situation logistically relevant, we play a scene about it; logistically irrelevant stuff does not beget scenes"?


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Teataine on November 23, 2011, 06:14:37 AM
David, I can't say for Vincent's game specifically, but for this kind of (o)D&D play, scenes are largely dictated by dice rolls (and resource management), too.

If the players decide to go out in the wilderness, you roll for a random encounter for (say) each day of travel. If the roll dictates there's an encounter, that's a scene, otherwise we move on, lightly describing the journey.

If you're hexcrawling, there's a roll to see if you're lost. If you're lost and realize it, that's a scene otherwise we move on.

If you run out of food that's a scene, you decide to hunt or whatever, and we roll to see if you catch anything.

If there's any scene-setting, it's done by the players. I believe concrete scenes are initiated by player action. You might be sailing on a ship, doing a totally uneventful journey, that could be ended with a sentence of narration from the GM, except the players decide to break into the captain's cabin.

It is, from a gameplay standpoint, pure logistics, as Vincent says. But I'm just now reading through the Dying Earth novels (particularly Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel's saga) and it's also incredible how strongly the result resembles its literary inspiration. Vance might write off a few days of travel with a simple sentence if the journey is uneventful, but if something crosses Cugel's path or Cugel decides to do something out of the ordinary, then we get a "scene".


I'm currently running Pathfinder in the same way and it's a lot harder to pull it off, because of how much bulkier the mechanics are. In LotFP you can stat up a spider monster by giving it AC, HP and an attack bonus and you're done, whereas in PF that hardly suffices. I've developed my own tools to handle this issue which technically means I'm cheating in the opposite sense to what Vincent mentioned. To control pacing in LotFP would be cheating, to achieve this hands-off oldschool play in Pathfinder is cheating.

Callan S. wrote:
Essentially to get over a procedural leak in the system, eg "What if the players just decide to grow cabbages forever?" or suchlike.

It might appear as a leak, but I think it comes pretty naturally that "we're not here to grow cabbages" is part of the social contract. In short, when you agree to play D&D, you've agreed to play a game about treasure hunting monster killers. I mean, if I decide to play in Apocalypse World a guy who drives off into the sunset in the ten seconds of of play and refuse to make a new character, is that a procedural leak? Or if I decide I want to play a weasel-employed traitor in Mouse Guard, and attack Gwendolyn during the briefing? I'm not "playing along", I'm not playing the game we agreed to play, so we better revise our agreement.

It would be trivial to add a rule to most editions of D&D that says: "If your character decides to retire from the life of adventuring, that character leaves play as a PC. Make a new character." But do we really need it?


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on November 23, 2011, 08:04:35 AM
Quote
In short, when you agree to play D&D, you've agreed to play a game about treasure hunting monster killers.
I think the problem of growing cabbages can show up because you sometimes do things that get close to it. Maybe the hunt for food results in a few skins that you can sell for enough money that you can stay in town and heal up a couple of days longer. Maybe you regularly hire out your services as guards along the main road through the area, to the point that it becomes less like adventuring and more like holding down a job. Maybe one of the characters have to spend a month in town to learn new spells or train for the next level, leaving the others with enough downtime that not doing something "productive" (as in "money-generating") seems like a waste.

On a related note, the discussion on how to make ordinary work seem less attractive than adventuring reminded me very strongly of Jabberwocky. Sure, going out to fight a terrifying monster with barely any chance of survival seems like a dumb choice, but when the alternative is to cut off your foot so you can make a living as a beggar... Well, it seems a lot less dumb. (I know Michael Palin's character more stumbles into the situations than goes there by choice, but I think the parallell is still there.)


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Teataine on November 23, 2011, 09:06:12 AM
Maybe you regularly hire out your services as guards along the main road through the area, to the point that it becomes less like adventuring and more like holding down a job.
This can become a "problem". Vincent's solution works and in this sense I understand why the "inspirational texts" appendix in old D&D was very much a necessary part of the system. The literary inspirations were the unspoken principles of running the game. Vance does this "a honest job is always terrible" thing all the time.

