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Author Topic: Dragon Age RPG: musings on a once-off.  (Read 2238 times)
Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« on: February 13, 2011, 01:05:16 PM »

This session was actually preparation for a con demo that the GM hoped to run at WarpCon (read all about it,) but I don't want to give real names here, so you'll forgive me if the proceedings all sound a little anonymous.  The GM was honest enough about what the basic play style would most likely be- mostly hack n' slash, with maybe a few moments of role-play interspersed here and there- which I appreciated.  Play, in the event, largely revolved around combat, fair and square.

The problem I saw with the system was that, well... as far as I could tell, combat was not particularly interesting for anyone except a primary caster (which I had the good fortune to be.)  We had two other melee characters, and two rangers, but their viable combat options were essentially limited to: roll to hit, pass/fail, roll for damage, over and over again.  There were little or no actual tactical tradeoffs or decision-making to be made there- a calculator could have done the same thing with less hassle for everyone.

This might just be a symptom of restriction to low-level characters for the session- maybe more experienced characters get reliable access to more varied combat options- but then again, why should the player have to wait for access to actual game?

That said, there was some variation to be found in battlefield deployment- i.e, deciding which PCs would tackle what mooks at different times, including one battle where we had the complication of protecting a civilian against wolves from several directions, and another where we tried to creep behind buildings to gain the element of surprise and form a 'hot gates' defence between two walls to protect the glass cannon (I, me) and archers.  Miniatures would have been helpful for the purpose, though.

Again, I was lucky enough to play a mage, so I was able to choose between a couple of spells, ranged and melee attacks that were useful under different circumstances- one to buff myself with armour, one to heal, one to damage/stun, and one to buff allies (though not very economically,) plus my staff and arcane missile, and the added concern of having to conserve spell points correctly over time.  So, it did give me some pros and cons to weigh, and I even managed to squeeze in a little role-play: healing up some refugees in camp before heading off on the main plotline, giving my staff to the unarmed civilian, etc.  So that was fun.

One saving grace of standard combat was the option to perform 'stunts' whenever you rolled a double on the dice, which did afford players some opportunity to trade off between different effects: e.g, attacking twice vs. extra damage vs. stun, IIRC.  I just didn't see why players shouldn't have access to that kind of tactical diversity the rest of the time.

One other interesting feature of note:  No resurrection mechanics in the case of character death.  My experience is limited here, but this struck me as a very risky feature if your campaign is heavily combat-centric and largely gamist in emphasis.  Then again, it's possible the designers actually wanted the game to be about something else (see below.)

Combat aside, the main hitch, as I saw it, arose when our party was journeying from our command centre to a village that had been largely razed, in order to rescue a few captives holed up in the local church, merrily dispatching enemy redshirts on the way.  Part of the plan of infiltration was sneaking across a stream at the base of a cliff in order to get into the town's sewer system.  There were darkspawn (read: Orcs) on guard up on the cliffs above, and we were all making some kind of stealth vs. perception test to get across unseen and unheard.

Of course, since the sewer entrance was the only way in without making an infeasibly roundabout detour, failure was not really an option- so when my character repeatedly failed his stealth tests, thereby alerting the guards, what should logically have called down a major shitstorm on our heads appears to have had no actual effect on events, so far as I could tell.  I can understand the necessity after a fashion, but in that case, why have us roll dice in the first place?  Why couldn't the GM just allow us to get into the sewers unhindered, and proceed to some point where we can make decisions or roll dice in a way that has some impact?

One other thing I noticed- though this may or may not have anything in particular to do with the system- was that one of the other players had this interesting habit of stopping at regular intervals- basically whenever a new stretch of corridor or floor of a building came in sight- and asking to make a perception check.  It's possible this was some kind of 'defence mechanism' against nasty surprises, but I eventually came out and asked if we could just "assume we proceed along the route until we encounter some kind of problem", which the GM, again, was perfectly happy to do.  Is this is a frequent habit among gamers, in your experience?

