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goto124
2015-02-10, 08:46 PM
This was brought up in another thread.


And speaking of oldschool, high-lethality dungeon crawling and treating it as the default way to play the game. Nothing kills roleplaying and immersion better than playing a game like that. In general, playstyles that put overcoming challenges over creating a story together bore me and I consider everything that propagates them bad decisions; tabletop RPGs are the worst medium to create fair, balanced and unbiased challenges. If I want one, I'll boot up my PC and play Dark Souls instead.


I suppose you're entitled to that opinion, but it is bit harsh.

It matters much less in a system where a character can be rolled up in mere minutes instead of an hour or more, and the group knows what to expect.


Games with little to no roleplaying, in other words. You can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction in games where characters are created en-masse, a few minutes each at most, and die en-masse at well. I don't care much for such games.

Oxybe has spelled out my argument nicely.


It's not so much the character creation time that's a problem, it's the emotional investment. I've done high level spellcasters for 3rd ed with 0 emotional investment. Lots of time spent creating characters does not necessarily equal lots of investment.

But for me to get interested in the story events, i need a character who is invested in these things that I can latch onto.

If we're playing in a game where characters can die at the drop of a hat, but are generated just as quickly and you're supposed to be invested in every one of those characters, you're likely to get burned out pretty quickly. I know I have in those games.

No matter how quickly you make character generation, if every time I generate one character with a link to the story but have it get unceremoniously killed a few encounters later or even a session later, I'll stop trying to make those links. It's an extra effort that never pans out because character survival isn't even assured for a short time.

It gets discouraging.


These are the counter-arguments:


Just because one doesn't get attached to characters doesn't mean one doesn't care for them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "speed storytelling." Obviously a collection of temporary characters would have less development to them, but again that doesn't mean they're not roleplayed or engaged with while they last.

Which makes me wonder- HOW exactly does that happen? Especially the first paragraph.


Yes you can. And in true old school dungeon crawling there's a name for characters die en-masse. NPCs. Seriously, go in with about four PCs and about a dozen NPCs. There's plenty of roleplaying there if there's enough description of the dungeon and how to overcome it, but the game is largely challenge centred.

Perhaps it's due to differing ideas of attachment. Some get attached to the characters, others get attached to the plot. The latter group won't be as disturbed by PCs dropping dead like flies. Maybe. I'm guessing.

zinycor
2015-02-10, 09:00 PM
I like to feel that the game is highly lethal, that if my character is in danger and i am not clever enough my charactr will die. That doesn't mean that i like High lethality in the sense that i like every combat to be like that, or that the game focuses on that.

In the games that i like more we spend more sessions talking our way into and out of troubles, and those are the most fun, and when the times comes for an encounter to show his ugly head, you are excited and afraid. This could be the last fight you will ever have before your dwarven wedding. ¿What will happen to your fort and your wife if you die here? ¿How could your family name hold some honor when the Dwarf King finds out that the groom was so unpolite as to die without having his wife pregnant, as it is expected from a noble dwarf?

So i think that LEthal combats are great, but they shouldn't be all, the roleplaying is more important, but lethality can make your character much more important once he dies or survives

Beta Centauri
2015-02-10, 09:03 PM
Which makes me wonder- HOW exactly does that happen? Especially the first paragraph. It's the core of good improvisational theater, so I guess it would come from getting good at that.

I can't claim to be good at it, but I have some experience with it. You come up with a character that meets the needs of the scene, and that character might leave in a second, or recur throughout the rest of the performance. Either way you play that character and engage with it for as long as it lasts.

I used the word "care" in opposition to the word "apathy." An improvisor needn't actually "care" about their character, but also can't be apathetic about it, or the character is a drag on the scene.

The other players (in an improv sense, or a RPG sense) can also help. They can offer ideas to imbue the character with more depth. It is advisable that players be open to such things and accept them gratefully. If an RPG player is forced to or intent on coming up with every aspect of their character themselves, it's not going to work much better than an improv scene would that did the same thing.

It's worth noting that an improvised character in a show isn't going to be (or at least shouldn't be) played as doing its best to stay alive, but to serve the needs of the scene. It's not actually a game, in that way. But a lot of the methods can still be applied.

Finally, I don't think high-lethality and interesting characters actually go together, practically speaking. I do think that most players who go through a lot of characters will stop engaging with them, and that players who play cautiously to stay alive will be more concerned with that than making an interesting character. Still, it's entirely possible to engage with a short-lived character, if one finds oneself wanting to.

Edit: Overall, I think lethality in games is extremely foolish, except when a player wants their character to die. The sense of tension in a "lethal" fight is, at the core, quite artificial. We're fooling ourselves into believing something is at stake. We could just as easily fool ourselves into believing something other than our direct connection with the game is at stake and never have to worry about the hassle (however minor) of switching to a new character.

aspekt
2015-02-10, 09:26 PM
So maybe folks just enjoy different things and create attachments in differing ways?

Donnadogsoth
2015-02-10, 09:28 PM
Perhaps it's due to differing ideas of attachment. Some get attached to the characters, others get attached to the plot. The latter group won't be as disturbed by PCs dropping dead like flies. Maybe. I'm guessing.

Another item is party creation. It can take time to develop convincing explanations for how a party came to be constituted so. One can be attached to that party and its history. Some might view a PC death as an opportunity to further party creation, though.

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-10, 09:33 PM
I don't see high lethality as somehow antithetical to roleplaying. Why would it be? The thought seems to stem from the idea that you need a really in-depth backstory or something to get into character. You really don't. You need your character sheet and maybe five word synopsis and that will easily last you for a whole session. If a character isn't dead by the end of it, I can worry about adding more details later. If they are, maybe my next character can build on or react to their fate. Say, that jaded innkeeper sure did vanish in mysterious circumstances. Maybe a curious police officer from next town could come looking for him?

And that's me as a player. As a GM, making throw-away characters without great deal of effort or investment is par for the course. You can bet I will act the hell out of that cynical old hag, or thieving lecher, or whatever else I happened to roll on my random charts this session. Even if they're forgotten or dead in the next five seconds.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-10, 09:33 PM
Another item is party creation. It can take time to develop convincing explanations for how a party came to be constituted so. One can be attached to that party and its history. Some might view a PC death as an opportunity to further party creation, though. Presumably a game planned to involve high lethality that also wanted a lot of involvement with the party and the characters would have a pre-planned explanation for how the party is able to introduce and integrate new members quickly. There are several ways to do that, and I believe one of the earliest was to have a lot of henchmen, who could either be the subjects of the lethality (sort of like chunks of extra hit points with names) or could become a player character.

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-10, 09:52 PM
The classic approach is to assume the PCs are detachment from some larger unit belonging to, say, an army, and if these characters go missing, someone else from the unit will come looking for them. The idea being that PCs don't exist in a void, but are supported (or occasionally, rivaled or pursued) by a larger world - the focus just happens to be on these characters, for now. This is pretty much how D&D was invented - they took a unit level wargame and then narrowed the focus to invidual level. You can pretty easily turn any tabletop wargame or skirmish game (such as Warhammer) into an RPG using the same principle - in fantasy games, the distinction is already close to non-existent.

Cikomyr
2015-02-10, 10:29 PM
I like lethality in my games. But because it makes the initial contact of battles more relevant. If even high-level players can be downed from the opening volley of ennemies, they are going to be more likely to always take care and try to play smart. If high-level players can be effectively ganged-up by 10 guards, they are going to respect the setting more.

But I also like the system to have some safeguard freebies. Like WFRP has the Dodge/Parry defensive layers. Good tactical manoeuvering allow each players to give penalties to their opponent, and bonuses to their own defensive rolls. Plus, WFRP has the whole "fate/fortune point" system that allow re-rolls at critical moments, as well as a "get out of losing your character" situation freebies.

I just hate when a player simply assume he can tank 5 guards hitting him at 1d8+2 damage because he has 60 hit points. Not so easy in WFRP when you have, at the most, 14 hit points and each ennemy hits for 1d10+4

jaydubs
2015-02-11, 12:22 AM
I think we should focus on the attachment part rather than the roleplay part. Players aren't necessarily better at roleplaying characters they're attached. For instance, they may become protective of such a character, and end up playing them more cautiously than is true to the character.

In terms of attachment, high lethality is very much antithetical to it. It just boils down to the nature of human beings - we need time to become emotionally attached. I mean, think about some other forms of media.

Video games - Compare a more traditional RPG with a rogue-like. Which characters do you become more attached to? The ones you've followed through an entire game (or even series), or the ones that at most lasts a few hours? Did you care more about your Mass Effect crew, or your Faster Than Light crew?

Book series vs short stories - I'm sure everyone out there has their own favorite series and characters. Can you name a character from a short story that you became as attached to?

Television series - No matter how compelling a particular guest character, viewers will almost never care as much about them as the on-going characters.

Even look at stories that are considered "high lethality" in relation to most others. "Anyone can die" and so forth. Consider Game of Thrones or the Walking Dead. The writers still understand that for the character deaths to really hit as hard as possible, the viewers need time to first have time to create those emotional attachments. I mean, just how shocking would the red wedding have been if it occurred in the first episode, with no build up?

Edit: Lethality per amount of time is also more important than lethality per combat. Highly lethal, but rare combats can still breed attachment, so long as the characters still have time to grow.

Comet
2015-02-11, 01:34 AM
The way I do this is making dungeons and other adventure sites super lethal while cities and the countryside are relatively safe.

This way the players can determine the pace themselves: do we want to spend a session in the city, roleplaying and getting into politics, or do we want to go down into the dungeon to risk our characters for a chance to gain more money and influence which in turn means more opportunities for roleplaying and politics?

Beginning characters are likely to go on pretty frequent expeditions into lethal lands but as players gain experience they might want to spend more time in safe places since they've grown attached to their characters.

SowZ
2015-02-11, 01:53 AM
I am perfectly capable of getting attached to and into a character, even in a game where death could occur at any time. Most of my players don't seem to have a problem with it, either.

jedipotter
2015-02-11, 02:11 AM
I have always run a High Lethality game, I think it make for a better game experience and it's more fun.

Bumper gaming just ruins a game. Definition: From Bumper Bowling: where covers are put on the lanes so any ball rolled down the lane and knock some pins over no matter what. In a RPG it is where Encounters don't matter as everyone will be there at the end of the encounter, not to mention the current plot. And once a player knows that there is nothing to worry about, they can get very detached. So much so that they just ''do whatever'', as they know nothing bad will happen.

If a game has health points and character death, they are there to be part of the game. They are not there to just ignore. The whole point of a dangerous situation like combat is a character might die. When you take that away, your just left with blandness.

Does having High Lethality make it impossible to get immersed or have an emotional connection to a character? Of course not. That is all on the player. When a player says ''oh my character will just die soon'' that is the player giving up and letting go.

High Lethality very much so engages players and makes them want to keep their character alive. They avoid taking chances. They are careful. They are smart. And they work together. The ''stake'' of a character to a player is very real.

High Lethality also improves immersion as things that kill characters become quite real. A classic is a player that just has their character ''open every door''. After say they loose a fifth character to a trapped door, they might finally think that is a bad idea. The player in the bumper game just keeps on opening doors, after all nothing will really happen to the character.

Silus
2015-02-11, 04:04 AM
Short and to the point, I don't mind lethality in my games, but I'm picky on the type of lethality. If my character eats it 'cause of my poor lack of judgement, lack of planning or just really terrible luck, then yeah, I'm fine with that. That's on me for not planning or thinking on my feet.

But counterwise, you have those games where you could be like level 5 and a fight with a single lvl 1 goblin still has a good chance of being scary lethal (Looking at you Rolemaster).

I also don't much care for the kind of lethality that comes from having to, and failing, to out-think the DM. Very much of the "Oh well you died trying to solve that puzzle, why didn't you [insert obscure solution here]?"

Personally, if I am told that a game has a high rate of lethality, my creative I-really-care-about-this-character-to-give-them-a-solid-personality part of me just kinda shuts off.

Eldan
2015-02-11, 04:19 AM
It's a thing I noticed recently, after maybe fifteen years of roleplaying on-and-off. I used to like and write long backstories. Several pages, sometimes, usually in quite terribly stilted and clichéd prose. But the more I play, the more I notice that my characters get more interesting while playing, not while writing story. There's a current quite irregular game I'm in where character creation ran a bit like that. Our DM gave us a description of the game style, some short backstory and a bit more on the city we started in. Creating characters was distributing nine attributes (it's a sort of simplified world of darkness), choosing two magical powers (water manipulation, shadow illusion), a name, a nationality and an occupation. So, I knew I was playing a Brittish journalist in Prague who had illusion powers, though he wasn't quite sure how he got them. That was all. Everything else came while playing. His strange mixture of cowardice and pride, how superstitious he was about almost everything, his love and hate for certain things, his ability to talk his way into almost any place, small details here and there.

Characters grow while playing. If one dies, I could make a new one in three minutes, then flesh them out while playing. It would work.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-11, 04:48 AM
Here's a counterpoint: if a RPG is not lethal, then this may lead to players noticing that regardless of what they'll do, they're going to make it anyway. If that happens, it will likely reduce investment in the character, because what you do doesn't actually matter. And that may reduce roleplaying.

Does everybody feel that way? Clearly not. Nevertheless several D&D campaigns I've been in (not all of them, thankfully) played from a published adventure module that was rather railroady, and one of the consequences of railroading is pretty much that the players will arrive at the end sooner or later, regardless of what they do.

One of the games I've been playing lately is Call of Chthulhu, which is obviously highly lethal but leads to lots of investment and roleplaying because of that. I also play Paranoia which is even more highly lethal, but of course that's slapstick. To give an estimate of what I'm talking about, for a five-man group a Paranoia game would have about 15 deaths per session; a Chthulhu game would have about 0.5 deaths per session; and most D&D campaigns I've been in never have any character die at all (not counting characters that get raised almost immediately).

Earthwalker
2015-02-11, 05:49 AM
Depending on the game I want lethality but I don’t really want to play in a high lethality game. My issues apart from what has been said above (That you start losing investment in your character when you are on your fourth character of the night) are the limits it puts on character options and the weird meta-game that arrives around it.

Limited Options.

As the lethality of the game increases the number of character options decreases. Someone has already posted that you need to be cautious and smart when playing in their game. Cautious and paranoid are the only personality options. Oh you want to play someone not super cautious….. dead next character.

Meal Worm Learning.

Eric the thief is in the dungeon of horrors. He goes up to a door and listens to it. As his ear touches the door, brains worms crawl out of the door and into his head bonce and kills him dead. Ok one character down. I will make a new one. Bob the farmer turned fighter. He goes into the dungeon of horrors. Gets out a listening horn and listens to the door safe from the brain worms…..
See the player learns on and meta-games his way with the next character. Then onto the next.
Bob the farmer spent his early life living on a farm yet if he played like he had never been in a dungeon before and listens to the first door he comes arcross he is once again dead.
Players start to game the system or the GM by using what all their other characters knew. It’s a weird metagaming thing that just annoys me.

Comet
2015-02-11, 06:02 AM
Limited Options.

As the lethality of the game increases the number of character options decreases. Someone has already posted that you need to be cautious and smart when playing in their game. Cautious and paranoid are the only personality options. Oh you want to play someone not super cautious….. dead next character.

Good games make sure that taking risks is also rewarded. Most people are naturally cautious when going into dark places underground but if you absolutely want to play someone who is willing to take massive risks for enormous rewards there should be potential rewards to be had. You're probably going to die but if you don't the rewards are going to be worth your while.


Meal Worm Learning.

Eric the thief is in the dungeon of horrors. He goes up to a door and listens to it. As his ear touches the door, brains worms crawl out of the door and into his head bonce and kills him dead. Ok one character down. I will make a new one. Bob the farmer turned fighter. He goes into the dungeon of horrors. Gets out a listening horn and listens to the door safe from the brain worms…..
See the player learns on and meta-games his way with the next character. Then onto the next.
Bob the farmer spent his early life living on a farm yet if he played like he had never been in a dungeon before and listens to the first door he comes arcross he is once again dead.
Players start to game the system or the GM by using what all their other characters knew. It’s a weird metagaming thing that just annoys me.

A certain level of metagaming might be required, but that doesn't mean you can't create cohesive fiction. Maybe Bob just got lucky and happened to do things the right way or maybe he has heard about brain worms before from a wandering clergyman. Lots of metagame choices and strategies can be incorporated into the fiction pretty easily. Still, I understand that this might be problematic if you want the players to strictly inhabit their immediate character instead of being outside participants in the narrative as a whole.

Yora
2015-02-11, 06:04 AM
Some Old-School History:
This discussion was started in reply directly to the high lethality in Old-School D&D. During the Old-School days I wasn't even born yet and I started playing with D&D 3rd edition, but I believe I still can cast some light on this.

Oldschool D&D games may have very fragile characters, but that doesn't have to mean the game has a high lethality rate. Because in Old-School games, you have the option to avoid risks. The idea that you go to a dungeon and kill everything to get to the last room where the villain or artifact is located has been established as the standard for all adventures in 3rd edition. The same edition which awards XP based on the amount of enemies you defeated (which by default is assumed to mean "killed").
In the older editions, you get XP based on how much tresure you bring back home. This encourages players to think of ways to get treasure without having to risk a fight. Or to steal a treasure and run away, leaving the creatures that guard it undefeated. Also, most dungeons are not a single long corridor, but instead a network of tunnels. This gives players the options to go around certain obstacles which they consider to be too dangerous and go looking for an easier route out.
In your average 3rd edition or Pathfinder adventure this is not possible. You have to take the single possible route through the dungeon and you have to defeat all the enemies that get into your way, because you have to reach the final chamber at the end. Because otherwise the plot can not progress. And that's the reason so many Old-School modules seem to have barely any plot. Not because it's assumed that the PCs blindly hack through everything they find without any reason, but to allow the players to chose their own adventure.

I don't know why it was that way, but every year I am am wondering more and more if the people who designed 3rd edition actually understood why AD&D and OD&D had worked. Yes, they certainly understood the how the rules of the game worked (and admitedly made some real improvements), but not how each element was depending on others. And neither did most people who played 3rd edition for years. Which includes me. I thought the changes all looked great because I never could understand the rules of AD&D, and they also made a lot more sense.

True, there are some "classic" modules for AD&D which are nothing but hack and slash slaughterfests, but on a closer look you can spot that these are almost all "tournament modules". They were not originally meant to be bought by DMs and play with their group at home, but to be played at conventions in a single sitting by multiple groups at the same time, and the winners would be the one that scored the most points. That many of them wouldn't finish the whole module was already assumed. In a one-shot game with strangers with limited time, roleplay heavy adventures are not really feasable. So in those situations they did play pure treasure-hunting dungeons crawls. Many of the other modules from that area are much more inviting to roleplaying.