Quote
Maybe one of the characters have to spend a month in town to learn new spells or train for the next level, leaving the others with enough downtime that not doing something "productive" (as in "money-generating") seems like a waste
In such cases it should be the training characters that get "downtime". Their players should take over hirelings or roll up other characters and go on an adventure with the otherwise unoccupied PCs. I believe this was fairly standard "back in the day".


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Callan S. on November 23, 2011, 02:11:50 PM
Callan S. wrote:
Essentially to get over a procedural leak in the system, eg "What if the players just decide to grow cabbages forever?" or suchlike.

It might appear as a leak, but I think it comes pretty naturally that "we're not here to grow cabbages" is part of the social contract. In short, when you agree to play D&D, you've agreed to play a game about treasure hunting monster killers. I mean, if I decide to play in Apocalypse World a guy who drives off into the sunset in the ten seconds of of play and refuse to make a new character, is that a procedural leak? Or if I decide I want to play a weasel-employed traitor in Mouse Guard, and attack Gwendolyn during the briefing? I'm not "playing along", I'm not playing the game we agreed to play, so we better revise our agreement.

It would be trivial to add a rule to most editions of D&D that says: "If your character decides to retire from the life of adventuring, that character leaves play as a PC. Make a new character." But do we really need it?

Yes. Because otherwise you start bringing your social contract of 'what you don't do' to games where it's entirely inappropriate. What if someone writes a game where your guy can drive off into the sunset after ten seconds of play (for whatever quirky reason the author has - RPG authors are quirky), but you assuming your social contract forbids this because although the rules clearly leave this option open, you put social contract ahead of rules? Ie, there is nothing that can inform you, short of an essay, to cease stopping yourself from taking the sunset option. So people try and write a different game, but because of social contract dogmatism (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32473.0), you keep playing some other game, always forbiding yourself options which are plainly available in the rules. It reminds me of the untraining Ron seems to regularly engage in in regards to sorcerer, where people keep bringing play approaches which have nothing to do with the game.

So yes, unless you want your creativity stiffled because, while you could have done move X, because you've always adopted a SC where it's not allowed and because you always put SC ahead of rules, you never make that surprising creative move that employing X would have resulted in. Instead you find yourself traveling down a narrowing tunnel, that ever fills up with more SC entreties, ever more stiffling and repeating the same material as always. As repeating the same thing is the only definately safe SC option that doesn't risk betraying friends trust and what other options are SC safe are unknown because the SC is never written down and made visible/made into actual rules.

Quote
"If your character decides to retire from the life of adventuring, that character leaves play as a PC. Make a new character."
Even this isn't an example of solving the problem. The term 'life of adventuring' is semantically ambiguous, as Anders notes as well. The social contract gets bloated further with literary inspiration (next it'll be 'the spirit of the game'), further narrowing the tunnel of potential options and reinforcing genre emulation rather than actual authorship. "Everybody knows that you don't do X" is an incredibly poisonous phrase.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Teataine on November 24, 2011, 06:25:11 AM
Hey Callan, I've re-read your post a couple of times, but I'm seriously not getting you. I'm reading all sorts of stuff into your post, like advocacy of games that "let you do anything" and condemnation of genre emulation, and man I do not want to go down that road.

Because I don't want to get off track, I'll jump back to the original point and try to rearticulate. You said how this is "traditional application of force to get over a procedural leak in the rules". I find this about the same as saying that the GM challenging a character's Beliefs in Burning Wheel or the GM having the NPCs run up to the Dogs with their troubles is application of force. It's simply how the game works, that's where the reward cycle is.

