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Back to the REAL basics...

 
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rapanui
Knight


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 319

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 5:11 am    Post subject: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OK, I haven't been around for a while I know, and no I haven't gotten much work done on that thing I had brewing a while back, but I beg for biochemistry-related amnesty. I haven't done anything remotely related to roleplaying for almost a whole semester.

Now, as I slowly start to think again about maybe returning to the hobby and what I was doing, I'd like to ask about the real basics. I feel that if we examine the real guts of what we do when we roleplay we can build a stronger base for a stable system.

1. What is the goal of roleplaying? It certainly isn't like monopoly were you try to win against the other players. Or is it? Perhaps there should be victory and loss conditions. Maybe players can set their own victory conditions at the start.

2. Are we trying to tell a story? If so, then why the dice at all? I don't think any Pulitzer prize winners determined the outcomes of their novels by rolling a dodecahedron or an icosahedron. Then again, how many fantasy novels have won Pulitzers at all? If RPGs are about creating stories, they're pulp at best.

3. Does there really need to be a specially designated player that 'runs' the game like a computer/referee? How can the GMs role be changed so that he is an active participant without being the one that pretty much dictates the scenarios?

4. How deep does the tactical realism of an RPG need to be? Should there be tactical differences amongs 'classes' at all? Should there be earnable 'levels' of power at all?

Personally, I think that few of these questions have ever been answered satisfactorily, and hence roleplaying has always been stuck in a uncomfortable position somewhere between imagination catalyst, nerdly gambling and fanboy outlet.
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MrWaeseL
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 1:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

1. having fun
2. You're not creating a story, you're having fun. Who cares if you produce a crap story?
3. I think so, yes. There will always need to be an impartial person to interpret the die rolls.
4. Ideally, the game should be customizable depending on the style of the campaign.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 5:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

1. Having Fun in a cooperative storytelling context. That means that one person going off to play Smash Bros. in the middle is counter productive, because while he is having fun, the rest of the people want to roleplay (presumably).

2. It's a cooperative story. The dice are in there so that everyone can agree on how something turns out Otherwise you get into the "Cops and Robbers" problem of "I shot you!" "No you missed!" Rolling Eyes

3. Not necessarily. It's entirely possible to set up an RPG where everyone ran some section of the NPCs and their own character. The problem being that the more cooks there are in the backround soufle - the harder it is to have mysteries going. You can also divide it up other ways, for example I've been in multiple games where one person did story stuff and another person did number crunching/disputes. That works fine.

4. The depth of tactical involvement (I hesitate to use the word "realism" here) should be different for different games. Noone really cares about the tactical envolvement of TFOS or Tales from the Floatig Vagabond. In games like that, people just kind of "do stuff", and things aren't "tactical puzzles" at all. Similarly, many games just don't really have combat or much of opposed testing at all - so it's mostly a drama club that pulls out dice at intervals iff there is a difference in artistic vision between multiple people at the table. Other games are basically tactical wargames with the acting layered on the top like icing - D&D is one of those. As such, losing tactical involvement is bad for those games.

As for "levels" and "classes" - that depends. If you are playing an essentially tactical game, people are going to want to have different kinds of tactical utility. Classes and levels are ways to force people to not differentiate their characters too much, not ways to force characters to be different. If you don't have a problem with characters being completely non-interchangeable, there's no reason to have levels or classes at all. If, on the other hand, the idea of any of the characters turning into a fine ash any time the enemy has an electrical attack, shoehorning people into levels and classes is a way to alleviate that. Simply put, whenever anyone gets a level, they get hit points in addition to whatever their attack thingy is, so people are forced to invest in attack and defense at the same time.

-Frank
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Maj
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Location: Shelton, Washington, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 6:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:
1. What is the goal of roleplaying? It certainly isn't like monopoly were you try to win against the other players. Or is it? Perhaps there should be victory and loss conditions. Maybe players can set their own victory conditions at the start.


Having fun, while a good answer, can't be the actual point or else you wouldn't need to roleplay. People can have doing a variety of things, but the question here is actually more along the lines of, "Why the hell am I roleplaying when I could be instead?"

The answers I can imagine others saying off the top of their heads:

  1. Habit - It's what we always do on Saturdays.
  2. To hit things
  3. To be something you can't actually be
  4. To hear a good story
  5. To hang out with friends
  6. To do lots of math[/list]

    My list goes something like this:

    1. I love a good story, and this one is a choose-your-own-adventure
    2. It's thought-provoking
    3. It's an excellent stress reliever (I worry A LOT and roleplaying keeps my mind occupied enough that I can actually sleep at night)
    4. I can let my imagination run wild (Dump this in with being something you're not, though I also include being someplace you're not Wink )[/list]

      rapanui wrote:
      2. Are we trying to tell a story? If so, then why the dice at all? I don't think any Pulitzer prize winners determined the outcomes of their novels by rolling a dodecahedron or an icosahedron. Then again, how many fantasy novels have won Pulitzers at all? If RPGs are about creating stories, they're pulp at best.


