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View Full Version : Which kind of DM do you like more? Difficult? Forgiving? Etc?



Angry Bob
2010-11-10, 01:51 PM
Edit: What traits do you find best in a DM?

What type of DM have you had the best gaming experiences with, and why? Not trying to invite an argument over DM styles here, just asking which you prefer.

I've had both kinds, and I preferred the really difficult one, even despite some of his questionable houserules and rulings. When we win, it feels like we actually won a victory, rather than merely advancing the plot at no threat to our characters' livelihood. The other DM was a phenomenal storyteller with a well thought-out setting, but only ever killed one of the characters outside the first session. And this was over the course of a school year, with games once a week.

My preference for a difficult campaign probably stems from my 'character ADD'.

Edit: Um. Feel free to treat my terms as oversimplifications of complicated concepts.

dsmiles
2010-11-10, 01:55 PM
I prefer both. Or one DM who can do both, to be more specific. I love epic, sweeping story arcs, but if a character dies after their plot armor wears off, crap happens.

arguskos
2010-11-10, 01:57 PM
I like me some tough DMs, as long as I know about everything up front before the game begins and nothing gets sprung on me. I don't like surprises in the ruleset, but I do like games where I've got to know my mechanics to endure. That's fun for me. *shrug*

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-10, 01:58 PM
A Forgiving DM that appears to be Brutal.

A true Brute is out to kill the PCs because he enjoys it. This suggests an unfortunate power dynamic which - unless the DM is scrupiously fair and limited in his use of fiat - is going to antagonize the Players.

A Forgiving DM is not going to be out to get the PCs, but if he is too obviously forgiving then the Players lose their sense of risk.

bloodtide
2010-11-10, 02:01 PM
As a DM, I'm always Brutal.

It's simple, after even a Brutal game where the character's not only loose, but even die. The players will be happy, content, and thank me for a great game.

In a Forgiving game, where I hit the reset button and everything works out good for the characters. The players will just be like...eh.

Kaww
2010-11-10, 02:03 PM
As a DM I try to be both. As a player I like/look for DMs that can be both...

calar
2010-11-10, 02:06 PM
I lean more towards forgiving, though that's not to say the DM shouldn't make it challenging for the players. It also depends vastly on the group of players in the campaign. If you are with a bunch of seasoned vets, a tough, even brutal DM is great since the players can handle the challenge while still advancing an epic story. For a new group however, Id rather them get their feet wet, and learn how to deal with consequences slowly as they go, while keeping the story in tact.

subject42
2010-11-10, 02:11 PM
I'll go for brutal every time.

That may be because I like making characters as much as I like actually playing.

Godskook
2010-11-10, 02:28 PM
Personally, I think your scale is fairly poor using only a binary variable and 1 dimension of comparison.

Of the DMs I've actually fought encounters from, 1 sent us up against a TPK-machine as the first encounter and that was a "warm-up" fight on our "side-quest" while we waited for the other groups to "catch-up". Things got worse from there. *MUCH* worse. I quit that game due to a sheer lack of fun.

Another of my DMs, Milksidath(SP?), was good. He accidently over-CR'ed the first encounter, and, combined with a player quitting mid-combat for RL issues, nearly had a TPK. However, we survived, barely, and were able to recover. Our second encounter was more reasonable, and he allowed us to turn a planned combat into a purely roleplay event. Generally kinda cool.

Another, Firebeard, was probably the most awesome, but that's probably in part cause the game lasted the longest. Encounters ranged from semi-easy resource-drains to rough, but the worst encounter was ours, as the players, fault, for not killing someone when we had the chance. Nobody died, and I'm pretty sure no-one even hit the negatives, but it wasn't for a lack of CR or "kiddie gloves" on the DM's part. We were just fairly organized, moderately optimized, lucky enough on certain dice rolls, and willing to be tactical in our choices.

In short, a DM isn't there to kill the PCs. He's there to provide near-death challenges. If that kills a PC, that sucks, and if it doesn't, YAY!

CarpeGuitarrem
2010-11-10, 02:32 PM
I suppose that I technically qualify as both. But see, I'm only brutal because I want to add complications to the story. In any game I GM, I don't treat failure as final. I think that failure simply makes things more...interesting.

The zealot slayer starts taking out "heretical" monks? Well, quite common-sensically, he'll get outnumbered, especially since I'd already decided they were running an intelligence network, and therefore trained rogues. This leads to his capture, and his stumbling upon a plot deeper within the monastery to summon an Elder Evil.

That sort of stuff. If you fail, you will for sure make the plot more complicated and problematic, but ultimately rewarding.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-10, 02:43 PM
I like a DM who makes sure that the combat is challenging, but refrains from killing PCs - at worst he knocks them out in combat, and makes sure that if someone dies, the death is suitably awesome and epic.

From the two extremes the OP gave us, though? Forgiving all the way. From my experience those DMs focus more on creating an interesting story and character interaction. It's hard to get attached to your character when you can lose it permanently at any moment.

CockroachTeaParty
2010-11-10, 02:44 PM
I would not call myself Brutal or Forgiving; rather, I am a Simulationist. What this means is that I try to resolve things as best I can within the rules, and within a certain amount of realism within the game world itself.

This has a tendency to put me more on the brutal side of things. If a player dies due to poor dice rolls, bad luck, poor planning, or lucky/smart enemies, well, that's just the way the cards played out. That said, I am forgiving in that I try to help my players understand their options, and help them utilize the rules and resources available to them to help them succeed. I'd like my players to be victorious in their endeavors, but I won't flinch from the dangers and risks of combat, or being an adventurer in general.

Curmudgeon
2010-11-10, 03:26 PM
I prefer brutal. I'd like the DM to roll the dice out where everyone can see them, and live with the consequences. I want an incentive as a player to stay alert and keep alternate strategems and tactics in mind, rather than rely on the DM to soften the blows.

Mikka
2010-11-10, 03:29 PM
A Forgiving DM that appears to be Brutal.

This is what you want.

fil kearney
2010-11-10, 04:41 PM
I prefer brutal. I'd like the DM to roll the dice out where everyone can see them, and live with the consequences. I want an incentive as a player to stay alert and keep alternate strategems and tactics in mind, rather than rely on the DM to soften the blows.

This is me. I prefer this style as a DM
I take a lot more time than most before game making sure I understand what the characters can and can't handle statistically... as long as I stay within a set variance-to-tolerance team ratio; I know only bad dice or tactics are going to ice a character.
even then, I allow rezzing or occasionally just playing as a ghost, so death is more a major pain in the butt than a game-ender unless the player WANTS a new character. :)

As a Player, I always feel cheated when I find out the DM softened the blow.
We played Gamma World 4e last week, and the DM said to our tank, "man, I had to fudge the dice SO bad that fight..."I was disappointed. The characters in that game are MEANT to be thrown away. char gen takes like 5 minits tops. Some players WANT their characters to die, or see how far they can push them until they do. :D

Sipex
2010-11-10, 04:47 PM
I'm forgiving but I try to be brutal enough to keep the challenge present. In all I'd like to have a brutal DM once just to see how it went.

Yora
2010-11-10, 04:50 PM
I need the forgiving type. Story comes first, so having PCs die all the time only slows the plot down.

kyoryu
2010-11-10, 04:51 PM
Brutal, with caveats.

I want a DM that is willing to kill characters, but is not actively out to kill characters. Random monter chart says "Tarrasque?" Okay, fine, you see the Tarrasque in the distance, time to run. You insist on attacking it? Roll up a new character.

I don't find this separated from the concept of a good story, either. Not everybody survives until the final act. A really good player recognizes this, and is okay with it - the fact that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die doesn't reflect poorly on their actors.

It is, of course, a spectrum, but the danger of the Forgiving side is that it can easily go to the point of shielding players from the consequences of their decisions. And if you're shielded from your decisions, what's the point of even playing with rules? If you're guaranteed to defeat every enemy, why even bother with combat? Just go freeform roleplay, or improvisational theater or something.

valadil
2010-11-10, 04:55 PM
Neither.

I want a GM who works with the players to tell a story. A forgiving GM doesn't let the players do the work. He tells the story and saves the players from danger so they can carry on with the story. A brutal GM runs the risk of becoming antagonistic, and no longer works with the players at all. I have no interest in playing in a game with a GM versus players attitude.

Angry Bob
2010-11-10, 05:22 PM
To refine the two extremes I presented, I guess I'd have to refine my preference as well. I'd most appreciate a DM that lets the dice fall and isn't afraid to send out encounters that will kill the PCs unless they run. A DM that wants to see the characters fail, as is a DM that insists on twisting the narrative or fudging the rolls so the characters survive. Also, they should always leave an out. No sudden death from nowhere encounters or save-or-dies with no warning other than "make a save".

nedz
2010-11-10, 05:59 PM
As a DM I try for variety. Some encounters will be soft and easy, others are things you should already have run away from. I tend to be slightly more forgiving at low level, but once your characters are vaguely competant and the party is functioning as a team: on your head be it.

kyoryu
2010-11-10, 06:00 PM
Also, they should always leave an out. No sudden death from nowhere encounters or save-or-dies with no warning other than "make a save".

Agreed on this entirely. Complete random deaths are dumb.

OTOH, if you've decided to sneak into the lair of the Sorceror King, and he hits you with a SoD from hiding... well, you made the decision to go there, didn't you?

Aotrs Commander
2010-11-10, 06:54 PM
A Forgiving DM that appears to be Brutal.

I concur. In fact, that is exactly what I aim for myself as DM.

AslanCross
2010-11-10, 06:55 PM
I prefer a moderate one who doesn't pull punches unless absolutely necessary.

Tvtyrant
2010-11-10, 07:00 PM
I prefer simulation to anything else; if the group just fought an apex predator (T-rex) there shouldn't be another one near by that day. The next day there should be up to half a dozen fighting each other over the new territory though.

Same thing with combat; I want a DM that keeps battle realistic; if we all die fine, but its incredibly unlikely that a medium level party is going to run into lots of high level enemies or magical beasts. A lone dire tiger is fine, but a group is silly since they are solitary.

Saph
2010-11-10, 07:09 PM
Brutal. When I'm playing, I want my decisions to matter, and I want my character to succeed or fail based on the choices I make.

For me, the whole point of playing an RPG rather than reading a book is because I get to affect the outcome. If I know that the outcome is going to be the same no matter how well or badly we do, I have trouble getting interested.

AslanCross
2010-11-10, 07:10 PM
I prefer simulation to anything else; if the group just fought an apex predator (T-rex) there shouldn't be another one near by that day. The next day there should be up to half a dozen fighting each other over the new territory though.

Same thing with combat; I want a DM that keeps battle realistic; if we all die fine, but its incredibly unlikely that a medium level party is going to run into lots of high level enemies or magical beasts. A lone dire tiger is fine, but a group is silly since they are solitary.

I think you're looking for causality and verisimilitude, not realism. If you were looking for realism, you wouldn't be playing D&D. ("T-rexes cannot possibly exist alongside mammalian predators! Megafauna like dinosaurs and dire animals do not fit this region's geographic profile!")

It can also be argued that everything in the rules is a suggestion; a DM is always within rights to say that "In this particular region, dire tigers come in pairs."

Fuzzie Fuzz
2010-11-10, 07:25 PM
I tend to be more of a forgiving DM, but I strive to be more brutal than I am.

Synapse
2010-11-10, 07:53 PM
I'm inclined to the brutality.
Like... It's good to know most of our problems are a consequence of how we dealt with our previous stuff... but if the world never imposes itself on you, it doesn't feel real either. Sometimes you really are the level 2 commoner on the wrong end of a chainsaw and a rabid owlbear, and your choice is about how to deal with it.

Even a "senseless" defeat/death stops being "senseless" if it is coherent to how that universe works and our characters acted.

Raum
2010-11-10, 08:00 PM
Which type have you had the best gaming experiences with, and why?The ones who a) give characters meaningful (not illusionary) choices and b) don't leave you questioning whether or not your decision mattered. Since 'meaningful choice' requires consequences (good or ill) and 'knowing your decision matters' also requires consequences, I suspect I'm closer to the 'brutal' side of your spectrum.

However, as kyoryu and others mentioned, I'm not interested in GMs who are out to kill, or otherwise beat down, the characters. That's boring or frustrating as a player, depending on how invested you are in the game. As a GM, it's like playing tic-tac-toe against yourself...you can do what you want so you'll 'win' when you want. That's just as boring IMO. As either player or GM, I want the occasional surprise...especially as GM!

Tvtyrant
2010-11-10, 08:02 PM
I think you're looking for causality and verisimilitude, not realism. If you were looking for realism, you wouldn't be playing D&D. ("T-rexes cannot possibly exist alongside mammalian predators! Megafauna like dinosaurs and dire animals do not fit this region's geographic profile!")

It can also be argued that everything in the rules is a suggestion; a DM is always within rights to say that "In this particular region, dire tigers come in pairs."

Casuality is probably better yes. I disagree with your DM fiat though; yes the DM could just do that, but it would infuriate me. If they want paired Dire Tigers then they would have to have herbivores worth having paired Dire Tigers; such as dinosaurs.

And the age of the protomammals was before the dinosaurs, so they sorta did coincide. Dinos won in the short term, but we made a comeback!

randomhero00
2010-11-10, 08:30 PM
Forgiving by far. Since I'm almost pure roleplayer I don't need "challenges."

Synapse
2010-11-10, 08:34 PM
Forgiving by far. Since I'm almost pure roleplayer I don't need "challenges."

I don't see the connection between those. Please explain why being a roleplayer excludes a necessity of challenges.

Also please tell me which definitions of Challenge you are using. Because if talking the king into letting you do his queen in front of everyone to undo a secular doomsday curse isn't a challenge, I don't know what is.

randomhero00
2010-11-10, 08:37 PM
I don't see the connection between those. Please explain why being a roleplayer excludes a necessity of challenges.

Also please tell me which definitions of Challenge you are using. Because if talking the king into letting you do his queen in front of everyone to undo a secular doomsday curse isn't a challenge, I don't know what is.

I meant a DM that is relentless and kills a lot of characters impedes roleplay because you won't have time to develope them.

Coidzor
2010-11-10, 08:41 PM
Well, considering I lack a clear enough definition to go with anything other than my personal definition, and have only experienced a half dozen DMs so far, I can really only say that I prefer a DM who I can get along with on an interpersonal level.

randomhero00
2010-11-10, 08:44 PM
I don't see the connection between those. Please explain why being a roleplayer excludes a necessity of challenges.

