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Author Topic: [D&D 4e] Attrition in RPGs  (Read 1689 times)
Natespank
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« on: February 05, 2011, 11:21:56 PM »

In D&D 4e you can fight a room full of bears, get mauled, narrowly survive, nap for 6 hours, stretch, and climb out of bed good as new. To me that seems fishy.

Tomorrow I begin a campaign where I'll include a house rule where the players get 4x their normal amount of healing surges, but regain only 1 per night of rest (2 if the character is the party's "defender"). The idea is to add an element of gameplay where the players plan out a week-long adventure, a route, and other options designed to prevent their attrition- then stick around until the last possible moment looting until they have no more endurance, and thus return to town for a week's rest to recover from their great adventure. They can lament the rooms they weren't able to loot because they grew too weak- or they can endanger their lives to get the the very bottom of the huge dungeon for a huge payoff.

It also introduces an element of potential failure into the PC's gameplay where they can play sloppy and be forced to return to town instead of finishing a quest- encouraging better planning next time.

What I'd like to know is how other DM/GMs have used attrition in their campaigns and how it panned out. I think it's important, but besides using old D&D rules which annoy me I'm pretty experimental in my approach. Wish me luck :)
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 03:00:02 AM »

Hi. This would probably go better in the game development section.

I think with that lament and having missed out, I think that every time they find some significant treasure (whatever significant is for your dungeon), then you start leaving obvious hints around that there is more ahead. After all, they wont lament about the missed treasure chest one corridor down, if they don't know that it existed. Need to drive home that lament by giving all sorts of obvious clues that there is another treasure not too far ahead.

But here's a question - did they miss out? Why can't they rest and just go back to where they finished off? What, perhaps a kobold or two come in the meantime? I mean, at default that's what I'd guess would happen, and thus no lament. Now, that's not to say that you drive home the game of this by having the aggitated dungeon flood with monsters while they are away, like a kicked wasp hive. Just asking about what your aiming for and how your getting to it?
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 03:26:07 AM »

I prefer interactive dungeons that respond to your actions. What I mean is that if the players attack a dungeon somebody will rally up a posse to fight them off, and then the stragglers will hold out as best as they can (unless it's an undead or mindless dungeon). If the players leave, the inhabitants will move the treasure, or abandon the dungeon, or reinforce, or something- it will amount to another adventure to get at the "lost" loot, and if the players choose to pursue that option they'd have to turn down higher level, more rewarding quests for a time.

Their benefit/time played decreases; we're real people with school and jobs, time matters.

I'm aiming to add another aspect to adventuring that involves picking your fights, choosing routes, negotiating and running to prevent attrition before the "meat of the adventure;" it will add interesting choices for the players while they decide whether a fight is worthwhile. There's lots of pirates and islands in the campaign so if a pirate lord survives because the PCs have to go to town, he's gonna pack up and get out of there before they come back. It's crucial that the players' decisions have consequences.
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2011, 10:49:38 AM »

Hi there,

This topic resonates strongly with me, I remember thinking about this a lot back when I played mostly 2nd ed AD&D. However! As you may have noticed from some other threads, this forum really only works when you talk about a specific actual play experience to give some context to the ideas you want to talk about. In this case, I'm reading between the lines and seeing that either you've been frustrated with the ability of characters in D&D to fully recover in between encounters, and/or you've had a good experience in a game where the players have had to do the kind of planning you describe. If you can describe to us either of those experiences, it'll make it forum-appropriate and enable us to talk about the issue in a substantive way! Until then, all I can say is "yeh, sounds good, good luck" which isn't really the purpose of this forum at this site.
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Nathan P.
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2011, 05:09:23 PM »

Yeah, I planned the campaign last night and ran the first session a few hours ago. Now I can add some specific play experience.

Today the group picked a fight with some refugees and lost a few surges. Then, in revenge, they were ambushed by other refugees- 2 fights that in normal DnD wouldn't have affected the characters at all since overnight they would have regained all their surges and powers. However, using the attrition system they had fewer than full surges for the next few islands, and after a few more encounters 2 characters were getting pretty low. They began avoiding unhelpful combats and prudently fled a few situations rather than fight it out for no reason. It made them pick their fights today- which made them more memorable and important since they prefer not to return to town if they can help it.