I should mention that system did include sections for defining 'character concept' and relationships, but the GM had deliberately left them blank for purposes of the demo, given that he thought it would take a couple of sessions to explore them fully, and because he felt a con demo needed to have a fairly definite plot structure in order to conclude productively.  I found this interesting, because it gave me impression that the game's designers, and the GM, were interested in playing something more narrativist in emphasis- Bioware certainly has pretensions to that effect, (though for reasons that are probably a tad too tangential to delve into, I'm skeptical of how well they live up their rep.)

Anyways.  I'll leave it there.  Does any of this sound novel or interesting, or is it just a recapitulation of defects from other RPGs?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2011, 05:46:13 PM »

Hi Morgan,

I'm kind of interested in the subject related to your quote here, at the moment
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We had two other melee characters, and two rangers, but their viable combat options were essentially limited to: roll to hit, pass/fail, roll for damage, over and over again.  There were little or no actual tactical tradeoffs or decision-making to be made there- a calculator could have done the same thing with less hassle for everyone.
I have enjoyed largely random roll fights, imagining the blows once I get one in. Certainly old adventure movies often had some rapier fight which in the end is just trading strikes, with the question of how much fanfare is involved. I'd ask, was the outcome of the fight by and large predictable (you'd win) and so the rolling was pretty much busy work?

Just musing on solutions without having to invent a whole new lunch money like game - one simple solution is to have a round countdown, and at a certain count (which the players know, so they are in on the tension, of course), the bad guys get majorly beefed up. Now a few failed rolls could mean death instead of just losing a few more HP before predictably winning. However this ties into Natespank's question on how to fail without everyone dying/tossing all the invented fiction of each character out the window. You said your game has no ressurection stuff - so by necessity the fights become push overs, which bones gamism.

Anyway, did it seem like by and large you were going to win and it was just a matter of how much HP you'd lose? Which no doubt would be healed by a sleep at the inn or some friendly cleric anyway, so in win/lose terms, meaningless?

For my own design concerns at the moment, I'm working off the hypothesis that random rolls by themselves are not actually boring. This is despite some hang ups of my own that they are. Instead its that pure random dice rolls are boring when the outcome is pretty much certain.

Oh, another idea to add a failure sting is like the idea above, but at round number X, the monsters sneak away a significant part of the treasure. That way you don't have the TPK problem from above, as the sting is simply missing out on phat loot/cash-o-la! Nooooo!

On topic enough?

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Of course, since the sewer entrance was the only way in without making an infeasibly roundabout detour, failure was not really an option- so when my character repeatedly failed his stealth tests, thereby alerting the guards, what should logically have called down a major shitstorm on our heads appears to have had no actual effect on events, so far as I could tell.  I can understand the necessity after a fashion, but in that case, why have us roll dice in the first place?
Hooo boy! Because the dice are just deployed to fabricate a sense of tension based on the idea events are uncertain, when really the GM is utterly, utterly deciding them (and probably terrorfied of being a bad GM if he doesn't!). But c'mon, you knew that, right? Even as your seeing straight through the illusion?

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One other thing I noticed- though this may or may not have anything in particular to do with the system- was that one of the other players had this interesting habit of stopping at regular intervals- basically whenever a new stretch of corridor or floor of a building came in sight- and asking to make a perception check.  It's possible this was some kind of 'defence mechanism' against nasty surprises, but I eventually came out and asked if we could just "assume we proceed along the route until we encounter some kind of problem", which the GM, again, was perfectly happy to do.  Is this is a frequent habit among gamers, in your experience?
Well this all hinges on what sort of thing the GM is hanging out for. Imagine you said what you said, the GM nods and then a few corridors latter the GM goes "Ha, you didn't look around and a XXX wacks you!". Under the usual traditional  RPG rules, that's valid GM stuff. Taking it as valid, well then the 'defensive' player would actually have been, gamism wise, right and you, gamism wise, wrong in your approach.