Also please tell me which definitions of Challenge you are using. Because if talking the king into letting you do his queen in front of everyone to undo a secular doomsday curse isn't a challenge, I don't know what is.

PS by challenges I meant ruthless combat or deadly trap challenges. Obviously RP challenges are cool. But going up against a dude that will one shot me is not cool.

Synapse
2010-11-10, 08:45 PM
I meant a DM that is relentless and kills a lot of characters impedes roleplay because you won't have time to develope them.

The polar opposite of that type of dm isn't far from this (http://www.goblinscomic.com/08212005/) situation (http://www.goblinscomic.com/08222005/). Maybe we might actually mean something less... extreme. I take great joys from nethack levels of difficulty, as do our party face guys.

Psyren
2010-11-10, 08:47 PM
For me it would depend on how much my players like character creation.

Someone who has a dozen builds in reserve ready to try (or doesn't especially care what they play) is going to be more accepting of death than someone who spent two days on a backstory, picked their PC's favorite color and birthday etc.

Synapse
2010-11-10, 08:51 PM
For me it would depend on how much my players like character creation.

Someone who has a dozen builds in reserve ready to try (or doesn't especially care what they play) is going to be more accepting of death than someone who spent two days on a backstory, picked their PC's favorite color and birthday etc.

There's that too, isn't there? As far as builds go there's always a couple dozens ready to be tried. Generally until the party reaches the higher single digit levels we have a couple prepared 1-paragraph characters to infuse with a build and launch. most end up as npcs we fight over the next levels ;_;

FoE
2010-11-10, 08:56 PM
I prefer Forgiving.

I've been tossed in the meat grinder on a few occassions and I've never cared for it. I like my characters and want to do well by them. If you're going to be a Brutal DM, drop a rock at the start of the session and be done with it, because I'd rather not waste three to four hours of playing time only to fall flat on my face.

Curmudgeon
2010-11-10, 09:36 PM
PS by challenges I meant ruthless combat or deadly trap challenges. Obviously RP challenges are cool. But going up against a dude that will one shot me is not cool.
Actually, getting to the point with a character that you can realize such a one shot risk, and appropriately executing Plan R (Run away!), is pretty cool. It's easy to act the hero when you can stand your ground against all foes. But you get a much richer role play experience when you're forced to incorporate some cowardice into your character persona.

A forgiving DM just cheats me of some of the breadth of experiences that I want in a role-playing game.

Koury
2010-11-10, 09:57 PM
I prefer brutal. I want hard fought wins where at the end, I can look at my friends and say ":smalleek: We're alive?! We're alive!"

I mean, not every fight, I guess, but yeah.

As a DM I like leaning toward brutal also, though with my current group I feel the need to kid glove a bit because a lot of the players are new.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 12:13 AM
PS by challenges I meant ruthless combat or deadly trap challenges. Obviously RP challenges are cool. But going up against a dude that will one shot me is not cool.

Well, as I said, DMs that are just out to amass the greatest body count possible are not my cup of tea. That's the strawman version of the Brutal DM - much like the DM that just says "oh, you can have everything you want, don't even rolling for anything, you can do everything you want - tee hee!" is the strawman version of the Forgiving DM.

The guy that can one-shot you - the question is, how did you end up going against him anyway? The heroic sacrifice so that the rest of your party can save the world *is* cool. If you ticked off some really powerful things and the one-shot baddie is your final comeuppance, then you made your bed, lie in it - I've got zero problem with that.

Tarrasques dropping from the sky and killing everything before you can say "roll for initiative" - not so cool.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-11, 01:12 AM
Honestly, I prefer forgiving. I personally hate character deaths that come from unlucky dice rolls instead of planned blazes of glory. I'm what you might call a "completionist" player, who wants to see the campaign narrative reach its conclusion, rather than be forced to come up with a new elaborate backstory and character just because the one I'd lovingly crafted just for the campaign failed a saving throw or something. I know danger is supposed to add challenge to the game, but to me, the point of a D&D game is to tell an interesting story, not to simply try and survive devious tricks from the DM.

LordBlades
2010-11-11, 02:43 AM
My favourite kind of DM is one that's somewhat forgiving OOC and Brutal IC.

Namely he gives encounters that are beatable (although challenging) for the party's level of optimization and doesn't try to kill chars on purpose, but then plays his monsters to the best of their ability and motives, and doesn't pull back from making a smart move that will result in one or more player deaths if that move would make sense for the moster at that point.

I like for the game to feel dangerous and death be a real threat every fight, but not to the point it degenerates into players vs. DM.

Callista
2010-11-11, 02:48 AM
You can do either one well or badly... Depends on the DM, on the style of the game. On one end of the spectrum, you risk losing the challenge of the game; on the other end, you risk turning it into a war game and losing characters so often that nobody gets a chance to get to know them. Seems like the best bet is somewhere in the middle, but there's an awful lot of wiggle room depending on your style and what your players like.

Silus
2010-11-11, 03:00 AM
I personally like flexible DMs more than anything. You know, the kind that will throw the party a bone if they're having lots of crappy rolls, they're up against a wall and have a very slim chance of survival. Not a "Get out of death free" pass mind you, but a little boost to even the odds a bit.

Ticks me off when the DM is really inflexible, when one wrong step or missed check ends up escalating everything to the point of a TPK.

Skaven
2010-11-11, 03:01 AM
I prefer a DM that understand that the game is there to have fun. So.. half one half the other. There's no fun when you know you can't die, but a DM knows that sometimes he has to be merciful if the players dice seem against them one session.

BobVosh
2010-11-11, 04:58 AM
I like a DM who doesn't cheat dice and knows what he is doing. So I'm guessing brutal. I think it subtracts from the story and the wargaming sections of D&D if you fake a result.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 05:30 AM
I like a DM who doesn't cheat dice and knows what he is doing. So I'm guessing brutal. I think it subtracts from the story and the wargaming sections of D&D if you fake a result.

I like this post. Yes, roleplaying is telling a story, but that doesn't mean it's a magical happy story where everything goes your way and the gods smile on you and everyone is your best friend and you get a UNICORN and a PONY!

Psyx
2010-11-11, 05:35 AM
In the middle.

If there's no risk, there's no reward. I dislike carebear GMs.

On the other hand, I've GMed for a guy who just liked murdering PCs and bullying them. eg: Would just kill PCs dead with snipers 800m away without a perception check. Kept us 'on hold' during a game of SLA Industries for 10 minutes, complete with hold music, because 'it was fun', etc.

Aotrs Commander
2010-11-11, 05:59 AM
I like this post. Yes, roleplaying is telling a story, but that doesn't mean it's a magical happy story where everything goes your way and the gods smile on you and everyone is your best friend and you get a UNICORN and a PONY!

Unless you're a Halfling Healer Diplomancer.

WinWin
2010-11-11, 06:03 AM
Brutal. It makes your achievements in character actual achievements...Not just a participation award.

I hate the 'everyones a winner' meme.

Synapse
2010-11-11, 07:21 AM
Brutal. It makes your achievements in character actual achievements...Not just a participation award.

I hate the 'everyones a winner' meme.

But if everyone is having fun...

Morph Bark
2010-11-11, 07:29 AM
I hate the 'everyones a winner' meme.

Curious name you got then. :smallamused:

WinWin
2010-11-11, 08:29 AM
Curious name you got then. :smallamused:

I'm a solipsist.

Seriously, my definition of a win/win scenario does not leave my opponents happy (in character, RL I wish i could be so cool)

Quietus
2010-11-11, 09:13 AM
I need the forgiving type. Story comes first, so having PCs die all the time only slows the plot down.

This is my style - I like to run a game where I write it around the backstory the players give me. Killing a character, therefore, means that I either have to rewrite a large portion of the plot, or give things that have no meaningful context. So I try to avoid four orcs with battleaxes having a boatload of crits that are likely to wipe out a character.

That being said, when we're looking at an IMPORTANT fight, I'm willing to take the gloves off. Four orcs with battleaxes, I'll fudge rolls to avoid too many crits, but if you've pissed off a dragon, and you're fighting it in lethal combat, damn right it's gonna do everything in its power to make you regret pissing it off.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 11:58 AM
I like this post. Yes, roleplaying is telling a story, but that doesn't mean it's a magical happy story where everything goes your way and the gods smile on you and everyone is your best friend and you get a UNICORN and a PONY!

Didn't you call the guy who DMs his games this way a strawman archetype a few posts ago?

Sipex
2010-11-11, 12:02 PM
This is bordering on arguement territory and I'm unsure why. We don't all have to agree, this topic is about different tastes.

Goudaa
2010-11-11, 12:05 PM
I prefer brutal.

The kind that will TPK if it makes sense.

The kind that takes the CR section of the DMG seriously and actually throws a few near impossible encounters that may require a retreat.

The kind that has NPC's actually plot your death when you piss all over them like the wannabe-hero type.

The kind that doesn't fudge a die-roll because he crit your precious elf wizardress with his frenzied zerker.

The kind that makes the term "no risk/no reward" have meaning in an RPG.

Lev
2010-11-11, 12:08 PM
I don't understand the concept of brutal or forgiving?

If you mean one who fudges rolls and one who does not, then the DM has to be very sloppy to let you onto a fudge unless its something massive like subtracting 200HP off a monster, even if its ruled that HP isn't announced.

If you mean a DM who APPEARS to favor the players and look after them, or leaves them to be in a world full of realistic consequences then I'd have to say that I rather the DM favor the players.

My reasoning for this is that DnD is communal storytelling-- a world where the players have to fight to become main characters is stupid since they are always the main characters, a caring DM lets the main plot flow around them where as an apathetic DM allows you to forage in bushes for 2 weeks while your town is being eaten by worgs.

A good DM does this: Makes the game FUN and interesting, and maintains balance between that factor and the factor of balance and constraints of the world. That's his main purpose, and thats how he wins.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 12:14 PM
I don't want a GM who's going to wrap the characters in plot armour so thick that if they go and jump off a cliff, they suddenly sprout wings or land on a convenient branch or something.

I'd prefer a GM to be tough but fair. Do something that means your character should die and your character probably will.

That said, I like both Cyberpunk and L5R. Games where death is never more than a single unlucky dice roll away and where people should be willing to lay down their lives for what they believe to be right.

Psyren
2010-11-11, 12:19 PM
I don't want a GM who's going to wrap the characters in plot armour so thick that if they go and jump off a cliff, they suddenly sprout wings or land on a convenient branch or something.

I'd prefer a GM to be tough but fair. Do something that means your character should die and your character probably will.

There are limits to even that, though. If my players entered a curbstomp battle with a clearly superior foe, I would have the villains resort to subdual damage and lock them up once the outcome was clear. Unless the player(s) in question was/were trying to go out in a blaze of glory, anyway.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 12:28 PM
There are limits to even that, though. If my players entered a curbstomp battle with a clearly superior foe, I would have the villains resort to subdual damage and lock them up once the outcome was clear. Unless the player(s) in question was/were trying to go out in a blaze of glory, anyway.

It's not about battle. That's something that D&D players always make an assumption about. Instead, think about this kind of thing.

You tell a daimyo (samurai lord) that he's not fit to be a samurai. What should happen?

You steal from the Mob.

You break a mob boss's daughter's heart.

You spit in a samurai's face.

I don't want protecting from situations like that because of plot armour. Some things you can't be protected from.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 12:39 PM
Didn't you call the guy who DMs his games this way a strawman archetype a few posts ago?

Yup.

Here, I'm referring to player expectations that everything go their way and they never fail.

That seems pretty common.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 12:44 PM
Oh, you can make the players feel that they messed up badly even without the intent of killing their characters at any point. Trust me, I've been there, as both the player and DM.

Tharck
2010-11-11, 12:49 PM
As a DM I ask my players to roll up seven characters before play each week.




-kidding. Im fair but unforgiving.

Drascin
2010-11-11, 12:57 PM
Oh, you can make the players feel that they messed up badly even without the intent of killing their characters at any point. Trust me, I've been there, as both the player and DM.

I feel like this is an important point. Some people seem to think dying is the only way a character can fail. In point of fact, generally speaking, unless it was a particularly special death, it's usually the least interesting way to fail, particularly the TPK or near-so - story ends, I'll see about having another campaign idea ready for next week guys. So, who wants to play some Munchkin for the rest of the afternoon? :smalltongue:

Saph
2010-11-11, 12:57 PM
If you mean one who fudges rolls and one who does not, then the DM has to be very sloppy to let you onto a fudge unless its something massive like subtracting 200HP off a monster, even if its ruled that HP isn't announced.

You'd be surprised. I can usually make a pretty accurate guess at when a DM is or isn't fudging, and so can most other experienced players I know.

The DM thinks "aha, I've saved Bob's character and no-one but me knows about it!" The players think "he's fudging again . . . but I don't want to be the one to say anything."


I feel like this is an important point. Some people seem to think dying is the only way a character can fail.

It depends. If you're playing a game of political intrigue, you wouldn't expect failure to automatically mean death. However, if the PCs have just mercilessly slaughtered 347 monsters in a row, and monster #348 gets them at a disadvantage, there's really no reason for it to hold back.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 01:02 PM
You'd be surprised. I can usually make a pretty accurate guess at when a DM is or isn't fudging, and so can most other experienced players I know.

The DM thinks "aha, I've saved Bob's character and no-one but me knows about it!" The players think "he's fudging again . . . but I don't want to be the one to say anything about it."

You never played L5R. There are things that can happen in game that have nothing to do with dice rolling that should kill your character stone dead. At his/her own hands.

It's not always easy to tell when a situation is being fudged rather than a dice roll.

Saph
2010-11-11, 01:03 PM
You never played L5R.

Just did last week, actually. :smalltongue:

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 01:05 PM
Just did last week, actually. :smalltongue:

Careful, it's addictive :smallwink:

And oddly enough, it's one of the games (along with D&D) where I find I don't like the even-number editions.

ericgrau
2010-11-11, 01:08 PM
Brutal, same reasons the OP said. It makes the game more exciting.

Quietus
2010-11-11, 01:12 PM
It's not about battle. That's something that D&D players always make an assumption about. Instead, think about this kind of thing.

You tell a daimyo (samurai lord) that he's not fit to be a samurai. What should happen?

You steal from the Mob.

You break a mob boss's daughter's heart.

You spit in a samurai's face.

I don't want protecting from situations like that because of plot armour. Some things you can't be protected from.

Ah, perhaps this is a different of points. I'm a forgiving DM, in that if I send a random encounter at them and it turns out harder than I'd expected (say I rolled That Damn Crab and didn't know what it was, for example), I'll fudge to fix that, because that was no fault of their own.