I like how it worked because they weren't handicapped, but they were worn down enough to slow down and be careful, adding a sub game to the campaign.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2011, 09:54:57 PM »

I still think that pivots on their also being something bad that happens if you go back to town to rest (like the pirate leaves). But other than that that seems a good play! Though under the original system the pirate could leave during the one night a player is away, a week or more of resting really, in an imaginative sense, leaves a ton of room for a bunch of not good things to happen! Possibly in terms of mechanics engaging imagination, your idea actually takes advantage of healing surge mechanics while the original really left very little room for imagination (one night). If D&D 4 is gamist, I think your idea ups the stakes (or atleast potentially does, see above) considerably more.


Quote
Their benefit/time played decreases; we're real people with school and jobs, time matters.
It's interesting how this opens out onto overall life, as to it's significance. I mean, it's accumulation of benefit, by each player, more than who won something. It's about sitting on a really big pile of gold, or weapons (ouch, don't sit on them!), etc? Or am I way off?
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2011, 03:14:51 PM »

Quote
It's interesting how this opens out onto overall life, as to it's significance. I mean, it's accumulation of benefit, by each player, more than who won something. It's about sitting on a really big pile of gold, or weapons (ouch, don't sit on them!), etc? Or am I way off?

Well, suppose the players return to town after burning out and the next session they can choose between returning to the old dungeon for a boss fight, or they can get started on the slightly more important task of finding the buried treasure that their recent map fragment alludes to. It's a real choice, and they're welcome to return to the dungeon to try and finish off the boss (if he's still there), but they can also think that we only have time to play once a week and can't they spend the time better by moving forward? We're all in university, so it's a real question.

I was playing Torchlight/Diablo once when I realized I could sort of set my own pace by delving deeper into the dungeon faster. I died more, but my payoff per unit of time spent playing increased, and I didn't have time to spend a lifetime playing.

Uh, in short, yeah, it's about sitting on a massive pile of gold or whatever at the end without wasting days of real life revisiting old dungeons. Gamist games are about gaining and wielding power, so i guess instead of gold their "points" come from how much they can affect the world. They try to gain it efficiently.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2011, 04:58:44 PM »

I guess it depends on whether getting to that old boss actually is...well, lets use a ratio of gold to real time minute to make it easier. It depends if the old boss has a lower GP/time ratio than the treasure chest. If he has a higher GP/time ratio, then really there is no lament about going back to town and missing out on rooms because your better off going back to them.

On going back to town, do you guys usually end the session at that point?
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2011, 09:11:47 PM »

we'll try to end sessions in town, but we won't necessary end because we're in town. I can't over argue this though- sometimes it is worthwhile to go back. In those cases the mechanic at least allows some realism and some chance for the denizens to prepare for a return trip. Since I have a Fame system (not enough fame = dont get quests) maybe I could adjust fame rewards based on time... hmm...
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2011, 08:23:07 AM »

Right on, I dig that use of surges as a kind of resource/pacing mechanism, and it sounds like it's doing what you want. In older D&D versions, it was usually on the GM's head to disrupt periods of rest (hence, wandering monsters and such) in order to create that sense of needing to choose when to return to a safe place vs. pushing on and achieving something. This seems much more elegant to me.

Gamist games are about gaining and wielding power, so i guess instead of gold their "points" come from how much they can affect the world. They try to gain it efficiently.

I'll put on my Big Model Pedant hat (it's dusty, I warn you). First off, creative agenda is an property of a person or a group of people, not a game text. Game text can support certain CAs over others, but it's the players that enact CA. Second, gamist play has come to be defined as "Social assessment of personal strategy and guts among the participants in the face of risk." So what's interesting here to me: how you've been treating attrition in your game seems bang-on aimed at gamist play, and then you start talking about the accumulation and use of power, which is totally orthagonal to creative agenda!

Does that make sense? This time/gold ratio, or whatever, may be interesting as some kind of metric that ties into whatever you're quest structure is, but it may be a red herring to get wrapped up in trying to make your game "more gamist" or whatever. I'd say, just try to make it more fun! I'm assuming that your players are on board and having a good time, of course. It's just really easy to add un-necessary elements to any design, especially when you're pursuing some kind of vague ideal.
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Nathan P.
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Find Annalise
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I design | ndp design
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2011, 08:06:11 PM »

Quote
It's just really easy to add un-necessary elements to any design, especially when you're pursuing some kind of vague ideal.

Agreed. And I don't mean to live up to gamist ideals, I'm more of a fan of nietzsche: life is the will to power. Most game mechanics in RPGs focus upon how characters affect and interact with the world in increasingly more powerful ways- and most in game rewards, in game terms, are things that increase that power. It's not everyone's agenda though, it's just a useful sub-agenda.

As per Ron's suggestion, I suppose this thread is temporarily closed in lieu of the sandboxy thread, which is better anyways.
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