On the other hand, trying to second guess the GM every few minutes gets pretty tiresome.
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2011, 11:52:24 AM »

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Hooo boy! Because the dice are just deployed to fabricate a sense of tension based on the idea events are uncertain, when really the GM is utterly, utterly deciding them (and probably terrorfied of being a bad GM if he doesn't!). But c'mon, you knew that, right? Even as your seeing straight through the illusion?

As a GM, I decide events by fiat really, really, really sparingly. At the very least, if I do fudge at this point none of my players are going to expect it, because numerous times I've let PCs die anticlimactic, story breaking deaths because the dice say so. As a matter of fact at this point, I can "cheat" occasionally without my players have no idea I'm doing so, I'm pretty sure I've deeply instilled the terror in them that they will die or fail just because of bad luck/poor planning. I have GM'd a whole lot of systems over the years, but probably more Shadowrun than anything else. If you're at all familiar with the game, you're in a better position to understand what I'm talking about in the above paragraph, as SR is a game where planning almost always matters more than luck.
 
As a matter of fact, I deeply, deeply struggle with going against "what the dice say" sometimes as much as I hate how it impacts the story. I suppose you could call that hardline simulationism. I try to adjust the story to roll with it though, and it usually leads to some very interesting twists and turns that are much more unpredictable than your standard Hollywood plotline, rather than just flat anticlimax and dissapointment.

Quote
Of course, since the sewer entrance was the only way in without making an infeasibly roundabout detour, failure was not really an option- so when my character repeatedly failed his stealth tests, thereby alerting the guards, what should logically have called down a major shitstorm on our heads appears to have had no actual effect on events, so far as I could tell.  I can understand the necessity after a fashion, but in that case, why have us roll dice in the first place?

Speaking personally, I think I would have fucked your party without hesitation if you had REPEATEDLY failed stealth tests. It's certainly what I've done to my own players, time and time again. Of course, I generally run games where there is almost ALWAYS some resource the PCs can expend to survive such slip-ups. If the game/module was designed as "succeed stealth test or die" and was a demo game, I can understand the GM going with the "not really" option. Probably at least half the adventure's fault.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2011, 03:07:34 PM »

Hi Devon,

I'd actually submit that your using fiat nigh constantly. Every time you look at a dice roll, your deciding whether you let it pass or not. Regardless of whether you let it pass mostly, that's still an act of fiat in itself. And as to when a skill roll or such is called, that's fiat too. No, the fiction didn't decide a roll would happen. If I was in a court room and tried to say "Your honour, the fiction decided I should do 'er in!" it wouldn't go very far (or I hope so, anyway). Same with saying "Your honour, the fiction decided I should make a skill roll!".

Slighly off topic post, but it's at these points a missplaced understanding is reinforced and continued if met with no question.
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Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2011, 10:56:14 AM »

Okay Callan, let's get into it. My understanding is not misplaced nor do I personally appreciate you characterizing it in such a way.

How would you feel about the possibility that the dice and I have equal authority? For instance: I have never looked at a result and decided to ignore it. If anything, I reroll, which runs what happens through the RNG AGAIN. If the die comes up the same, I almost always use the outcome indicated on the dice in game. My thinking (mystical, I know) is: "the dice really mean it".   Maybe that's not what every GM does, but it's what I do. Perhaps it's just because I'm not "terrorfied of being a bad GM" but I tend to have a healthy respect for the authority of the RNG. Giving it ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY would be madness, just like giving the GM ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY would be.

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And as to when a skill roll or such is called, that's fiat too.

You're being preposterous and I think you're doing so knowingly.