Mutazoia
2015-02-11, 06:35 AM
I never considered "I hit it with my sword" (or genera equivalent) as role playing. Role Playing is what happens between combat, and thus a highly lethal system should by its very nature, encourage more role playing to avoid lethal situations such as combat. Call of Cthulhu is a good example of a game with a very high chance of your character either dying or going bat-guano insane, yet it's still a very fun game to play.

I can see how the "If my character never dies I can get more role playing time in" mentality forms, but to me...honestly.....stories that have no risk, no element of danger....are just plain boring. Think about it: Do you only read books where everybody skips happily through the tulips and never so much stubs their toes? Do you enjoy movies with no action or drama? Do you only watch shows like "Tele-tubbies" where nothing bad ever happens and everything is warm and fuzzy?

Hell no.

You read "Game of Thrones", get emotionally invested in a character, then Martin kills them...but you keep reading don't you?

Because that is more entertaining than Tele-tubbies.

There are RPG's out there where characters never die...games like TOON or Teenagers from Outer Space....if you can't handle a little danger in your characters lives, go play those and do all the role playing you want with no threat of your precious character scabbing his knees.

some guy
2015-02-11, 07:27 AM
Attachement and roleplaying are two separate entities, and if the type of game is properly communicated lethality should not hinder either.
If you bring a character with a large backstory and big plans for the future* to a game with high lethality without knowing it, yeah, that will be frustrating. But if the GM properly announces the level of lethality, you can have as much roleplaying in highly lethal game as in safer game.
It's a bit about expectations, isn't it? It's lots of fun to roleplay a character who can easily drop dead; your Call of Cthulhu character wouldn't suspect a thing about an invitation for a soirée at Madame de Suspisciousnamegoeshere's place, but you as player would know this will be the first step to death and insanity. It can be fun to juxtapose your in-game knowlegde with your meta-game knowledge and base roleplay around that juxtaposition.
Roleplaying a brave, boisterous knight who believes themself to be near-invulnerable in combat but slain by goblins can be fun (if the GM communicated the lethality, creating a new character is fast enough, and introducing new characters is no hassle) and that knight can have the same amount of roleplaying as they would have in a low-lethal game.

High lethal games are not for everyone, just as low lethal games, but to say lethality reduces roleplaying is disingenuous. It may reduce roleplaying for certain people, but that is a case of preference and should not be elevated to objective fact.

(backstory and future plans are not roleplaying, they can be used as tools for roleplaying, though.)

SixWingedAsura
2015-02-11, 02:03 PM
I have one issue with this thread and the posters within:

People seem to have a very knee-jerk, black/white reaction to the topic. Things are either "Everything Trying to Kill You" or "You Can Tank An Atomic Bomb" Isn't there any in between for you guys? Don't get me wrong, I think an adventure without any challenge is boring, yes, but when I can die fifteen different ways from moving more than 10ft down a dungeon corridor, after my fifth character death, I just stop caring. Why put effort into a character who has the lifespan of a mayfly, or be forced to create a character who literally is THE most paranoid, cautious, cowardly character ever just to survive?

Like in everything, they key is balance.

Segev
2015-02-11, 02:21 PM
I am not fond of high-lethality games. I do find that losing characters too often or easily makes it hard to become invested in them, simply because they wind up having had no real importance to the story. They were just another in a long line of faces that met a group of people whose only connection is that they met people who happened to meet these people before.

High lethality leads to little to no continuity in the game. Why is the party in the dungeon, again? Everybody who had a motive for forming up the adventuring party toget here is dead. This group of people formed up from recruits within the dungeon, or were recruited from the town outside when they needed a new healer/tank/whatever. But the group now is only here because the group before hired them. All the reasons for going in are gone. Why stay, instead of going and finding other people to pay you? You're not even BEING paid anymore; you've got all the stuff you could have been paid from looting the corpses of your employers.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-11, 02:35 PM
I never considered "I hit it with my sword" (or genera equivalent) as role playing. I consider roleplaying to be making any choice that my character would plausibly make. If my character is a fighter, then it's plausible that he would engage in combat. He might plausibly do other things, but it's not not-in-character for him to fight. Roleplaying does not end when initiative is rolled.


I have one issue with this thread and the posters within:

People seem to have a very knee-jerk, black/white reaction to the topic. Things are either "Everything Trying to Kill You" or "You Can Tank An Atomic Bomb" Isn't there any in between for you guys? Yes. My in-between is that there are more ways to fail than just for characters to die. On-going characters in TV shows survive for years, but they fail on a regular basis. In fact, threats against their lives tend not to be very plausible since we know they'll survive. But we don't know if they'll succeed (or, if we do know they will, we don't know the cost). So, I don't care if players don't want their characters to die. I'll just set up a challenge that they would be willing to fail at.

Thrudd
2015-02-11, 02:41 PM
I am not fond of high-lethality games. I do find that losing characters too often or easily makes it hard to become invested in them, simply because they wind up having had no real importance to the story. They were just another in a long line of faces that met a group of people whose only connection is that they met people who happened to meet these people before.

High lethality leads to little to no continuity in the game. Why is the party in the dungeon, again? Everybody who had a motive for forming up the adventuring party toget here is dead. This group of people formed up from recruits within the dungeon, or were recruited from the town outside when they needed a new healer/tank/whatever. But the group now is only here because the group before hired them. All the reasons for going in are gone. Why stay, instead of going and finding other people to pay you? You're not even BEING paid anymore; you've got all the stuff you could have been paid from looting the corpses of your employers.

It depends on the setting and how it is explained. For a sandbox dungeon/hex crawl, the coherence of the game world provides the continuity. The characters must have goals connected with the expected activity of exploring dungeons. The game world must provide a setting which has lots of dungeons full of loot and reasons why there is a class of people who risk their lives to recover that loot. Why they go there and form parties and expeditions is because there are things in the dungeons that they want. If one party of adventurers meets their end in the dungeon, there are always more who want the stuff in the dungeon. When that dungeon is cleared of loot, they find another dungeon/adventure in which to pursue their goals (of getting rich or building a castle or a church or discovering magical secrets, getting famous or whatever). It is up to the players to explain why their characters are adventurers who want to go to dungeons, so that they can participate in the premise of the game.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-11, 04:45 PM
Honestly, it seems like there is a lot of unpacking that needs to be done here as people seem to have very different ideas of what high lethality means. Specifically there appears to be two axes of disagreement. One is success/failure the other is lethality of combat/lethality of the system as a whole.
The first is mostly brought up by proponents of high lethality as an argument that you need it, because otherwise failure is impossible. This is clearly not the case as long as the characters have things they're invested in. After all, you can survive but get fired from your job, miss out on getting the treasure or watch in horror as the city you were racing to warn burns in the horizon. All are failures that can still happen even in a game about immortals who literally cannot die, no matter what they do. This doesn't apply to all stories or cases, but you can't in principle say that death is needed to present challenge. It also presumes that success or failure is not just the most interesting question to ask in a story, but the only one that matters. It's entirely possible to tell stories about what happens, what the characters do and what it means for them that aren't about overcoming challenge, but about personal development or exploration of themes in which case a high risk of death is entirely orthogonal to the whole exercise.

On the other point, there is a difference between physically dangerous situations being very lethal and the game or system as a whole being. If physical confrontations are very lethal, but also extremely rare then it isn't really proper to say that the game is lethal. A realistic game about playing congressmen would not leave the players much chance of survival if some intelligence agency or criminal syndicate came to kill them, much less if a military unit tried to do so. But it would also be incredibly unlikely to actually happen in the game, so it wouldn't be very lethal overall.

Having said this, I believe that high lethality can have a narrative purpose in roleplaying. It's a tool to help develop certain themes and feels and as such cannot be discounted entirely, but it's also a highly specialized tool that gives a strong thematic weight. It can roughly speaking be used for three things: Stories about the pointless horror and brutality of war, blood feuds or similar; games about trying to explore the lengths the characters are willing to go to preserve their lives and finally gritty stories about clever, paranoid and ruthless people who only succeed through those traits. The last two of those still require the lethality to be on some level controllable, if your hard choices mean nothing and your cleverness and paranoia can't pay off you can't tell those stories.

For most other kinds of stories, including horror which thrives on pacing and tension and ultimately builds up towards things getting lethal for the leads, a high lethality is detrimental. Partly this is a matter of atmosphere, you can't have a fun swashbuckling ride if the main character gets an infected wound dies in the first duel or an eighties action movie where the main character can't scream like a maniac and just shoot. Partly it's a matter of control, you're not going to have an elaborate mystery or dance of politics, nor a big, complex setup of prophecy if people die at random. It is also detrimental to stories that are about character exploration not centered on what they're willing to do in extremes, but instead about how they function in normal life or what ideals they hold. You need to be fairly sure the characters survive for that. It'll also obviously kill any kind of feeling of slice of life if people are frequently dropping.

Tengu_temp
2015-02-11, 05:51 PM
My point of view is simple: it's hard to get meaningfully invested in the story and characters when your character can die at any moment, at the drop of a hat. You can bring in a new character, yes, but that new character won't be as invested in everything as the old one.

Also, high lethality games require you to be extremely careful and over-prepared if you want to live, and from my experience those tend to be detrimental to roleplaying. A game where the characters are afraid to take risks, because doing so means one or more of them will probably die, is a boring game.

One thing I noticed the proponents of high lethality game mention often is equating low lethality games with games where the PCs always succeed. This is wrong. You simply employ other consequences for failure than "now you're dead". In fact, this tends to lead to more interesting stories, because complications arise and the heroes' past failures haunt them.

Also: it might be a generalization, but sue me. If your game can be described as a dungeon crawl, it's probably not a roleplaying-heavy game.


I never considered "I hit it with my sword" (or genera equivalent) as role playing. Role Playing is what happens between combat

Wrong. Everything your character does is IC, it's all roleplaying. There's no "dungeon crawling time" and "roleplaying time", this is not an MMO RP server. Some of the best roleplaying I had in games, the most emotionally moving scenes, happened during, or immediately before or after, combat.


You read "Game of Thrones", get emotionally invested in a character, then Martin kills them...but you keep reading don't you?

Because that is more entertaining than Tele-tubbies.

There are RPG's out there where characters never die...games like TOON or Teenagers from Outer Space....if you can't handle a little danger in your characters lives, go play those and do all the role playing you want with no threat of your precious character scabbing his knees.

Because, obviously, not liking high lethality means you're a whiny baby who can't stand anything bad happening to his character, right?

This arrogant stance is common among people who like high lethality games, or at least among people who get defensive about the high lethality playstyle.

Also, Game of Thrones is a novel, not an RPG. It works by completely different rules, unless your DM is really railroad-y.

Kaun
2015-02-11, 05:57 PM
Yeah peoples def of high lethality is interesting. It sounds like some people are thinking meat grinder style sessions, where they are rolling up spare characters between actions.

For me it generally involves letting the dice fall where they may and removing plot armor.

I have run high leth games where i have had one pc death in 10 sessions.

For me its all about removing the safety nets that people often install into their games.

As much as i like the Heroic Death idea that is more driven in a lot of gaming styles, it has never seems very heroic to me if its some what staged and agreed on in advance by the player/gm.

Some times PC's get a big noble heroic death and some times sh*% goes south and people die. Both can make interesting stories in an RP.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-11, 06:01 PM
Some times PC's get a big noble heroic death and some times sh*% goes south and people die. Both can make interesting stories in an RP. Can, but might not. Some people don't like the latter form of death, even if others think they should.

Tengu_temp
2015-02-11, 06:03 PM
There is no set definition of what "high lethality" means because it depends not just on the approach of players and DM, but also on the system, and even on where you're standing in the system. A first level AD&D game will be much more lethal than a Spirit of the Century game, even if the party plays it with exactly the same mindset.

Kaun
2015-02-11, 06:23 PM
Can, but might not. Some people don't like the latter form of death, even if others think they should.

I'm not sure people are saying that you have to like it. I'm defiantly not.

Sometimes its depressing, sometimes its funny. I have generally found it makes for a good story later on once the initial sting subsides.

In my case it comes down to risk vs reward.

I have played and run games where the agreement is that a PC death needs to have meaning or significance and... they just don't...

You have these climactic scenes and a player/gm decides would be cool if the PC hero dies defeating the evil space slug from mars and freeing all the people and becomes a legend... and...
...it just ends up being bleh... kinda self gratifying and dull...

I know it all comes down to personal taste.

For me though, the heroic deaths born in situations where the PC's had a very real chance of failing utterly and completely are much sweeter then ones crafted in the hopes of making a great story.

But then again my group of players and friends have amassed a few stories of complete and utter failure over the years of gaming. And i treasure a lot of those stories equally as much as the ones that revolve around succeeding.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-11, 06:29 PM
There is no set definition of what "high lethality" means

Ok, so tell us what you do mean.

For example, our Call of Chthulhu games have about one character death per two sessions (in a party of five) whereas our D&D campaigns have about one character death per forty sessions. I'd call the former high lethality, and the latter not so. I've never played, or even heard of, "meat grinder" campaigns with 3+ deaths per session, unless the game was Paranoia.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-11, 06:42 PM
I'm not sure people are saying that you have to like it. I'm defiantly not. If someone is willingly spending their free time to experience it, then they, at some level, like it.


Sometimes its depressing, sometimes its funny. I have generally found it makes for a good story later on once the initial sting subsides. Right. You like it.


I know it all comes down to personal taste. Exactly. What people like.


For me though, the heroic deaths born in situations where the PC's had a very real chance of failing utterly and completely are much sweeter then ones crafted in the hopes of making a great story. I don't craft deaths at all. But I will craft, with the players' help, what it should mean if the players fail, and what it should mean if they succeed.


But then again my group of players and friends have amassed a few stories of complete and utter failure over the years of gaming. And i treasure a lot of those stories equally as much as the ones that revolve around succeeding. It still seems like you think that succeeding and survival are the same and that failure and death are the same. Do you see how they are not? Do you see how the party could survive but still lose, how they could die but still win?

Kaun
2015-02-11, 06:49 PM
It still seems like you think that succeeding and survival are the same and that failure and death are the same.

I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion but to answer your question, no, i don't think that.

EDIT:


If someone is willingly spending their free time to experience it, then they, at some level, like it.

See this is true, but i don't think to like a game or like a character do you need to like every aspect of the character or every action they take or every event that happens to them. I think that having elements you don't like can sweeten the ones you do like.

Tengu_temp
2015-02-11, 07:01 PM
Here's my attempt at defining lethality levels in RPGs - not by frequency, but by what can cause PC death.

Very Low Lethality
PCs die when their players want them to die.
Example: I want to give my character a good sendoff, so I talk with the DM about it and he creates a situation where my PC can perform a heroic sacrifice.

Low Lethality
PCs die as punishment for doing something very stupid or suicidal.
Example: My character attacks the BBEG's army alone (and it's not Exalted or another game where PCs are expected to do that kind of thing).

Medium Lethality
PCs die as punishment for failure.
Example: A random encounter starts. Due to bad rolls and/or suboptimal tactics, my character is killed by the monsters.

High Lethality
PCs die even when they didn't do anything wrong.
Example: A random encounter starts. Immediately, two orcs charge at my character, and deal enough damage to kill me before I can even react.

Very High Lethality
PCs are expected to die all the time and it's probably played for laughs.
Example: Insert any session of Paranoia or Kobolds Ate My Baby here.

This scale is far from perfect, and doesn't include things like rule of dramatic endings (where lethality level of a game goes up because it's the end of the campaign) or games where death is cheap and you can return back to life easily (which, coincidentally, ruins the tension coming from the threat of PC death much more than low lethality games do). But I hope it helps to clarify some things regardless.

Note: my games are usually low lethality. Characters can get downed in combat, but they're usually knocked out or disabled, not dead. Since I mostly play M&M, it's not even a houserule.

Kaun
2015-02-11, 07:06 PM
Here's my attempt at defining lethality levels in RPGs - not by frequency, but by what can cause PC death.

-Snip-

Yeah this seems about right to me.

My games are generally either Low or High (with the occasional very high for particular game types as per example)

Kurald Galain
2015-02-11, 07:44 PM
Here's my attempt at defining lethality levels in RPGs - not by frequency, but by what can cause PC death.
Ok, that works. It also correlates reasonably well to frequency.

On this scale, I'd rate LFR/PFS and almost every White Wolf game as Very Low, regular D&D/PF as Low, Call of Chthulhu as High, and of course Paranoia as Very High. Of course, not everybody plays those games in the same way as the players in my area.

Mark Hall
2015-02-11, 07:59 PM
One of the tropes of our old games was that "Anyone added late was usually a prisoner." You started the game damn-near-naked, with little to no equipment, a trussed up prisoner of the bad guys, inserted as soon as was convenient.

What does this mean? In the short term, it means you have an investment in the success of the group... after all, these guys took your stuff, stripped you naked, and kept you prisoner. But long term? That's where emotional investment and role-playing came in.

So, Bob the Thief, with his quest to free his father from prison by raising bail money, has died. His quest ended. A couple rooms later (after Robert has hurriedly dashed off a new character), Bobert the gnome illusionist/thief is found, being tormented by goblins. He's freed, and Bobert gathers some equipment from the goblins. It comes out that he's adventuring because the nearby gnome burrow was worried about these goblins and fears that something may be pushing them into gnomish territory. Bobert joins the party in their quest against the goblins, and the bigger threat behind them.

What happens to Bob's father? Well, that's up to the party, and to role-playing. Maybe Bob had enough saved up to save his dad, but just hadn't done it yet, and the party will carry on in his name. Maybe Bob had a brother who could carry on the work and the party can deliver his inheritance to that brother. You see, Bob's dead. He's not coming back. He failed to find a trap, he failed a save, he turned purple, ballooned to three times his size, and exploded in a fine, Bob-colored mist. But if Bob made the other characters care about him, and made the other characters care about his dad, then his quest hasn't ended. It's been bequeathed to the party.

Or not. They could say "Eh, Bob's dad sounded like a jerk. And I didn't like Bob. Let's strip him nude and sell off his belongings to the gnomes." But that would still be role-playing.

Zarrgon
2015-02-12, 02:07 AM
Isn't there any in between for you guys?
Like in everything, they key is balance.

That is not true with every thing, and it's not true of High Lethality games. Death can either be in every ten foot spot, or it's nowhere.