      Pretending to be someone else doesn't make much sense if you don't put the someone else into context. The reason for the dice is because this is a cooperative story. If it weren't, the other roleplayers would have just as much input into the general plot and such as the first storyteller/DM (or there would only be one person/one story - which is antithetical, so I'm not going to discuss it further). This can be chaotic, so some sort of structure is needed (the too many cooks ruins the stew theory). One person has a general idea and the other people play along. The dice are there to make the story seem like it's malliable - the unexpected can happen, just like in the life you're imitating. Please note, however, that it doesn't have to be dice, just an apparently random way of dealing with events.

      rapanui wrote:
      3. Does there really need to be a specially designated player that 'runs' the game like a computer/referee? How can the GMs role be changed so that he is an active participant without being the one that pretty much dictates the scenarios?


      Player that runs the game like a computer? I hope not. I don't play computer RPGs because they don't make sense to me - I can't do what I want, I can only do what it tells me are options.

      As for a referee, in my family's gaming history (ranging from Candyland to Trivial Pursuit to roleplaying to Tetris, etc), you need someone who knows the rules well enough to be able to teach others how to play the game and adjudicate if there are problems. D&D is no different in that regard.

      The DM is supposed to be that referee. Not all of them do a great job, but it's hard to find someone who works well with others, thinks about the needs of both the players and the characters, can be spontaneous and adapt well to changes, has a good memory for the 1000+ pages of rules, knows how to tell a good story, pays attention to details, and doesn't have a total egomaniacal power trip about being "in charge." In addition to being the referee, the DM is also every single NPC. This one person is the context for the entire game. He can attempt to play a PC in the party - I've seen some really good DMs pull it off with ease - but most tend to avoid that because they already have enough to think about.

      rapanui wrote:
      4. How deep does the tactical realism of an RPG need to be? Should there be tactical differences amongs 'classes' at all? Should there be earnable 'levels' of power at all?


      Tactical schmactical. For me, the further in depth the rules go, the more specific they have to be and the more they leave things out. D&D combat drives me crazy because if it takes longer than three rounds, we're guaranteed to spend a large portion of the night "roleplaying" five minutes of game time. Some people think it's dull to roleplay idle chit-chat over a 15 minute breakfast in an inn in some godforsaken city on a wasted continent. I think it's just as dull to roleplay five minutes of watching my team mates act like morons and hit things repeatedly with frosty trees and have to help the wizard look up spells because he doesn't know what they do.

      The more rules you have, the more it's a hindrance to what you're actually doing, and I don't play D&D to have fights.

      rapanui wrote:
      Personally, I think that few of these questions have ever been answered satisfactorily, and hence roleplaying has always been stuck in a uncomfortable position somewhere between imagination catalyst, nerdly gambling and fanboy outlet.


      It's not that they're answered inadequately; it's that they're answered differently. I don't roleplay because I like big numbers that beat up and steal the lunch money of small ones. Some people do. And this is where roleplaying has problems because games like D&D, at least, try to cater to the most players it possibly can, which means that I'm part of the same group as the heavy hitters. Making a game that versatile is really hard.


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rapanui
Knight


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 8:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OK, Let me try and reply to everyone's comments.

MrWaeseL wrote:
1. having fun
2. You're not creating a story, you're having fun. Who cares if you produce a crap story?
3. I think so, yes. There will always need to be an impartial person to interpret the die rolls.
4. Ideally, the game should be customizable depending on the style of the campaign.


Well, 1 is not specific enough. No offense, but a lot of the time I'd rather be playing the hottest new video gam than roleplaying. Also, your answer to number 2 is problematic. If Jen is playing to create a compelling story which she can retell to an interested audience at a convention next month and Brian is playing to demonstrate his mastery of the rules and ability to smack things, there may be issues with 'having fun'. While Jen yaks on and on endlessly about her character's motivations, Brian gets restless for some action and the fun is not mutual. Also, if this is (in theory) a cooperative game, why can't everyone just roll out on the open and the group as a whole interprets the die rolls? More often than not, the GM also has an agenda, and isn't exactly impartial. Your answer to number 4 is problematic. Theoretically, you should be able to import a character from one campaign to the next. But if you invest in Combat reflexes and you move a campaign where they don't play with the AOO rules... you'll have to rework your character. This can be extremely problematic with complex builds.


FrankTrollman wrote:
1. Having Fun in a cooperative storytelling context. That means that one person going off to play Smash Bros. in the middle is counter productive, because while he is having fun, the rest of the people want to roleplay (presumably).


OK, but having fun generally entails some sort of goal. I don't know how many of you have actually tried to play Calvinball in real life, but it doesn't work very well unles the other player is an imaginary tiger. See, the point I'm trying to make is that the game could become more fun if each player had to set personal goals to be acheived. That way the question of "why are you still adventuring?" doesn't rear it's ugly head. As soon as your character reaches his goal, you've 'won'.

FrankTrollman wrote:
2. It's a cooperative story. The dice are in there so that everyone can agree on how something turns out Otherwise you get into the "Cops and Robbers" problem of "I shot you!" "No you missed!"


OK, but should major plot points, such as the death of main characters, the death of major antagonists, the fate of realms and large number of people be determined by rolling dice? What I'm getting at is: it sucks when your character gets killed because of a bad roll before you had time to do the heroic things you wanted to do with him.

FrankTrollman wrote:
3. Not necessarily. It's entirely possible to set up an RPG where everyone ran some section of the NPCs and their own character. The problem being that the more cooks there are in the backround soufle - the harder it is to have mysteries going. You can also divide it up other ways, for example I've been in multiple games where one person did story stuff and another person did number crunching/disputes. That works fine.