Fiat means:

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an arbitrary decree or pronouncement, especially by a person or group of persons having absolute authority to enforce it

Besides the important but difficult to prove distinction that calling for a roll of the dice is not ever an ARBITRARY decision for a remotely competent GM, there are several things that can dictate a roll of the dice besides a GM's "fiat".  These include:

* A player actively choosing to use a skill or ability that calls for dice to be rolled. Obviously not fiat.
* A pre-written adventure (canned, or constructed by the GM, it doesn't actually matter because "GM Writing" and "GM Running" aren't the same individual) calling for a skill roll. In this case, a GM is following written orders, not making a judgment by fiat.
* Consensus. If when a situation is described, everyone at the table is reaching for their Agility + Infiltration dice to sneak inside the compound, that's hardly fiat, is it? The players are in agreement with the GM that a skill-roll is appropriate.
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2011, 12:02:33 PM »

Don't take Callan too seriously, Devon - he sort of has an axe to grind about the whole issue of GM power and the use of it. No need to go into that particular discussion if it's not important to you.

Regarding your Dragon Age experience, the game certainly sounds pretty traditional. It occurs to me that one of the features of such a traditional, GM-heavy toolbox game is that GMing technique really, really matters; the very same game will be all over the place, all depending on how it's being run. This is an useful point to keep in mind so as to not unnecessarily ascribe too much of the experience on the specific game in question. For instance, Dragon Age from everything I've heard of it seems like a very normal and straighforward traditional design, so it's no big surprise if it produces good or ill play just like any other game in the same mold. No surprise there.

I also wanted to say something about the dice-rolling combat you criticize: it's true that traditional D&D-style combat doesn't really give you any combat options in the game mechanics, Dragon Age doesn't seem any different from pre-3rd edition D&D in that regard. However, this lack of options doesn't mean that the combat is pointless. There are at least two core values that make this type of combat system work very well for me personally:
  • As Callan already said, you can get a lot of mileage out of the simple randomness of the system, as it allows you to trust in fate and then ascribe fictional color to the outcomes. It's true that there are not many choices involved in rolling to hit, but then you might say that the same is true of roulette. Think of the game as a roulette with fictional stakes instead of a really bad tactical game, and it makes much more sense. Enjoy it when you roll well and get to describe how your character kills the orc in a most gory manner.
  • Aside from the gambling aspect, there is actually much more tactical play happening in your average D&D implementation than is evident from reading a systematized account of the game's combat procedure. This is because the strong GM will play the system somewhat fast and loose in between the rounds of combat, allowing player characters to maneuver, pushing mini-challenges at them and then feeding this fictional content back into the mechanics for the next round of play. For example, if one party of combatants manages to split another so that they only have to face one half of the opposition while the other half dwiddles their thumbs, this fictional achievement (achieved by smart choices regarding character positioning and timing of action in the fiction) has a very direct mathematical effect on the battle's outcome. This sort of thing is very much part of the system even if it's not as mechanical as the grinding logic of initiative, attack roll, damage.
I personally find the penchant for ignoring the latter of those two points in modern D&D discussion very interesting. I sort of have a vague and unverbalized understanding of how it's come about, but perhaps I'll only scratch the surface of the issue for now. A simple claim might be that the inability of early game-text writers to honestly and clearly express the non-mechanical ways the game fiction impacts on the game mechanics has left us with a textual tradition where everybody is very careful to look at the to-hit numbers while completely ignoring the equally real ways purely fictional matters influence rpg combat. Hmm... in fact, I'd probably posit that there is a sort of mechanization cycle evident in the history of D&D, as mechanized character resources have taken an ever larger role in determining victory over loss; a +1 magic sword and 18 points in Strength are always on and always relevant, and represent no tactical drawbacks at all, so the introduction of those sorts of mechanics is so massively empowering of player characters that it's not much wonder if they cause players over time to ignore the much fuzzier fictional elements of combat.
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Alfryd
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2011, 06:24:14 AM »

Oh, another idea to add a failure sting is like the idea above, but at round number X, the monsters sneak away a significant part of the treasure. That way you don't have the TPK problem from above, as the sting is simply missing out on phat loot/cash-o-la! Nooooo!
That sounds like a very cool idea.  I actually commented that it seemed strange the monsters were all, apparently, suicidal, but, eh- that's the ravening slaves of darkness for ya.  I'm not certain about the berserker-countdown idea, but the simulationist in me does like the idea of falling into murderous despair as your comrades abandon you- maybe as the 'morale metre', or whatever, goes down, you'd roll for berserking/fleeing responses by the monsters?