I am not fond of high-lethality games. I do find that losing characters too often or easily makes it hard to become invested in them, simply because they wind up having had no real importance to the story. They were just another in a long line of faces that met a group of people whose only connection is that they met people who happened to meet these people before.

It's not like a High Lethality game has a player roll 1d12 every round and if you roll an odd number your character dies. It's still the players actions that get a character killed.



Also, high lethality games require you to be extremely careful and over-prepared if you want to live, and from my experience those tend to be detrimental to roleplaying. A game where the characters are afraid to take risks, because doing so means one or more of them will probably die, is a boring game.

This is also great for immersion. The player does not want the character to die, and they act to keep the character alive. It's directly opposed to the ''well my character just does whatever as we know they won't die''


Here's my attempt at defining lethality levels in RPGs - not by frequency, but by what can cause PC death.

Your list is nothing like the way I see it:

Very High Lethality
The game world is a dangerous places and a character could die at any time.

High Lethality
The game world is a dangerous place and a character facing danger could die at any time.

Medium Lethality
The game world has some danger in it, and death does happen from time to time.

Low Lethality
The game world is safe, only at rare set times does death happen

Very Low Lethality
The game world is super safe and death is a once in a blue moon sort of thing.

Note mine don't have ''punishment'' or doing things ''wrong''

Earthwalker
2015-02-12, 06:12 AM
Good games make sure that taking risks is also rewarded. Most people are naturally cautious when going into dark places underground but if you absolutely want to play someone who is willing to take massive risks for enormous rewards there should be potential rewards to be had. You're probably going to die but if you don't the rewards are going to be worth your while.

This is true but then you hear stories even on these boards where the DM starts a session by saying
“You are on the road to The City of Spires, suddenly you see two dragons appear flying towards you. It appears both dragons have riders, elves wearing red wizard robes.”
That’s the set up, I didn’t get to choose what risks to take I am just at risk and its all going pear shaped from the get go. In this example I can’t choose a safe path the high lethality killer path is coming to me.


Here's my attempt at defining lethality levels in RPGs - not by frequency, but by what can cause PC death.

Very Low Lethality
PCs die when their players want them to die.
Example: I want to give my character a good sendoff, so I talk with the DM about it and he creates a situation where my PC can perform a heroic sacrifice.

Low Lethality
PCs die as punishment for doing something very stupid or suicidal.
Example: My character attacks the BBEG's army alone (and it's not Exalted or another game where PCs are expected to do that kind of thing).

Medium Lethality
PCs die as punishment for failure.
Example: A random encounter starts. Due to bad rolls and/or suboptimal tactics, my character is killed by the monsters.

High Lethality
PCs die even when they didn't do anything wrong.
Example: A random encounter starts. Immediately, two orcs charge at my character, and deal enough damage to kill me before I can even react.

Very High Lethality
PCs are expected to die all the time and it's probably played for laughs.
Example: Insert any session of Paranoia or Kobolds Ate My Baby here.

Yep this seems pretty much perfect to me. It rates the levels of lethality on how I see them. Oddly I have played the same system but the lethality level changes depending on GM. So this is clearly in some ways system independent. (not completely very low lethality paranoia seems unlikely )


It's not like a High Lethality game has a player roll 1d12 every round and if you roll an odd number your character dies. It's still the players actions that get a character killed.
See in some of the posts I read its not the case its death by PC action. Its more death because the world is a cold dark place. You can be sat in the Inn safe and sound then suddenly NINJAS. The GM decides its time to ninja things up a bit. Before you get to act the death attack hits and your dead.

This is also great for immersion. The player does not want the character to die, and they act to keep the character alive. It's directly opposed to the ''well my character just does whatever as we know they won't die''
It can also go the other way. It doesn’t matter this world is cruel and brutal. No matter what I do to stay alive I die anyway to surprise ninjas. I may as well treat this like a goof off game.



Your list is nothing like the way I see it:
Very High Lethality
The game world is a dangerous places and a character could die at any time.

High Lethality
The game world is a dangerous place and a character facing danger could die at any time.

Medium Lethality
The game world has some danger in it, and death does happen from time to time.

Low Lethality
The game world is safe, only at rare set times does death happen

Very Low Lethality
The game world is super safe and death is a once in a blue moon sort of thing.

Note mine don't have ''punishment'' or doing things ''wrong''
I don’t think the punishment was something that the GM was going to try to inflict. It was more saying. If you do not respect the level of danger you will die. Not because you are being punished more as a natural consiquence.
I was going to argue about how you just have one setting for the game world but it does mention that if you face danger you could die at any time. Which is all well and good. Does that mean that in those games the expectation is that the players will never face danger tho ?

Mr. Mask
2015-02-12, 06:57 AM
A good rule of thumb is that the more deadly aspects of your game are, the more ways you should incorporate for players to avoid those elements, or to arrange to enter them with a steep advantage.

mephnick
2015-02-12, 07:28 AM
A good rule of thumb is that the more deadly aspects of your game are, the more ways you should incorporate for players to avoid those elements, or to arrange to enter them with a steep advantage.

Pretty much.

A level 5 party stumbling into the lair of a death tyrant beholder can shift from Low Lethality to High Lethality purely depending on the style of the GM. If I give them lots of clues and available outs, the PC's will likely avoid the combat unless they do something stupid. If I say "Surprise, Death Tyrant!" the party dies, even if they didn't do anything but take a wrong turn.

Now you could say it's High Lethality game because my encounter tables include high level monsters (starting from level 1), or you could say it's a Low Lethality game because the players have fair warning of the challenges. They're almost impossible categories to define simply.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-12, 07:39 AM
Your list is nothing like the way I see it:

Very High Lethality
The game world is a dangerous places and a character could die at any time.

There is a problem with this definition: it speaks of what could happen and not of what does happen. I can think of a few campaign settings that are indeed a dangerous place where characters could die at any time... except that PCs actually get plot armor so they don't in fact die at all.


Note mine don't have ''punishment'' or doing things ''wrong''

Well, then that's another problem with your categorization. Any system that rewards good tactics will, by definition, have consequences for bad tactics, and these consequences may well include character death. Now you may personally dislike that and call it "punishment", but that doesn't change the fact that numerous systems exist where bad tactics will get your character killed.

Actually, Tengu's classification reflects this well: if a character dies, is that because of (1) deliberate choice, (2) terminal stupidity, (3) poor tactics, (4) randomness, or (5) the universe hates you.

goto124
2015-02-12, 07:46 AM
Speaking of hint-dropping: Do warn your players beforehand, that the hints actually MEAN it. As opposed to being merely pointing the way for a Big Damn Heroes.

The DM can have lots of mooks die to the Monster, set up tons of horror themes pointing at the Monster etc, but the players might just see 'oh we got to kill this monster it's our destiny!'

It's just telling them about the nature of the game.

hewhosaysfish
2015-02-12, 08:47 AM
Speaking of hint-dropping: Do warn your players beforehand, that the hints actually MEAN it. As opposed to being merely pointing the way for a Big Damn Heroes.

The DM can have lots of mooks die to the Monster, set up tons of horror themes pointing at the Monster etc, but the players might just see 'oh we got to kill this monster it's our destiny!'

It's just telling them about the nature of the game.

True dat.

You'll see a DM on the forums posting in a thread with a title somethin like "Stupidest things your players have ever done", talking about how his players waltzed straight into the Mysterious Cavern of Death even when he kept having every NPC warn that it was called the Mysterious Cavern of Death, that a squad of hardened mercenaries had went in there recently and never came out, that there is rumored to be a dragon living in there, and that its still called the Mysterious Cavern of Death.
How stupid must those players have been?

Then you'll see a DM posting a thread called something like "HALp! My PCs are ignoring all my plot hooks", talking about how the PCs spent an entire session bumming about the local tavern while the players complained that there was nothing for them do do despite every NPC telling them that outside town was the Mysterious Cavern of Death, that a squad of hardened mercenaries had went in there recently and never came out, that there is rumored to be a dragon living in there, and that its still called the Mysterious Cavern of Death.
It's like they aren't interested in, ya know, playing heroic adventurers?

I wonder if these DMs ever read eachothers threads and if they fantasize about swapping players with the other DM.

Mutazoia
2015-02-12, 09:09 AM
Wrong. Everything your character does is IC, it's all roleplaying. There's no "dungeon crawling time" and "roleplaying time", this is not an MMO RP server. Some of the best roleplaying I had in games, the most emotionally moving scenes, happened during, or immediately before or after, combat.

Sure, you can role play during combat, but typically combat breaks down into 90% dice rolls and perhaps moving your mini's around the map, and 10% yelling "By Grabthar's Hammer, you shall be avenged!" For the most part, role playing is what happens between combat.



Because, obviously, not liking high lethality means you're a whiny baby who can't stand anything bad happening to his character, right?

This arrogant stance is common among people who like high lethality games, or at least among people who get defensive about the high lethality playstyle.

Wrong...by assuming that high lethality games don't let you do any role playing at all and there for totally suck bantha balls and should never ever be played, makes you a whiny baby.


Also, Game of Thrones is a novel, not an RPG. It works by completely different rules, unless your DM is really railroad-y.

Actually....not really. You may or may not be aware that several novels have been written by the author playing a D&D campaign and then embellishing things a bit as he wrote it all down? But besides that.... a good campaign will follow the same rules as a novel....anything can happen at any time, there will be danger, and you are not guaranteed a happy ending. But it's a collaborative novel (everyone at the table), rather than having one author (just the DM).

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-12, 09:24 AM
Speaking of hint-dropping: Do warn your players beforehand, that the hints actually MEAN it. As opposed to being merely pointing the way for a Big Damn Heroes.

"Big Damn Heroes" is a moniker for those player characters who are smart or lucky enough to survive through an event while making a difference. You can't tell whether you are one until the action is over.

My attitude as both a player and a gamemaster, and one I actively endorse in all my players, is that all situations which could lead to death or danger should be treated with appropriate respect. Whether said situation is getting in a sword fight in a fantasy skirmish game, or eating unknown mushrooms in urban comedy. You don't do such things unless you are prepared for negative consequences, or at least you will not complain if said negative consequences remove you from the game.

As long as the GM is smart enough to allow actual choice during game, this kind of attitude allows for the players to regulate how lethal the games happen to be. No-one needs to die even in a survival horror game, if the players are genre savvy. And on the flipside, any and all games, regardless of original genre, can be turned into survival horror or black comedy slapstick if the players are so inclined. It's about which kind of roles the players choose to play.

DigoDragon
2015-02-12, 09:46 AM
If 'High Lethality' is a game where dice aren't fudged and PCs can be killed by random chance as much as by their own actions, I can still get invested into the RP aspect of a character. It's anticlimactic when a character of mine fails one save and get turned into a potato, but up until then I could of had a great time playing the role with a full personality who just needs to be smart about adventuring so he doesn't bump into that Transmuter carelessly.

On the other hand, if we're playing Paranoia, I don't bother with investing into my characters. Just random-gen a character and look for a creative way to get disintegrated. :smalltongue:

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 10:46 AM
Sure, you can role play during combat, but typically combat breaks down into 90% dice rolls and perhaps moving your mini's around the map, and 10% yelling "By Grabthar's Hammer, you shall be avenged!" For the most part, role playing is what happens between combat.

You sure have some bland battles. In my weekly game combat is as much roleplay as it's tactics and dicerolls. We've had philosophical discussions, friendships getting made and broken, sneering at the delusions of others and people switching sides during combat so far. Probably other things too that I'm forgetting about.

Also, ultimately, I think that what people are missing when they talk about how lethality encourages investment or inhibits it is that it's individual. What ultimately encourages investment is having fun, what inhibits it is boredom. For some people taking a lot of precautions to make sure you don't die is just plain tedious, for others having a really hard time overcoming the challenge of surviving is highly entertaining. The first group finds its investment slipping as they go through what's tedious busywork to them, the latter group finds their investment slipping if it appears that the challenge is lower. However, I find it highly troubling how many people make their preferred playstyle an ethical mandate. As long as the group is on the same page and has fun, both high and low lethality is entirely valid and, ultimately, there are more pages that are well served by low lethality than high. So, do whatever floats your boat and let others do what floats their and for the love of god, accept that there exists purposes to roleplaying beyond seeing if somebody wins or loses a fight.

Jay R
2015-02-12, 10:58 AM
There is a distinction most people fail to draw - the difference between games in which characters die all the time, and games in which there are highly lethal situations that the characters need to avoid, run away from, or use a plan to outwit.

People here seem to believe that old-school D&D had extremely high death rates. Except for the absurd over-the top modules like "Temple of Horrors", that just wasn't the case. But there were lots of times we ran away, or stayed away. One DM I played under had "Cockatrice valley" near a town. And our low-level character stayed away from it. We also once killed a dragon at about 3rd level, by causing an avalanche as it was coming out of its lair.

Old-school gaming isn't about cycling through lots of characters. It was about hiding, scheming, and avoiding. There was lots of role-playing involved.

Tragak
2015-02-12, 11:01 AM
You sure have some bland battles. In my weekly game combat is as much roleplay as it's tactics and dicerolls. We've had philosophical discussions, friendships getting made and broken, sneering at the delusions of others and people switching sides during combat so far. Probably other things too that I'm forgetting about.

Also, ultimately, I think that what people are missing when they talk about how lethality encourages investment or inhibits it is that it's individual. What ultimately encourages investment is having fun, what inhibits it is boredom. For some people taking a lot of precautions to make sure you don't die is just plain tedious, for others having a really hard time overcoming the challenge of surviving is highly entertaining. The first group finds its investment slipping as they go through what's tedious busywork to them, the latter group finds their investment slipping if it appears that the challenge is lower. However, I find it highly troubling how many people make their preferred playstyle an ethical mandate. As long as the group is on the same page and has fun, both high and low lethality is entirely valid and, ultimately, there are more pages that are well served by low lethality than high. So, do whatever floats your boat and let others do what floats their and for the love of god, accept that there exists purposes to roleplaying beyond seeing if somebody wins or loses a fight. Exactly. These conversations should be more focused on "The DM and players need to enjoy the game, how can we make that happen?" rather than "The DM and players need to do X in the game, is there a chance they will enjoy it?"

I would like to offer up the single greatest moment of my own DMing experience, and I would be interested to know people's opinions on whether I "should have" done something else instead.


I was running a game about a year ago where I had a chance to bring in one of my favorite BBEGs: Bloodsauger Nightshroud, High Priest of Nerull, a lich Hell-bent on conquering the world with his church-army of liches and vampires. Nightshroud was established as being Epic, and the PCs were each in the level 12-15 range, so they had never confronted him directly, but had scored numerous key victories against his lieutenants.

One time that stands out, however, is when the party’s Kobold Wizard – named Tangri – got killed by some of Nightshroud’s mortal cultists. I give my players a lot more control over the game world than a lot of DMs we've met and/or heard of, and one of our specific house rules to that effect is: a player can bring his/her character back to life in the middle of a battle, instead of waiting for a high-level Divine spellcasting later on, as long as the player comes up with some terrible knowledge that the character brought back from the netherworld and which would make the campaign more challenging in the future.

My player decided to bring Tangri back then and there, declaring that the Gatekeepers of Death (yes, G o D :smallbiggrin: ) had sent her back to warn the party that Nightshroud had discovered a ritual that would plunge the continent into darkness to give his vampires free reign, and that he was less than a week from using it.

After a bit of back and forth between her and the rest of us, Nightshroud’s plan – that the Gatekeepers wished to prevent, so as to protect the natural cycle of life and death – grew into:

Before testing the ritual on a continental level, Nightshroud was going to practice a smaller version (the Epic spell Eclipse: 8 hour duration, 5 mile radius) to conquer a city on the Winter Solstice (the next day), when the shortness of the day and the size of the city would allow him to start with as little of the ritual as possible.

A vampire army would not normally be able to commit to a battle-plan that would take more than one night without interruption, but if Nightshroud managed to use his Eclipse to connect the two longest nights of the year, then his vampires would have 2 long nights + 8 hours uninterrupted as opposed to one night, and their presence across most of the city would give the liches an easier time dealing with the parts of the city still exposed to the Sun.

If Nightshroud found himself comfortable with sustaining the ritual enough to conquer a city, then he would continue to escalate with larger and larger castings (which would not be the official Eclipse anymore).

The party escaped from the cultists and rallied the city to prepare for war. It was agreed that the party’s stronger NPC allies would try to fight Nightshroud himself to prevent the immediate Eclipse, while the PCs would destroy his troves of ritual supplies to prevent him from attempting more in the future. While the city braved the first night of the living dead, the PCs fought their way into Nightshroud’s vault, and were preparing to break through the protective wards (with the help of a vampire double agent) when one of them declared that his character - a Catfolk Barbarian named Mairsarshas – had just received a dying telepathic message from one of their NPC allies, warning that Nightshroud’s guards had killed most of the would-be executioners and that the Eclipse was going to happen.

The party feared that they would have no chance at killing Nightshroud where their stronger allies had failed, so they agreed to continue their own mission of destroying his ritual supplies, at very least ensuring that the imminent Eclipse would be a one-time disaster instead of an eternal Hell on “Earth.” They succeeded, escaped the vault, and returned to the city to join the battle against Nightshroud’s servants, hoping to minimize the damage. I had the vampire ally point out that the Sun would be coming up soon, and that Nightshroud was probably about to start the Eclipse very soon.

Tangri and her player then realized, on the ridiculously absurd off-chance that they could keep Nightshroud occupied until sunrise, that the entire vampire army could be destroyed just by being out in the open without a protective Eclipse, and then the liches could be easier for the city to defeat.

Of course, even if the party could distract Nightshroud long enough for the Eclipse to become moot, they would still have an Epic level Lich Cleric now devoted to killing them rather than to performing the ritual, but they decided that it would be worth it just in case they could destroy the vampire army.

They tracked down Nightshroud and his guards to a basement under the city hall, and I rolled for the number of rounds before the spell was completed (I believe it was 3d6 = 14). The party set about creating distractions as dramatic as possible to make Nightshroud lose focus on controlling the spell. Tangri summoned an Earth Elemental to burrow under the guards, emerge behind them, and bull rush Nightshroud. Mairsarshas ran circles around the guards and threw a bunch of ditherbombs around the room. Sharek (a human Cleric of Kord) brought down large portions of the building with Earthquake (his first ever casting of an 8th level spell). Nightshroud's guards couldn't risk allowing his ritual to be interrupted, so they spent all of their efforts trying to keep up with - and divert - all of the distractions that the PCs were throwing at their lord, not taking the risk of engaging the PCs directly until the Eclipse was assured.