Indeed, preserving mysteries is one of the main reasons a GM is needed. Should the GM be in charge of all the mysteries in the game however? Shouldn't the player be allowed to make up some mysteries for his own character that even the GM doesn't know? Is it possible to create a feasable mechanic for this?

FrankTrollman wrote:
4. The depth of tactical involvement (I hesitate to use the word "realism" here) should be different for different games. Noone really cares about the tactical envolvement of TFOS or Tales from the Floatig Vagabond. In games like that, people just kind of "do stuff", and things aren't "tactical puzzles" at all. Similarly, many games just don't really have combat or much of opposed testing at all - so it's mostly a drama club that pulls out dice at intervals iff there is a difference in artistic vision between multiple people at the table. Other games are basically tactical wargames with the acting layered on the top like icing - D&D is one of those. As such, losing tactical involvement is bad for those games.


But isn't tactical depth required for storytelling? The more complex and vibrant a magic system, the more interesting the plots can be. A system where all spellcasters shoot bolts of flame from their index finger isn't very interesting. A system where a mage can create a duplicate of the king, make forests into devious illusory mazes etc, are more interesting. Likewise, the capacity to build a character that 'works' on the basis of being dodgy and stealthy can also add depth to the story telling.

I agree with your assessment of D&D, which is where a lot of problems come from in that game. Maj addresses this further.

FrankTrollman wrote:
As for "levels" and "classes" - that depends. If you are playing an essentially tactical game, people are going to want to have different kinds of tactical utility. Classes and levels are ways to force people to not differentiate their characters too much, not ways to force characters to be different. If you don't have a problem with characters being completely non-interchangeable, there's no reason to have levels or classes at all. If, on the other hand, the idea of any of the characters turning into a fine ash any time the enemy has an electrical attack, shoehorning people into levels and classes is a way to alleviate that. Simply put, whenever anyone gets a level, they get hit points in addition to whatever their attack thingy is, so people are forced to invest in attack and defense at the same time.


I'm not quite sure I understand what you're getting at here. The reason I mentioned the whole classes and levels thing is because in real stories, the Grand Archmage didn't have to kill 1,049 Kobolds, 230 Ogres, 12 Lesser demons and 2 Green Dragons to advance to his level of magic. Generally certain characters are special simply because they are created that way by the author. It makes no sense to speak of how many levels of wizard Gandalf has, or how many levels of ranger Legolas has, they're just that good because that's how their characters were designed by the author. So, my question is: is it feasible to make a game where player's characters have preset levels of power and goals based upon those levels of power?

Maj wrote:
I love a good story, and this one is a choose-your-own-adventure

It's thought-provoking

It's an excellent stress reliever (I worry A LOT and roleplaying keeps my mind occupied enough that I can actually sleep at night)

I can let my imagination run wild (Dump this in with being something you're not, though I also include being someplace you're not )


I like your reasons, but I have a problem with #1. Don't the agendas of other players sometimes ruin your vision of the story? Doesn't the GM railroad and restrict your imagination?

Maj wrote:
The dice are there to make the story seem like it's malliable - the unexpected can happen, just like in the life you're imitating. Please note, however, that it doesn't have to be dice, just an apparently random way of dealing with events.


Do we really need dice for the unexpected? Can't other players themselves be a source of unexpected events?

Maj wrote:
Player that runs the game like a computer? I hope not. I don't play computer RPGs because they don't make sense to me - I can't do what I want, I can only do what it tells me are options.


I meant in the sense of making the story unfold, roleplaying NPCs, chekcing rules and making sure everything is kosher according to the books. I am positing the possibility that a GM might not be necessary.

Maj wrote:
The more rules you have, the more it's a hindrance to what you're actually doing, and I don't play D&D to have fights.


Precisely! But if you look at the way D&D is designed, it seems like they are expecting most fo your table time to be dedicated to fights! If you took out all the material relevant to combat out of the PHB... you'd have a pretty thin book. I'm questioning the emphasis placed on tactical rules. Are these really necessary? Can't the group as a whole just referee complex situations?

Maj wrote:
It's not that they're answered inadequately; it's that they're answered differently. I don't roleplay because I like big numbers that beat up and steal the lunch money of small ones. Some people do. And this is where roleplaying has problems because games like D&D, at least, try to cater to the most players it possibly can, which means that I'm part of the same group as the heavy hitters. Making a game that versatile is really hard.


You're right. And I'm starting to think making a game that versatile isn't just hard... it's impossible and a mistake that leads to frustration with the hobby in general.
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Maj
Prince


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 9:42 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:
See, the point I'm trying to make is that the game could become more fun if each player had to set personal goals to be acheived. That way the question of "why are you still adventuring?" doesn't rear it's ugly head. As soon as your character reaches his goal, you've 'won'.


That question needs to smack every single character in the face constantly. Aimless characters suck ass, and there's no reason for them. If you're actually playing a character then you can find reasons - just like real people do in real life - to continue to pursue a certain activity. Unless, of course, everyone has agreed that the story is over when X goal has been achieved... In which case there's not much else to do but start over.

rapanui wrote:
Maj wrote:
I love a good story, and this one is a choose-your-own-adventure


I like your reasons, but I have a problem with #1. Don't the agendas of other players sometimes ruin your vision of the story? Doesn't the GM railroad and restrict your imagination?