I'd have to say I'm still skeptical of the idea that pure randomness can be made exciting from a gamist perspective.  As I understand it, gamism is, to a large degree, about personal pride in tactical and strategic problem-solving, with emphasis on the 'personal'.  Which is to say, your intervention, your capacity for strategic acumen and risk-assessment, is what matters most.  So, giving players options is essential to give them an outlet for that kind of goal-oriented pros-and-cons analysis.

I get the general impression that players do not like 'big events' to hinge on a handful of dice rolls, and the outcome of life-or-death combat tends to be a fairly 'big event'.  Unfortunately, if you instead make it the outcome of many rolls, then:  Law of Averages + Hit Points == fairly predictable fight duration and outcome, and you're back at square one.

To my mind, randomness here serves mainly as a kind of 'spice' to prevent things from getting too deterministic, so that battles can't be won solely through advance planning.  (Of course, simple lack of information or the inherent unpredictability of human decisions can play the same role.)

I think we'd have to establish whether we're assuming the presence or absence of resurrection mechanics, before we can analyse this much further.
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Anyway, did it seem like by and large you were going to win and it was just a matter of how much HP you'd lose? Which no doubt would be healed by a sleep at the inn or some friendly cleric anyway, so in win/lose terms, meaningless?
Bingo.  Yes.  Absolutely.

I should remark, however, that the GM said he intended the final 'boss fight' would have killed off one or two PCs, but we ran out and he just narrated the outcome.  (Quite well, in fact.  It was more exciting than the actual combat.)
Quote
Hooo boy! Because the dice are just deployed to fabricate a sense of tension based on the idea events are uncertain, when really the GM is utterly, utterly deciding them (and probably terrorfied of being a bad GM if he doesn't!). But c'mon, you knew that, right? Even as your seeing straight through the illusion?
Yeah, I kinda guessed, though in this case it wasn't really an illusion- the GM admitted pretty openly that the scenario was fairly linear right from the start, and I'd been asking for open declaration of difficulty numbers, so in a sense, it was my fault. :)  Otherwise, he might have been able to just fudge the rolls to hide the fact of failure.

That said, interestingly, the same guy who made all those perception checks agreed afterwards that he agreed with having things above-board, so to speak.
Quote
Well this all hinges on what sort of thing the GM is hanging out for. Imagine you said what you said, the GM nods and then a few corridors latter the GM goes "Ha, you didn't look around and a XXX wacks you!". Under the usual traditional  RPG rules, that's valid GM stuff. Taking it as valid, well then the 'defensive' player would actually have been, gamism wise, right and you, gamism wise, wrong in your approach.

On the other hand, trying to second guess the GM every few minutes gets pretty tiresome.
Yeah, that's pretty much my point.  I mean, is a GM going to make the operating assumption that PCs are going about blindfolded with earplugs in unless otherwise noted?  ...That's pretty retarded.

As a GM, I decide events by fiat really, really, really sparingly. At the very least, if I do fudge at this point none of my players are going to expect it, because numerous times I've let PCs die anticlimactic, story breaking deaths because the dice say so...

As a matter of fact, I deeply, deeply struggle with going against "what the dice say" sometimes as much as I hate how it impacts the story. I suppose you could call that hardline simulationism.
Speaking personally, I don't have an inherent problem with the GM (or players in general) having the right to distort probability (i.e, fudge outcomes,) as long as it's done in a rationed, above-board fashion.  e.g, you can only do it so many times per session, or under such-and-such highly specific circumstances, or have to do X and Y or Z in order to earn 'fudge points'.  It's the Sword-of-Damocles effect of knowing that the GM could overturn otherwise binding results at any time, for any reason, that really tends to have a big effect on player engagement, as Callan has pointed out.
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...I try to adjust the story to roll with it though, and it usually leads to some very interesting twists and turns that are much more unpredictable than your standard Hollywood plotline, rather than just flat anticlimax and dissapointment.