All of the things you've mentioned? Those are PLAYER actions. They have consequences. You might get a "Do you really want to do that?" moment, but if you say that yes, you want to insult the honor of the man who is known to be violent, good with a sword, and takes matters of honor VERY seriously.. expect repercussions.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 01:19 PM
All of the things you've mentioned? Those are PLAYER actions. They have consequences. You might get a "Do you really want to do that?" moment, but if you say that yes, you want to insult the honor of the man who is known to be violent, good with a sword, and takes matters of honor VERY seriously.. expect repercussions.
That's exactly my point. Sometimes people focus on the combat in an RPG to the exclusion of everything else. They forget that if you try and steal a Dwarf's beer, he's going to punch you in the face.

Or, that character actions have consequences.

That's why there's two mottoes I try and stick with when I GM:

1. Be tough but fair. In other words, if characters do something stupid, they suffer for it. With no mercy or remorse. But that doesn't mean that they never win or that I'm out to kill them. And that leads into...

2. In character actions lead to in character consequences. Or, ICA = ICC for short.

Quietus
2010-11-11, 01:28 PM
That's exactly my point. Sometimes people focus on the combat in an RPG to the exclusion of everything else. They forget that if you try and steal a Dwarf's beer, he's going to punch you in the face.

Or, that character actions have consequences.

That's why there's two mottoes I try and stick with when I GM:

1. Be tough but fair. In other words, if characters do something stupid, they suffer for it. With no mercy or remorse. But that doesn't mean that they never win or that I'm out to kill them. And that leads into...

2. In character actions lead to in character consequences. Or, ICA = ICC for short.

Fair, but when four orcs jump out of the bushes at them and they all crit at once, do you go "Well, the dice have spoken guys, roll up new characters!", or do you go "Well, they don't need to know that these were crits, I'll just say they all hit.", or if you aren't using a screen/are rolling openly, go "Okay guys, that just sucks - do you want me to roll with it and TPK, or just say they all hit?"

Personally, I do the latter - I don't like to have stupid events kill a story that the players and I are crafting together, so I'll fudge dice. If the characters brought it on themselves, that's something entirely different - If the bad situation is a consequence of the story, I roll with it. If it was just "Random Encounter #3", so they can reach level 5 before they enter the dungeon.. not so much.

Saph
2010-11-11, 01:35 PM
On the "player actions have consequences" point, here's a good example:

I just DMed a one-off yesterday. Pathfinder setting, 3rd-level characters. The PCs were summoned to help out a Young Adult Blue Dragon in a fight. The dragon wanted disposable reinforcements, hadn't read the small print on the scroll, and didn't realise that it was a (Calling) spell, not a (Summoning) one, and was a little surprised when they didn't vanish. He tried to banish them. It didn't work. (The PCs ended up getting summoned into a Pokemon battle instead, and being the psychotic little adventurers they are, tried to kill both the pokemon trainers. Hilarity ensued and they got dumped back into the dragon's lair again.)

Eventually the dragon decided to make the best of a bad job. He was in the middle of a courtship ritual with a female blue dragon and got the PCs to fight on his behalf against an enemy champion. The PCs won, and the dragon agreed to do them a favour in repayment (he was in a good mood since they'd got him together with his girlfriend, and he was the fair-minded type). The PCs chose as follows:

The paladin and the cavalier decided to take up the dragon on his offer to fly them to the nearest city, 300 miles away on the edge of the desert. They ended up sticking together as mercenaries.
The wizard decided to stay with the dragon and became its apprentice of sorts.
The rogue and the alchemist waited until the dragon was out of the cave flying the paladin and the cavalier to the city, then they stole as much of the dragon's treasure as they could carry and ran.
Now, on the Brutal/Forgiving scale, how would you resolve this? Bear in mind that:

- The blue dragon was Lawful Evil.
- The dragon's lair was in the middle of a desert.
- Dragons are the most covetous species on earth, and the dragon had specifically told the alchemist that he'd kill him and eat him if he even went near his hoard.

Open the spoiler if you want to see the answer:
The dragon tracked down the rogue and alchemist, killed them, and ate them. I didn't bother rolling dice because it was a foregone conclusion.

My exact words to the players were, "And everyone else lived happily ever after." :smalltongue:

Quietus
2010-11-11, 01:39 PM
Sounds fair to me, though I'd have given the Rogue and Alchemist the chance to get away. Asked what their plans were for surviving in the desert, how they intended to avoid a pissed off dragon, that sort of thing. Most players won't have an answer for these, so they get caught, and roll initiative vs. something they should have no business fighting. Sometimes they get lucky, though - or creative. Regardless, they should have to spend quite a while fighting/fleeing for their lives, or become lunch.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 02:01 PM
Sounds fair to me, though I'd have given the Rogue and Alchemist the chance to get away. Asked what their plans were for surviving in the desert, how they intended to avoid a pissed off dragon, that sort of thing. Most players won't have an answer for these, so they get caught, and roll initiative vs. something they should have no business fighting. Sometimes they get lucky, though - or creative. Regardless, they should have to spend quite a while fighting/fleeing for their lives, or become lunch.

I'd agree, if the game wasn't a one-shot.

At any rate, that sounds perfectly fair. Let the wookiee win.

Gamer Girl
2010-11-11, 02:30 PM
One of the things I love about Role Playing Games is the Randomness. Not just the dice, but how the story can just change and anything can happen.


I grew up watching TV shows and movie and reading books where all the character's, items and events all had plot armor. You KNEW nothing was going to happen to them(I Knew the borg were not going to destroy the Enterprise in 'Best of both worlds') And this is no different with fiction today(When the evil spy's shoot at Sarah on Chuck, you know she won't get shot and killed).

I hate plots with things like 'Thugs that went to the Imperial Stormtorrper shooting Academy'.

In a Role playing game, anything can and should happen...regardless of the plot. Some of my best games were when something unexpected happened......the saved the princess, but she was accidentally killed gust before the got her home.

A Forgiving DM does not have that stuff happen, unless they plan it to happen.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 02:38 PM
I grew up watching TV shows and movie and reading books where all the character's, items and events all had plot armor. You KNEW nothing was going to happen to them(I Knew the borg were not going to destroy the Enterprise in 'Best of both worlds') And this is no different with fiction today(When the evil spy's shoot at Sarah on Chuck, you know she won't get shot and killed).


Counterexample: Derek Reese getting waxed near the end of the Sarah Connor Chronicles. Main character - bullet to the head with no build-up and not even any time for mourning or drama around it. Just dead, and they keep going. Awesome.

Curmudgeon
2010-11-11, 02:43 PM
If you mean one who fudges rolls and one who does not, then the DM has to be very sloppy to let you onto a fudge unless its something massive like subtracting 200HP off a monster, even if its ruled that HP isn't announced.
Hit points are never announced, except when a character makes an appropriate Knowledge check to discern that particular bit of information:
In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monsterís HD. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Yukitsu
2010-11-11, 02:46 PM
Brutal where appropriate. "I walk down the corridor" should not be met with "You're attacked by 50 dragons" as that's arbitrary and stupid, not brutal. But stuff like "I slap Tiamat" should basically cause you and your character to spontaneously combust under the DM's withering glares.

Kantolin
2010-11-11, 03:20 PM
If we're going purely extremes, I prefer forgiving.

All of the brutal DMs I've played with, even those that weren't directly hostile, had essentially a revolving door of characters. The least directly hostile one, for example, still ended the game with a completely different cast of characters than it began with, and all of them were very faceless. Any neat story or plot that could've involved one of the characters fades when that character dies - and while that can progress plot itself, frequently it doesn't.

For one of the worst offenders of brutal DMs, I'm the only person who ever makes any kind of a history for a character in his games anymore. Nobody else bothers, since your character won't get to attempt whatever it is he wants to do (Nor will he fail in an interesting manner), he'll just be minding his business and die at random somewhere in a fashion that you won't even really remember. We get a lot of 'Human, Cleric 5'.

It also makes death extremely trivial, after the second time. It becomes "Aw, I died. Oh well, I'll make a new elven swashbuckler / time for the raise dead again". Or possibly 'I go sit in the corner'.

The opposite scenario, where your characters won't die unless you do something very intentionally stupid and even then you still might not die, at least results in a game you can possibly have fun in, where your actions can do things, where you might actually get to explore the neat backstory you made, where you can meet the mafia boss, punch the mafia boss's daughter, and then spend the next several months trying to get out of the mess you've just made while he's trying to kill you.

I then prefer something in the middle, but still closer to forgiving. For said mafia boss example, if you have someone who punches a mafia boss's daughter, that would indeed result in you being rather promptly attacked by quite a few things. If they killed said daughter, it'd almost certainly result in death - if it was just a huge insult, it may not result in death but certainly an example.

But if you then get out of it, there'd be a very lengthy 'The Mafia is out to get you' sequence that would be very fun to deal with. You could also have the mafia, for example, go after that person's family - thus again promoting neat fun as they now have to deal with this. Said fun would then promptly fade if that person then died at random to random encounter#6 - then you may have the mafia still out to get the party for less related reasons, but there's no longer anything personal there. And then three random deaths later, none of the new people even know who the mafia are - you've just ended the mafia plot arc at random, or possibly have the mafia still having a flimsy excuse to continue to go at the party that has lost most of its meaning.

So I suppose, I prefer deaths in particular to advance the plot rather than just be done at random. I'm all for losing and failing to advance your goals, mind you, but I'd prefer a good story with interesting characters to a mildly okay story with people nobody cares about.

The last problem I have with more brutal games is that they encourage you to be more... well, I suppose more like this board's iconic batman wizard, and less like a hero. You're encouraged to hide somewhere and never really advance unless you're absolutely sure things will go your way, run at the first sequence of actual danger, and to do things like that. It discourages you to do the heroic mounted charge into a new enemy, and instead go run away and do bookkeeping.

I mean, there's a place where a heroic charge leads to a heroic death, and those are cool too, but it's hard to feel heroic in most brutal games. Which can be totally fine - shadowrun and most of white wolf aren't made to make you heroic, and D&D is very accepting of that feel of play - but I don't constantly want to play a game where being heroic constantly results in revolving character doors. Once in awhile sure, but it's certainly not my preferred gaming style.

Although I suppose, once you lose particular interest in your characters, you can just have all of them commit suicide since it won't mean as much. :P

Raum
2010-11-11, 03:21 PM
If you mean one who fudges rolls and one who does not, then the DM has to be very sloppy to let you onto a fudge unless its something massive like subtracting 200HP off a monster, even if its ruled that HP isn't announced.Fudging die rolls fills up it's own set of threads. :smallamused: However, noticing roll fudging isn't difficult at all. Anyone who with a memory and minimal knowledge of statistics will notice GMs who lie about die rolls commonly. Anyone who knows the GM well has a good chance of catching individual instances.

Regarding consequences, four of the PCs in my (sort of) Deadlands game are wanted for murder in Shan Fan. That's what happens when you interrogate someone 'roughly' on a city street. How they deal with it will undoubtedly change the game. Meanwhile I get to have fun with bounty hunters! :smallbiggrin:

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 03:27 PM
stuff

Well said. A very good elaboration on a point similar to the one I share.

Earthwalker
2010-11-11, 03:44 PM
I guess I prefer a forgiving GM as it opens up more possibilities for characters for me to play.

If I choose I can play a sim addicted hacker with no tactical ability. I can make poor choices that fit into my characters ideal without known that I going to just get killed for them, not that I shouldn't suffer, just that I shouldn't be killed for them.

After all being bad at combat shouldn't mean a wasted character. Well thats how it works in most games I play in.

Of course DnD is alot different then some of the games I play.

arrowhen
2010-11-11, 03:52 PM
Because the deck is stacked infinitely in the DM's favor, any "challenge" to the PCs is merely an illusion.

I prefer DMs who know how to make failure interesting.

Saph
2010-11-11, 04:28 PM
The last problem I have with more brutal games is that they encourage you to be more... well, I suppose more like this board's iconic batman wizard, and less like a hero. You're encouraged to hide somewhere and never really advance unless you're absolutely sure things will go your way, run at the first sequence of actual danger, and to do things like that. It discourages you to do the heroic mounted charge into a new enemy, and instead go run away and do bookkeeping.

It depends on your point of view. From my perspective, the guy who does a heroic mounted charge because he knows he's not in any danger isn't much of a hero. It's easy to act heroic when the guys you're fighting aren't allowed to hit you.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 04:35 PM
All of the brutal DMs I've played with, even those that weren't directly hostile, had essentially a revolving door of characters.

Couldn't agree more. It's primarily a playstyle thing. The heavily story-driven game, where the heroes are the Destined Heroes of Destiny *requires* a "forgiving" DM (at least one that is reluctant to let the players die).

A more sandbox/simulationist or even gamist approach can actually go either way... but probably works better with a more brutal DM (or at least one that is willing to let players die).

The real question here is "do you expect your character to be able to die?" Now, everyone will say yes, but realistically, many people don't.


The least directly hostile one, for example, still ended the game with a completely different cast of characters than it began with, and all of them were very faceless.

Really? Some of the best roleplaying I've seen was with a group where there was a *very* brutal style of DMing. Your actions an interactions within the group should define your character as much as any backstory does. IMHO, "Oh, my parents were killed by orcs, I become angry when I see an orc" is a pretty basic level of roleplaying, as is "Odd race/class combo or other distinguishing feature" roleplaying. Your character probably goes through more stressful, character defining events in the first few sessions of play than in their entire history up until that point.

If you can't make a human fighter interesting (from a roleplaying perspective, at least), you're doing it wrong. Roll up a few random personality quirks and take it from there. Roll a few random reactions to things to let the character tell you what *they* think.

Kantolin
2010-11-11, 04:39 PM
From my perspective, the guy who does a heroic mounted charge because he knows he's not in any danger isn't much of a hero.

The character, or the player? :smallconfused:

There are, in most games, the opportunity to stand up for what you believe in against odds you probably won't survive, and those moments are (or at least can be) awesome whether you do or not. Those moments happen both in brutal and forgiving games, and I highly advocate them. This is why I pointed out that I prefer something between absolutes, as an absolutely forgiving game isn't what I prefer either; I'm just definitely closer to the forgiving end than the brutal.

There's then 'You tried a heroic mounted charge? Roll up a new character'. Which is what the other 90% of your time is in a brutal game, and is what leads to spending your time doing a series of checks and balances about what do you think you can do, or possibly not caring about it and just having a stable of characters in your pocket.