Being part of a good story is not mutually exclusive with having other independently minded people or a DM. That's almost like saying that choosing a book to read limits your imagination and prevents you from enjoying the story because it's already predetermined what will happen and you don't get a say in it.

Sometimes, the other players are annoying. One of my biggest pet peeves is the player who is at the table but doesn't seem to want to actually be there - so his character just follows everyone else around and does whatever they tell him to. If I wanted a brainless companion in my game, I'd play D&D with my philodendron because it's a lot cheaper to feed and doesn't take up as much space. But that pet peeve is actually caused by a player's lack of agenda - they're not contributing to the story, thus there's little reason for them to be part of it.

The problem that a lot of games get into is that the players are not willing to create a character who will have independent motivations, but still have a reason for hanging out with a given group of people. Case in point, my latest game:

  • Mind-controlling dominatrix who hates all women because her mommy tells her to through a magic mirror, and won't hesitate to attempt to dominate the other characters in the party. This automatically nixed interaction with my character (Her last character was a druid who wouldn't leave her ten square feet of forest - essentially defeating the entire purpose of the game in the character creation stage).
  • Cleric who had his soul shoved into the body of a nimblewright. He worships the god of destruction in the world we're playing in, and part of his ethic is forceably converting everyone he meets. This automatically alienates the rest of the group unless we decide we're converting or he becomes less devout.
  • "Devil" with a soul who is out to take over the world... But realizes that she's too inexperienced to succeed. Her goal is to become a semi respected heroine and be voted to the top. Makes nice with everybody for the purpose of looking like an angel.[/list]

    That last one is mine. And I did the best I could to fit into the rest of the party, have personal motivations, yet have a motivation to work well with others. It's probably not perfect, but I made an effort - which is more than the other two players. The game has already fallen apart and we've only gotten to the here's-the-setup stage. It's retarded.

    The story is flexible, but it's not unbreakable. Despite having quite a bit of freedom, there are certain parameters that need to be adhered to in order to have an actual game - or else you end up with people sitting at a table at the same time, just doing their own thing.

    rapanui wrote:
    Do we really need dice for the unexpected? Can't other players themselves be a source of unexpected events?


    Yes and no. You need something that is the bias-less arbiter, but that doesn't mean that the other players still won't do something that brings the unexpected to the plot. Without some emotionless, uncaring way of determining the outcome of a situation, you'll end up right back at Frank's, "I shot you!" "No, you missed!" dilemma. If that job is left to a person, then you immediately have some players suspecting bias on someone's part and stupid happens all over again.

    rapanui wrote:
    I am positing the possibility that a GM might not be necessary.


    How do the players know where they're going if they don't have a map? Who draws the map?

    The only solution that I can think of off-hand lies in a card game called Once Upon a Time. Essentially, the players would draw cards in order to determine what happens next, until they reached a random ending card, where they tie the story off and it's over.

    I don't know who many people would be comfortable with that. I think you'd end up with the too many cooks problem again.

    rapanui wrote:
    Precisely! But if you look at the way D&D is designed, it seems like they are expecting most fo your table time to be dedicated to fights! If you took out all the material relevant to combat out of the PHB... you'd have a pretty thin book. I'm questioning the emphasis placed on tactical rules. Are these really necessary? Can't the group as a whole just referee complex situations?


    I tend to think of the game in terms of situations. The more detailed the definition of situation is, the greater the complexity of the game, and the longer said situations take to resolve as a whole.

    For example, my character was mugged in an alley and shot in the face. She disarmed the guy and waited until the authorities showed up and then turned the creep over to them.

    You can describe this event in more detail:

    Round 1: A man to the left says, "Drop your bag." Roll Initiative.

    Round 2: Upon winning initiative, drop bag, and take a move action to where the guy is standing. With a partial action left, hold out hand and say, "Give me the gun." Roll Bluff/Diplomacy.

    Round 3: Guy aims for face (readies an action). Try to get gun away from guy. Roll intimidate.

    Round 4.... Blah, blah, blah

    ...

    See what I mean? The smaller and more detailed a "situation" the more of them you have, and the longer it takes to resolve. It doesn't matter if you're in a political plot, a dungeon puzzle, a trap, or combat. The same principle applies universally.

    You're right, though, when you say that D&D seems to emphasize the details in combat - it does. If the rule set will not accomodate the desires of the players, then it is left to some authority - be it a counsel, a person, or what - to decide what level of situation the game is going to zoom to, and how it can be evened out as much as possible.


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Essence
Knight-Baron


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 12:03 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Maj wrote:
See what I mean? The smaller and more detailed a "situation" the more of them you have, and the longer it takes to resolve. It doesn't matter if you're in a political plot, a dungeon puzzle, a trap, or combat.


And it's worth noting that, in D&D, the only situations that the ruleset tries to arbit as a whole are those in which your character might die. All noncombat situations are largely regarded as the story's desmenes, or the DM's purview, with just enough of a structure given by the ruleset that two different gamers can talk to each other about noncombat affairs in a meaningful manner.