Speaking personally, I think I would have fucked your party without hesitation if you had REPEATEDLY failed stealth tests. It's certainly what I've done to my own players, time and time again. Of course, I generally run games where there is almost ALWAYS some resource the PCs can expend to survive such slip-ups.
That's actually very interesting, because that's the exact same general policy that Mouse Guard, for example, formalises as an explicit rule: in case of mechanical failure, either let players succeed, but inflict some kind of deleterious condition or cost on them, or come up with some alternate route for the story to take (i.e, a twist.)  And Mouse Guard is very much a narrativist game, by all accounts.
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Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2011, 06:53:44 AM »

I also wanted to say something about the dice-rolling combat you criticize: it's true that traditional D&D-style combat doesn't really give you any combat options in the game mechanics, Dragon Age doesn't seem any different from pre-3rd edition D&D in that regard. However, this lack of options doesn't mean that the combat is pointless. There are at least two core values that make this type of combat system work very well for me personally...
Well sure, describing how a given interaction plays out in terms of nicks and cuts and gouges and scratches can certainly help to add colour- but I mean, it's not like DitV, where the descriptions are absolutely integral to bringing in new traits and belongings- here, I know it's mechanically irrelevant.  More to the point, I have great difficulty swallowing the 'death by a thousand cuts' descriptions inherent in a HP-based system.

Of course, you can make much the same critique of a game like Mouse Guard, but it at least involves less housework and more imagination, since the interpretations are both more open and more important (particularly in social conflicts.)

Speaking personally, I don't get any thrill out of roulette.  In any context.  That might just be me, though.

As you point out, battlefield positioning was at least potentially interesting, though I felt the lack of miniatures made it awkward to keep track of interactions.

So, is it just a case of- 'nothing to see here, move along?'
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2011, 12:21:32 PM »

Hi Alfryd,

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As I understand it, gamism is, to a large degree, about personal pride in tactical and strategic problem-solving
Well, that's the myth. Gamism is about WINNING. If I can beat you by just pressing a single button, am I going to go and instead form some elaborate, multi turn strategy to beat you instead? Only if I was trying to simulate gamism. No, I'm gunna press the button, because gamism is about winning! Your right on the personal part, as in it's you winning and me losing, for example. It really comes down to people and that positioning. Although some people actually use such things to determine thier and others real life pecking order, which just gets stupid and basically unfun.

Lately I've been thinking along the lines of how rolling multiple times for a win that you could have just rolled once for, is pretty pointless. So I was thinking of a mechanic where you can roll once, but you have slightly lower odds of winning than if you roll multiple times, ie, play out the battle. And you choose which you do - single roll or multiple rolls. I think it can be fun to play out a multi roll battle, particularly imagery wise/fiction wise. But there's the option to see if you win or lose that battle in a single roll (with it having slightly reduced odds to make this a choice rather than a default position).


Devon, if it really is a social faux pas to point out a possible mistake in someone elses estimation, I predict a dire future. I can only think that you believe I'm aiming some moral accusation at you and that's what you don't like. I'm not, I'm describing the mechanical process involved (as I estimate, which itself could be wrong, in practical terms (rather than in some social terms)).

Eero, likewise when people don't judge what was said but instead who said it, I predict a dire future.
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2011, 12:45:04 PM »

I'm sorry about what I said, Callan. My intent was to point out that there is an ongoing discussion behind your angle of approach on the whole matter of traditional GMing technique, not that your contribution itself is somehow false. Take it as a comment on Devon's perception that he needs to engage your opinion aggressively more than as a comment on you, particularly. It seemed to me at the time that Devon's taking your strong turns of phrase too seriously because he's feeling that you're attacking him instead of just re-elaborating your view on GM fiat.