Drascin
2010-11-11, 04:40 PM
It depends on your point of view. From my perspective, the guy who does a heroic mounted charge because he knows he's not in any danger isn't much of a hero. It's easy to act heroic when the guys you're fighting aren't allowed to hit you.

The character doesn't know that at most he will be knocked unconscious, so he is brave. To him, it is a real death risk.

The player, however, knows that acting in a classic badass way will not instantly cause him to miss the remainder of this session and a big chunk of the next making a new character and backstory, and waiting for the GM to be able to find/contrive a decent point to drop him - so he's more willing to try the crazy cool plans instead of the tested and true (but phenomenally boring) "nuke from orbit" tactics. If big heroic moments can still result in your death, yes - but you going into the dungeon through the front door won't, by itself, and you know it, you'll play more daring. But when the penalty for trying to act heroic is a several hours time-out, people are markedly less willing to do anything that doesn't have an assured result.

This tends to result in paralysis. I remember the time where I, as a player, would take "we've run the numbers, this has an 80% chance of working" as "gah, nowhere near enough, run away, we'll come back later", due to Brutal DM influence.

Kantolin
2010-11-11, 04:47 PM
Really? Some of the best roleplaying I've seen was with a group where there was a *very* brutal style of DMing. Your actions an interactions within the group should define your character as much as any backstory does.

But your actions and interactions within a group all also fade when that character dies. If your character, through a series of falling into negatives with goblins, suddenly finds that he loathes goblins and wants to hunt them all down... and then dies to Displacer Beast #3, now you have a new character who hasn't had any of those actions nor interactions.


IMHO, "Oh, my parents were killed by orcs, I become angry when I see an orc" is a pretty basic level of roleplaying,

Well, yes. And if 'My entire hometown was killed by this orc tribe led by Lurtz' was your backstory, sure that's cool, you could have a lot of fun playing a character who's hunting down lurtz, and then suddenly you die to that shambling mound you tripped into, and now whatever was going on with Lurtz is kind of erased from relevance for the party.


If you can't make a human fighter interesting (from a roleplaying perspective, at least), you're doing it wrong.

I think you're arguing about something else entirely. O_o

When I said 'Human, Cleric 5', I meant that's about it. There's no point in making your human cleric have... I dunno, to keep with a previous trope, to have angered the mafia and be on the run from them, when after the beginnings of the 'A-ha, the mafia is looking for you!', your character dies to a fire elemental, and now the mafia is not looking for anyone.

Your next character you make had their loved ones trapped by an evil bard who has a mirror of life trapping and you're trying to figure out how to save them - nope, more fire elementals. Now whatever clues that started cropping up on how you can go save them are erased.

This leads to 'Human, Cleric 5' 'What's his name?" 'I dunno, Chellen sounds cool.' 'Why's he here?" 'Since we needed a cleric'.

Edit: Also, what Drascin said! Thank you!

EagleWiz
2010-11-11, 04:49 PM
Brutal, but not to loltarasquefallseveryonedies levels. I want death to be a very real posability even in seemingly unimportant battles.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 04:51 PM
This tends to result in paralysis. I remember the time where I, as a player, would take "we've run the numbers, this has an 80% chance of working" as "gah, nowhere near enough, run away, we'll come back later", due to Brutal DM influence.

That's beyond "brutal". Going into a relatively decently matched fight (meaning, you expect the players to win), you should have enough leeway to escape if things take a bad turn. Not every decision should be an "all-in" decision - that's just poor DMing. Escape should almost always be a viable opportunity - if the characters decide to take it.

OTOH, angering an ancient dragon at 1st level? Yeah, roll up a new character.


The player, however, knows that acting in a classic badass way will not instantly cause him to miss the remainder of this session and a big chunk of the next making a new character and backstory, and waiting for the GM to be able to find/contrive a decent point to drop him - so he's more willing to try the crazy cool plans instead of the tested and true (but phenomenally boring) "nuke from orbit" tactics.

So, what you really want is the opportunity to do really cool-looking things in situations that, in fact, have little or no risk. That's fine, that's a common playstyle, and one that requires a forgiving DM.

"Nuke from orbit" is phenomenally boring because there's no risk and no real interaction. If there's no risk in what you're doing, how is charging any different from "nuke from orbit", except with different descriptions?


But your actions and interactions within a group all also fade when that character dies. If your character, through a series of falling into negatives with goblins, suddenly finds that he loathes goblins and wants to hunt them all down... and then dies to Displacer Beast #3, now you have a new character who hasn't had any of those actions nor interactions.

Right. And then he'll have his own experiences and interactions, leading to a different character.


Well, yes. And if 'My entire hometown was killed by this orc tribe led by Lurtz' was your backstory, sure that's cool, you could have a lot of fun playing a character who's hunting down lurtz, and then suddenly you die to that shambling mound you tripped into, and now whatever was going on with Lurtz is kind of erased from relevance for the party.

Right. Which is why a lot of this is really about playstyle, whether players have an expectation that their characters are really the Destined Heroes of Destiny and will make it to the last act, and that grand story is really the point, or whether just enjoying the life and tribulations of Joe the Lurtz Hunter is the point.


When I said 'Human, Cleric 5', I meant that's about it. There's no point in making your human cleric have... I dunno, to keep with a previous trope, to have angered the mafia and be on the run from them, when after the beginnings of the 'A-ha, the mafia is looking for you!', your character dies to a fire elemental, and now the mafia is not looking for anyone.

Again, different playstyles. An old D&D guy (Arneson? I forget) said that levels 1-5 *are* the backstory.

I find "I ticked off the mafia" more interesting when the character *actually* ticked off the mafia during the game. But, again, they're different playstyles. Backstory != roleplaying. It's a useful tool in the roleplaying arsenal, sure, but it isn't the only one. What the character does *now* is more interesting to me from a roleplaying standpoint.

FuzzyDice
2010-11-11, 04:53 PM
When I was a young teen I needed a forgiving DM because all I wanted to do was be badass and collect loot.

A few years later I started gaming with a brutal DM. It was a meat grinder at the start. Many players quit. Those that remained were committed to surviving this brutal environment. Power gaming was needed for a PC to be useful, team work was essential or everyone could die. Stealth and ambush were the rule.

I have never seen a more committed, united group of players. We needed each other to survive. All the selfish, disruptive people had left.

So yeah, as an adult, with adult expectations, I want a brutal DM.

Saph
2010-11-11, 05:11 PM
There are, in most games, the opportunity to stand up for what you believe in against odds you probably won't survive, and those moments are (or at least can be) awesome whether you do or not. Those moments happen both in brutal and forgiving games, and I highly advocate them.

Ah, we're probably not all that much in disagreement, then. I'm fine with the PCs having the odds in their favour - what's important to me is that their decisions have to matter. And if they're taking a decision which involves life-or-death outcomes, then death ought to be a possible (but avoidable) result.


The player, however, knows that acting in a classic badass way will not instantly cause him to miss the remainder of this session and a big chunk of the next making a new character and backstory, and waiting for the GM to be able to find/contrive a decent point to drop him - so he's more willing to try the crazy cool plans.

Honestly, "daring" and "badass" and "cool" things that are only done because the player knows that they've got a character shield and isn't in any actual danger don't impress me very much.

Drascin
2010-11-11, 05:15 PM
That's beyond "brutal". Going into a relatively decently matched fight (meaning, you expect the players to win), you should have enough leeway to escape if things take a bad turn. Not every decision should be an "all-in" decision - that's just poor DMing. Escape should almost always be a viable opportunity - if the characters decide to take it.

OTOH, angering an ancient dragon at 1st level? Yeah, roll up a new character.

Thing is, it's more than evenly matched - it was in our favor, technically. As I said, we were good planners, devious in fact, which is where that 80% success chance came from - things were usually mapped, and everyone (even the fighters and wizards) had topped Spot and Hide to get that ambush round, and we had buffs out of the ass, and everyone had some good consumables on hand - with all that the 50/50 encounter would turn into something more like 80/20. But... 80% success rate still means 20% chance of failure - with failure meaning at least one character splatted with no rez. 20% chance of End of Story for at least one person was entirely too high a chance for us, since this was the first time we had really got ahold of this "roleplaying" thing instead of just playing killanlootan, and all ended up liking each other's PCs - but we knew what the standard attrition rate was if you kicked the doors down, from the previous games where our characters didn't even have a name. So we couldn't kick down the door - we needed more data, more advantages, more things - some way to truly gank everything like it had never been ganked before.

In the end, this made it so we never did accomplish much before the campaign kind of petered out.

And that, and campaigns like that, is the reason I, to this day, still have to fight off my paranoid side (that screams WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU STUPID WHY WOULD YOU NOT MAXIMIZE YOUR WILL SAVE AND OH GOD IS THAT A LOST CASTER LEVEL I AM GOING TO DIE SO HORRIBLY and things like that whenever I look at my current sheets) every time I make a character :smalltongue:.

No, give me lenient GMs every time. At least with them I can make moderately silly or pacifistic characters and not feel like I'm killing my party.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 05:16 PM
So yeah, as an adult, with adult expectations, I want a brutal DM.

Complete opposite here. As a kid, I looked at roleplaying more like a video or board game, where you kill monsters and gather treasure and magic items - if you die, tough luck, it's frustrating but happens. As I matured, I started to care more and more about the story and character interaction - my characters started to have actual personalities instead of being defined by their class. Something like that is impossible to do when you can die due to bad luck and go through characters quickly.



Honestly, "daring" and "badass" and "cool" things that are only done because the player knows that they've got a character shield and isn't in any actual danger don't impress me very much.

He didn't say that. The way I understand it, Drascin said that the player knows the DM is not thinking "this guy is not being an overly cautious coward who always takes the least risk route? What a fool! Dice, do your duty!", so this encourages him to do something more risky. He still can fail, it just won't be the end to everything if he does.

Coidzor
2010-11-11, 05:17 PM
Ah, we're probably not all that much in disagreement, then. I'm fine with the PCs having the odds in their favour - what's important to me is that their decisions have to matter. And if they're taking a decision which involves life-or-death outcomes, then death ought to be a possible (but avoidable) result.

Well, that's not exactly brutal, then, now is it? Or necessarily forgiving, either.

As stated earlier, kinda meaningless without common definition given for us to use to at least have contention over.

Saph
2010-11-11, 05:27 PM
Well, that's not exactly brutal, then, now is it?

*shrug* Well, I don't know which definitions you're using, but I'm pretty sure my way of running a game (as I described in this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=9743414&postcount=77) post) would put me in the 'brutal' camp by the standards of most of the posters in this thread.

Coidzor
2010-11-11, 05:29 PM
*shrug* Well, I don't know which definitions you're using, but I'm pretty sure my way of running a game (as I described in this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=9743414&postcount=77) post) would put me in the 'brutal' camp by the standards of most of the posters in this thread.

Mildly. They died after the party split and the game ended after all, rather than in the middle of the game in a way that's disruptive to play.

Synapse
2010-11-11, 05:33 PM
Honestly, "daring" and "badass" and "cool" things that are only done because the player knows that they've got a character shield and isn't in any actual danger don't impress me very much.

Sometimes my group's characters get involved in fights we know we outmatch. When this happens and we are in a playful mood, we start pulling stunts.

"Character shield" would imply reliance on plot armor to be suicidal in front of a credible threat. "Daring" and "Badass" that sprouts from credible threats tend to be unreliable. About half of our "badass" stunts against credible threats tend to go wrong, many of them deadly if the flunk put us in a compromised position.
It never stopped our daring characters to berate dragons, but we had our heads bitten off quite often because of that. It's the successes that count! :D

Drascin
2010-11-11, 05:35 PM
He didn't say that. The way I understand it, Drascin said that the player knows the DM is not thinking "this guy is not being an overly cautious coward who always takes the least risk route? What a fool! Dice, do your duty!", so this encourages him to do something more risky. He still can fail, it just won't be the end to everything if he does.

This is pretty much correct. I actually end up failing more with lenient DMs than the Brutal ones - because with the Brutal ones, we took a square hour and a half planning for everything (I should see if I can find some of our old planning sheets and scan it) while with the Lenient ones I just say screw it and charge forward. This ends with me winning about as often as it ends with me unconscious and waking up to the smoking ruins of whatever it was I was trying to protect, but it does make for a lot more awesome scenes :smalltongue:.

EDIT:

*shrug* Well, I don't know which definitions you're using, but I'm pretty sure my way of running a game (as I described in this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=9743414&postcount=77) post) would put me in the 'brutal' camp by the standards of most of the posters in this thread.

For the record - not really, no. I would have done something similar (with more warning, though. "Dude, you sure? It's a goddamn dragon, you have absolutely no chance to escape unless you change planes of existence". If they continue after that, heck, I literally asked them if they wanted to commit suicide and they said yes), and I'm basically the reigning king of carebears. Without the extreemly explicit warning, that's a bit harsh at most :smalltongue:.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 05:41 PM
Complete opposite here. As a kid, I looked at roleplaying more like a video or board game, where you kill monsters and gather treasure and magic items - if you die, tough luck, it's frustrating but happens. As I matured, I started to care more and more about the story and character interaction - my characters started to have actual personalities instead of being defined by their class. Something like that is impossible to do when you can die due to bad luck and go through characters quickly.
Something like that is even more difficult when you have nothing to lose. No risk, no reward. That's how I feel about things.

If my character can do more and more over the top, ludicrous stunts, and never get killed, I'm not going to feel like a badass. I'm going to feel like I'm wrapped in padding and can't hurt myself. Go sit at the back of the class and take out a circle of paper and the safety scissors, Big Dice.

Picture this. Climbing onto the dragon's head because it's fiery breath singed all my awesome Elven hair off, then me killing it several hundred feet in the air while dragon surfing and hacking with my sword is an awesome thing. Casting Slowfall as the thing dies and floating gently to the ground as the body crashes to earth is even more awesome.

But failing the casting roll by 1, then failing it again when the GM gives you a second chance to cast the spell before going splat makes for a far more heroic moment in my opinion.

And yes, that has happened to me. Exactly as described and I think the fact that the elf died made it far more memorable than if he'd lived.

And the fact that I stood to lose as well as gain made the encounter all the more rewarding.

Saph
2010-11-11, 05:42 PM
It does depend on style of game. My personal way of measuring it is that the more a game revolves around combat (not fights - there's a difference) the more brutal the game should be.

I've DMed games where it was virtually impossible for the PCs to die. Unless the characters quite literally committed suicide, there was no way for them to end up dead. And this was fine, because their adversaries weren't ending up dead either. It wasn't that kind of story.