Getting rid of the DM would mean attempting to make a ruleset that could fully arbit social interaction, mobility difficulties, spell research systems, NPC traits, etc. etc. etc. And any such ruleset would, like combat in D&D, take forever to get anything done. I honestly believe that getting rid of the DM is a horrible goal for that reason alone.
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RandomCasualty
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 7:34 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:

1. What is the goal of roleplaying? It certainly isn't like monopoly were you try to win against the other players. Or is it? Perhaps there should be victory and loss conditions. Maybe players can set their own victory conditions at the start.

Definitely not any victory or loss conditions, because it isn't competetive in nature. It's more a group of people working together to tell a story as opposed to one side trying to "win". Everyone is ultimately working to the same goal, so having win/loss conditions are rather pointless. If your story sucked and nobody enjoyed it, then I suppose you can say you've all "lost", but there's really not point.

Quote:

2. Are we trying to tell a story? If so, then why the dice at all? I don't think any Pulitzer prize winners determined the outcomes of their novels by rolling a dodecahedron or an icosahedron. Then again, how many fantasy novels have won Pulitzers at all? If RPGs are about creating stories, they're pulp at best.

The dice is the game part of RPG. Dice make some randomness and can make things fun. While the DM could just arbitrarily say "you hit, you missed" and pretty much dictate what happens, most people wouldn't have as much fun, and the tendency will be to equate the story with something petty.

Quote:

3. Does there really need to be a specially designated player that 'runs' the game like a computer/referee? How can the GMs role be changed so that he is an active participant without being the one that pretty much dictates the scenarios?

There has to be a referee, and he already is an active participant. Perhaps the most active participant. The DM is involved in pretty much every single scene in the story. Whether as a narrator, or an NPC or whatever, he's always part of the story.

Quote:

4. How deep does the tactical realism of an RPG need to be? Should there be tactical differences amongs 'classes' at all? Should there be earnable 'levels' of power at all?

As for how tactical an RPG is depends on how much tactics you want. Tactical combat tends to become a minigame, and how complex you want that minigame, or if you want it at all, is more a matter of opinion than anything else. If you have tactical combat, and you have classes, they should be different, yes. The goal of tactical combat is to add tactics, and that means different people should be performing different roles.

As for levels of power, yes they're necessary. Somehow you have to be able to separate the power between people in the game. While everyone could be the same power level, I think it'd rather suck that way.

You can't really say much about roleplaying in general, because it's incredibly varied.
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rapanui
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2005 5:24 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List


RC wrote:
Everyone is ultimately working to the same goal, so having win/loss conditions are rather pointless.


I posit this is patently false. not everyone is working towards the same goal. Some players want their characters to retire when they are wealkthy, others whenever they happen to fail a saving throw (they want to go out with a bang or something), others want to obtain godhood, and others never ever want to spot playing the same goddamn miserable character. People can't even agree where they want the story to go, or what they want the point and moral of the story to be. And people's ideas of what fun consists of while roleplaying can be quite different. I think a lack of focus on objectives is to blame.

RC wrote:
The dice is the game part of RPG. Dice make some randomness and can make things fun. While the DM could just arbitrarily say "you hit, you missed" and pretty much dictate what happens, most people wouldn't have as much fun, and the tendency will be to equate the story with something petty.


Yes, I get this. However, it just seems to me that some major plot-critical events (such as PC death) shouldn't be left up to dice... if what you want is a believable story with a point. That kind of thing actually needs to be decided by the player. However, I know that without the risk of death the game kind of loses something... which is why I ask: what are we doing? Are we writing a story or playing a tactical game? If you want the former, you need control over random events. If you want the latter you need to lose control over certain random events. If you want a combination... I dunno. The two seem almost mutually exclusive in my mind. And it kind of is. I mean, I've played quite a few games where DMs and Players will obviously agree (but not necessarily verbalize) to fudging a rule or roll for the sake of the story. If so, then what the hell are all the dice for?!?! Just quit the posturing and say "No, I don't want my character to die at this point."
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2005 10:43 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:

I posit this is patently false. not everyone is working towards the same goal. Some players want their characters to retire when they are wealkthy, others whenever they happen to fail a saving throw (they want to go out with a bang or something), others want to obtain godhood, and others never ever want to spot playing the same goddamn miserable character. People can't even agree where they want the story to go, or what they want the point and moral of the story to be. And people's ideas of what fun consists of while roleplaying can be quite different. I think a lack of focus on objectives is to blame.

It's an open ended simulation without any real in game objectives.

As for where the story goes, the PCs actions along with the DMs world, dictate that.

Everyone is trying to tell a story, but some people may have a different idea of where they want it to go, and that's fine. Stories are all about conflict, and it's why we need rules and a DM to help sort out who gets what, and what happens.

Quote:

Yes, I get this. However, it just seems to me that some major plot-critical events (such as PC death) shouldn't be left up to dice... if what you want is a believable story with a point. That kind of thing actually needs to be decided by the player. However, I know that without the risk of death the game kind of loses something... which is why I ask: what are we doing? Are we writing a story or playing a tactical game?

Well, stories are actually more interesting sometimes if things don't always go as planned, and randomness can actually make that happen. Having PCs who do die by bad luck can actually add to the story, not take away from it.

The thing with RPGs is that you aren't acting out a predefined novel, you're writing the story as you go. So having randomness can actually make that more interesting.