Nightshroud eventually failed a Concentration check with just a few rounds left on the casting. The entire Eclipse was averted, and the vampires in Nightshroud's army were obliterated by the sunrise.

Then came the hard part :smalleek: Nightshroud had over twice as many levels as the strongest PC, and the party now had his UNDIVIDED attention. :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:

Within 3 rounds, Sharek was forcibly transported to Gehenna, Mairsarshas to Hades, and Tangri to Carceri.

Each was mind-controlled into forgetting that they were alive and had been sent to the Infernal Realms because their enemy was evil, believing instead that they had died and been sent to the Infernal Realms because they themselves had brought about evil in their lives.

… And I was not the one who decided that :smallbiggrin:

Thrudd
2015-02-12, 11:05 AM
There is a distinction most people fail to draw - the difference between games in which characters die all the time, and games in which there are highly lethal situations that the characters need to avoid, run away from, or use a plan to outwit.

People here seem to believe that old-school D&D had extremely high death rates. Except for the absurd over-the top modules like "Temple of Horrors", that just wasn't the case. But there were lots of times we ran away, or stayed away. One DM I played under had "Cockatrice valley" near a town. And our low-level character stayed away from it. We also once killed a dragon at about 3rd level, by causing an avalanche as it was coming out of its lair.

Old-school gaming isn't about cycling through lots of characters. It was about hiding, scheming, and avoiding. There was lots of role-playing involved.

Exactly. The only time there might be high death rates is when you have brand new players with brand new characters still learning how to play. After a couple deaths, they learn to start scheming and hiding and avoiding.

Segev
2015-02-12, 11:28 AM
I will note that, if somebody says "high lethality," I assume the game actually is highly lethal. That is, PCs die a lot.

To me, if COMBAT in a game is always highly lethal, with one side quickly gaining the advantage and the losers dying fast (and even if the winners might die later due to complications), that doesn't mean the GAME is highly lethal. But to make such a game not qualify, it has to be made abundantly clear that the act of getting into combat is roughly the equivalent to what other games consider the final few rounds of combat: the fight's more or less decided by the factors that led up to now, and it's only a matter of formal rolls to see just how much more damage the losers can inflict on the winners before they go down.

See, if a game features highly lethal combat, but you're supposed to either avoid it OR you're supposed to arrange things such that you have more-or-less already won the fight when it starts, it needs to spell that out, and have mechanics that support avoiding combat or setting up huge tactical advantages for when combat starts.

It needs to emphasize to players and GM that combat is supposed to be scary to pretty much everybody who is rational, so people don't resort to it at the drop of a disagreement. It should be fairly easy to tell, if a combat situation is deliberately orchestrated, that the orchestrator has the upper hand in a way that, using the combat system, will result in swift death for the one's upon whom it is sprung. This lets there be those highly tense moments where the presumptive victors tell people to put down their weapons and surrender...and have it be a reasonable course of action.

Even better if there are mechanics for give-and-take in setting up the situation, so that the moment of "we have you surrounded; surrender" is the "finishing blow" of the sort of meta-combat that led up to it.


Done right, this is not a high-lethality game. Combat is highly lethal, but the game itself is not. The game is designed around the idea that people will avoid combat, and will give up when bested because they know that they would die if they fought. Resorting to combat is the choice to kill the beaten foe...or the declaration that you'd rather risk swift death than whatever outcome awaits surrender. Or that you're crazy or desperate and don't mind high odds that somebody - quite possibly you - will die.

High lethality GAMES use highly lethal combat (or other systems) combined with an inability to AVOID getting into those deadly situations. Townsfolk, bandits, and monsters alike will attack you and fight to the death over any disagreement. No NPCs will likely surrender. PCs are not discouraged from engaging combat at the first sign of opposition. And then things die fast. Because PCs are in more fights "on screen" than NPCs, PCs apparently die all the more often. (In reality, they're dying no more than NPCs are, but you notice PC churn a lot more than NPC-of-the-fight's death.)

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 12:24 PM
There is a distinction most people fail to draw - the difference between games in which characters die all the time, and games in which there are highly lethal situations that the characters need to avoid, run away from, or use a plan to outwit.

People here seem to believe that old-school D&D had extremely high death rates. Except for the absurd over-the top modules like "Temple of Horrors", that just wasn't the case. But there were lots of times we ran away, or stayed away. One DM I played under had "Cockatrice valley" near a town. And our low-level character stayed away from it. We also once killed a dragon at about 3rd level, by causing an avalanche as it was coming out of its lair.

Old-school gaming isn't about cycling through lots of characters. It was about hiding, scheming, and avoiding. There was lots of role-playing involved.

Hiding, scheming and avoiding isn't really roleplaying if it's based on "how do I survive this". It isn't about portraying a role, but about optimizing chances of success, just in a different way from optimizing your build for maximum killing potential. You can roleplay in a game about either, but no matter the form of optimizing chance of success as long as what you're focused on is that it isn't intrinsically roleplaying.

Thrudd
2015-02-12, 01:12 PM
Hiding, scheming and avoiding isn't really roleplaying if it's based on "how do I survive this". It isn't about portraying a role, but about optimizing chances of success, just in a different way from optimizing your build for maximum killing potential. You can roleplay in a game about either, but no matter the form of optimizing chance of success as long as what you're focused on is that it isn't intrinsically roleplaying.

I think it is role playing. You are playing the role of a person trying to survive dangerous situations and making decisions as though you are them. Making combat decisions as the character (who wants to survive) is role playing.
It may not require improvised dramatic acting, which is only one method of role playing but not the only way.
I think some people feel that "role playing" means only the speaking parts, where you talk in character and improvise emotional responses to a dramatic story. If you are portraying a character and deciding how they should interact with their world, you are role playing, regardless of the depth of your emotional investment, the level of predetermined detail in their background and whether or not there is a pre planned dramatic story.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 01:45 PM
Actions, body language, expressions, tone of voice and not speaking are all just as real roleplaying as speaking. However, whether speaking, acting or fiddling with OOC mechanics is not really roleplaying if not aimed at portraying character, developing plot or setting or exploring themes, it's just problem solving. It uses the same mechanisms and thought processes as negotiating an agreement in Diplomacy or enacting your conquest of Hungary in Europa Universalis.

Jay R
2015-02-12, 02:00 PM
Hiding, scheming and avoiding isn't really roleplaying if it's based on "how do I survive this". It isn't about portraying a role, but about optimizing chances of success, just in a different way from optimizing your build for maximum killing potential. You can roleplay in a game about either, but no matter the form of optimizing chance of success as long as what you're focused on is that it isn't intrinsically roleplaying.

Since people in difficult situations generally try to optimize their chances of success, roleplaying difficult situations that way is indeed playing the role correctly.

When Bilbo sneaks into Smaug's lair, when D'Artganan schemes to get the diamond studs back, or when Robin Hood avoids the Sheriff's men, they are acting in character, and somebody playing such a role who doesn't hide, scheme, or avoid is out of character.

Any action you can take in a game can be done either in character or out of character.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 02:43 PM
That doesn't mean that the scheming, sneaking and running away is anymore roleplaying than stabbing the orc trying to kill you. Choosing when to do so reveals something about the character, but actions based on OOC reasoning to maximise success based on the judgement of the player rather than an established personality of the character is just problem solving. Any game includes that, but to say that your preferred form of problem solving real roleplaying unlike that of others is just judgemental arrogance.

Telok
2015-02-12, 04:09 PM
I've seen roleplaying and character investment in Paranoia. I've seen apathy and such in a multi-year D&D campaign with long term characters. I've seen someone go through thirteen characters in twelve sessions of D&D when nobody else died. I've seen a Paranioa character survive four missions and buy as many clones as he lost.

I'm considering a Paranoia campaign where Alpha Complex is an orbital habitat abd the characters are sent groundside on an extended mission. In that game everyone will have unlimited clones delivered by orbital bombardment (with the associated hilarity that implies). Is that high or low lethality? Will there be attachment or apathy?

It depends on the people playing the game. That's your answer.

Zarrgon
2015-02-12, 06:21 PM
See in some of the posts I read its not the case its death by PC action. Its more death because the world is a cold dark place. You can be sat in the Inn safe and sound then suddenly NINJAS. The GM decides its time to ninja things up a bit. Before you get to act the death attack hits and your dead.

I'd see that as two separate things. You have the ''surprise attack'' and the ''lethal game'', but they don't just automatically go together. Any DM even the softest one can have a sudden ninja attack. Though, sure in the non lethal game the ninja's just ''knock the PC's down''.

Also, there is a third one here the DM who does the ''Auto''. Any DM can have ninja's show up and do an auto. For the non lethal game it's where the ''PC's have no chance and just get captured''.



It can also go the other way. It doesn’t matter this world is cruel and brutal. No matter what I do to stay alive I die anyway to surprise ninjas. I may as well treat this like a goof off game.

True, but only if the whole game is bland and just like a bunch of interconnect excuses to kill PCs. the whole game needs to be exciting and engaging and interesting.



I was going to argue about how you just have one setting for the game world but it does mention that if you face danger you could die at any time. Which is all well and good. Does that mean that in those games the expectation is that the players will never face danger tho ?

Most games will have damage, as most games a character does dangerous things. A PC is an adventurer, or a spy or a hero or whatever. they will face danger. Very Lethal is where a character can die from just walking along a ledge. Roll low, your character falls and dies. High Lethality games avoid that type of death.



There is a problem with this definition: it speaks of what could happen and not of what does happen. I can think of a few campaign settings that are indeed a dangerous place where characters could die at any time... except that PCs actually get plot armor so they don't in fact die at all.

Plot armor bumps the game to Low Lethality, at best.



Well, then that's another problem with your categorization. Any system that rewards good tactics will, by definition, have consequences for bad tactics, and these consequences may well include character death. Now you may personally dislike that and call it "punishment", but that doesn't change the fact that numerous systems exist where bad tactics will get your character killed.

Why do you say it has to be rewards or bad consequences? A non-lethal game will often have rewards or slightly less then good consequences. A system can reward people with no downside. And in a Low Lethality game, you will never have death by bad consequences.

Take for example: the Movie Return of the Jedi(everyone has seen that right?) Ok, the ewocks attack and the big battle starts...blasters going off, explosions, people dying everywhere. Then two Stormtroopers runs over to Han and Leia and say ''Don't Move'' and then stand there like targets. Er, but why? Why did the Stormtroopers not just shoot the Rebel scum? Why bother telling them not to move and even trying to take them prisoner?

Because there can never be consequences for bad tactics, and these consequences may well include character death, in the Star Wars Universe for Main characters.




Actually, Tengu's classification reflects this well: if a character dies, is that because of (1) deliberate choice, (2) terminal stupidity, (3) poor tactics, (4) randomness, or (5) the universe hates you.

Though it misses ''Bad Luck'', ''Bad Idea'', ''Over Confidence'', ''Blindness'', and dozens of other reasons a character might die.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 06:38 PM
Bad luck is covered by randomness and the rest are all covered by poor tactics. :smallconfused:

Kurald Galain
2015-02-12, 06:41 PM
Why do you say it has to be rewards or bad consequences?
Obviously, because if tactics matter at all in the game, then that means bad tactics will give you bad results.


Though it misses ''Bad Luck'', ''Bad Idea'', ''Over Confidence'', ''Blindness'', and dozens of other reasons a character might die.
Not at all. Bad luck is the same as (4) randomness; bad ideas are generally (3) poor tactics, and overconfidence sounds like a case of (2) terminal stupidity. Blindness doesn't kill people, that's pretty random to bring that up here. What's next, do you want to list "goblins", "fire", and "gravity"? Because that'd be missing the point :smalltongue:

Beta Centauri
2015-02-12, 06:42 PM
I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion but to answer your question, no, i don't think that. When you said


But then again my group of players and friends have amassed a few stories of complete and utter failure over the years of gaming. And i treasure a lot of those stories equally as much as the ones that revolve around succeeding.

I got the impression that you think the issue is that people who don't like high lethality are unwilling or unable to treasure failure. But since not all failure means death (and almost none of it has to) people in low (PC) lethality games can still experience failure and treasure the experience.


See this is true, but i don't think to like a game or like a character do you need to like every aspect of the character or every action they take or every event that happens to them. I think that having elements you don't like can sweeten the ones you do like. I think people use that as a rationalization of those elements, because they doesn't see a way to get rid of them. They have to come to terms with those elements, even fetishize them, or they impact the enjoyment of the game.

But once they've rationalized them, if someone comes along and says, hey, you don't need those elements, they take some umbrage because these things are no longer dislikeable but are considered a core part of the experience.

I'd rather just remove or diminish the elements I don't like. It doesn't make sense to me to say that in order to enjoy something to its fullest, there have to be things about it that I don't enjoy.

Morty
2015-02-12, 06:47 PM
I think a lot of people are assuming that in a game where combat and violence are lethal, PCs are going to die frequently. Which isn't, strictly speaking, true. In such a game, PCs will face a real risk of death or serious injury if a violent situation, such as combat, occurs. Which it might not. In a game where getting into a fight might get you killed, it makes sense that the PCs will avoid getting into fights.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-12, 06:53 PM
I think a lot of people are assuming that in a game where combat and violence are lethal, PCs are going to die frequently. Which isn't, strictly speaking, true. In such a game, PCs will face a real risk of death or serious injury if a violent situation, such as combat, occurs. Which it might not. In a game where getting into a fight might get you killed, it makes sense that the PCs will avoid getting into fights.

Well said. A game where combat is lethal but you can avoid it with decent planning probably falls under (3) poor tactics. A game where combat is lethal and unavoidable generally falls under (4) randomness.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-12, 07:02 PM
That doesn't mean that the scheming, sneaking and running away is anymore roleplaying than stabbing the orc trying to kill you. Choosing when to do so reveals something about the character, but actions based on OOC reasoning to maximise success based on the judgement of the player rather than an established personality of the character is just problem solving. So, if the established personality of the character would result in the same decision as the OOC reasoning to maximize success, would you have a problem with it?

Those who tie their definition of roleplaying to the source of the reasoning behind a character's actions, rather than just to what those actions are, set themselves up to see a lack of roleplaying anytime a character does something beneficial. Any time anyone around them does something, they might have to judge whether it was the player or the character, especially if it was a smart move. Worse, players who play this way have to use OOC reasoning to avoid making choices that anyone might suspect are based on other OOC reasoning.

In general I find that people who feel that such-and-such situation or game doesn't feature or isn't "roleplaying" are overly concerned with how other people's characters are played and what other people will think of how their character is being played.


I think a lot of people are assuming that in a game where combat and violence are lethal, PCs are going to die frequently. Which isn't, strictly speaking, true. In such a game, PCs will face a real risk of death or serious injury if a violent situation, such as combat, occurs. Which it might not. In a game where getting into a fight might get you killed, it makes sense that the PCs will avoid getting into fights. Yes, this is understood, but dismissed because some people don't want to have a character survive if the character's survival involves constant risk-mitigation. Thus, for such people a lethal game involves a lot of PC death. Which is fine, as long as that doesn't affect the player's ability to continue playing.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 07:14 PM
Problem solving is necessary, as is doing things that might not be intuitive for the character in order to keep the game running smoothly. Similarly if a character is meant to be competent at something, you should obviously try to exercise your greatest skill at it in portraying the character. However, if all you do is aimed at overcoming problems and you never take actions that might be suboptimal to that end because of characterization you're roleplaying just as little as if you were trying to show off your build. The point isn't that you can't scheme, sneak, run away or whatever and roleplay, it is that you're not automatically roleplaying just because you do those things. Just like you aren't automatically not roleplaying if you dedicate time to refining your build. It's a matter of focus, not actions themselves. And, of course, if you enjoy problem solving more than roleplaying that's fine, just don't be arrogant about it or claim that you're doing something you're not. I wouldn't even have commented if Jay R hadn't suggested that it was automatically roleplaying to do so in a tone that vaguely suggested that people who played in different styles weren't really roleplaying.

kardar233
2015-02-12, 07:18 PM
I'd like to deliver an anecdote about why my group low-lethality games.

In the current game we're running, we're playing a trio of Dark Elves. My character, Caheira Raneth, is a sorceress of noticeable power who specializes in ice magic, life magic and mind control; she can be a surprisingly decent person with people she cares about, but if you mess with them she'll freeze you solid and rip your soul out. The other characters are a rather honourable priest of the god of killing, and a thoroughly despicable pirate captain whom Caheira has the misfortune to be a sister to.

Now, we were just returning from a mission where we impersonated a group of High Elf ambassadors in order to sabotage relations between the human empire. During that mission each of us had formed connections to the humans of the empire: one of their colleges helped Caheira deal with a potentially life-threatening problem with one of her loves (with no expectation of reward), the priest's apprentice/surrogate daughter made a name for herself in the court and really enjoyed herself, and Caheira's brother... found the meaning of friendship, or something? The player didn't explain that well. It turned out that the human empire was being assaulted by an extremely powerful necromancer and his orc horde, and when we heard about this we naturally decided to get the hell out of there before we all became zombies.

The thing was, after we left, we were all uncomfortable about leaving these humans who we'd connected with to die. Even the captain, who normally could be perked up by a good round of torturing, was down. We hit an obstacle on the way, suffered a loss, and then when that was finished, the captain voiced what we were all thinking: "We should go back."

Caheira, at this point, had written her brother off as a monster, but the lesser of two evils, and she was shocked by this... but she agreed wholeheartedly. It took a bit of convincing to get the priest on board, but we did, and then we were off back to the empire.

Now, in a high-lethality game, we'd come back to help fight against this necromancer, and then he'd take one look at us and rip our souls out. TPK. Maybe one of us survives by running the hell away, but it's unlikely. This takes the character arc, the question driving our character development ("can people who've been indoctrinated into a sociopathic hell of a society eventually become normal?") and stomps it flat. It's extremely difficult to maintain any kind of continuity in that case, as that was a personal struggle on the part of the character.

Could I make a new character? Sure. But much would be lost. We wouldn't have the strange camaraderie that Caheira shared with the priest of the group, despite belonging to a cult that his religion is attempting to stamp out. We wouldn't have the moral questions of whether Caheira's treatment of the collection she keeps is justified despite their happiness. We wouldn't see the effects of Caheira's torture at the hands of her mother reflected in her attitudes and her life. I'd have a new character, and sure, they might be as deep and powerful a character as Caheira was, but Caheira's story would be over, and forever unresolved.

Without the spectre of death on every corner, we were able to make a choice that wasn't the right choice, but it was the choice that was right for our characters. That's why we play low lethality.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-12, 07:44 PM
Problem solving is necessary, as is doing things that might not be intuitive for the character in order to keep the game running smoothly. As well as for it to be enjoyable at all.