As for gamism vs. luck, what Callan said - it's not a given that everybody would or should enjoy the hand of fate as a primary director of play, but there definitely are many very functional gamism-supporting roleplaying games that are dominantly fortune-based. The uncertainty before the moment of truth and the opportunity to embellish the results in the fiction are fun, and so is the decision to dare that the player gets to make when he announces that his character is going to do something, anything, that might cause the GM to call for a saving roll. The paralyzed hesitation of players who know that the wrong move will likely be a cause of death, and the brave risk-taking when somebody dares to grab the dice, all of that is very playable and very common in a certain sort of game. (I'm couching this in D&D terms because old-school D&D is just this sort of game in many ways.)

But, as has already been said, not all things are for everybody, and this sort of traditional game set-up depends hugely on group and GM skills anyway, so it's no surprise if people have different reactions to it.
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Alfryd
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2011, 01:43:39 PM »

Quote
As I understand it, gamism is, to a large degree, about personal pride in tactical and strategic problem-solving
Well, that's the myth. Gamism is about WINNING. If I can beat you by just pressing a single button, am I going to go and instead form some elaborate, multi turn strategy to beat you instead? Only if I was trying to simulate gamism.  No, I'm gunna press the button, because gamism is about winning! Your right on the personal part, as in it's you winning and me losing, for example.
Hey Callan.  I don't disagree, but again, I feel that if the results are purely down to random chance (and/or pre-generated stats that can't be manipulated in mid-battle,) then it's not you winning in any meaningful sense.  The dice won for you.  (Or lost, as, the case may be.)
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It really comes down to people and that positioning. Although some people actually use such things to determine thier and others real life pecking order, which just gets stupid and basically unfun.

Lately I've been thinking along the lines of how rolling multiple times for a win that you could have just rolled once for, is pretty pointless. So I was thinking of a mechanic where you can roll once, but you have slightly lower odds of winning than if you roll multiple times, ie, play out the battle.
Well, if you envision those multiple rolls as being purely randomised, so that player acumen doesn't really factor, I guess that makes a certain sense.  But that kind of gives me the impression that describing what the rolls represented, retroactively, would come off as a chore, rather than actual fun.  Otherwise, why would the players try to avoid it?

But again, winning or losing a combat is kind of a big deal, and having the outcomes of important, complex situations come down to a single roll tends to strike players as arbitrary, in my experience.  Relying on a single roll should arguably improve the odds to compensate, particularly if an extended combat allows more 'entry points' for player acumen in terms of tactical choice.

As for gamism vs. luck, what Callan said - it's not a given that everybody would or should enjoy the hand of fate as a primary director of play, but there definitely are many very functional gamism-supporting roleplaying games that are dominantly fortune-based. The uncertainty before the moment of truth and the opportunity to embellish the results in the fiction are fun, and so is the decision to dare that the player gets to make when he announces that his character is going to do something, anything, that might cause the GM to call for a saving roll. The paralyzed hesitation of players who know that the wrong move will likely be a cause of death, and the brave risk-taking when somebody dares to grab the dice, all of that is very playable and very common in a certain sort of game.
Eero, I'm not inherently dismissive of the idea that randomness shouldn't be a factor- maybe even more significant than the impact of player choice- but I still take issue with a couple of these points.

(A)  There's no reason why you can't retroactively embellish descriptions when using a tactical system.  (As an aside, I don't see what this has to do with winning/competition per se when descriptions are mechanically irrelevant, unless it's a matter of personal pride in how well you describe things.  It strikes me as more of a sim-oriented thing.)  So I don't see how this impacts the argument.  Variety in tactics == better gamism, AFAICT.  Would it not be reasonable to say, then, that this style of play could be substantially improved, without significant drawback, if there were more tactical variety present, from the start, for all players?
(B)  As far as I see it, there is no 'decision' to dare, aside from the decision to show up at the table in the first place.  The plot is linear, combat has been foisted upon you, and you're in the thick of it.  You can't just politely elect to have the opposition ignore you for the moment.  By the same token, there is no 'wrong move'.  There is only one possible move- the classic roll-to-hit maneuver.  Whether that's 'right' or 'wrong' is beyond your control.