Quote:

If you want the former, you need control over random events. If you want the latter you need to lose control over certain random events. If you want a combination... I dunno. The two seem almost mutually exclusive in my mind. And it kind of is. I mean, I've played quite a few games where DMs and Players will obviously agree (but not necessarily verbalize) to fudging a rule or roll for the sake of the story. If so, then what the hell are all the dice for?!?! Just quit the posturing and say "No, I don't want my character to die at this point."


The fact is that it's a game, and for it to be a game, there has to be some kind of challenge associated with it. Whether that challenge is surviving the carrion crawler or convincing the king to do something, it really doesn't matter, but the point is that that involves the PCs. Taking away the risk to PCs actually makes the game aspect boring. Because when you are no longer at risk, at a certain point you ask "Why have this encounter at all?"

The purpose of a combat encounter is generally to create tension, and for that to work you need the perception of danger. Handing PCs the power to declare their life or death pretty much ruins that perception.

Now while it might be ok to bend the rules to avert a TPK, this is because a TPK means everyone loses, and the story ends. And if the story ends, then the game's over. But individual loss of characters can actually enhance the story.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2005 1:35 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I think the term story is something of a misnomer; to me, D&D is only as much a story as real life is a story. Sure, there's a plotline, characters, etc., but the driving factor is the players, their characters, and the world, not what the author wants to happen. D&D is about the present, about characters, like we do in real life, making decisions based on the here and now, and these decisions are what create both the "story" and game elements. It doesn't really matter if the game is hacking up orcs or negotiating a treaty with the king, it's still a game.

If you do want cooperative storytelling, I don't see why you would need rules at all. After all, the only thing rules do is objectively administrate portions of the experience, thus taking away control from the "authors" and impairing their ability to make a "perfect" story. This makes me question the usefulness of a role-playing system based around such a concept.

On the other hand, it really does suck when your wizard suffers a nasty critical at level 3 and drops dead for no reason other than the dice told you so. However, this is really more a product of the specifics of low levels (namingly their lethality), for properly constructed higher level characters are usually able to avoid death, if not defeat. This is also the reason the ressurection spells are there: to avoid a potentially game ruining event without eliminating entirely the threat of death. Even if things still are a problem, the DM always has the option to tone down the difficulty level of the game

For this reason, I don't think it's really possible for the dice to "ruin" a game, at least without incredibly improbable amounts of bad luck. The dice simply dictate success or failure at certain aspects of the game, but this means little in a game where both success and failure lead to more adventures and roleplaying. Thus, even fairly bad luck usually only means a change of scenery or mood for a party.
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rapanui
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2005 5:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List


RC wrote:
It's an open ended simulation without any real in game objectives.


I think I'm gonna hurl. What are we doing now, playing the sims? Why don't we just pull out a doll house and play with Ken and Barbie?

I have no problem with using roleplaying games as a sort of thespian-wannabe game. But there should at least be some sort of goal the thespian-wannabes would like to achieve. And once the goal is achieved the character 'wins' (note that this doesn't mean that the other players lose, it just means one player reached the goal for his character first, that's all). Spelling out this victory condition in advance would allow the DM and player to construct a feasible and agreable storyline more easily.

RC wrote:
The thing with RPGs is that you aren't acting out a predefined novel, you're writing the story as you go. So having randomness can actually make that more interesting.


Only one problem with that. James Bond never dies. He's not supposed to. Superman only died after an epic battle with Doomsday (if I understand correctly) and then they kinda sorta brought him back right? Meh, I dunno, I'm not a comic book fan. te point is: main characters aren't supposed to die until climactic moments. Currently RPGs do not reflect this fact of dramatic development.

RC wrote:

The purpose of a combat encounter is generally to create tension, and for that to work you need the perception of danger. Handing PCs the power to declare their life or death pretty much ruins that perception.

Now while it might be ok to bend the rules to avert a TPK, this is because a TPK means everyone loses, and the story ends. And if the story ends, then the game's over. But individual loss of characters can actually enhance the story.


Mostly, I agree. However, what happens if you're only playing with 2 people and most encounters threaten a TPK?


Look people, I'm actually not trying to argue the points too strongly. I'm just trying to provoke some latteral thinking on the very basic game mechanics. See, I've come to the conclusion that a lot of problems in the games we play stem from Gigaxian preconceptions, and that's not just limited with D&D 3e, they are everywhere. So, having already questioned most of the old mechanics, now I'm trying to see if we can poke holes in the most 'sacred' foundations of the game: that being the need for a GM, the purpose of the game, and the need for dice. Believe it or not, I'm actually quite convinced that for most of these things Gigax actually kinda did right. But one can optimize and flesh out things a bit more.

For example, I have noticed a tendency on the whole for games to evolve towards less random systems. I mean, we roll less dice for stupid shit now, and I doubt most people even roll for hit points every level. So, perhaps the optimum lies somewhere just before complete lack of random events. Oh Well
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2005 9:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:

I have no problem with using roleplaying games as a sort of thespian-wannabe game. But there should at least be some sort of goal the thespian-wannabes would like to achieve. And once the goal is achieved the character 'wins' (note that this doesn't mean that the other players lose, it just means one player reached the goal for his character first, that's all). Spelling out this victory condition in advance would allow the DM and player to construct a feasible and agreable storyline more easily.

Well, generally you already construct the general purpose by saying stuff like "you're going to play heroes", this pretty much says that your daily activities are going to consist of saving people, kiling monsters and doing other hero things. There's no set goal for the entire game, because it's supposed to be ongoing.