I'm not sure about the prices in Basic/LotFP but beet farming will in most D&D editions, by the rules, I dunno, maybe net me a few coppers a month in D&D or whatever. That's not even one experience point!
It's the same as not pushing my character's Beliefs in Burning Wheel and then complaining I don't get any artha. Is that a procedural leak in the rules?

I think there's a surprisingly huge push towards that in the old D&D system (and I do mean system, not just the rules). I think it would be wrong to underestimate it.

For context, consider what game we're talking about and when it was written. LotFP is just a rewrite of that game, with a few rationalizations of the mechanics and some horror colour.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Callan S. on November 24, 2011, 03:02:55 PM
Gregor,
Quote
like advocacy of games that "let you do anything"
I gave an example where a game author specifically intends players to have the capacity, by written rules, to drive off into the sunset after 10 seconds of play. This is no more 'you can do anything' than a game author intending a certain piece can move up to two squares forward on it's first move (a pawn in chess). I think though you tried a couple of times, your looking for someone elses argument and only seeing that.

Quote
You said how this is "traditional application of force to get over a procedural leak in the rules". I find this about the same as saying that the GM challenging a character's Beliefs in Burning Wheel or the GM having the NPCs run up to the Dogs with their troubles is application of force. It's simply how the game works, that's where the reward cycle is.
The idea is the dogs deal with the NPC's problems. If, when the GM makes the working standards horrible, the idea is that the PC's work to raise the working conditions of all people (or even just the PC's mundane jobs) at that town into forfilling and aptly playing jobs, then I would grant you your point. But it isn't the idea. And the reward cycle isn't even remotely here. What we have is an option which is ostensibly granted by the rule system. Whether the author didn't want you farming beets but wrote rules that grant this capacity (only removing XP from it - which doesn't remove the option, just the XP) who knows? Let's say he did. In such a case, how about we just say that's bad design, instead of deciding to apply force and saying this is how the game works?

Speaking of social contracts, forum wise I estimate I've had my (what will appear as blue sky theory) one shot. I'll note that while fixating on one single cable seems off topic when there's a whole car to talk about, if it's the brake cable and it's been cut, that's why I might focus on just one component alot. Pitch all done now! PM's welcomed.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: stefoid on November 24, 2011, 07:45:52 PM
The character might have aspirations to go off into the sunset and plant cabages, but we all know that plan isnt going to last 10 seconds before something goes horribly wrong.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 25, 2011, 12:32:27 PM
I've personally found the issue of character freedom rather easy to work with, given what I've learned at the Forge over the years. Like, say that a character doesn't want to go into the dungeon - no problem, just make a character who does want that, or we'll deal with whatever it is the character needs to do to respect his nature first, quickly, and then go into the dungeon. This is no force nor unfair limitation on characters, it's just us as a gaming group setting an agenda and keeping to it; we're playing to see if the characters can amass treasure and xp and whatever else we'll find worthy of amassing, so planting gabbage will only get as much attention from us as we find entertaining.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 26, 2011, 07:24:58 AM
Eero's right. There's no force in action here.

It's not my job to get them to go adventuring. No skin off my nose if they don't! They're free to do whatever interests them, moment by moment, and I'm perfectly well entertained either way. In fact I'm delighted either way.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Callan S. on November 27, 2011, 11:51:22 PM
Eero, if the instructions for play said to, before play, think of a character who lothes a conventional life (for whatever reason) or otherwise your not equiped to play (as much as if you don't have dice your not equiped to play), I'd pay your point. But in that case (or even if it's being done sans instructions) there'd be no need for the GM to make a conventional life appalling and horrible.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 28, 2011, 07:13:56 AM
Callan, it's fine with me if they go adventuring; it's fine if they don't. That's their call. There's no force.

I'm not GMing a world where becoming a serf and growing cabbages is the hearty, fulfilling, honest life. That's just romantic bullshit. Being a serf sucks. If the PCs want to settle down and grow cabbages, their choices are: be a serf like the other cabbage-growers, which sucks, or make a way for themselves to somehow grow cabbages without being a serf. They can do it, but they'll have to make it happen for themselves.