On the other hand, if the games involve regular combats to the death, then it really strains credibility to keep fudging. If the PCs are seriously trying to kill the NPCs, then the NPCs should be seriously trying to kill the PCs back. Yes, that means PCs are going to die - but if you aren't willing to have characters die, you shouldn't be getting involved in combat in the first place!

Coidzor
2010-11-11, 05:43 PM
Something like that is even more difficult when you have nothing to lose. No risk, no reward. That's how I feel about things.

Risk != Brutal. Forgiving != lack of risk.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 05:43 PM
On the other hand, if the games involve regular combats to the death, then it really strains credibility to keep fudging. If the PCs are seriously trying to kill the NPCs, then the NPCs should be seriously trying to kill the PCs back. Yes, that means PCs are going to die - but if you aren't willing to have characters die, you shouldn't be getting involved in combat in the first place!
This is a common fault in the logic of most roleplayers. They want to fight, but they don't want to lose. And that inevitably leads to what I call the "gimme" GM.

That is, the kind of GM who won't kill characters and nor will he allow the players to fail in their plans. Sure, they might miss an attack or fail a Hide check or whatever in the short term. But in the long term, the PCs, like the characters of the old He-Man cartoon, are on a relentless and unstoppable march to victory.

To which I say, how do you make a spectacular comeback if you never lose? How do you make a daring escape if you never get captured and how do you have awesome chase scenes if you never run away?

Risk != Brutal.

If you can't die, where's the risk?

Synapse
2010-11-11, 05:44 PM
Risk != Brutal. Forgiving != lack of risk.

Then what is being defined as brutality here? The pressure of the blood coming out of the amputated stumps? I read the op's question mostly behind the idea of how heavy the consequences of mistakes are in our preferences. Namely the risk of dieing.

Coidzor
2010-11-11, 05:45 PM
If you can't die, where's the risk?

Forgiving != can't die. This argument came up, but since we have no consensus about what forgiving actually means, you also can't say that all forgiving DMs run games where you can't die.


Then what is being defined as brutality here? The pressure of the blood coming out of the amputated stumps? I read the op's question mostly behind the idea of how heavy the consequences of mistakes are in our preferences. Namely the risk of dieing.

The OP also admitted that he was oversimplifying the dichotomy.

I'm pointing out that one doesn't have to sit at either pole.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 05:47 PM
But failing the casting roll by 1, then failing it again when the GM gives you a second chance to cast the spell before going splat makes for a far more heroic moment in my opinion.


You're talking about a heroic, end of campaign battle here. Replace the dragon with a generic orc met in a random encounter, and replace failing to cast the spell and going splat with the orc one-shotting you with a lucky crit. Still heroic? Feels more like a cop-out to me.

And even in your example I'd probably feel more satisfied if the character survived.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 05:49 PM
You're talking about a heroic, end of campaign battle here. Replace the dragon with a generic orc met in a random encounter, and replace failing to cast the spell and going splat with the orc one-shotting you with a lucky crit. Still heroic? Feels more like a cop-out to me.

And even in your example I'd probably feel more satisfied if the character survived.

That wasn't an end of campaign battle. We'd decided to go dragon hunting, as we all felt particularly buff by that stage of the game. And if you can one shot the orc with a lucky crit, why is it unfair if the opposite is also true?

Synapse
2010-11-11, 05:56 PM
You're talking about a heroic, end of campaign battle here. Replace the dragon with a generic orc met in a random encounter, and replace failing to cast the spell and going splat with the orc one-shotting you with a lucky crit. Still heroic? Feels more like a cop-out to me.

And even in your example I'd probably feel more satisfied if the character survived.
The tension is where it's at!

And on your sample "random orc critted, splat sir"... D&D melee is deadly for low levels. Crit multipliers are nasty and even a fully armored fighter or barbarian can die in one hit at the levels melee has some prevalence. It's part of the system you agreed to play.

Personally if mooks have to be cheated our of their crits and SoD spells because "It'd suck if someone died right now", I'd feel cheated out of the system's premise.

Coidzor
2010-11-11, 05:56 PM
But failing the casting roll by 1, then failing it again when the GM gives you a second chance to cast the spell before going splat makes for a far more heroic moment in my opinion.

And being given a second chance on a failed roll isn't forgiving? :smallconfused:

Synapse
2010-11-11, 05:57 PM
And being given a second chance on a failed roll isn't forgiving? :smallconfused:

Not if it was allowed because they were falling from a high enough altitude?

Drascin
2010-11-11, 06:00 PM
That wasn't an end of campaign battle. We'd decided to go dragon hunting, as we all felt particularly buff by that stage of the game. And if you can one shot the orc with a lucky crit, why is it unfair if the opposite is also true?

Oh, it isn't unfair at all. It's perfectly, absolutely fair and verisimile.

Thing is, sometimes fairness, like realistic wound consequences (you know, lifethreatening infections and such), doesn't make for very encouraging gameplay. For one, the NPC orc doesn't have to spend the next three hours making a character while everyone else plays, but we do :smalltongue:. Or at least to some of us - I understand you prefer less cinematics and more verisimilitude in your game, though. Which, in all honesty, makes our viewpoints nigh-irreconcilable, as I'm the exact reverse, I'm afraid.

Synapse
2010-11-11, 06:03 PM
Oh, it isn't unfair at all. It's perfectly, absolutely fair and verisimile.

Thing is, sometimes fairness, like realistic wound consequences (you know, lifethreatening infections and such), doesn't make for very encouraging gameplay. For one, the NPC orc doesn't have to spend the next three hours making a character while everyone else plays, but we do :smalltongue:.

And that's why you think twice before charging into melee! Defensible positions, higher ground, group tactics and the like really shine when your characters actually need it to defeat deadly combat. It also makes the reckless moments more remarkable because either it was very stupid(wtf did he do that), noble(stab me what you will, no one touches the kid) or very badass(but how did you survive THAT).

Drascin
2010-11-11, 06:04 PM
And that's why you think twice before charging into melee! Defensible positions, higher ground, group tactics and the like really shine when your characters actually need it to defeat deadly combat. It also makes the reckless moments more remarkable because either it was very stupid(wtf did he do that), noble(stab me what you will, no one touches the kid) or very badass(but how did you survive THAT).

Or you simply don't charge into melee, which is normally more advisable. You wouldn't have caught me dead (pun unintended) playing a meleer with my old DMs, that I can tell you :smalltongue:.

Rasman
2010-11-11, 06:08 PM
my personal favorite type of DM is one that is challenging and really makes you work and isn't afraid to kill you, but dishes out the just rewards and lets you live out those power fantasies JUST a little bit, because your big bads should BIG and BAD and your choads should be smack and dead.

Coidzor
2010-11-11, 06:08 PM
Not if it was allowed because they were falling from a high enough altitude?

Then it's not worth mentioning as the GM giving a second chance then if it's justified as a second action being taken rather than a reroll. :smallconfused:

Synapse
2010-11-11, 06:10 PM
XD yes. I suppose it's the upbringing we have as we play. I find combat much more interesting when my characters are smart and pragmatic about it. Why cast a fireball into the other room when you can throw smoke, attack from the hallway and have your rogue sneak to the other side while your casters and archers punt them? Why cast glitterdust when you can instead use Dominate on an enemy caster and have he do the job for you? And if you are going to be "reckless like a badass should be", the risk have to be there or you aren't being reckless like a badass...you're just being hyperactive.


Then it's not worth mentioning as the GM giving a second chance then if it's justified as a second action being taken rather than a reroll. :smallconfused:

Conceded. In the context of showing the dm was letting the consequences occur naturally I believe it is my explanation rather than yours. Let dice say what happened there instead.

FuzzyDice
2010-11-11, 06:14 PM
[QUOTE=Tengu_temp;9745008]Complete opposite here. As a kid, I looked at roleplaying more like a video or board game, where you kill monsters and gather treasure and magic items - if you die, tough luck, it's frustrating but happens. As I matured, I started to care more and more about the story and character interaction - my characters started to have actual personalities instead of being defined by their class. Something like that is impossible to do when you can die due to bad luck and go through characters quickly.

There is lots of character development in a brutal campaign. Once you learn a few simple rules. Always travel invisible and under misdirection. Always flee from first contact. Always scout your opponents improved invisible (so int 20 NPCís and monsters canít see you), flying and wraith formed. ALWAYS buff up then ambush. Always flee if you arenít ambushing. Stay away from civilization (Dark Sun campaign, cities mean Templars. Templars mean unrelenting pursuit of revenge). Kill elves on sight. Maintain multiple bolt holes. Always keep spells or abilities in reserve to flee. Always remember, if you arenít winning combat youíre losing.
Once you learn to survive you can develop other goals. Ours was to weaken our enemies and to escape the reach of the Sorcerer Kings. Carve ourselves a slice.
We were generally good aligned and our experiences in this environment made us hard, cynical and brutal. But we never gave up hope.
We only preyed on the predators. We gave what we could spare to those isolated enough that our enemies would never find them. We disguised our altruism as selfishness as much as we could so we wouldnít draw attention to our selves.
Every decision had consequences. I loved it. Lots of character development, usually based on broken dreams and failure. But always there was the understanding that while you live, there is still hope.

Thrawn183
2010-11-11, 06:14 PM
I've found that the more rail-roaded the plot, the more brutal I prefer things. I can handle a pretty dang forgiving DM in fairly sand-boxy setting.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 06:43 PM
That wasn't an end of campaign battle. We'd decided to go dragon hunting, as we all felt particularly buff by that stage of the game.

Ah, thanks for clarifying. Let me correct myself then - yes, that death would feel like a cheap, anticlimatic cop-out to me.


And if you can one shot the orc with a lucky crit, why is it unfair if the opposite is also true?

Because the orc is a lowly mook, not the main character of the story. His death is a given, my death should be something special.


The tension is where it's at!

There's no tension in dying for the nth time because of bad luck or one small mistake. Just boredom.


And on your sample "random orc critted, splat sir"... D&D melee is deadly for low levels. Crit multipliers are nasty and even a fully armored fighter or barbarian can die in one hit at the levels melee has some prevalence. It's part of the system you agreed to play.

Why do you assume I'm a DND player? I never played third edition in my life. There are many more RPGs out there.



There is lots of character development in a brutal campaign. Once you learn a few simple rules.

Those aren't simple rules. It's taking a crapload of precautions, being extremely careful and needing to have certain characters in your group and using specific tactics, just to survive. Not everyone enjoys that. On a sidenote, a lot of this is DND-specific while we're talking about RPGs in general.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 07:06 PM
Ah, thanks for clarifying. Let me correct myself then - yes, that death would feel like a cheap, anticlimatic cop-out to me.
You weren't there. To me, and to everyone else at the table, it was a combination of epic Elf Rage (That dragon ruined my hair!) and comedy. I have no regrets about that character dying, and several years later it still gets mentioned by people in my gaming group as one of the better character deaths they've seen.


Because the orc is a lowly mook, not the main character of the story. His death is a given, my death should be something special.
Why should the orc's death be a given? I can't accept that every other thing you get into a fight with should fight to lose. Because if that's the case, I'm not winning fights. It's as rigged as wrestling and that's no fun. Victory is being handed no me, not earned by me.

How are you going to have a great victory if you can't have a crushing defeat? How can you claim you really won that fight against the orc? Who incidentally could have been a hero to his tribe, not just some random mook.


There's no tension in dying for the nth time because of bad luck or one small mistake. Just boredom.
If your characters keep dying for the same reasons, perhaps it's worth examining the pattern. It could be a GM thing, it could be a conflict of play styles between you and the rest of the group, or it could be one of a hundred other possibilities.

Mostly though, I tend to run things along the lines of "live by the sword, die by the sword."

In other words, if you get into fights all the time, eventually you're going to get into the fight you can't win. Pick your moments, fight smart and don't expect things to always go your way.


Why do you assume I'm a DND player? I never played third edition in my life. There are many more RPGs out there.
I don't play D&D any more myself. I prefer a game where a guy with a knife doesn't stop being dangerous after a few weeks play. Where a starting character can get lucky and kill a very advanced character and where I can make the character I want within the limits of the setting, rather than always banging my head against the limits of the character design system.

Callista
2010-11-11, 07:08 PM
Because the orc is a lowly mook, not the main character of the story. His death is a given, my death should be something special....you've obviously never played a good low-level campaign. For your first or second level party, orcs are supposed to be a real threat. An army of them is terrifying. A raiding party of orcs is a major challenge. Orcs are low-level mooks only for characters who are already too powerful to care about what happens if the orc crits (or at least powerful enough to kill the orc before he has a chance to get to the squishy spellcasters).

Oh, and if dying to orcs isn't special... I give you exhibit A: Boromir.

Orcs are supposed to be cool and dangerous. They're strong, they're tough, they're brutal, and they keep coming. And you've got your kingdom or your hometown at your back, and you know that if they get through you, they're going to be able to do whatever the heck they want to the vulnerable noncombatants you're trying to protect. How is that not dramatic?

FoE
2010-11-11, 07:34 PM
Oh, and if dying to orcs isn't special... I give you exhibit A: Boromir.

Boromir was felled by the leader of the Uruk-Hai, however. He took plenty of disposable orc mooks with him.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 07:34 PM
You weren't there. To me, and to everyone else at the table, it was a combination of epic Elf Rage (That dragon ruined my hair!) and comedy. I have no regrets about that character dying, and several years later it still gets mentioned by people in my gaming group as one of the better character deaths they've seen.

I'm saying how I'd feel in the situation you described, basing only on the data you provided. Losing a heavily-invested character to a random encounter? Not fun.


Why should the orc's death be a given? I can't accept that every other thing you get into a fight with should fight to lose. Because if that's the case, I'm not winning fights. It's as rigged as wrestling and that's no fun. Victory is being handed no me, not earned by me.

How are you going to have a great victory if you can't have a crushing defeat? How can you claim you really won that fight against the orc? Who incidentally could have been a hero to his tribe, not just some random mook.

I don't put encounters into their game thinking "let's pit these guys against the players and see who wins". I think "let's make it a fun battle for the players". And a lot of these battles were fun, challenging and exciting, even though I put them into the game with the assumption that the players will win. And I don't go easy on them, either - I tend to throw very strong enemies at them, make them face overwhelming odds, and my PCs often get knocked down. But they don't die, they're unconscious or heavily wounded instead. Killing them wouldn't be fun for anyone.
As for the orc, he might be the hero of his tribe, but the PCs are the heroes of the game and its plot. I'm talking from an OOC perspective here.


If your characters keep dying for the same reasons, perhaps it's worth examining the pattern. It could be a GM thing, it could be a conflict of play styles between you and the rest of the group, or it could be one of a hundred other possibilities.