Similarly if a character is meant to be competent at something, you should obviously try to exercise your greatest skill at it in portraying the character. Or, if you don't personally know anything about that thing, then in an interesting third-person description of it.


However, if all you do is aimed at overcoming problems and you never take actions that might be suboptimal to that end because of characterization you're roleplaying just as little as if you were trying to show off your build. Ah, yes. The school of thought that only people who make things harder for their character are truly roleplaying. You've framed the definition specifically to skewer people who don't like making "suboptimal" (often referred to as "dumb") choices just to convince other people they're roleplaying. Why not a definition that's inclusive, rather than exclusive, one that doesn't require you to act as its gatekeeper?


The point isn't that you can't scheme, sneak, run away or whatever and roleplay, it is that you're not automatically roleplaying just because you do those things. Just like you aren't automatically not roleplaying if you dedicate time to refining your build. I don't see why, if a character takes an action that character would plausibly take, that they're not being roleplayed.


It's a matter of focus, not actions themselves. You don't necessarily know what someone's focus is, and I'm not sure why you'd care what it is.


And, of course, if you enjoy problem solving more than roleplaying that's fine, just don't be arrogant about it or claim that you're doing something you're not. The arrogance I see is in someone assuming that they are the one who gets to decide whether or not someone is doing that thing. It smacks of the "fake geek" issue. We shouldn't make people prove they're a fan to say they're a fan, so we shouldn't make people prove they're roleplaying to say they're roleplaying.


I wouldn't even have commented if Jay R hadn't suggested that it was automatically roleplaying to do so in a tone that vaguely suggested that people who played in different styles weren't really roleplaying. As long as a character is acting in a way that's plausible for that character to act (or in a way that's conducive to the game running smoothly - could be both) then we might as well say that the player is roleplaying. To do otherwise is highly divisive.

Jay R
2015-02-12, 08:00 PM
... actions based on OOC reasoning to maximise success based on the judgement of the player rather than an established personality of the character is just problem solving.

If my character wishes to survive, then it isn't opposed to the established personality of the character. When the character has a problem that he really wishes to solve, then solving it is not "just problem solving," it's actually acting within the "established personality of the character."

Clearly we aren't communicating at all. Could you give a clear example of a character who is avoiding, hiding or scheming when it's necessary to save his life, and it isn't playing the character correctly?

Other than a deliberate suicide, I can't imagine what it would be.


Any game includes that, but to say that your preferred form of problem solving real roleplaying unlike that of others is just judgemental arrogance.

Agreed. Good thing I haven't said that or anything compatible with that, then. I believe that you will not find the phrase "unlike that of others," or any equivalent, in anything I've written. Assuming it without evidence is, well, "just judgmental arrogance."

Referring to old-school gaming, I said that "There was lots of role-playing involved." But I never said or implied that there was less role-playing elsewhere. I was defending what I do, not attacking what others do.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-12, 08:02 PM
It is only a fake geek issue if you presume that roleplaying is somehow worthier than problem solving. I don't give a flying **** what people do for fun as long as they don't hurt others. What I care about is the frankly condescending attitude of oldschool roleplayers who feel entitled to bring sweeping condemnations of people playing in different ways as stupid, uncreative and weak at the slightest provocation. Not all or even most oldschool roleplayers do that, mind you, but it is a fairly consistent trend. I also care about people trying to turn things into tribal totems to parade their superiority with, whether it's roleplaying, playing triple A video games, only watching old cartoons or drinking craft beer. There's nothing wrong with any of those activities, but there is with using them as a badge of honor or a way of suggesting that others are inferior in some way or another. If I have given anybody the impression that I think problem solving is less worthy than roleplaying, I apologize. If anything, problem solving is more worthy as it is a more widely useful skillset.

I also don't particularly care for discussions being muddled because people fail to provide any kind of stringency in definitions. I don't think the distinction between "how do we win" and "how do I best portray this character" or "how do I best express my exploration of these themes" is particularly tricky to either define or spot in action. Both are activities that exist under the heading of roleplaying, often concurrently side by side in the same game, but they're not the same activity and some games focus more on one than the other. That's hardly a novel or controversial statement nor would it be if people would let go of stupid pride in doing one or the other and trying to cram everything they do under that heading.

As for characters who wouldn't hide, avoid or scheme to save their lives? Any kind of honorable warrior type, as opposite to one who is moral but not particularly concerned with honor. Most Crane or Lion samurai in L5R would literally commit suicide before that, for example. As would a paladin in D&D by default. Not hiding, scheming or running away is kind of a big deal in all forms of chivalry or older forms of warrior honor.

goto124
2015-02-12, 08:06 PM
Constantly making only optimal choices can be very fun (like in computer games), but isn't exactly roleplaying. If a game is so lethal (or of the 'you are supposed to avoid combat' kind) that any suboptimal choices lead to death or other very bad consequences, it doesn't really encourage people to make characters other than 'smart pragmatic strategist'. No 'honor warriors', no people with imperfect knowledge of the world.

Speaking of imperfect knowledge: Let's say a PC is facing a troll who can easily kill the PC in a few rounds. Trouble is, how did the PC know the troll was that tough before she goes in to fight? Also, let's say the troll is resistant to everything, especially fire, but is weak to acid. The PC isn't supposed to know this fact, and by IC knowledge, would try to kill it with fire. However, the player knows that if the PC goes to attack the troll with her usual flameblade, she will die because she won't deal enough damage to kill the troll before it kills her. Would the player let the PC get killed? My opinion: I won't. I spent a lot of effort on the PC, I want to keep her alive.

That's my experience anyway, having played in a high lethality game. Constant fear bogged down the experience a lot... for me. It enhances other people's experiences, apparentally. Maybe I see games as escaping from the fear so prevalent in reality, and wish not to see the same thing in games meant for fun.

Gamgee
2015-02-12, 08:23 PM
Game of Thrones

High lethality and focus on roleplay combined. In the game of thrones you either win or you die.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECewrAld3zw

http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/783/977/258.gif

kardar233
2015-02-12, 09:28 PM
The thing is that what works for a story doesn't necessarily work in an RPG, because they're constructed very differently. If I were playing Eddard Stark, I would be discouraged by my character's Diabolus ex Machina of an execution; I would have been looking forward to being sent to the Nights' Watch and seeing what my son did in my place, and how I could influence him while retaining my vows, and the like. Instead, my character is killed, and his story arc ends right there. That would make me rather wary of becoming invested in any of my future characters in light of that investment being paid back with their unceremonious deaths.

Interestingly, this also pertains the current debate about whether optimal play is "real" roleplaying. In Ned's situation, after Robert's death, the optimal path would have been to publicize Joffrey's ineligibility for the throne, or to let it go and work with the Lannisters rather than trying to place Stannis on the throne, or to side with Renly and take Joffrey hostage. However, Ned didn't take any of those paths, because the first would have shamed Robert's memory, the second would run against his honour, and the third would put Renly on the throne when it should have been Stannis. Because of Ned's character, he took the honourable path, and he died for it.

My group likes to play with low lethality because our highest value is the internal consistency of the character and their choices. This often means making choices that would be effectively suicidal in a higher-lethality game, but the low-lethality nature makes sure that our characters can survive them so we can continue their stories.

It's definitely plausible that people on the side of optimal play build characters for whom the optimal path is also in character. I'm just wondering, what goes into building a character like that? Doesn't that restrict characters who have things they care about more than their life? Wouldn't that get boring after a while?

Zarrgon
2015-02-12, 11:47 PM
Bad luck is covered by randomness and the rest are all covered by poor tactics. :smallconfused:

It's seems like a stretch to say ''over confidence'' is a ''poor tactic''. And ''bad luck'' is not exactly random.


Obviously, because if tactics matter at all in the game, then that means bad tactics will give you bad results.

Bad tactics can give a neutral result.



Not at all. Bad luck is the same as (4) randomness; bad ideas are generally (3) poor tactics, and overconfidence sounds like a case of (2) terminal stupidity. Blindness doesn't kill people, that's pretty random to bring that up here. What's next, do you want to list "goblins", "fire", and "gravity"? Because that'd be missing the point :smalltongue:

Ok, then lets just say a High Lethality game is exactly like all other types of games, except a character can die.


I think a lot of people are assuming that in a game where combat and violence are lethal, PCs are going to die frequently. Which isn't, strictly speaking, true. In such a game, PCs will face a real risk of death or serious injury if a violent situation, such as combat, occurs. Which it might not. In a game where getting into a fight might get you killed, it makes sense that the PCs will avoid getting into fights.

I wonder if the opposite is true? No the Low or No Lethality games do PC's just walk right into danger, knowing full well their character won't die?


Constantly making only optimal choices can be very fun (like in computer games), but isn't exactly roleplaying. If a game is so lethal (or of the 'you are supposed to avoid combat' kind) that any suboptimal choices lead to death or other very bad consequences, it doesn't really encourage people to make characters other than 'smart pragmatic strategist'. No 'honor warriors', no people with imperfect knowledge of the world.

Well, now to a lot of role players that is metagaming. It's not better then ''oh I know that monster only has a +2 to hit'' an walking right past it, knowing it can't hit your character. A true role player, will play the role they have chosen. Take Bomber, a reckless gnome inventor. He makes lots of things that go Boom. In the High Lethal game, he might be killed by one of his own bombs or devices at any time. So the smart thing to do would be to not build them or add lots of safety parts. But then the character would not be reckless.



Speaking of imperfect knowledge: Let's say a PC is facing a troll who can easily kill the PC in a few rounds..

Well, how does it work in the low/no lethality game? The PC's just attack whatever. They know that there is no way any of the characters will die. Even the ''death in a few rounds'' troll won't ever kill a character. They know the troll might take them all down to one hit point, but then the troll will ''suddenly'' decide to capture the PC's or just leave.

Fiery Diamond
2015-02-13, 01:32 AM
I never considered "I hit it with my sword" (or genera equivalent) as role playing. Role Playing is what happens between combat, and thus a highly lethal system should by its very nature, encourage more role playing to avoid lethal situations such as combat. Call of Cthulhu is a good example of a game with a very high chance of your character either dying or going bat-guano insane, yet it's still a very fun game to play.

I can see how the "If my character never dies I can get more role playing time in" mentality forms, but to me...honestly.....stories that have no risk, no element of danger....are just plain boring. Think about it: Do you only read books where everybody skips happily through the tulips and never so much stubs their toes? Do you enjoy movies with no action or drama? Do you only watch shows like "Tele-tubbies" where nothing bad ever happens and everything is warm and fuzzy?

Hell no.

You read "Game of Thrones", get emotionally invested in a character, then Martin kills them...but you keep reading don't you?

Because that is more entertaining than Tele-tubbies.

There are RPG's out there where characters never die...games like TOON or Teenagers from Outer Space....if you can't handle a little danger in your characters lives, go play those and do all the role playing you want with no threat of your precious character scabbing his knees.

No, actually, I don't. I hate shows and books like that. I would ragequit a book like that. I much prefer to read stories where from a Meta perspective I know that the characters I'm attached to have plot armor and any and all suspense from danger to their lives relies on immersion born from suspension of disbelief; in essence I allow myself to react as though I don't know they'll survive.

goto124
2015-02-13, 02:23 AM
kardar233 expressed my points in a different manner. Maybe his explanation is clearer.


Well, now to a lot of role players that is metagaming. It's not better then ''oh I know that monster only has a +2 to hit'' an walking right past it, knowing it can't hit your character. A true role player, will play the role they have chosen. Take Bomber, a reckless gnome inventor. He makes lots of things that go Boom. In the High Lethal game, he might be killed by one of his own bombs or devices at any time. So the smart thing to do would be to not build them or add lots of safety parts. But then the character would not be reckless.

In a high lethality game, the reckless character will die and be replaced fast. So why play a reckless character? Run through lots and lots of them? It can be fun, actually. But good luck keeping up your roleplay without getting tired of those PCs dying before they can develop their unique personalities. I find that high lethality encourages metagaming just to keep your PC alive.


Well, how does it work in the low/no lethality game? The PC's just attack whatever. They know that there is no way any of the characters will die. Even the ''death in a few rounds'' troll won't ever kill a character. They know the troll might take them all down to one hit point, but then the troll will ''suddenly'' decide to capture the PC's or just leave.

Our differences in opinion are apparent here. You're exaggerating, but I get your point. I know that, if I go to face the troll with a suboptimal weapon (flameblade), my PC will live to continue her story. I won't die and roll up another character and try to come up with another interesting person to play.

There's also the 'if there's no risk there's no fun' argument, but it works only if you don't actually die a lot, just that you have to be smart enough to avoid the deaths, which limits the types of characters you can play. And then again, if you want to play a avoid-or-die game, you probably would want to play 'smart' personalities anyway.

Milo v3
2015-02-13, 02:24 AM
I don't see much reason to become attached to characters with super short life-spans, whether they are from Game of Thrones or a tabletop game. If they're a red-shirt, I just can't be bothered to care.

Mr. Mask
2015-02-13, 05:33 AM
In some ways, there ought to be traits that can be disallowed by the GM, which can help certain character types to exist. Like a Reckless character, who is required to behave recklessly, but has a somewhat better chance of surviving their injuries. With the right balance of requirements and bonus, you could get reckless character who survive a little longer, balancing their bonuses against dying with their propensity to cause themselves to get wounded.

Problem being, it is very hard to prevent players from gaming such systems, have a reckless character who is always super cautious. One way I could see is to have a rule that if the character has not been acting recklessly leading up to the time they are wounded, they don't receive the bonus.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-13, 05:49 AM
Now, in a high-lethality game, we'd come back to help fight against this necromancer, and then he'd take one look at us and rip our souls out. TPK. Maybe one of us survives by running the hell away, but it's unlikely.
That's a very unusual definition of "high lethality" you've got there. Frankly that sounds more like "if your DM is a jerk..." rather than "in a high-lethality game..."



Ok, then lets just say a High Lethality game is exactly like all other types of games, except a character can die.
No, let's not. Tengu just gave a very nice scale with five clearly distinct reasons why a character can die. Please read it again.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-13, 06:06 AM
There's also the 'if there's no risk there's no fun' argument, but it works only if you don't actually die a lot, just that you have to be smart enough to avoid the deaths, which limits the types of characters you can play. And then again, if you want to play a avoid-or-die game, you probably would want to play 'smart' personalities anyway.

Precisely.

The thing is: if it's a given that your character won't die, then there isn't any risk. On the other hand, if it's a given that your character will die, then there isn't any risk either.

Getting back to the Tengu scale, your character can get killed by:
(1) your personal choice only. Clearly there isn't any risk here; this appeals to players who enjoy the most narrative control over their character.
(2) terminal stupidity. This appeals to players who like realism/verisimilitude, because there are consequences for doing something really really stupid, but they can be avoided.
(3) poor tactics. This appeals to players who like tactical combat.
(4) randomness. I don't really think this appeals to anyone, except perhaps to killer DMs. Indeed, many of the "worst DM ever" stories appear to fall in this category.
(5) the universe hates you. Well, most games in this category are really parody or slapstick.

For example, most rules-light games fall in category 1 or 2. D&D tends to fall in category 2, but category 3 if your campaign is focused on combat, and category 4 if both sides start spamming save-or-die spells (and this is why many people dislike save-or-die effects). FATAL is a clear example of 4. Call of Chthulhu, for all its known lethality, generally falls in category 2 (albeit with a low threshold for stupidity).

Most drama movies fall in category 1, most action movies fall in category 2, and most horror/slasher movies fall in category 4.

Morty
2015-02-13, 06:09 AM
Yes, this is understood, but dismissed because some people don't want to have a character survive if the character's survival involves constant risk-mitigation. Thus, for such people a lethal game involves a lot of PC death. Which is fine, as long as that doesn't affect the player's ability to continue playing.

This is only true if the GM puts the risk of combat into the story on a consistent basis, and the players need to either engage in it or actively strive to avoid it. If combat is rare and the choice to resort to it is the players' choice at least sometimes, it's not an issue.

Comet
2015-02-13, 06:21 AM
(3) poor tactics. This appeals to players who like tactical combat.


Or careful exploration, or clever sneaking, or devious politics or... Just wanted to make sure we're out of the modern D&D frame.

And randomness isn't always bad, either. Granted, good games make it so that randomness only comes into play as a last resort once you have made at least one wrong turn. But still, getting bad rolls can also be fun for the whole group.

Otherwise, I agree. It's a scale and various games and groups fall on different parts of it.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 12:49 PM
It's definitely plausible that people on the side of optimal play build characters for whom the optimal path is also in character. I'm just wondering, what goes into building a character like that? Doesn't that restrict characters who have things they care about more than their life? Wouldn't that get boring after a while?

If a character is willing to take actions that could likely result in their death for idealistic reasons, that is perfectly fine and possibly exciting. But that idealism means nothing if there isn't really a chance they could die, it isn't really bravery or chivalry if you know they won't ever actually lose. If you like to play such a character in an even slightly realistic or "gritty" setting, then you are doing it accepting that luck will play a bigger part in whether this character lives or dies. chances are they will die the death of a brave warrior facing their fate head on, probably sooner than the more pragmatic types. Some people might like that, and there's no judgement here. If you get tired of this, you can choose a character with a more pragmatic personality. I do think there is a middle ground, a character who is brave and has honor, but makes more pragmatic decisions about when and how to engage the enemy. These are types that are a bit more survivable than those who think bravery and honor means always charging forward into the enemy and announcing their presence with trumpets and banners.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 01:45 PM
I don't get why the players knowledge makes the character cease being brave. We all know that random stormtroopers weren't going to kill Luke Skywalker, Lucas certainly knew that as well, but does Luke know that while he's infiltrating the Death Star? The traits of the character are defined based on their knowledge and perception, not what the writer or the audience knows.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 02:08 PM
I don't get why the players knowledge makes the character cease being brave. We all know that random stormtroopers weren't going to kill Luke Skywalker, Lucas certainly knew that as well, but does Luke know that while he's infiltrating the Death Star? The traits of the character are defined based on their knowledge and perception, not what the writer or the audience knows.

The point is, there is no writer or audience in this medium. The role players are making decisions based on the perceptions if their characters, including their beliefs that dangerous things are actually dangerous.
What the character knows should be what the player knows to the greatest extent possible. What the GM knows is how outcomes are determined, but shouldn't pre-determine the outcome of events lest they remove the players agency to actually play the game.