It's not my job to give them a happy, easy life, even if they want one.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 28, 2011, 07:27:46 AM
Given your comments how the dice control the pacing in your game, does that make things refreshingly unpredictable or frustratingly uneven? I've played and run fantasy-style games which were vaguely comparable to what you're describing here, and I've had both experiences. Our Warhammer games were unpredictable in the most entertaining and exciting sense of the word, but our few stabs at D&D just made the whole experience very draining.

What do you think makes the dice-based pacing work for you?
Georgios, I've been thinking and thinking about this. So far it's fun for me, but I can see that some of my players find it frustrating, or will soon. Fights are over quickly, so if you miss two attack rolls in a row - which is very possible! - you can feel like the dice are keeping you from playing. Whether the dice will prove exciting or grinding in the long run, I don't know yet.

I've been a little bit indulgent of the whiffs. I bet it would improve the game for me to make even missed attack rolls (for instance) consequential. Maybe I'll try to do that in our next session.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Callan S. on November 28, 2011, 02:49:47 PM
Vincent, one mans suck is another mans treasure. Or atleast another mans tolerable. If a character is fine with whatevers first presented and the GM does not dial up the appaling and horrible with the intent to make the character hate it/think it sucks and stop doing it (which is obviously paired directly with it sucking), I'd pay there is no force.

I think a world where growing cabbages IS sucky, no matter what, no matter who, is as much RBS (Romantic BullShit) as the one where it IS, no matter what, no matter who, hearty and forfilling. If the text prompt you to pitch for a particular RBS and everyones on board that the psychology of a character is to match the psychology of the setting (because this is setting with its own psycology, not just 'a setting'), I'd pay there is no force there as well.


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 28, 2011, 05:10:46 PM
If Eppy had had Brom say "wolverine baiting is the best! I've found my life's vocation!" then that would have been fine with me too, yes. So we're agreed that there is no force.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: Teataine on November 29, 2011, 06:50:45 AM
Vincent, I don't remember how much of this is present in LotFP, but I believe it to be very present in (classic) D&D. Do you agree with this evaluation, based on your experience so far:

Between the seed content like the positioning of the characters (frex: you're a fighter, you're a magic user), implied setting (frex: implied economy via price lists and pay for hirelings, henchmen and other services), the artwork (which in classic D&D almost always depicts adventurers stealing treasure from monsters) and the reward mechanics (xp for treasure and sometimes monster killing) and reward cycles (leveling until you get a castle or wizard tower) and the mechanical focus (combat resolution mechanics and a very specific skill list (if any)) I find there is a pretty strong systemic funnel for focusing play.

So, Eppy (or any one of your players) could say "wolverine baiting is the best", yeah totally. There is no force at work. But will he? I think there's an overwhelming chance he won't, ever, baked right into how the game is designed.

I personally find D&D's "you're an adventurer" just as definitive as Dogs' "you're a dog", even if perhaps not as explicit or in rare occasions contradicted in the text (it is a pre-theory piece after all).

(I think that if the game ever floundered on this premise it was in the late AD&D and early 3rd edition period which is a subject for a different thread.)


Title: Re: Lamentations of the Flame Princess: my job as GM
Post by: lumpley on November 29, 2011, 08:17:53 AM
Gregor, yeah.

I can see circumstances where Eppy and Rob might decide to have Brom and Leike bait wolverines for a living for a little while. Round about level 3, let's say, where it's still fun but relatively safe, if for some reason they decide they need a quantity of colony scrip. (Brom and Leike would make an excellent team for wolverine baiting.)

But that'd be in service to their larger, longer-term ambitions, whatever those turn out to be. I don't predict that their long-term ambitions will include becoming expert, veteran wolverine baiters. I might be wrong, but I don't predict so!

-Vincent