I mean it's possible for each and every campaign or quest to have a set goal, but the game as a whole is too varied to have any universal goal or win condition.

Quote:

Only one problem with that. James Bond never dies. He's not supposed to. Superman only died after an epic battle with Doomsday (if I understand correctly) and then they kinda sorta brought him back right? Meh, I dunno, I'm not a comic book fan. te point is: main characters aren't supposed to die until climactic moments. Currently RPGs do not reflect this fact of dramatic development.

Well, they do indirectly, simply by making the lesser enemies you fight weaker than the major ones, making it less likely for you to die against them.

And RPG characters don't have the sort of script immunity that movie characters have. They can die at any time.


Quote:

Mostly, I agree. However, what happens if you're only playing with 2 people and most encounters threaten a TPK?

Well really, D&D isn't a great game for small groups, because combat is so deadly. The fewer people you have the more vulnerable you are to bad luck. Generally small groups are best played to avoid combat.

Quote:

For example, I have noticed a tendency on the whole for games to evolve towards less random systems. I mean, we roll less dice for stupid shit now, and I doubt most people even roll for hit points every level. So, perhaps the optimum lies somewhere just before complete lack of random events. Oh Well


Well, there's a border line between the game aspect and the roleplaying aspect. The game aspect likes dice and randomness because they add more fun to it. PCs get some excitement out of combats and such under that system. And as a game, it's why we need to allow for things like PC death against relatively trivial opponents.

ANd there are plus sides to randomness too, because things look a bit more organic. Take a 28 point buy character versus one who used the organic character rolling system, and you'll get much different looking characters. The problem with things being too nonrandom is that they get boring. There's only so many times we can see yet another wizard with max intelligence and wonder why we bother having stats at all.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 12:23 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"And RPG characters don't have the sort of script immunity that movie characters have. They can die at any time. "

Should it work like this? Does anyone see a problem with giving PCs 'script immunity' in some form until climactic battles? Of course, script immunity might be removed for doing really, really dumb things...

"Well really, D&D isn't a great game for small groups, because combat is so deadly. The fewer people you have the more vulnerable you are to bad luck. Generally small groups are best played to avoid combat."

The rules should not work like this. There should be a way to adjust the game so that even solo players can fight their way through encounters.

"
ANd there are plus sides to randomness too, because things look a bit more organic. Take a 28 point buy character versus one who used the organic character rolling system, and you'll get much different looking characters. The problem with things being too nonrandom is that they get boring. There's only so many times we can see yet another wizard with max intelligence and wonder why we bother having stats at all."

What makes this happen is the current D&D system penalizing players for making characters like "the smart fighter" or "the strong wizard"* or "the slow rogue". The reason characters look alike is because the rules force them to, not because of any real difference between rolling dice and point buying. Don't impose the D&D ruleset on my comments, I'm talking about roleplaying games in general.






*One can actually play the strong wizard even with a low STR score, of course. I'm sure someone around here could make a build showing how it's quite easy for wizard to be better at melee than an equal level fighter. I'm talking about low level starting concepts. Note that the other exaaples I gave don't have this luxury.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 1:36 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:

Should it work like this? Does anyone see a problem with giving PCs 'script immunity' in some form until climactic battles? Of course, script immunity might be removed for doing really, really dumb things...

Well actually I do see a problem with it, namely that it makes weak combat relatively trivial and ultimately boring. If PCs have script immunity you might as well fast forward past small battles and just get to the boss fight. I think part of an RPG has to be having little battle that means something unless you want to eliminate little battles entirely and solely have the guy face off against the boss.

Quote:

The rules should not work like this. There should be a way to adjust the game so that even solo players can fight their way through encounters.

Well, this basically hinges on throwing out more die rolls and eliminating quick deaths. You take damage down, and you raise hit points up. Save or die effects probably just need to be removed.

But D&D was always written on the premise that it was a group game, not a solo one and that PC death, especially at high levels, was a relatively common thing. And fixing that requires a base reworking of the whole combat system, really to the point that you wonder why you dont' pick up a different game entirely.


Quote:

What makes this happen is the current D&D system penalizing players for making characters like "the smart fighter" or "the strong wizard"* or "the slow rogue". The reason characters look alike is because the rules force them to, not because of any real difference between rolling dice and point buying. Don't impose the D&D ruleset on my comments, I'm talking about roleplaying games in general.

Well this really happens for most games anyway. Most classes have a "prime stat" or several prime stats and dump stats. For instance, how do you make a wizard care about strength or a fighter really care about int? GURPS probably does the best job in this arena from what I've seen.

Though really my personal solution is why not eliminate ability scores entirely. If you really need to, have feats to simulate strength and such, and let level determine damage, spell DCs and so on. One of the biggest problems right now is that ability scores play far too big of a part IMO, to the point that they dominate the game.

I would propose giving a class a set of bonuses, and you declare where you want those bonuses to come from. If you're a good fighter because you're fast and accurate, you've still got the same bonuses as someone whose strong. A wizard... well you could be really smart, just study hard or whatever. But really, let the player describe that.






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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 8:22 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"Well actually I do see a problem with it, namely that it makes weak combat relatively trivial and ultimately boring."