Unless you are playing a game with the specific purpose of co-creating a dramatic story and improvising the acting of characters in what amounts to an epic novel or an adventure movie. Which can be fun, but is not the only type of game that can be called "role playing". Games with lethality and simulated interactive worlds have different types of roles to play from a game that proceeds assuming a dramatic story with specific central characters.

Fiery Diamond
2015-02-13, 02:25 PM
I don't get why the players knowledge makes the character cease being brave. We all know that random stormtroopers weren't going to kill Luke Skywalker, Lucas certainly knew that as well, but does Luke know that while he's infiltrating the Death Star? The traits of the character are defined based on their knowledge and perception, not what the writer or the audience knows.

I don't always agree with Terraoblivion, but I've agreed with all her posts in this thread. This particular post encapsulates exactly what I was getting at in my post and shows my attitude exactly. You can have the perception of danger even if you know, OOC, that your character isn't going to die.

In fact, I would say that a HUGE chunk of movies and novels fall under this category.


It's the journey that matters, not just the destination. I had an argument in another thread a while back about rolling dice in combat and on fudging that ties directly into this. Just because you know, OOC, that your character will survive the combat doesn't mean that the combat is valueless.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-13, 02:29 PM
It is only a fake geek issue if you presume that roleplaying is somehow worthier than problem solving. I didn't say it was a "fake geek" issue, I said saying that someone isn't "really" roleplaying because they don't meet some specific definition of roleplaying is gatekeeping, and to be avoided.


I also care about people trying to turn things into tribal totems to parade their superiority with, whether it's roleplaying, playing triple A video games, only watching old cartoons or drinking craft beer. There's nothing wrong with any of those activities, but there is with using them as a badge of honor or a way of suggesting that others are inferior in some way or another. If I have given anybody the impression that I think problem solving is less worthy than roleplaying, I apologize. If anything, problem solving is more worthy as it is a more widely useful skillset. The impression you've given is that a problem solver isn't roleplaying. That's turning "roleplaying" into a tribal totem, or a badge of honor, even if you aren't saying it's superior.


I don't think the distinction between "how do we win" and "how do I best portray this character" or "how do I best express my exploration of these themes" is particularly tricky to either define or spot in action. Both are activities that exist under the heading of roleplaying, often concurrently side by side in the same game, but they're not the same activity and some games focus more on one than the other. That's hardly a novel or controversial statement nor would it be if people would let go of stupid pride in doing one or the other and trying to cram everything they do under that heading. As long as you agree that they're both roleplaying, and can both happen concurrently. I don't know what difference it makes whether you can "spot them in action" unless you're trying to police how others play their characters.


Constantly making only optimal choices can be very fun (like in computer games), but isn't exactly roleplaying. I don't see why not. It's common for people to try to make the best choices they can, with the information they have, but even when they do they turn out to be wrong or something beyond their control complicates things.

I don't mind making sub-optimal choices. The optimal ones get boring to make and boring to watch. Some games even reward such choices, making what would be interesting sub-optimal choices into arguably smart moves. But it surprises me that anyone who doesn't think out-of-character considerations should enter into character portrayal would (as I think I'm seeing in this thread) suggest that players consider the out-of-character issue of how well they're roleplaying and make sub-optimal choices as necessary.


If a game is so lethal (or of the 'you are supposed to avoid combat' kind) that any suboptimal choices lead to death or other very bad consequences, it doesn't really encourage people to make characters other than 'smart pragmatic strategist'. No 'honor warriors', no people with imperfect knowledge of the world. Mostly agreed, though you could still have characters who take different routes in their smart, pragmatic strategy. I bet most of us have seen the arguments about whether to kill a captured enemy, let him go, leave him tied up, or take them with you. Smart, pragmatic strategists can disagree and can also be wrong.


Would the player let the PC get killed? My opinion: I won't. I spent a lot of effort on the PC, I want to keep her alive. Right. Creating situations like the one you describe are a prime set up for a schism between the people who act because it's what the character would do, and those who act because it's what the player would do. There's suddenly a ton of incentive not to hold back the player information. I guess people then find those who deny that incentive to be more dedicated, or something, but that's not always going to be much of a comfort if it's not reliable (and if the others will think the player was stupid or foolish), if it means losing a cherished character, or if it means being ejected from play and having to sit out.

I remove all those incentives and I don't care if people use player knowledge anyway. As a result, I don't have this issue at all.


That's my experience anyway, having played in a high lethality game. Constant fear bogged down the experience a lot... for me. It enhances other people's experiences, apparentally. Maybe I see games as escaping from the fear so prevalent in reality, and wish not to see the same thing in games meant for fun. Right. I feel like some people want to see what they would really do if they were a character in a story, since characters in stories often don't make sensical decisions. Take all the characters from Prometheus, for example. Me, I generally want to play and run for characters whose non-sensical choices tend to have interesting (if not always successful) results. In that event, there's not much incentive not to make character-based choices, because such choices will not impact the enjoyment of the game.


No, actually, I don't. I hate shows and books like that. I would ragequit a book like that. I much prefer to read stories where from a Meta perspective I know that the characters I'm attached to have plot armor and any and all suspense from danger to their lives relies on immersion born from suspension of disbelief; in essence I allow myself to react as though I don't know they'll survive. I often do that too, and frankly, even if I've seen the show or read the book dozens of times, I still feel actual tension and sensations of fear. I'm not sure why.

Fiery Diamond: How about situations in which the characters themselves aren't at risk, but some goal or something is? I tend to prefer those, as do television shows that can't just break their contract with their star actors.


In some ways, there ought to be traits that can be disallowed by the GM, which can help certain character types to exist. Like a Reckless character, who is required to behave recklessly, but has a somewhat better chance of surviving their injuries. With the right balance of requirements and bonus, you could get reckless character who survive a little longer, balancing their bonuses against dying with their propensity to cause themselves to get wounded. This is what Fate does. If your aspect implies that you're "reckless," you get a Fate point for acting recklessly when it would complicate things. That point can be used to power other aspects (one that speaks to the character's toughness, for instance) or stunts. It might be a wash, with the point for the recklessness being used to mitigate the effects of the recklessness, or even a loss, but it might also be a net gain in points.

One can make a "reckless" character who is never reckless, if one wants, but that means that the "reckless" aspect will never help generate points for the character.


The traits of the character are defined based on their knowledge and perception, not what the writer or the audience knows. They're also defined by the writer and the actor. The actor is (one hopes) drawing on what they understand about the character, but they're probably also thinking about how to make their actions look cool, how to hit their position mark, and how to time things. Things, in other words, that the character would have no reason to consider. People praise actors who really immerse themselves, but I'd happily wager that most of the actors people consider good, are not immersed. As Sir Lawrence Olivier said to a fully immersed Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man: "Try acting. It's easier."

kardar233
2015-02-13, 02:30 PM
That's a very unusual definition of "high lethality" you've got there. Frankly that sounds more like "if your DM is a jerk..." rather than "in a high-lethality game..."

I don't think this is a DM jerk move at all. Consider that in the story I posted we were going back to fight against an Epic-level necromancer lich of literally apocalyptic power. Even in a game of moderate lethality that would be a blatant setup for a TPK. On your Tengu scale this would be a 2), effectively terminal stupidity.


If a character is willing to take actions that could likely result in their death for idealistic reasons, that is perfectly fine and possibly exciting. But that idealism means nothing if there isn't really a chance they could die, it isn't really bravery or chivalry if you know they won't ever actually lose. If you like to play such a character in an even slightly realistic or "gritty" setting, then you are doing it accepting that luck will play a bigger part in whether this character lives or dies. chances are they will die the death of a brave warrior facing their fate head on, probably sooner than the more pragmatic types. Some people might like that, and there's no judgement here. If you get tired of this, you can choose a character with a more pragmatic personality. I do think there is a middle ground, a character who is brave and has honor, but makes more pragmatic decisions about when and how to engage the enemy. These are types that are a bit more survivable than those who think bravery and honor means always charging forward into the enemy and announcing their presence with trumpets and banners.

I have to say that I really disagree that the idealism means nothing without a chance of death. The idealistic choice will result in a harder path, for sure, but death as a consequence is unnecessary. There are many other unpleasant things that can happen that are a lot more interesting from a character standpoint than having them die; for example, one consequence for Caheira working too obviously against her mother is her mother sweeping in and using Caheira's brainwashing to force her to murder one of her own lovers. That's an emotional hit far more powerful than Caheira's own death would be and it also makes for very interesting play as Caheira has to deal with the aftermath.

I'll also have to take issue with your characterization of making non-optimal choices as just charging in and announcing your presence with trumpets. Really, if you're going to do it right, you have to go for the skateboarding trumpeters (http://drmcninja.com/archives/comic/15p37/).

~EDIT~ for new responses:


I don't mind making sub-optimal choices. The optimal ones get boring to make and boring to watch. Some games even reward such choices, making what would be interesting sub-optimal choices into arguably smart moves. But it surprises me that anyone who doesn't think out-of-character considerations should enter into character portrayal would (as I think I'm seeing in this thread) suggest that players consider the out-of-character issue of how well they're roleplaying and make sub-optimal choices as necessary.

I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. The only way I can parse this is that you're saying that people focused on role-playing well will think to themselves "oh, I'm not roleplaying well enough, better make some suboptimal choices" but I don't think that's what you're trying to communicate.


Right. I feel like some people want to see what they would really do if they were a character in a story, since characters in stories often don't make sensical decisions. Take all the characters from Prometheus, for example. Me, I generally want to play and run for characters whose non-sensical choices tend to have interesting (if not always successful) results. In that event, there's not much incentive not to make character-based choices, because such choices will not impact the enjoyment of the game.

Exactly. The problem I have is that playing in a high-lethality environment means that making the "non-sensical choices [that] tend to have interesting (if not always successful) results" often results in character death, and so making those choices is disincentivized.

I just had a thought: the higher lethality the game, the higher the correlation between "failure" and "death".

Fiery Diamond
2015-02-13, 02:33 PM
The point is, there is no writer or audience in this medium. The role players are making decisions based on the perceptions if their characters, including their beliefs that dangerous things are actually dangerous.
What the character knows should be what the player knows to the greatest extent possible. What the GM knows is how outcomes are determined, but shouldn't pre-determine the outcome of events lest they remove the players agency to actually play the game.

Unless you are playing a game with the specific purpose of co-creating a dramatic story and improvising the acting of characters in what amounts to an epic novel or an adventure movie. Which can be fun, but is not the only type of game that can be called "role playing". Games with lethality and simulated interactive worlds have different types of roles to play from a game that proceeds assuming a dramatic story with specific central characters.

No, no, no. At the bolded bit: why on Earth do you assume that this is necessarily true? Is your ability to serve as author and audience for a story that you don't know exactly how it will turn out nonexistent? Because it's totally possible to have perceived lethality that doesn't actually exist as true lethality in actual fact. And I'm not talking about a DM lying and saying it's potentially lethal why it's not. I'm talking about players that know their characters won't die but still treating the situation as though they might. I'm not sure why this concept is apparently so alien to some people.

Also, there's a significant difference between predetermining the outcome of events and simply removing one possible set of outcomes and letting the gameplay determine which of the many others actually happen, which is something that many pro-high lethality people seem to not understand.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 02:33 PM
In fact, I would say that a HUGE chunk of movies and novels fall under this category.


It's the journey that matters, not just the destination. I had an argument in another thread a while back about rolling dice in combat and on fudging that ties directly into this. Just because you know, OOC, that your character will survive the combat doesn't mean that the combat is valueless.

Movies and novels, yes. However, an rpg is not a movie nor a novel, and is not necessarily meant to behave as they do. The audience's meta knowledge about a movie and it's heroes is exactly the type of thing I want to avoid in a D&D game. Now, a feng shui game, on the other hand, is exactly about replicating the environment of action movies and our meta knowledge about the heroes is baked into the system.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 02:37 PM
The point is, there is no writer or audience in this medium. The role players are making decisions based on the perceptions if their characters, including their beliefs that dangerous things are actually dangerous.
What the character knows should be what the player knows to the greatest extent possible.

No, it shouldn't. The player will always know information about probabilities and other external aspects that the character doesn't know, while the character has infinitely more sensory information about their surroundings than the player can ever get. Not just that, the character is not the player. The character is an external entity controlled by the player, but what the character and what the player experience aren't the same thing. The player experiences being physically sedentary in a comfortable environment interacting with friends. The character in a life or death battle is physically active surrounded by people who are very much not friendly in a stressful environment with a focus on something other than enjoying themselves. And that's before even addressing any characterization the character might have that differs from the player.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-13, 02:43 PM
I almost feel like this thread is trying to give birth to a new relative for the stormwind fallacy.

Instead of stormwind's 'optimizers are not colorful characters' and 'colorful characters are not optimized' dichotomy...

We have a 'dead man walking requires no personality' and 'well played characters should live/plot immunity fu' sort of schtick going on.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-13, 03:00 PM
I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. The only way I can parse this is that you're saying that people focused on role-playing well will think to themselves "oh, I'm not roleplaying well enough, better make some suboptimal choices" but I don't think that's what you're trying to communicate. Maybe they don't think it explicitly, but I think it's part of their overall thought process and part of the social scene. They never want to appear too optimal, lest the others get suspicious that they're not roleplaying properly.


Exactly. The problem I have is that playing in a high-lethality environment means that making the "non-sensical choices [that] tend to have interesting (if not always successful) results" often results in character death, and so making those choices is disincentivized. Right. Again, though, I think that might be somewhat deliberate. If the actual "game" is just to see how well the players can portray the character, then the GM would naturally want to set up challenges that make portraying the character difficult. But if the choice is "win at roleplaying and be ejected from play" or "lose at roleplaying, but get to keep playing," it's a hard one.

Wil Wheaton faced this in one of the Penny Arcade podcasts, which I highly recommend if you don't mind foul language and jokes. His character was an avenger, a holy warrior who marks an enemy for destruction and chases them down. His quarry was running and he chased it. Wil gave voice to his internal debate about whether he should really separate himself from the group or continue the chase, deciding that he'd continue the chase. He decided to stick with what the character would do, and his character was killed, with about a half-hour left in the game.

The players were shocked, and while it's funny to listen to, the frustration in Wil's voice is apparent. He goes so far as to say "See, kids, when the choice is playing in character or metagaming... METAGAME."

Now, a fair amount of what followed in later sessions was quite interesting even, I think, to Wil, but for that half-hour or so, he wasn't happy. If he didn't think there was some career benefit to his participation, he might very well have stopped playing as a result. I never want to risk that with my own players.

I'm not saying Wil's should have made a different choice, or that his character shouldn't have died, but that the GM should have done something differently in order to sustain everyone's enjoyment of the game.


I just had a thought: the higher lethality the game, the higher the correlation between "failure" and "death". Yes, indeed.


Movies and novels, yes. However, an rpg is not a movie nor a novel, and is not necessarily meant to behave as they do. The audience's meta knowledge about a movie and it's heroes is exactly the type of thing I want to avoid in a D&D game. The reason I see that people tend to want to avoid it is that there is so much incentive to use it. The don't trust themselves to make in-character choices they know are non-optimal. But what I've found is that people will make those non-optimal choices, knowing full well that they're non-optimal, because the outcome is just so much more interesting. Even if it's not a choice, they'll get their character in trouble.

People will use their out-of-character knowledge to improve the overall game, not just to save their character.

That's still metagaming, it's just not self-serving metagaming, except insofar as it makes the game more fun for everyone. So, I'm all for players making non-optimal choices, just so long as it's not out of a desire to prove that they're roleplaying.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 03:01 PM
The impression you've given is that a problem solver isn't roleplaying. That's turning "roleplaying" into a tribal totem, or a badge of honor, even if you aren't saying it's superior.

No, what I'm saying is that if you kick the ball, you aren't playing basketball and if you run with it in your armpit, you aren't playing soccer. Words have meaning and have to have it for communication to be possible and this whole inane debate is produced by people not bothering to clarify what they mean and use words in countless different ways. To say that words mean whatever people feel they mean, even if it goes against the generally accepted consensus isn't being inclusive, it's being confusing. Especially when the only argument you can come up with is that it's mean to tell others what words mean, not that the exclusion is somehow meaningfully harmful, inconsistent or unclear.


As long as you agree that they're both roleplaying, and can both happen concurrently. I don't know what difference it makes whether you can "spot them in action" unless you're trying to police how others play their characters.

It matters because the argument has repeatedly been made that some forms of problem solving are roleplaying while those favored by others are not with a clear implication that the speaker finds roleplaying superior to problem solving. Can you please elaborate on why tactical combat isn't roleplaying, but coming up with ways to rummage through a room to make sure there are no traps is? What is the intrinsic difference between the two? And for that matter, can you explain why rummaging through a room is more similar to portraying your character's broken heart than it is to tactical combat? Finally, can you explain why careful searches is somehow a worthier form of having fun than the other two? Because these are ultimately the stakes of this discussion.

It also matters because a lot of people deny the experience of others that their preferred playstyle doesn't provide roleplaying by insisting that as long as you solve your problems in the correct way you roleplay and everybody who disagrees are presenting a strawman of what you're doing. And finally it matters because the distinction can provide clarity and help stop the endless, idiotic arguments between various people and help people more clearly communicate what they're looking for or trying to provide in a game. Clarity is never a bad thing and understanding the distinction can help avert a lot of the stories where people complain about their gaming group over what is a playstyle issue as opposed to either side being objectively wrong. It rather does help to know whether your GM saying that he encourages roleplaying means that he encourages method acting, developing a plot or coming up with creative solutions to problems.


Mostly agreed, though you could still have characters who take different routes in their smart, pragmatic strategy. I bet most of us have seen the arguments about whether to kill a captured enemy, let him go, leave him tied up, or take them with you. Smart, pragmatic strategists can disagree and can also be wrong.

It still implies that you're playing the adventuring equivalent of Homo Economicus, with all the realistic characterization that implies. Which is to say none for people who know the term. Not just that, if the primary personality traits you choose are the ones that will optimize your chances of success then it seems fair to assume that those traits are chosen for that purpose, rather than trying to optimize your chances of success happens because of the character. Especially if it is a general pattern


They're also defined by the writer and the actor. The actor is (one hopes) drawing on what they understand about the character, but they're probably also thinking about how to make their actions look cool, how to hit their position mark, and how to time things. Things, in other words, that the character would have no reason to consider. People praise actors who really immerse themselves, but I'd happily wager that most of the actors people consider good, are not immersed. As Sir Lawrence Olivier said to a fully immersed Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man: "Try acting. It's easier."