Indeed. Some of those possibilities might not be dependant on the player, for example bad luck or the DM throwing too powerful monsters at the group. And no matter what the reason is, it ends up being frustrating.


...you've obviously never played a good low-level campaign.

Yup. I never played a DND 3.x campaign.


Oh, and if dying to orcs isn't special... I give you exhibit A: Boromir.


Boromir didn't die to a random encounter. He died a plot-important, heroic death. Plus, from an RPG perspective he was obviously an NPC, or a player who had to leave the group for some reason.

In any case, my point wasn't about orcs specifically. Replace the orc with any other low-level mook.

Synapse
2010-11-11, 07:55 PM
Why do you assume I'm a DND player? I never played third edition in my life. There are many more RPGs out there. Eh, it's just a default. When I play gurps or daemon or anything that isn't designed to be silly (note that exalted doesn't escape this if you aren't using perfect defense charms) I find death to come easier than in d&d... Though fistfighting a mecha on foot and surviving due to dodging all attacks was quite the thrill

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 07:57 PM
There's also Mutants and Masterminds. It's hard to get one-shotted, though stunlocks are more common, and downed people are unconscious by default rather than killed.

kyoryu
2010-11-11, 08:09 PM
And on your sample "random orc critted, splat sir"... D&D melee is deadly for low levels. Crit multipliers are nasty and even a fully armored fighter or barbarian can die in one hit at the levels melee has some prevalence. It's part of the system you agreed to play.


Actually, this is one of the areas I think 4e did really well. More hp at low levels, combined with the fact that crits now only do max damage, not double/triple damage, makes it a lot easier (as a DM) to put characters at risk while minimizing the "one-hit-splat" potential.


Complete opposite here. As a kid, I looked at roleplaying more like a video or board game, where you kill monsters and gather treasure and magic items - if you die, tough luck, it's frustrating but happens. As I matured, I started to care more and more about the story and character interaction - my characters started to have actual personalities instead of being defined by their class. Something like that is impossible to do when you can die due to bad luck and go through characters quickly.

Well, it all depends on failure/death rate, obviously. Death should be a possibility, but there should generally be a way to avoid it. PCs should not rely upon plot armor - if they're outmatched, run!

Having NPCs that are so awe-inspiring that they waste the PCs without them even having a chance to run? That's poor DMing.


He didn't say that. The way I understand it, Drascin said that the player knows the DM is not thinking "this guy is not being an overly cautious coward who always takes the least risk route? What a fool! Dice, do your duty!", so this encourages him to do something more risky. He still can fail, it just won't be the end to everything if he does.

Brutal DMing doesn't have to mean 1 bad roll = death.


But... 80% success rate still means 20% chance of failure - with failure meaning at least one character splatted with no rez. 20% chance of End of Story for at least one person was entirely too high a chance for us

Why are the only options success or at least one death?


since this was the first time we had really got ahold of this "roleplaying" thing instead of just playing killanlootan, and all ended up liking each other's PCs - but we knew what the standard attrition rate was if you kicked the doors down, from the previous games where our characters didn't even have a name.

"Standard attrition rate"? Sounds like you had a pretty crappy DM. Enemies are not automatically alerted to your presence constantly. They are not hyper-aware. They should be fallible, and react appropriately.

And if the DM says "hey, you have to go through this door", and then kills you for doing so, shame on him.


No, give me lenient GMs every time. At least with them I can make moderately silly or pacifistic characters and not feel like I'm killing my party.

Why would a pacifist go adventuring? It doesn't make sense. It's like playing a space exploration game, and having a character that just wants to sit at home and knit. It's the polar opposite.

"Brutal" doesn't have to mean that the DM is out actively to screw the players at every chance. More typically it would mean that the DM will allow the players to do, and that they don't have plot armor. It sounds like, more than anything, you had a bad DM.

FoE
2010-11-11, 08:20 PM
Why should the orc's death be a given? I can't accept that every other thing you get into a fight with should fight to lose. Because if that's the case, I'm not winning fights. It's as rigged as wrestling and that's no fun.

I don't necessarily feel a sense of accomplishment after a particularly tough fight, unless it was a high-stakes battle against a boss or something along those lines.

I play D&D to feel heroic, and I don't feel particularly heroic if my life is on the line in every confrontation.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 08:24 PM
"Brutal" doesn't have to mean that the DM is out actively to screw the players at every chance. More typically it would mean that the DM will allow the players to do, and that they don't have plot armor. It sounds like, more than anything, you had a bad DM.

The problem here is that different people here have different definitions of "brutal" and "forgiving". And in most cases the definition of their preferred style is more favorable and generous, while the definition of the other one less so.

dsmiles
2010-11-11, 08:31 PM
I don't necessarily feel a sense of accomplishment after a particularly tough fight, unless it was a high-stakes battle against a boss or something along those lines.

I play D&D to feel heroic, and I don't feel particularly heroic if my life is on the line in every confrontation.

Nor do I.

Forgiving =/= pushover. IMO, forgiving = no random character deaths. Honestly, how would you like it if your character was killed in the DnD equivalent of a drive-by shooting? I bet you get a whole lot of character development out of that. The PCs are the main characters of that particular story, and their deaths should mean something to the story. Something other than, "Life sucks, wear a helmet."
Yeah, sure, you're going to suffer the consequences of your actions, but your deaths should be pretty special. PC deaths should be more than, "Okay, in this scene, the Orc drives by and sprays bullets out his window, killing PC #3." That's not special, nor is is particularly plot-tastic. That's a random, craptacular death that does not advance the story in any way, shape, or form. And that's just plain dull.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-11, 08:35 PM
Nor do I.

Forgiving =/= pushover. IMO, forgiving = no random character deaths. Honestly, how would you like it if your character was killed in the DnD equivalent of a drive-by shooting? I bet you get a whole lot of character development out of that. The PCs are the main characters of that particular story, and their deaths should mean something to the story. Something other than, "Life sucks, wear a helmet."
Yeah, sure, you're going to suffer the consequences of your actions, but your deaths should be pretty special. PC deaths should be more than, "Okay, in this scene, the Orc drives by and sprays bullets out his window, killing PC #3." That's not special, nor is is particularly plot-tastic. That's a random, craptacular death that does not advance the story in any way, shape, or form. And that's just plain dull.

I agree wholeheartedly. I was lucky my DM was forgiving enough to allow me means of regaining negative levels from dying, since none of us had ressurection spells and instead of using EXP we simply levelled up at the end of each session, so if you missed a session you simply had to deal with the fact that you were lower-levelled than the rest of the party, and if you died during the session, you also didn't level up. If the DM hadn't done things like have angels descend from Heaven to personally resurrect my paladin, I never would have had enough ECL to open the Reliquary he'd given me (Technically only a level 20 character was supposed to be able to open it, but since I'd gotten a late start and tended to get unlucky rolls, he let me open it at level 15).

Surrealistik
2010-11-11, 08:44 PM
Fair but brutal.

nihilism
2010-11-11, 09:14 PM
The best dms are those that do not feel limited, they understand that they're role is to create an incredible experience regardless of rules. they forge a story and are never afraid to forge that story regardless of what anyone says. These are the dms people get mad at, players (including me) rage when the dm forbids the easy solution, or when he doesn't give the player the loot they want. Often times people see the dm as a guy who builds a playground for the player's in a dull world of numbers, stats, xp and currency. They want to go down the plastic slide and come out a wealthy level 20 with no name. i have been pressured by players and have myself pressured dms for wealth, levels and a general easy time. but isn't a story worth more than a number on a piece of paper? Sure players may be pissed off for a while but soon they understand that their role in the game is more than puppets on rails and then they appreciate the harsh dm, take up the hammer and forge they're characters place in the story themselves.

It isn't about the destination, its about the journey.

The Big Dice
2010-11-11, 10:04 PM
I don't put encounters into their game thinking "let's pit these guys against the players and see who wins". I think "let's make it a fun battle for the players". And a lot of these battles were fun, challenging and exciting, even though I put them into the game with the assumption that the players will win. And I don't go easy on them, either - I tend to throw very strong enemies at them, make them face overwhelming odds, and my PCs often get knocked down. But they don't die, they're unconscious or heavily wounded instead. Killing them wouldn't be fun for anyone.
If they don't die, how are they in any danger? If you know without doubt, and believe me, players pick up on this kind of thing very quickly, that you're not in any danger of death then you stop caring about your character. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that arranging things so that your PCs can't die in a potentially deadly situation is the most egregious form of cheating that there is in RPGs.

As for the orc, he might be the hero of his tribe, but the PCs are the heroes of the game and its plot. I'm talking from an OOC perspective here.
This is something I cite fairly often in these kind of discussions. The Die Hard movies. Particularly the first one.

Think about John Maclane, battered and bloody. Feet cut to ribbons and beaten to within an inch of his life, having just saved the day in a crazy situation that almost saw him dead multiple times. But he lived!

That's what players want from RPG sessions. They want to be battered and bloody at the end of the adventure, but standing victorious. Having had to work hard for their victory, and felt that there was a very real chance that they might not have made it.

The problem is, certain games that have their roots in wargaming have given rise to the assumption that combat is the be all and end all, only way to resolve a situation. That PCs must by definition be violent tramps that would sooner spend more money than a village will make in a decade on a pair of boots than on somewhere to live.

But it doesn't have to be like that, fights should happen for a reason that drives the plot forwards. And the plot, while centered on the actions of the PCs, shouldn't be exclusively about them.

Boromir didn't die to a random encounter. He died a plot-important, heroic death. Plus, from an RPG perspective he was obviously an NPC, or a player who had to leave the group for some reason.

In any case, my point wasn't about orcs specifically. Replace the orc with any other low-level mook.
Boromir died off screen, if you remember the books rather than the movie. That gap between the end of the Fellowship and the beginning of The Two Towers that makes for such a great ending to the first movie isn't in the books at all.

I'd say Boromir's death is the very definition of killed by mooks. Especially as the sole reason for the Lurtz character at the end of the movie was to give Aragorn someone to fight in a climactic duel. He didn't even exist in the books.

And given that Tolkien wrote LotR on the fly, with no real concept of where he was going or how he was going to get there, Boromir's death is kind of pointless. Which is right, as Tolkien had seen pointless death on an inconceivable scale at the Somne.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-11, 10:26 PM
If they don't die, how are they in any danger? If you know without doubt, and believe me, players pick up on this kind of thing very quickly, that you're not in any danger of death then you stop caring about your character. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that arranging things so that your PCs can't die in a potentially deadly situation is the most egregious form of cheating that there is in RPGs.

My experience does not compare to yours. I could tell all my players outright that their characters will die only if they do something ridiculously stupid and suicidal. I don't think if anyone will mind. I don't think if anyone will stop enjoying the game as much as they do now, or stop caring about their characters.


This is something I cite fairly often in these kind of discussions. The Die Hard movies. Particularly the first one.

Think about John Maclane, battered and bloody. Feet cut to ribbons and beaten to within an inch of his life, having just saved the day in a crazy situation that almost saw him dead multiple times. But he lived!

That's what players want from RPG sessions. They want to be battered and bloody at the end of the adventure, but standing victorious. Having had to work hard for their victory, and felt that there was a very real chance that they might not have made it.

You can give your players this feeling without ever intending to kill them. It's just a matter of how good your ability to DM an awesome game is.


Boromir died off screen, if you remember the books rather than the movie. That gap between the end of the Fellowship and the beginning of The Two Towers that makes for such a great ending to the first movie isn't in the books at all.

That's true - it also makes his death feel more pointless in the book, a life wasted for nothing. Not the way a player would like his character to go, unless he's leaving the group anyway. It's still a plot-important death though, as shown later.

FuzzyDice
2010-11-11, 10:50 PM
I'm enjoying this thread. I think a point worth making is that this is about what YOU prefer. I loved playing a super hard campaign more than anything previously. But for me, for years, roleplaying was about catching up with my mates every week, swapping stories, and kicking ass.
I love the social aspect of roleplaying most of all.

Drascin
2010-11-12, 12:47 AM
Why are the only options success or at least one death?

Because the chance of running, generally speaking, is abysmal unless the DM specifically lets you run away in defiance of that verisimilitude he adheres to so much. Most RPGs don't really favor the ability to get unstuck and run away. Fights are until someone dies, is knocked out, or surrenders. Or rather, usually there's at least one member of the group that is really hard to evacuate unless the GM is magnanimous - which, as we've established, he isn't, because he wants things to be fair, so he uses the same tactics PCs use to avoid enemies getting away.

Wizards can almost always teleport out. But that guy in melee? Chances are he got surrounded two rounds in.


And if the DM says "hey, you have to go through this door", and then kills you for doing so, shame on him.

Most DMs of this type would probably just say something like "But the trap was already there. It's a perfectly logical place to put one. I'm not going to give you a plot shield just because the rogue failed her Search check". And it'd be fair, and make sense. It'd just be unsatisfactory.


Why would a pacifist go adventuring? It doesn't make sense. It's like playing a space exploration game, and having a character that just wants to sit at home and knit. It's the polar opposite.

Because of a myriad of reasons. It's a character that wants to protect something, but hates killing unnecessarily. It's a character that would indeed rather be at home, but circumstances said nope. But in a really dangerous campaign, anything less than "cutthroat, willing to do almost anything" usually means "you just doomed the whole party for your silly RP scruples. I hope you're proud". It'd be like making the classic ass character that PvPs at the drop of a hat.

For example, Tengu here was my GM for a M&M game. There, I made a friendly, if awkward, magi-engineer that only really used nondamaging spells, because the idea of killing someone accidentally horrified her. She was protecting people, not being a butcher. But I'd have never even thought of making a character like that in a brutal campaign.

When failure is not only possible, but very likely, to mean death, increasing the chance of failure just because of RP reasons (such as "my character is not willing to cut someone's throat while he sleeps") would be being kind of an ******* to your fellow players.


"Brutal" doesn't have to mean that the DM is out actively to screw the players at every chance. More typically it would mean that the DM will allow the players to do, and that they don't have plot armor. It sounds like, more than anything, you had a bad DM.

Not one - more like half a dozen. And it's still the preferred DMing style around my area - I'm the oddity, in that I have expressed a will to keep the characters alive unless they do something massively suicidal. Most GMs are of the "Dice fall where they may" type - there's a pit trap, you didn't see it, well, sucks to be you, so how's your Swim skill, mr Full-Plate Fighter?

It takes a lot of work to condition someone around here to be able to play Mutants&Masterminds without buying full saves against everything and the most powerful powers in the book, let me tell you. I've had to bop people in the head with the book a couple times :smalltongue:.