Why do people watch action movies, sometimes repeatedly? For the large majority of them, you know that the good guy is going to make it through the movie. And when they don't (Spock, in Wrath of Khan for instance) their deaths happen near the end, and serve some sort of purpose. When you watch James Bond dodging bullets or Indiana Jones fighting Nazis, you know that neither of them are gonna die. That doesn't eliminate excitement or threat.

Suppose that I as a player know that the rules, to a certain extent protect me from poor tactical decisions over all. However, the rules don't protect me from doing something completely stupid/insane (such as hoping land mines, or trying to wrestle a dragon at level 1). That still means I have to play a certain way, have caution with my actions and generally try to show off the cool things my character can do.

As it is right now in D&D (although I would like to remind you that I am not talking specifically about D&D in this thread), as a player I am punished severely for making below optimal tactical choices, and- worse still- am constantly facing severe punishment (death for instance) even after doing tactically sound things, simply due to bad luck.

"Well, this basically hinges on throwing out more die rolls and eliminating quick deaths. You take damage down, and you raise hit points up. Save or die effects probably just need to be removed."

I agree with pretty much everything you said. Battles should at least last 3 rounds for everyone involved (unless there is a level disparity). And not just for solo games either, I'm talking anytime. But we're getting off topic here.

"But D&D was always written on the premise that it was a group game, not a solo one and that PC death, especially at high levels, was a relatively common thing. And fixing that requires a base reworking of the whole combat system, really to the point that you wonder why you dont' pick up a different game entirely."

I am picking up a different game entirely. I haven't bothered with D&D in months (not technically true... I am playing an online RPing heavy forum campaign that runs under D&D 3e). But this thread isn't about D&D... it's about the basic facts of D&D that ALL RPGs seem to have running underneath the hood.

"Well this really happens for most games anyway. Most classes have a "prime stat" or several prime stats and dump stats. For instance, how do you make a wizard care about strength or a fighter really care about int? GURPS probably does the best job in this arena from what I've seen."

I'll look into how GURPS works in this respect. Sounds interesting.

"Though really my personal solution is why not eliminate ability scores entirely. If you really need to, have feats to simulate strength and such, and let level determine damage, spell DCs and so on. One of the biggest problems right now is that ability scores play far too big of a part IMO, to the point that they dominate the game."

I agree. Ability scores should be given a reduced role in order to accomodate unusual player concepts. And shunning ability scores entirely is a great way to take a steaming shit on the Gigaxian tradition. Indeed, ability scores for Strength and stuff are only necessary if your are trying to accurately simulate reality. This way you can have small increments and accurately depict how many pounds a given character can benchpress. I don't think that's what RPGs are about... anyone disagree?

"But really, let the player describe that."

When it boils down to it, the rules of any system should allow a player to describe where almost any mechanical advantage comes from. Fire mage? Maybe your great great grandaddy was a Fire Elemental. Or maybe you ate too much coal as a child and now have ash for blood. Whatever.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 6:28 am    Post subject: Re: Back to the REAL basics... Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

rapanui wrote:

Why do people watch action movies, sometimes repeatedly? For the large majority of them, you know that the good guy is going to make it through the movie. And when they don't (Spock, in Wrath of Khan for instance) their deaths happen near the end, and serve some sort of purpose. When you watch James Bond dodging bullets or Indiana Jones fighting Nazis, you know that neither of them are gonna die. That doesn't eliminate excitement or threat.

When you watch a movie, you're looking for different things than when you play an RPG.

In a game, you're generally looking for some challenge and an uncertain outcome. Not too many people can play doom all the way through on god mode repeatedly and enjoy it. Sooner or later you get extremely bored.

It's generally tedious as opposed to enjoyable to bother making dice rolls on scenes that you can't fail.

Quote:

As it is right now in D&D (although I would like to remind you that I am not talking specifically about D&D in this thread), as a player I am punished severely for making below optimal tactical choices, and- worse still- am constantly facing severe punishment (death for instance) even after doing tactically sound things, simply due to bad luck.

Granted, though I think this adds something to the game as well. If luck wasn't a factor then minor combats would be essentially pointless. I mean lets face it, we're talking about heroes here. If we took away the threat of death for some of the battles, the fights just don't seem as heroic.


Quote:

I am picking up a different game entirely. I haven't bothered with D&D in months (not technically true... I am playing an online RPing heavy forum campaign that runs under D&D 3e). But this thread isn't about D&D... it's about the basic facts of D&D that ALL RPGs seem to have running underneath the hood.

Well, the idea of quick death is mostly a D&D concept. Not all RPGs have it necessarily.


Quote:

When it boils down to it, the rules of any system should allow a player to describe where almost any mechanical advantage comes from. Fire mage? Maybe your great great grandaddy was a Fire Elemental. Or maybe you ate too much coal as a child and now have ash for blood. Whatever.


Well, to some degree. Because sometimes the mechanics of an abiltiy contribute to the balance, that's where things get tricky. For instance, if you declare something as a "magical" ability then it can get nullified by anti-magic, where if it were just some weird extroadinary abiltiy it would be better in all ways.

And I'm not sure how we want to deal with that, as certain things are actually a vulnerability. Damage based on precision for instance goes away when you can't see, but strength based damage wouldn't. And balancing that stuff out is difficult.

We can just say that all bonuses apply all the time, but I find that personally distasteful because I'd like some measure of logic to remain with an RPG. The description should mean something to a degree and characters should have weaknesses sometimes.
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