My point was the simple one that nobody would deny the courage of infiltrating the Death Star on the knowledge that obviously Lucas wouldn't kill of Luke or Han at that point. That knowledge doesn't influence the traits of the characters because they don't possess that and can't possess it without breaking the social contract of the fiction. You're arguing something that's obviously true, but entirely irrelevant for the argument made. Unless it's a highly self-aware, meta textual work, the audience understanding of genre conceits in terms of the tension curve doesn't influence the personality traits of the characters. Most people intuitively understand this, the only context I've seen where people deny it is discussions about lethality in roleplaying and only in regards to PCs, not characters in other fiction.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 03:36 PM
No, no, no. At the bolded bit: why on Earth do you assume that this is necessarily true? Is your ability to serve as author and audience for a story that you don't know exactly how it will turn out nonexistent? Because it's totally possible to have perceived lethality that doesn't actually exist as true lethality in actual fact. And I'm not talking about a DM lying and saying it's potentially lethal why it's not. I'm talking about players that know their characters won't die but still treating the situation as though they might. I'm not sure why this concept is apparently so alien to some people.

Also, there's a significant difference between predetermining the outcome of events and simply removing one possible set of outcomes and letting the gameplay determine which of the many others actually happen, which is something that many pro-high lethality people seem to not understand.

It is true for a certain type of game, where potential lethality makes sense. Of course I understand and can suspend disbelief knowing my character is going to survive the entire story, if it is a narrative story game where this is the object. However, at this point in my life I am not so much into that sort of game. I play D&D as a game, not as a story telling exercise. In a game, there are ways to "win" and ways to "lose". If the players know they can't lose, there is no point in playing. In-game "consequences", like losing fictional loved ones or getting captured or having a village burn down are actually meaningless things if the players still know their characters will never really be harmed. It's just an exercise in improvisational acting, which I have no interest in (except as it emerges naturally from gameplay). Not that such things are wrong or not fun for people who like them. My only point is, improv acting us not the only thing that can correctly and legitimately be called role playing. games which feature character deaths and require problem solving are also role playing games (and in fact the first game to be called that was just this sort of game).

Darth Ultron
2015-02-13, 03:42 PM
In a high lethality game, the reckless character will die and be replaced fast. So why play a reckless character? Run through lots and lots of them? It can be fun, actually. But good luck keeping up your roleplay without getting tired of those PCs dying before they can develop their unique personalities. I find that high lethality encourages metagaming just to keep your PC alive.

I don't think that is true at all. A smart/clever/careful/tough reckless character won't just die. Sure they have a higher chance of dying then the character that runs and hides from everything....but they also have more fun.


I don't get why the players knowledge makes the character cease being brave. We all know that random stormtroopers weren't going to kill Luke Skywalker, Lucas certainly knew that as well, but does Luke know that while he's infiltrating the Death Star? The traits of the character are defined based on their knowledge and perception, not what the writer or the audience knows.

The example here would be the actor, Mark, knowing that Luke was not going to die. So it all depends on Mark acting/pretending that Luke does not know.


No, no, no. At the bolded bit: why on Earth do you assume that this is necessarily true? Is your ability to serve as author and audience for a story that you don't know exactly how it will turn out nonexistent? Because it's totally possible to have perceived lethality that doesn't actually exist as true lethality in actual fact. And I'm not talking about a DM lying and saying it's potentially lethal why it's not. I'm talking about players that know their characters won't die but still treating the situation as though they might. I'm not sure why this concept is apparently so alien to some people.

This is the difference between engaging the player and engaging the character.

A lot of people just engage the character. The evil forces in the game might attack and kill the character, so the character reacts to that. But the player does not. The player just sits back and relaxes, knowing full well their character death is impossible. And sure, if they are a great actor they can have their character act it out.....but anything less then a great actor and you get ''oh, yea, um, Indiana is afraid of the snakes and he, um, is very scared.'' The player does not get immersed in the game. They know that even if they roll a one the GM will just say ''oh, your character falls and gets some dirt on them....and gets right back up.''

Engaging the player is not the same. The evil forces in the game might kill the character, so both the player and the character react to that. The player has to be alert, aware, pay attention, participate, and immerse themselves in the game. They know full well that character death can happen any time, and they want to avoid it at all costs. And even if they are not a great actor, they still will act with more common sense in character, like ''um, guys maybe we should not pick a fight with that dragon''. They will attempt to avoid making any mistakes or getting into spots where their character might die.....or at least have an escape plan.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 03:52 PM
This is the difference between engaging the player and engaging the character.

A lot of people just engage the character. The evil forces in the game might attack and kill the character, so the character reacts to that. But the player does not. The player just sits back and relaxes, knowing full well their character death is impossible. And sure, if they are a great actor they can have their character act it out.....but anything less then a great actor and you get ''oh, yea, um, Indiana is afraid of the snakes and he, um, is very scared.'' The player does not get immersed in the game. They know that even if they roll a one the GM will just say ''oh, your character falls and gets some dirt on them....and gets right back up.''

I feel positively dirty for saying this, but...Way to make a ridiculous strawman. Nobody has said they want games where nothing bad can possibly happen, especially not one that has situations such as snake pits. People have said that they think that a high risk of death is often detrimental, it's not the same thing. Not just that, few people have said that they consider it a bad thing that death can happen due to terminal stupidity.

Hell, really bad things can happen when the character knows they can't die. In my weekly Legends of the Wulin game, the characters are students at a kung-fu academy where killing is strictly forbidden and the school nurses can patch pretty much anything up. That didn't stop me my character from panicking on several occasions or greatly change her behavior when her mother was around. Nor has it stopped another character from literally hiding from her parents to avoid lectures. And it has meant that the one time fear of somebody dying actually came up, our characters lost their **** to both fear and anger making it a far more powerful moment than if it had been there all along.

Also, I have to say, you're standard for normal is around where I'd put the absolutely least engaged people I've ever gamed with.

kardar233
2015-02-13, 04:06 PM
Maybe they don't think it explicitly, but I think it's part of their overall thought process and part of the social scene. They never want to appear too optimal, lest the others get suspicious that they're not roleplaying properly.

I'm not sure about this. One of my most optimal characters, Fion Ravenwater, is a Mandalorian bounty hunter who specializes in killing Jedi and Sith. He's extremely good at what he does because he scrutinizes the abilities and mindsets of his targets and he has a whole bunch of tools designed to capitalize on their weaknesses. He's so good at his job that he's killed some of the nastiest people in the galaxy and generally come out mostly unscathed.

Fion is a brutally effective and extremely practical character (except where his personal life is concerned), and he almost never makes non-optimal decisions. Even when he decides to go hunting for the Sisters of Sorrow he turns the situation around to give himself a very significant chance of survival because he's just so damn good at what he does.

I've never felt the need to have Fion make a really suboptimal decision because that's not what he does. The drama in his life comes from his twisty and turny relationship with his ex-Jedi paramour Mayera and the struggles they go through.


Right. Again, though, I think that might be somewhat deliberate. If the actual "game" is just to see how well the players can portray the character, then the GM would naturally want to set up challenges that make portraying the character difficult. But if the choice is "win at roleplaying and be ejected from play" or "lose at roleplaying, but get to keep playing," it's a hard one.

Wil Wheaton faced this in one of the Penny Arcade podcasts, which I highly recommend if you don't mind foul language and jokes. His character was an avenger, a holy warrior who marks an enemy for destruction and chases them down. His quarry was running and he chased it. Wil gave voice to his internal debate about whether he should really separate himself from the group or continue the chase, deciding that he'd continue the chase. He decided to stick with what the character would do, and his character was killed, with about a half-hour left in the game.

The players were shocked, and while it's funny to listen to, the frustration in Wil's voice is apparent. He goes so far as to say "See, kids, when the choice is playing in character or metagaming... METAGAME."

Now, a fair amount of what followed in later sessions was quite interesting even, I think, to Wil, but for that half-hour or so, he wasn't happy. If he didn't think there was some career benefit to his participation, he might very well have stopped playing as a result. I never want to risk that with my own players.

I'm not saying Wil's should have made a different choice, or that his character shouldn't have died, but that the GM should have done something differently in order to sustain everyone's enjoyment of the game.

That's exactly the kind of thing that leads me to say that high lethality hinders roleplaying. Some of the high-lethality advocates I've talked with would say that he should have just laughed and rolled up a new character, but Wil was obviously pretty invested in Aeofel.

If anyone's interested, the podcast is here (http://media.wizards.com/podcasts/DnD_PAPVP3_ep8.mp3). Wil's character dies at about 18:30.


In-game "consequences", like losing fictional loved ones or getting captured or having a village burn down are actually meaningless things if the players still know their characters will never really be harmed.

I disagree in the strongest of terms. I once played Aliza, a lightning mage of some skill, who turned out to have an impressive knack for dealing with very powerful people. At one point she offended a bokor who ripped out a chunk of her soul for his own use, which effectively turned her into an amoral monster. Fastforward a year or so in-game time and she's finally got her soul back and she realizes just how awful a person she's been this whole time, so she decides that she needs to redeem herself. She decides to do this through an elaborate plan to kill the gigantic evil dragon-god whose army of soul-powered war machines and undead has been wreaking havoc on the world, and possibly stave off the apocalypse in the process.

Now, throughout this time Aliza herself has grown fairly little in power, with most of her capabilities coming from her allies: a mechanical lich who can build just about anything, a pirate queen and expert black magician, and a magically-powered dragonscale mecha given life by a shard of a dragon's soul.

Aliza goes to a meeting with one of the gigantic evil dragon-god's warlords who is holding one of her allies hostage, but in a brilliant play (on the warlord's part) that ally is lobotomized, the pirate queen is killed and her dragon-mecha is taken back to the enemy stronghold for disassembly and consumption. In one fell swoop her entire capability to enact her plan and earn her redemption is gone.

Now, Aliza wasn't dead; but her role in the story was effectively over, and that really sucked. Don't you think that seeing the ruin of everything your character had built would be consequence enough?

Darth Ultron
2015-02-13, 04:33 PM
Nobody has said they want games where nothing bad can possibly happen, especially not one that has situations such as snake pits.

Can you give an example of a Bad Thing, that is equal to your character has died and you may no longer play that character in this game?

Lets say a character in a low or no lethality game falls into a snake pit. So what ''bad thing'' might happen to them?


My point was the simple one that nobody would deny the courage of infiltrating the Death Star on the knowledge that obviously Lucas wouldn't kill of Luke or Han at that point. That knowledge doesn't influence the traits of the characters because they don't possess that and can't possess it without breaking the social contract of the fiction. .

Ok, but try it as an RPG. With DM George, and players Mark and Harry.

DM George: "The all powerful (railroaded) tractor beam pulls in your ship. Your ship moves into the biggest most powerful battle station in the whole universe. The size of a small moon and full of weapons and troops and all the state of the art Imperial military hardware.''

Players Mark and Harry "Ekk! we hide!''

Then get to the point of

Player Mark: ''Lets go save the Princess!''

Now, if it's a No Lethality game, Mark and Harry happily have their characters run off to save the Princess. They know that their characters won't die, and even more so, nothing bad will happen. So they just run off, with on real plan, knowing that everything will be alright. They know that every single Stormtrooper on the Death Star can not hit the broad side of a barn..

Now, take the High Lethality game. Mark and Harry have to really think about this and be careful. They know their characters could die any round. They need a good solid plan, as they know that if they get with in fifty feet or so of any Stormtrooper shooting a blaster, that their character might die. They know Imperial Stormtroopers are well trained and very precise at hitting targets.

See how different the game play is.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 04:35 PM
I disagree in the strongest of terms. I once played Aliza, a lightning mage of some skill, who turned out to have an impressive knack for dealing with very powerful people. At one point she offended a bokor who ripped out a chunk of her soul for his own use, which effectively turned her into an amoral monster. Fastforward a year or so in-game time and she's finally got her soul back and she realizes just how awful a person she's been this whole time, so she decides that she needs to redeem herself. She decides to do this through an elaborate plan to kill the gigantic evil dragon-god whose army of soul-powered war machines and undead has been wreaking havoc on the world, and possibly stave off the apocalypse in the process.

Now, throughout this time Aliza herself has grown fairly little in power, with most of her capabilities coming from her allies: a mechanical lich who can build just about anything, a pirate queen and expert black magician, and a magically-powered dragonscale mecha given life by a shard of a dragon's soul.

Aliza goes to a meeting with one of the gigantic evil dragon-god's warlords who is holding one of her allies hostage, but in a brilliant play (on the warlord's part) that ally is lobotomized, the pirate queen is killed and her dragon-mecha is taken back to the enemy stronghold for disassembly and consumption. In one fell swoop her entire capability to enact her plan and earn her redemption is gone.

Now, Aliza wasn't dead; but her role in the story was effectively over, and that really sucked. Don't you think that seeing the ruin of everything your character had built would be consequence enough?

These are nicely written character summaries, but irrelevant to the question. Were you concerned for the life/existence of your character at any point, or was this all an exercise in exploring a fictional character's emotions and behavior? Not achieving the goals you had planned, or losing things your character had built up are indeed a type of consequence, whether or not it is "consequence enough" is a subjective question. The point is, a game has somewhat objective goals and ways to succeed and fail at achieving them. If the game's goals are accumulating something or building something, then failure can be defined as losing those things or failing to acquire what you want. If an object of the game is exploring a dangerous world and surviving to become more powerful, then failure may also be death.

If your game removes character death as a consequence, it must have another measure of success and failure. Failing means not gaining more power, or losing what you had accumulated, or being forced to abandon your holdings and having to start over. Or something else objective. In-character emotional anguish is not a consequence, it is a side-effect. In-world events that don't directly impact your character, like NPCs dying or gods rising and falling are likewise side effects, unless the goal of the whole game is to prevent those things. In which case, the game would have fairly low replayability (like a video game).

The other point is, your role playing of this character had nothing to do with what type of consequences she might face in the game. As I believe is the case in most role playing games that are well run. Even a character that survives only one or two sessions can be role played as a person with emotions and investment in their world. You don't need to have long, complex story arcs in order to have role playing happening.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 04:55 PM
Can you give an example of a Bad Thing, that is equal to your character has died and you may no longer play that character in this game?

Lets say a character in a low or no lethality game falls into a snake pit. So what ''bad thing'' might happen to them?



Ok, but try it as an RPG. With DM George, and players Mark and Harry.

DM George: "The all powerful (railroaded) tractor beam pulls in your ship. Your ship moves into the biggest most powerful battle station in the whole universe. The size of a small moon and full of weapons and troops and all the state of the art Imperial military hardware.''

Players Mark and Harry "Ekk! we hide!''

Then get to the point of

Player Mark: ''Lets go save the Princess!''

Now, if it's a No Lethality game, Mark and Harry happily have their characters run off to save the Princess. They know that their characters won't die, and even more so, nothing bad will happen. So they just run off, with on real plan, knowing that everything will be alright. They know that every single Stormtrooper on the Death Star can not hit the broad side of a barn..

Now, take the High Lethality game. Mark and Harry have to really think about this and be careful. They know their characters could die any round. They need a good solid plan, as they know that if they get with in fifty feet or so of any Stormtrooper shooting a blaster, that their character might die. They know Imperial Stormtroopers are well trained and very precise at hitting targets.

See how different the game play is.

Because as we all know all players react the same way and nobody is capable of suspension of disbelief and creativity at the same time, just like there is no such thing as IC/OOC separation. :smalltongue:

Seriously, this only happens if you're playing with people who don't roleplay. Seriously, I've never seen people start acting like haphazard idiots just because death is unlikely. Not even people playing haphazard idiots ICly. You're either building a strawman or have had awful gaming experiences that you're making universal. They're not. Seriously, stop projecting and trust people when they say that they've experienced investment and been capable of playing characters who aren't morons even without death on the line.

And Thrudd, for the love of god, stop accusing people of just faking their fun because they have it in a different way than you. Seriously, people can be invested in their character's emotions just like they can in a character in a book or a movie. Not everything is about overcoming challenges and nothing else.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-13, 05:07 PM
Lets say a character in a low or no lethality game falls into a snake pit. So what ''bad thing'' might happen to them?

They get rescued by an important NPC who doesn't survive the process and now the PCs need to find an alternate solution to the problem they meant to solve with the help of the NPC. The villain gets away. The snakes are actually a demon, steal the PCs soul and hide it wherever. There are a lot of options that don't require the DM to tell the player "You don't get to play the game anymore".

BrokenChord
2015-02-13, 05:14 PM
I think most people prefer moderate lethality, where death can and most likely will happen, but where statistically you probably aren't introducing a new character every other session, even if you play the reckless type. Means you can get invested and it's worthwhile to keep in mind what's going on and how risky your options are (and, as was mentioned, the player being scared in situations where your character ought to be scared), but it also means you can actually play a character in a world, rather than a unit on a grid in a game. There are games where it's appropriate for single tactical mistakes to result in immediate death. These are dark games requiring that all characters with any longevity have a healthy dose of cynicism. That's not what everybody wants. In non-dark/cynical games, it's important that characters who don't act intelligently still have a good survival chance, so that people can have fun playing those types of characters rather than playing character types they don't find fun just so they can keep a part in the game.

Now, that's a general rule, of course. Plenty of exceptions around.

Now, personally, I love roleplaying in high-lethality worlds. But that's because I like playing super-cynics. If the campaign world is high-lethality, I play a character who lives in a high-lethality world. By definition, they are not heroic, they are not loyal to anything greater than themselves, they are not reckless, and they are untrusting and untrustworthy. Because I don't think any other type of character is realistic in that type of setting, and the biggest thing for me is that the character is consistent with the world that they grew up surrounded by. And frankly, unfulfilled idealism is boring in an RPG. It can be fun in a novel or movie, but in an RPG? I don't have any fun playing an idealistic, super-heroic character who tries to save everyone and gets ganked in the second battle of the campaign. That character doesn't strike me as the kind who should still be alive. If I'm playing in a World Half Full, it's different; I can handle idealistic characters in that. But if we're going for grit, I want characters ready for grit.

I recognize that this doesn't appeal to most people.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 05:21 PM
And Thrudd, for the love of god, stop accusing people of just faking their fun because they have it in a different way than you. Seriously, people can be invested in their character's emotions just like they can in a character in a book or a movie. Not everything is about overcoming challenges and nothing else.

I think you're projecting a little bit onto what I'm saying. I realize people have fun exploring emotions of characters. Some games are all about that, though I feel sometimes they can be called "games" only in a purely academic sense. People also have fun overcoming challenges. I am saying that the two are not exclusive, and the level of lethality does not preclude role playing from happening. Playing a game where you are trying to keep a character alive in a dangerous world doesn't stop role playing from happening.