Again, I'm leaving considerations of battlefield positioning here, and players would still have a long-term arena for weighting strategic pros-and-cons in terms how they choose to build up their character over time (i.e, which feats, spells, skills etc. they invest in first, knowing how that is likely to impact their subsequent performance in the fray against expectable enemies.)  And I mean, that can all be entirely fun, in my experience.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2011, 01:55:28 PM »

Morgan, I think I'll have to write up a bit of actual play description to address the issue of fortune-based gamism properly. I'll try to get to it later this week, for now it suffices to say that tactical randomness does not translate into strategic randomness - your combat system can be random without your entire game being so, and it is definitely feasible for your game's tactical realm to mostly involve luck and daring as the main components of success. I'll demonstrate what this means with a report of a gamist game with random combat (Tunnels & Trolls) when I have the time to write it up; I played a suitable example session last month.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Alfryd
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« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2011, 02:15:11 PM »

Morgan, I think I'll have to write up a bit of actual play description to address the issue of fortune-based gamism properly. I'll try to get to it later this week, for now it suffices to say that tactical randomness does not translate into strategic randomness - your combat system can be random without your entire game being so, and it is definitely feasible for your game's tactical realm to mostly involve luck and daring as the main components of success. I'll demonstrate what this means with a report of a gamist game with random combat (Tunnels & Trolls) when I have the time to write it up; I played a suitable example session last month.
Sounds cool.  I'll definitely look at that.


Callan- just on the earlier subject of instant-win-buttons vs. elaborate tactical victories- I can actually think of a recent counterexample.  I was playing a DC Superheroes game, and the basic premise was that we were rescuing Xavier and all the other senior X-Men from this government facility (being guarded by Iron Man, no less.  Yeah, I know these are Marvel regulars... sue me.)

What wound up happening was that, on the first round, I managed to free Xavier from his restraints and get him to tell me where the other mutants were and what was keeping their powers inhibited- a large pylon-generator-thingy above the compound, as it turned out.  So, on the next round, I ordered my pet robot (acquired in an earlier combat) to self-destruct as it flew into the pylon.  The GM thought that was actually really cool, and allowed it (as I apparently required permission for doing the obvious thing.) Of course, that released all the other senior mutants from their underground cells, and effectively meant game-over.  We Had Won.  But the GM wanted to play out the combat regardless, because the other players wanted a chance to exercise their powers and get the satisfaction of eliminating the remaining mooks (as there were still a few squads around.)  Winning was not the point so much as pride in accomplishment and showing off personal skilz.

It's possible this is all wandering a bit off-topic, though, so maybe I'll write up the session in more detail another time.
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2011, 02:49:25 PM »

Quote
Devon, if it really is a social faux pas to point out a possible mistake in someone elses estimation, I predict a dire future. I can only think that you believe I'm aiming some moral accusation at you and that's what you don't like. I'm not, I'm describing the mechanical process involved (as I estimate, which itself could be wrong, in practical terms (rather than in some social terms)).

To clarify, I don't feel that you are aiming a moral accusation although I see how you could be worried about coming off that way. I think you are stating your opinion as fact, and doing so in a smug manner. If I am bridling at something, it is more likely your tone than the content of what you are saying. The content of what you are saying may be merely factually "wrong" which is something I assign little or no moral or social value to. When people are aggressively and/or smugly wrong that tends to piss me off.

This is the last that I have to say about this, as this is A) Someone else's topic and B) About someone else's game experience. I am sure if I wind up hanging around here in the long term, we will all discuss these issues at length and elsewhere.
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