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 12:54 AM
Most DMs of this type would probably just say something like "But the trap was already there. It's a perfectly logical place to put one. I'm not going to give you a plot shield just because the rogue failed her Search check". And it'd be fair, and make sense. It'd just be unsatisfactory.

Yeah, that's BS. You give the players choice. If they have to go through a door, you don't say "roll for spot checks" and then kill them if they fail. That's just poor gaming.

If that's the dominant style in your area, I'm very sorry.

Totally Guy
2010-11-12, 06:35 AM
If you can't die, where's the risk?

It's not just about challenging a character's build with death on the line. It's about putting things they care about at risk.

When I run a game most of the time death is not on the line. What is constantly on the line is a cause they fight for, an NPC they care about or a fundamental ideal to the players character concept. Some players hate to be changed in a way they weren't expecting even more than death.

This stake setting includes situations like combat, I'll state "failure in this combat situation will result in a wound determined by the action/dice and you'll also be knocked out and Polly will be abducted by the assailant" and the player will suggest what'll happen should he succeed.

But we love that style of game when the characters get conflicted and broken. We're explicit about what we care about so everyone can interact with and the GM can threaten those things.

When death is an appropriate stake we don't hold back. Generally death is reserved for contact with a main antagonist or climactic situation.

Synapse
2010-11-12, 06:53 AM
Yeah, that's BS. You give the players choice. If they have to go through a door, you don't say "roll for spot checks" and then kill them if they fail. That's just poor gaming.

If that's the dominant style in your area, I'm very sorry.
Huh? Your players failing to detect danger in a place they know to be dangerous and suffer the consequences is "poor gaming"? Should the random encounters carry nerf weapons too?

khylis
2010-11-12, 07:32 AM
Nerf weapons, with 3 kinds of deadly contact poison Muhahaha!

Anywho, back to the topic,
I like a DM who creates an entire world, gives us challenges, and grins at us evilly every now and then when our characters* do something stupid.
But yes, I have an amazing DM; and my friends seem to enjoy the games I DM too - so it's working out rather well.

*Note: our characters, methinks we take roleplaying a bit too seriously.

The Big Dice
2010-11-12, 11:08 AM
Most GMs are of the "Dice fall where they may" type - there's a pit trap, you didn't see it, well, sucks to be you, so how's your Swim skill, mr Full-Plate Fighter?
And I'm willing to bet that the same people who are so callous about other people's characters are the first to complain if they feel they are being victimised or picked on when they aren't behind the GM screen...


It's not just about challenging a character's build with death on the line. It's about putting things they care about at risk.
First off, I hate the term "build' because that demeans a character. It turns a pretend person in a fictional environment into nothing more than an equation to reduce one variable to -10 in other equations. I never even think in terms of build once a character is in play.

Second, the thing players care about most is their character. Putting the character on the line should be part of getting into a fight where people are trying to kill each other. After all, that troll has a mother that's never going to see him again after the PCs are done burning his body. And the mook orc might well have children who are going to ask when daddy will be coming back to the cave.

Treating enemies as faceless mooks that are spawned out of thin air and who are born to be killed at the hands of the PCs doesn't do much for the verisimilitude of the world the PCs live in.


When I run a game most of the time death is not on the line. What is constantly on the line is a cause they fight for, an NPC they care about or a fundamental ideal to the players character concept. Some players hate to be changed in a way they weren't expecting even more than death.

This stake setting includes situations like combat, I'll state "failure in this combat situation will result in a wound determined by the action/dice and you'll also be knocked out and Polly will be abducted by the assailant" and the player will suggest what'll happen should he succeed.
Nothing makes players more angry than having a character who could have been killed instead be maimed. Losing a hand ends the career of most characters. Certainly, if a character of mine was injured in a permanent way, bearing in mind that I don't play "poof you're dead, poof you're healed" games anymore, I'd certainly retire him. He'd certainly be financially better off than some veteran of a Napoleonic battlefield who had lost a leg.


But we love that style of game when the characters get conflicted and broken. We're explicit about what we care about so everyone can interact with and the GM can threaten those things.
In the real world, horrible things can happen to good people for reasons completely out of their control.

While getting crippled in a random traffic incident might not be what players have in mind, they should certainly understand that if they get into fights there is a chance of getting hurt or even killed.

When death is an appropriate stake we don't hold back. Generally death is reserved for contact with a main antagonist or climactic situation.
Any time weapons are drawn, death should be a possibility.

Totally Guy
2010-11-12, 11:54 AM
First off, I hate the term "build' because that demeans a character. It turns a pretend person in a fictional environment into nothing more than an equation to reduce one variable to -10 in other equations. I never even think in terms of build once a character is in play.

Second, the thing players care about most is their character. Putting the character on the line should be part of getting into a fight where people are trying to kill each other. After all, that troll has a mother that's never going to see him again after the PCs are done burning his body. And the mook orc might well have children who are going to ask when daddy will be coming back to the cave.

Treating enemies as faceless mooks that are spawned out of thin air and who are born to be killed at the hands of the PCs doesn't do much for the verisimilitude of the world the PCs live in.

Absolutely! Character are more than simply builds. They have goals and beliefs for the GM to target and threaten.


Nothing makes players more angry than having a character who could have been killed instead be maimed. Losing a hand ends the career of most characters. Certainly, if a character of mine was injured in a permanent way, bearing in mind that I don't play "poof you're dead, poof you're healed" games anymore, I'd certainly retire him. He'd certainly be financially better off than some veteran of a Napoleonic battlefield who had lost a leg.

Yeah. That'd totally piss me off. The example I gave is more about - Why is the baddie attacking? He's doing it because he wants to kidnap Polly. Why does he want to kidnap her? Because you totally care about what happens to her. Why isn't he killing you? Well he is if he gets enough damage to do that, but if he wins without doing that, that's his screw up and should have done better with the dice. I'm generalising with respect to the mechanics that I game with from a prominent independent system.

I'm not talking about breaking thier bodies with missing limbs. I'm talking about thier hopes and dreams and how I wish to dash them by ruining the component parts they care about.


In the real world, horrible things can happen to good people for reasons completely out of their control.

While getting crippled in a random traffic incident might not be what players have in mind, they should certainly understand that if they get into fights there is a chance of getting hurt or even killed.

While I don't think players should be rolling to cross the road to avoid the random traffic incident I do agree that fights kill people. I want the players think about why they are fighting and have something to fight for that's worth the risk. Choosing whether to engage or not should be an internal struggle every time that choice is ever offered. That internal conflict manifesting itself at the table is such a powerful thing.


Any time weapons are drawn, death should be a possibility.

Awesome.

You know I picked your post because I agree with you for the most part. I thought I'd share a *secret* that you can still have the players in risky situation that don't threaten their lives specifically.

The trick is getting them to tell you what they care about when you're the one that then stamps on those things.

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 12:50 PM
Huh? Your players failing to detect danger in a place they know to be dangerous and suffer the consequences is "poor gaming"? Should the random encounters carry nerf weapons too?

If the DM has railroaded them into going through a certain door, there's an instant death trap, and they don't see it because of a bad roll? Yeah, that's crappy DMing. There is *zero* player choice involved. Rolling dice is not gameplay. Making decisions is.

Random encounters can kill, but that's because, ya know, players can typically choose to engage, not engage, run away, or whatever. The better analogy is the random encounter that kills the whole party before they even get to roll initiative. Again, I find that to be poor DMing.

Synapse
2010-11-12, 12:52 PM
I think the key in your case there is the railroading, not the deathtrap. I also disagree that there was zero chance involved if it was a bad roll that caused the death, instead of "any roll other than a 16+"

Sipex
2010-11-12, 12:54 PM
My belief is that players should be able to make choices which result in death and it's kind of obvious that the risk is present before the choice is made.

I will fudge rolls or numbers though if...say I created a very powerful encounter by accident (ie: Something I intended to be less taxing) or my players seem to not be having fun because the battle has turned into "Whittle away the ineffective monster's HP".

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 01:28 PM
I think the key in your case there is the railroading, not the deathtrap. I also disagree that there was zero chance involved if it was a bad roll that caused the death, instead of "any roll other than a 16+"

Not chance, *choice*. There's a difference.

If the players *choose* to open a door that's in an area likely to be trapped, don't notice any traps, and die due to it, that is their *choice*, and the consequences are on *their* heads. As a DM, it's part of my job to ensure that other choices are available.

If the players have no choice except to open the door, and die due to a single die roll, I have an issue with that.

Is that more clear?

Synapse
2010-11-12, 01:29 PM
Not chance, *choice*. There's a difference.

If the players *choose* to open a door that's in an area likely to be trapped, don't notice any traps, and die due to it, that is their *choice*, and the consequences are on *their* heads. As a DM, it's part of my job to ensure that other choices are available.

If the players have no choice except to open the door, and die due to a single die roll, I have an issue with that.

Is that more clear?And that's exactly why I'm calling you on misaiming your complaint. Your complaint there is railroading, not the general "you kill it you bought it" ruthlessness.

Raum
2010-11-12, 01:46 PM
It's just a matter of how good your ability to DM an awesome game is.As a not so subtle jab, this is lame. As a statement of 'fact', it's trivial to disprove. Not everyone enjoys the same things from a game! That conclusion should be drawn from this thread if it wasn't already.

-----
I'll take that one step further for discussion - variety is what keeps us interested. It's why we don't play tic-tac-toe past a relatively young age. Too much monotony, even in something which may have started out as a favorite, gets boring.

Applying that to GMing, learn more than one way of doing things! Then learn to know your group. After wards, you can move back and forth on the "fluffy bunny to raging bull" spectrum of applying consequences in your game. Whatever makes sense in the group's context.

Coidzor
2010-11-12, 01:48 PM
And that's exactly why I'm calling you on misaiming your complaint. Your complaint there is railroading, not the general "you kill it you bought it" ruthlessness.

Perhaps there is some danger in the two being conflated when observed in the wild.

After all, a DM who is out for blood can very easily railroad the party into situations where they're guaranteed to lose a party member regardless of how well they react tactically simply because the DM can control everything.

So both styles of DM can make an individual's personal choices as a player irrelevant or meaningless. That's why it's not a simple dichotomy of good vs. bad.

Tengu_temp
2010-11-12, 02:23 PM
As a not so subtle jab, this is lame. As a statement of 'fact', it's trivial to disprove. Not everyone enjoys the same things from a game! That conclusion should be drawn from this thread if it wasn't already.

It wasn't a jab, just phrased somewhat unfortunately. I don't see how you disprove it, though: The Big Dice said "to give the players this feeling, you need to be willing to kill the PCs", to which I responded "no, you don't - it all depends on your DMing skill". The fact whether or not everyone will enjoy this never entered the conversation.

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 02:26 PM
And that's exactly why I'm calling you on misaiming your complaint. Your complaint there is railroading, not the general "you kill it you bought it" ruthlessness.

Uh, yeah. Read the thread. I've been arguing in favor of brutal DMing the whole thread. In fact, my point in responding to the whole trapped door thing was that it wasn't a "brutal DM" issue so much as a railroad issue.

Here's the original exchange:


Most DMs of this type would probably just say something like "But the trap was already there. It's a perfectly logical place to put one. I'm not going to give you a plot shield just because the rogue failed her Search check". And it'd be fair, and make sense. It'd just be unsatisfactory.


Yeah, that's BS. You give the players choice. If they have to go through a door, you don't say "roll for spot checks" and then kill them if they fail. That's just poor gaming.

If that's the dominant style in your area, I'm very sorry.

Drascin was responding to me preferring "brutal" DMs and using the trapped door = death scenario as an argument. My rebuttal was basically that it was railroading - though I didn't use that term... I said "you give the players choice," which is pretty clearly an anti-railroading (at least in this case) sentiment.

So, I think you're using my own argument to counter my argument. My head is now spinning. I need a beer. (Of course, I *always* need a beer, so...)


Perhaps there is some danger in the two being conflated when observed in the wild.

After all, a DM who is out for blood can very easily railroad the party into situations where they're guaranteed to lose a party member regardless of how well they react tactically simply because the DM can control everything.

So both styles of DM can make an individual's personal choices as a player irrelevant or meaningless. That's why it's not a simple dichotomy of good vs. bad.

Right, which is part of why I believe (and I think I've made this point earlier in this thread) that brutal DMs work well in simulationist/gamist games, and the more narrativist the game gets, the more you need a "forgiving" DM. Yes, I know narrativist != railroading, but there's a definite correlation.

Even as a brutal DM, my belief is that death should always be a result of player *choice*, not simple random numbers. Of course, if a player stands toe-to-toe with something that they know could possibly kill them in a hit if the dice roll the wrong way, well, they made that choice.

What I don't consider to be "brutal" DMing, but just poor DMing, is the DM just rolling a bunch of dice and announcing that the party is dead. Railroading into a trap is, essentially, that exact scenario, just with more talking.

Or, to put it more succinctly, the more you railroad your players the more forgiving you *must* be.

The Big Dice
2010-11-12, 02:32 PM
It wasn't a jab, just phrased somewhat unfortunately. I don't see how you disprove it, though: The Big Dice said "to give the players this feeling, you need to be willing to kill the PCs", to which I responded "no, you don't - it all depends on your DMing skill". The fact whether or not everyone will enjoy this never entered the conversation.

It's more be willing to let the PCs die than to just kill them.

As a GM it's easy to accidentally decimate the ranks of PCs. Misjudge a single NPC or plan an encounter too well and boom! Half or more of the characters are dead. My record for this is a Cyberpunk ambush. Two cars carrying seven PCs. Three guys with assault rifles and one round of suppressing fire later and there were two PC survivors.

This may seem like a harsh thing to happen in game, but considering that the PCs had just stolen data worth literally millions, it was entirely in-universe right that the NPCs attempt to wipe the PCs out.

El Dorado
2010-11-12, 02:48 PM
I prefer a DM who doesn't pull his punches. My current DM rolls his dice in the open and he encourages his players to Try Anything. I think his style is influenced greatly by his own experiences playing 1st Edition. Back then, your class features were set in stone so when you came across an obstacle that didn't yield to your particular bag of tricks, you had to think outside the box.

That said, I prefer a forgiving DM for one-shot games. The hard core approach tends to work better for Epic Campaigns as opposed to One Nighters. :smallwink:

Coidzor
2010-11-12, 02:59 PM
Or, to put it more succinctly, the more you railroad your players the more forgiving you *must* be.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, have to agree with you there.

Tyndmyr
2010-11-12, 03:00 PM
Edit: What traits do you find best in a DM?

What type of DM have you had the best gaming experiences with, and why? Not trying to invite an argument over DM styles here, just asking which you prefer.

I've had both kinds, and I preferred the really difficult one, even despite some of his questionable houserules and rulings. When we win, it feels like we actually won a victory, rather than merely advancing the plot at no threat to our characters' livelihood. The other DM was a phenomenal storyteller with a well thought-out setting, but only ever killed one of the characters outside the first session. And this was over the course of a school year, with games once a week.

My preference for a difficult campaign probably stems from my 'character ADD'.

Edit: Um. Feel free to treat my terms as oversimplifications of complicated concepts.

Difficulty is one of the things I care about least. I enjoy challenge, yes...but I'll play D&D or CoC with equal enthusiasm.

What I care about is having a DM that gives us interesting choices, knows the rules of the system he runs, and is flexible enough to run with whatever happens. Also, does not cheat.

Drascin
2010-11-12, 03:13 PM
Yeah, that's BS. You give the players choice. If they have to go through a door, you don't say "roll for spot checks" and then kill them if they fail. That's just poor gaming.

If that's the dominant style in your area, I'm very sorry.

Honestly, it may be inglorious, and boring, but it certainly is verisimile and rather fair in a certain sense, I can't contest that - I'm sure the DM would say "there are a few entrances, you chose this one of our own volition, you checked if it was trapped out of caution, but you failed to find the traps, so you died. Better luck next time". There is no real difference to dying from a sudden Finger of Death out of the shadows - failed roll, instant death, new character.

It's just that, as I have said, I am of the opinion that complete and inflexible fairness rarely makes for much of a character story. I'm not arguing that it's not fair - just that it's not always a good idea to play fair :smalltongue:.


And I'm willing to bet that the same people who are so callous about other people's characters are the first to complain if they feel they are being victimised or picked on when they aren't behind the GM screen...

No, actually. They insist in cutthroat in both sides of the screen. Well, except one of them, but he's generally annoying. But on average, they do believe, much like several posters in this thread, that the severe and deadly method is the best way to play the game, and don't really apply double standards - they're good losers. Granted, their caracters rarely have much more than a four-line personality, since they don't seem to expect to have to roleplay them for long anyway, but certainly not whiners in the least.

Tyndmyr
2010-11-12, 03:23 PM
Right...there's the "killer DM" style. This is the guy who measures success by body count of players, and who can never actually be found playing such a game. In short, he plays to "win D&D", and to him, that means that the players have to lose. This style is not terribly popular, as the DM/player power balance is not, and was never intended to be equal.

Then you have the hardcore playstyle, in which death is frequent, but merely part of the game. Everyone in a given group tends to play this way, and caution and cleverness are considered standard. It's not about the DM winning, it's merely the lethality setting of the world in which they live. This style is a perfectly acceptable one, if you enjoy that sort of lethality.

Coidzor
2010-11-12, 03:27 PM
After all, some games are Dark Sun, others are in a Tippyverse. And pretty much everywhere inbetween.

Or a combination of the two. :smalleek:

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 03:47 PM
It's more be willing to let the PCs die than to just kill them.

As a GM it's easy to accidentally decimate the ranks of PCs. Misjudge a single NPC or plan an encounter too well and boom! Half or more of the characters are dead.

This is a good clarification. As a GM/DM it's easy to kill characters. Trivial, really. So "killing" characters isn't really a good DM style. Letting them reap the consequences of their choices, even if those are fatal, is.


Honestly, it may be inglorious, and boring, but it certainly is verisimile and rather fair in a certain sense, I can't contest that - I'm sure the DM would say "there are a few entrances, you chose this one of our own volition, you checked if it was trapped out of caution, but you failed to find the traps, so you died. Better luck next time". There is no real difference to dying from a sudden Finger of Death out of the shadows - failed roll, instant death, new character.

It's just that, as I have said, I am of the opinion that complete and inflexible fairness rarely makes for much of a character story. I'm not arguing that it's not fair - just that it's not always a good idea to play fair :smalltongue:.

I'm arguing that the scenario itself isn't fair, even if the way it was played out *was*. If you search for traps in an area that should reasonably be trapped, and don't find any, it's certainly a reasonable thing to then either use some other mechanism to trip any traps from a distance, or try to find another entrance.

Also, if the door is trapped with a lethal trap, consider what the door is used for, and who normally uses it. Servants' doors are usually *not* lethally trapped. Anything with heavy use will probably *not* have a lethal trap, just in case (you don't want important people getting waxed if the trap malfunctions, or someone is just an idiot). Anything that is heavily used will probably have a trap that is relatively easy to find and disable, so that the door can be, well, used. And, the door will probably have a non-lethal, disabling type of trap both to prevent accidents and to allow for further interrogation of the unwanted guests.

"The adventurers will probably come in through this door, so we'd better trap it" is not sufficient justification for a strong, lethal trap. Guards are not always on high alert, just because the adventurers are approaching. While that time may be unique to the adventurers, it's certainly not to the guards, who have probably been guarding for hours on that day, and probably have been guarding the same stupid spot for days or weeks. Not every entrance will have high guard concentration, just because there's (typically) a lot of entrances, and not as many guards. While the DM and players may realize that the world revolves around the characters, the rest of the inhabitants of the world do not, and do not have insight into the characters' schedules.

And, in general, players should be given different ways of solving a given scenario. It shouldn't just be "entrance 1, 2, or 3." Instead, it should be "sneak in the back entrance, bluff through the front, infiltrate the organization, bribe/interrogate a current member, scale the walls to go in through the top or a window, or just hack your way in."

So, yeah... if the players:

1. were choosing to solve a problem by going through a rarely-used entrance that would be a good candidate for hard-to-find, lethal traps
2. when they couldn't find a trap, they chose to just barge in rather than attempting to trigger the trap in some other (non-lethal) way
3. didn't choose another alternative to the door anyway

and then they die..... sure, kill 'em.

That doesn't quite sound like the scenario you described.



-----------------------


One last thing: As far as playing fair, a DM can *always* come up with some in-game reason for just about anything he wants to do, just the same way that a player can *always* find an RP-based rationalization for some odd character build. Humans are very good at rationalizing. That doesn't mean that the rationalization is always good.

Raum
2010-11-12, 05:31 PM
I don't see how you disprove it, though: The Big Dice said "to give the players this feeling, you need to be willing to kill the PCs", to which I responded "no, you don't - it all depends on your DMing skill". That's about what I thought you'd said. Problem is, correlation isn't causation...so even if you can show a correlation between skill and said feeling (which you haven't), you'd have to go further to show the cause. Interestingly enough, Big Dice made the same logical error (if you've paraphrased him accurately). I haven't seen correlation or causation for a 'willingness to kill characters' either.


The fact whether or not everyone will enjoy this never entered the conversation.This was my point. We're different. Even a given individual changes over time based on experience and mood. So learn and use multiple GMing styles! (Yes, I skipped to the conclusion...read original post for the rest.)


Or, to put it more succinctly, the more you railroad your players the more forgiving you *must* be.That's a very interesting observation. Going to have to watch for that...

Some 'Random Thoughts Provoked by Other Posts':
- Hit Point tax traps are just annoying. And traps in a doorway that expects to see use breaks verisimilitude.
- Choices should be meaningful. Invalidating consequences also invalidates the choice. But, applying consequences is not the same as either weighting the scales against the players or simply trying to kill the characters.

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 05:45 PM
It wasn't a jab, just phrased somewhat unfortunately. I don't see how you disprove it, though: The Big Dice said "to give the players this feeling, you need to be willing to kill the PCs", to which I responded "no, you don't - it all depends on your DMing skill". The fact whether or not everyone will enjoy this never entered the conversation.

Well, I think that what you need to be willing to do is let the characters lose. "Losing" can mean character death, or it can mean loss of other things that the character cares about.

Character death is the most obvious and common, but it doesn't have to be the only one.

The other thing that people forget is that winning and losing don't have to be 100%. You can "win, but..." just as much as you can "lose, but...". The outcome of a fight doesn't have to be (and normally shouldn't be) either the party kills everything, or TPK. Both the party and their opponents should be able to retreat if losing.

Honestly, though, the D&D rules kind of tend towards this, with SoD effects as well as the -10 hp = death thing - you go from "perfectly fine" to "inanimate" *really* quickly. You can compare this to GURPS, where a character may have 10hp and be likely to fall unconscious at zero hp, but, at least for typical fantasy/medieval levels of power, is far more likely to get knocked out than to actually die. I read somewhere (thealexandrian?) someone had some house rules that basically set the negative hp to death at negative "normal" hp, but made death much, much more permanent. He also modified most SoD effects to do ability damage. Haven't played with that myself, but it doesn't seem unreasonable.

Evil DM Mark3
2010-11-12, 05:51 PM
Here is my motto as DM:

Nice things can happen to horrible people,
Unfortunate things can happen to nice people,
Stupid things can happen to almost anyone,
But unfair things only happen to stupid people.

Or, in more detail, I will antagonise, I will play the role of adversary and, at times, be downright diabolical. But only when PCs do something utterly stupid will I let stuff like meaningless character death happen. I will not poison the PCs in their sleep, unless they chose to sleep at the "Stab and Gut Ya Inn." I may however have a villain give them directions to said Inn.

The Big Dice
2010-11-12, 06:10 PM
Right...there's the "killer DM" style. This is the guy who measures success by body count of players, and who can never actually be found playing such a game. In short, he plays to "win D&D", and to him, that means that the players have to lose. This style is not terribly popular, as the DM/player power balance is not, and was never intended to be equal.
The Angry DM (http://angrydm.com/2010/07/winning-dd/) would strongly disagree that you can's win or lose at D&D. And I'd agree with him.

The so-called "killer GM" is a bit of a misnomer. That particular style of play has it's roots in tournament modules like the original Tomb of Horrors. Subsequent versions of which you may or may not feel have been sanitised. BUt that's not the point. The point is, that particular style of GM is all about the moment. It's a particularly old school mindset too, where player skill was far more important than character skill.

The killer isn't out to simply murder the PCs. As I've already said, that's too easy. The true killer GM is willing to let the PCs reap the full measure of the consequences their own actions bring around. And more importantly, the killer GM isn't usually running an extended campaign.


Then you have the hardcore playstyle, in which death is frequent, but merely part of the game. Everyone in a given group tends to play this way, and caution and cleverness are considered standard. It's not about the DM winning, it's merely the lethality setting of the world in which they live. This style is a perfectly acceptable one, if you enjoy that sort of lethality.
I'd say that the hardcore style of play is not to shelter the PCs from the repercussions of their own actions. Death can be the result of that, but then so can reprisals that take away valuable assets like homes and cohorts.

Take a good look at the term "plot armour" and think about what it really implies. It doesn't say that the PCs are protected because of the plot. It says they are protected from the plot. Plot armour is another way of saying "You can't be hurt, you are in a totally safe and protected environment."

In other words, nothing can hurt you, so you don't need to try as you can't lose anyway. You're playing with GodMode=1. Taken to extremes this can feel like the GM is patronising players. Or at least wrapping the characters in cotton wool, which reduces the feel of achievement once the player realises what's going on.

On the other hand, if you show that you as a GM are willing to let a character die for doing something that should result in death, you don't have do do it very often. Players will realise that messing things up badly can have very big consequences. And because they feel like their characters can die, they are more attached to them, not less.

Because Boromir died at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, the stakes for everyone else got raised that bit higher. It a main character can die, offscreen and in a pointless way, anyone can die. That ratchets the tension up that bit higher for everyone. So when they come through a dangerous situation all beat up and bloody like John Maclane at the end of Die Hard, they feel they'd earned their win.

I know I'd sooner earn a victory than be given it.

kyoryu
2010-11-12, 06:34 PM
The Angry DM (http://angrydm.com/2010/07/winning-dd/) would strongly disagree that you can's win or lose at D&D. And I'd agree with him.


That's a great article, thanks. I really liked his differentiation between the two hats - the "world builder" hat and the "adversarial" hat.

Aotrs Commander
2010-11-13, 08:19 AM
At the end of the day, I roleplay for the exact same reason I do anything else (read, watch telly, play games); to be told (or involved in) a story. A story that involves a lot of people being blown up, yes, but at the end of the day, I don't and never will play RPGs (of any stripe) to be "challenged".

Now, that's not to say I'm not adverse to hard fights, though. And furthermore, even if you are the most forgiving DM in the world, I am going to treat you like you are Gary Gagax himself, bless him, in a most vindictive PC-killing mood. I, as a player, WILL treat any threat you send against my character with deadly seriousness. A lot of people argue that if you go too easy on the players, they'll start to get over confident. Well, when I'm on the player side of the screen, I (to paraphrase the Giant) choose to react diffently.

But, at the end of the day, I'm more interested in the story than the challenge. (Heck, I've realises that, in my old age, possibly as a counter to today's tiresomely "darker" and "grittier" approach to everything, I'm tending to be more interested in the story than in the characters.)

If I want a sense of accomplishment and of being challenged, I'll go and play a wargame at the wargames club. That's brain-burningly hard (at least with the games and ways we play.) But that's it.

Heck, I don't even play computer games for the challenge. Nothing annoys me more than getting stuck on something, and when and if I finally get through, I don't get a deep sense of satisfaction at beating the challenge, I get a sense of relief and annoyance that it's finally allowing me to go on. I mean, I play Civ on the lower difficulty settings and steamroller over the opposition's spearmen while I have super-high-tech land dreadnoughts. And love every minute. (Though to be fair, I think it's the world-building aspect of Civ that most appeals.)

So, I expect the same for my DM and my players as what I hold myself too. The DM will pretend (but only if required) to be out for our blood and the players will pretend (but only if required) to believe him. 95% of the time, the pretending will be unecessary, since the DM will have set out a suitably difficult encounter (or what have you) that will require the players to work hard to beat with a big enough threat they have to take it seriously. If in doubt, I err on the side of the players as a DM myself; since I don't run sandbox games, I find the need to replace the "cast" frequently more disruptive to my own sense of verisimilitude than them dying. Also, for a roleplayer, I hold no special position for the dice, since they are at the end of the day, merely unintelligent random number generators, and they certainly do not know better than me1. So as, DM, I allow them to work unaided for exactly as long as I feel they are doing their job (which is 99.999% of the time) and no longer.

All that said, if the PCs do something that will get them killed, they'll die, but then they brought it upon themselves. And if they didn't listen to the inevitable "are you sure?" or "let me get this straight" then they deserve it.



1After all, nothing in Reality knows better than me, let alone unintelligent lumps of plastic