D&D specifically is a game where character death is built into the rules as a possibility, a consequence for failure. I'm not saying anyone is wrong for house ruling this away. I'm saying D&D is not only "a" role playing game, but the original role playing game. Role playing in a highly lethal setting is not only possible, it was the original form of role playing game.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 05:32 PM
And? The original form of literature was epic poetry, but you don't really see people complaining about others reading books not written in hexameter. Just because it was the original form doesn't mean that it's more important.

Also, game includes both competitive and noncompetitive activities in English. House is a game, but nobody expects you to win or lose at it.

Ceiling_Squid
2015-02-13, 05:51 PM
They get rescued by an important NPC who doesn't survive the process and now the PCs need to find an alternate solution to the problem they meant to solve with the help of the NPC. The villain gets away. The snakes are actually a demon, steal the PCs soul and hide it wherever. There are a lot of options that don't require the DM to tell the player "You don't get to play the game anymore".

Sometimes a snake pit is just a snake pit.

The fact that people seem to characterize killing a character in such a situation as "You don't get to play the game anymore" makes me more than a bit...shall I say, confused? Annoyed? It's a massive mischaracterization and subversion of good-faith GM behavior.

If we're playing a high-lethality system, the players get fair warning that they should prepare an alternate character in the event something like that happens. There are not supposed to be hard feelings if you let your players know up-front what kind of game they're playing, and apply the rules fairly. Dumping players into some sort of no-win situation is the real big no-no, unless it's been telegraphed clearly.

All this taken into account, I expect my DM not to pull punches. If my options have a fair chance of success, they should also have some chance of reasonable worst-case failure, or else the stakes aren't meaningful to me. That sometimes means my character's demise, if I'm doing something truly dangerous.

Doesn't mean either approach is badwrongfun, I just wonder why people seem to argue that lethal death traps are an inherently bad thing, or bad GM behavior. They aren't if the group and the GM are on the same page.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 05:55 PM
And? The original form of literature was epic poetry, but you don't really see people complaining about others reading books not written in hexameter. Just because it was the original form doesn't mean that it's more important.

Also, game includes both competitive and noncompetitive activities in English. House is a game, but nobody expects you to win or lose at it.

I'm not complaining about anyone doing what they like. I'm defending the idea that lethality is not incompatible with role playing, partly by using the example of D&D as it was originally presented.
I am not attacking later games or people's preferred house rules, or implying they aren't fun or equal to older style.

Perhaps my vigorous defense has been perceived as an attack on others, when this started as what seemed like a questioning or an attack on the idea of my preferred style. I wanted to point out that some people seem to have too narrow a definition of role playing, which might result in them mistakenly thinking that older games (which were largely lethal) did not have "real" role playing. I say this because I once had this mistaken idea, and went through a phase where I derided my earlier " hack and slash" system and games were supposed to be all about "the story" (aka my white wolf phase).

kardar233
2015-02-13, 06:28 PM
If your game removes character death as a consequence, it must have another measure of success and failure. Failing means not gaining more power, or losing what you had accumulated, or being forced to abandon your holdings and having to start over. Or something else objective. In-character emotional anguish is not a consequence, it is a side-effect.

I cannot disagree strongly enough with this.

In the current game my character Caheira Raneth is steadily working to get revenge against her mother Aleysaria, an impossibly effective warrior who enslaved and tortured Caheira for a significant portion of her young adulthood. In order to do this Caheira has to make sure that the actions she takes against Aleysaria are not too overt.

If Caheira were to make an overly bold move, the consequence would be Aleysaria sweeping into her rooms and forcing Caheira to murder one of her lovers in cold blood. Because of Aleysaria's proclivities the one chosen would likely be Haelia, a priestess of a rival god. Haelia doesn't come out to fight with Caheira, she has few to no useful skills, and generally has no effect on Caheira's capabilities in any way. This consequence has no influence on Caheira's abilities or combat effectiveness or power or any of the "objective" sources of failure you've laid out; this consequence is entirely in the form of in-character emotional anguish.

And yet it is by far the most brutal consequence we have ever had in any of our games, because Caheira has to face the fact that because of her weakness, she murdered someone who relied on her to protect them and care for them.

Let me reiterate. This consequence exists only in terms of in-character anguish for Caheira, but it is far more brutal than anything you could possibly do to her.


The other point is, your role playing of this character had nothing to do with what type of consequences she might face in the game. As I believe is the case in most role playing games that are well run. Even a character that survives only one or two sessions can be role played as a person with emotions and investment in their world. You don't need to have long, complex story arcs in order to have role playing happening.

No, you don't have to have long and complex story arcs to role play, but story arcs strongly correlate with character depth and investment. The difficult part with high lethality is that it disincentivizes story arcs (because they are likely to be cut short and never resolved) and it also disincentivizes character investment because of the significant likelihood of that character's untimely death.


I'm not complaining about anyone doing what they like. I'm defending the idea that lethality is not incompatible with role playing, partly by using the example of D&D as it was originally presented.

It's not that lethality is incompatible with roleplaying. It's just that roleplaying is strongly correlated with character investment and spending time developing your character, while high lethality disincentivizes both those things. If you emphasize roleplay and high lethality that creates a strange situation where you are at once told two things: develop your character and make them feel human and real; and don't get too attached to the character or put too much work into them because they're likely to get killed.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-13, 06:56 PM
To say that words mean whatever people feel they mean, even if it goes against the generally accepted consensus isn't being inclusive, it's being confusing. Picking a definition that is known to keep out a large section of the community is what's not inclusive.


Especially when the only argument you can come up with is that it's mean to tell others what words mean, not that the exclusion is somehow meaningfully harmful, inconsistent or unclear. Those familiar with the "fake geek" concept understand how gatekeeping is harmful.


Can you please elaborate on why tactical combat isn't roleplaying, but coming up with ways to rummage through a room to make sure there are no traps is? They both are.


And for that matter, can you explain why rummaging through a room is more similar to portraying your character's broken heart than it is to tactical combat? Probably not in a way you'd accept, but I'm not entirely sure what this is referring to.


Finally, can you explain why careful searches is somehow a worthier form of having fun than the other two? Because these are ultimately the stakes of this discussion. I thought it was just whether there was only one way to roleplay.


And finally it matters because the distinction can provide clarity and help stop the endless, idiotic arguments between various people and help people more clearly communicate what they're looking for or trying to provide in a game. Then it sounds like what you want is not to use a single word that people interpret in different ways.


It rather does help to know whether your GM saying that he encourages roleplaying means that he encourages method acting, developing a plot or coming up with creative solutions to problems. I agree. This is why I don't like using "roleplaying" for a specific thing. Too much falls under the same heading.


Not just that, if the primary personality traits you choose are the ones that will optimize your chances of success then it seems fair to assume that those traits are chosen for that purpose, rather than trying to optimize your chances of success happens because of the character. Especially if it is a general pattern. I don't understand why you care enough to even bother making such an assumption.

I know lots of real people and fictional characters whose primary personality traits are the ones they think will optimize their chances for success. Most people don't deliberately make bad choices. Even people who do make bad choices probably though that they were in some way doing what they should.

On a different note, as regards Star Wars:

We might have known that Luke, Leia and Han weren't going to die, but maybe not that Obi-wan was going to die (I mean, narratively it's obvious he has to, but it's meant to be shocking when it happens). Since bringing him to the Alliance was one of their goals, they failed in that. Arguably they failed as soon as they were caught in the tractor beam, since they weren't in a position to protect him once he went off on his own.

So, if you want failure, but you can't kill the main characters, maybe there are other ways they can fail. Obi-wan's death didn't end up interfering with the main goal of destroying the Death Star (and probably even helped), but it slowed Luke's training as a Jedi. So, if a player was willing to stake it, maybe failure means they don't get to enter a particular prestige class or paragon path.

Thrudd
2015-02-13, 06:56 PM
I cannot disagree strongly enough with this.

In the current game my character Caheira Raneth is steadily working to get revenge against her mother Aleysaria, an impossibly effective warrior who enslaved and tortured Caheira for a significant portion of her young adulthood. In order to do this Caheira has to make sure that the actions she takes against Aleysaria are not too overt.

If Caheira were to make an overly bold move, the consequence would be Aleysaria sweeping into her rooms and forcing Caheira to murder one of her lovers in cold blood. Because of Aleysaria's proclivities the one chosen would likely be Haelia, a priestess of a rival god. Haelia doesn't come out to fight with Caheira, she has few to no useful skills, and generally has no effect on Caheira's capabilities in any way. This consequence has no influence on Caheira's abilities or combat effectiveness or power or any of the "objective" sources of failure you've laid out; this consequence is entirely in the form of in-character emotional anguish.

And yet it is by far the most brutal consequence we have ever had in any of our games, because Caheira has to face the fact that because of her weakness, she murdered someone who relied on her to protect them and care for them.

Let me reiterate. This consequence exists only in terms of in-character anguish for Caheira, but it is far more brutal than anything you could possibly do to her.



No, you don't have to have long and complex story arcs to role play, but story arcs strongly correlate with character depth and investment. The difficult part with high lethality is that it disincentivizes story arcs (because they are likely to be cut short and never resolved) and it also disincentivizes character investment because of the significant likelihood of that character's untimely death.



It's not that lethality is incompatible with roleplaying. It's just that roleplaying is strongly correlated with character investment and spending time developing your character, while high lethality disincentivizes both those things. If you emphasize roleplay and high lethality that creates a strange situation where you are at once told two things: develop your character and make them feel human and real; and don't get too attached to the character or put too much work into them because they're likely to get killed.

I am not getting my point across. What you are calling role playing is not the only thing that is actually role playing. Having potential character death does disincentivize the development of complex pre-game character backgrounds and pre-established connections to the world and other characters. But this is not the only way to role play. In older style game, the character emerges during play, from play, and the player's investment in them grows as their adventures continue. No, you don't have deep attachment at level 1 (where most deaths happen). Even when you pre-write a detailed background, can you really say you have a deep investment in the character at the beginning of the game?
The important character developments and player immersion happen during play and because of play, in the style I am talking about. Even if you lose a couple near the beginning, the characters that survive against the odds or because of your efforts become really beloved and the longer they are around, the more personality you invest in them.

Your example of the character having her lover killed may be brutal to her, but is it really brutal to you? Wouldn't having the character ignominiously executed, and you needing to bring up a new character from level 1 be a more brutal consequence?
If having an npc killed is the worst thing that has ever happened to any of your characters ever, you have clearly never played the type of game I'm talking about. Do you know you wouldn't get attached and invested in a character that might die?

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 07:28 PM
Uh, Beta Centauri, are you saying that people choose their own personalities? Because I think developmental psychologists would like to have some words with you about that. Other psychologists too and neurologists, sociologists, anthropologists and historians for that matter. Not just that, the assumption that people purely strive to succeed is the biggest flaw of economic science and the primary reason why it consistently fails to produce accurate predictions of how things will develop. People do a lot of things that are not just not aimed at succeeding even at the priorities they set, but are in fact counterproductive for them. Everybody without fail does that, though the degree naturally varies. Playing somebody who always does what is necessary to succeed at whatever goal the game sets and doesn't have character traits outside of that is not only playing an exceedingly flat character, it's playing one that isn't identifiably human. It also means playing a character that just happens to perfectly align with player goals of overcoming challenge rather than portray or explore character. It's very similar to playing an idiot barbarian so you can get on with things rather than get bogged down or a brooding loner so you don't have to talk.

Also, you're not going to make people stop using the word roleplaying and people broadly speaking agree that roleplaying when addressing aspects of games, as opposed to the entire category of RPGs, doesn't include pure hack and slash centered on tactical combat. The point where people run into conflicts is on whether to include all forms of problem solving except tactical combat or if it specifically focuses on the narrative side. If a distinction is to be made, and the endless recriminations between oldschool fans and others strongly suggest that one needs to be, it makes more logical sense to put the definition on narrative focus as it is a fundamentally different player-level goal and mode of engagement. Canvassing a room for traps and hidden treasure is not intrinsically different from tactical combat, you exercise skills with an aim to overcoming challenges with a goal towards personal gain and avoidance of death. Roleplaying is what you do that is not strictly aimed at winning, but at exploring characters and themes. Obviously, you will need to strive to succeed to portray a character in any kind of situation facing external obstacles, but the focus can be put in different places.

Also, quite frankly, if people feel hurt that what they enjoy doesn't get the coveted roleplaying label, then the problem probably isn't the people withholding that label but the culture that says it is worthier. Seek to reduce the stigma of what you're doing, not redefine things so it passes you by and just hits others you don't identify with. Either everything is roleplaying, in which case it's a meaningless term to use for distinction within RPGs and we need to develop and somehow promulgate new terminology or some of what people do while RPing is something else. Putting the distinction between solving problems and developing narrative is a more stringent, logical and intuitive place to put it than between some ways of solving problems and some other ways of solving problems along with narrative development. It is a clear difference in kind, just like the difference between soccer and football. People can readily understand why the distinction is there and it's the distinction that many, if not most people already follow.

And Thrudd, yes, I do in fact have a deep investment in a character when I start playing them. If I didn't I wouldn't play them. I have in fact bowed out of games because I couldn't work out a character that I felt invested in. Now, I do develop a greater understanding of their character voice and the nuances of their personality while I play, but the investment has to be there before the game even starts for me to do more than halfass it and be bored.

goto124
2015-02-13, 07:40 PM
Roleplaying involves thinking about what the character would do in a certain situation. It can include OoC considerations, but it does need to have the former at some level as well. If the player makes choices purely based on what is 'optimal', without thinking about what the character would have done, it's hard to call it roleplaying. Sure, you could say the character would've made the same optimal decision to save herself, but it can't happen all the time, and even then you're still going no further than 'my PC would make the optimal decision, now what would be the optimal decision'.

There's another way to look at it. Lethality of a game has a silding scale. So does the 'optimal-ness' of a PC, who could be 'full-on optimal', 'totally reckless and suicidal', or in-between. The lethality of a game decides long a character can survive in the game, based on how 'optimal' her decision-making is. So in a medium-lethality game, you could keep alive a fairly reckless PC who makes bad choices when she's angry, for example. She doesn't have to make suicidal choices, nor does she have be completely reckless. But she does make suboptimal choices. Heck, choices have sliding scales of optimal-ness as well. Using an acid blade on a troll could be completely optimal. Using a normal blade on the troll could be, in a sense, suboptimal, but not that bad of a decision if the troll still dies soon enough. Dancing in front of the troll would be heavily not optimal, but you don't have to go there.

I was about to say that a game's lethality level is connected to how badly you're punished for suboptimal choices, but then there are ways to be punished other than death, and I'm not sure if death is really the worst punishment.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-13, 07:45 PM
Uh, Beta Centauri, are you saying that people choose their own personalities? No, and your entire condescending paragraph misses the point.


Also, you're not going to make people stop using the word roleplaying Not me by myself, but it's already happened once, due I believe in part to feedback from people like me. Wizards of the Coast stopped referring to certain challenges as "roleplaying challenges" and started referring to them as "interaction challenges."


and people broadly speaking agree that roleplaying when addressing aspects of games, as opposed to the entire category of RPGs, doesn't include pure hack and slash centered on tactical combat. I don't believe things because of who else believes them, particularly when the reason, broadly speaking, why people agree on that is because it lets them exclude certain people from the way they engage in the hobby.


The point where people run into conflicts is on whether to include all forms of problem solving except tactical combat or if it specifically focuses on the narrative side. This is as honest a question as I can make it: why do you exclude tactical combat from problem solving, and thus from roleplaying?


Also, quite frankly, if people feel hurt that what they enjoy doesn't get the coveted roleplaying label, then the problem probably isn't the people withholding that label but the culture that says it is worthier. Yes, they withhold it because they see it as something they do, and others do not. People like to think that what they do is worthy, because that's a way to justify their otherwise rather arbitrary preferences.


Seek to reduce the stigma of what you're doing, not redefine things so it passes you by and just hits others you don't identify with. How did this become about me?

The stigma is imposed by others, so we might as well ask those imposing it not to.


Either everything is roleplaying, in which case it's a meaningless term to use for distinction within RPGs
and we need to develop and somehow promulgate new terminology Yes. Do that. Don't use one word that has multiple meanings. Instead, state in a few words what one is doing. "Getting immersed in my character." "Making cool scenes." "Developing a story." "Exploring a world." "Fighting monsters." All of those are roleplaying and more. People can just say what they're doing, instead of trying to claim a word for themselves.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to ask people what they mean when they say "roleplaying" in the context of a game I'm thinking about joining.

kardar233
2015-02-13, 08:09 PM
I am not getting my point across. What you are calling role playing is not the only thing that is actually role playing. Having potential character death does disincentivize the development of complex pre-game character backgrounds and pre-established connections to the world and other characters. But this is not the only way to role play. In older style game, the character emerges during play, from play, and the player's investment in them grows as their adventures continue. No, you don't have deep attachment at level 1 (where most deaths happen). Even when you pre-write a detailed background, can you really say you have a deep investment in the character at the beginning of the game?
The important character developments and player immersion happen during play and because of play, in the style I am talking about. Even if you lose a couple near the beginning, the characters that survive against the odds or because of your efforts become really beloved and the longer they are around, the more personality you invest in them.

I understand what you're saying here; I term this emergent depth. I've played several characters who've started as a minimal framework and ended up growing interesting, like Aliza (who I mentioned before) and Arianna.


Your example of the character having her lover killed may be brutal to her, but is it really brutal to you? Wouldn't having the character ignominiously executed, and you needing to bring up a new character from level 1 be a more brutal consequence?
If having an npc killed is the worst thing that has ever happened to any of your characters ever, you have clearly never played the type of game I'm talking about. Do you know you wouldn't get attached and invested in a character that might die?

It's not just having her lover killed, it's murdering her lover in cold blood because Caheira is absolutely incapable of standing up to her mother. That's one of the most awful things I can possibly imagine happening to someone.

The thing that confuses me here is: why is the consequence being brutal to me (rather than the character) a good thing? Is this a game, or an exercise in emotional masochism?

And to your last point, in a high lethality game, where character death is something that you always have to be aware of, I actively avoid any real investment in the character or development on their part. Why? Because I've played games where characters that I've been invested in have been ignominiously killed and it ****ing sucks.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-13, 08:22 PM
No, and your entire condescending paragraph misses the point.

What point? That people who always do the optimal thing exist? Because they don't. Nor do they make a conscious choice not to. You also never said what the point is and I quite frankly don't have a clue what it is if you're not trying to say that playing a Homo Economicus with characterization made based on your judgement of what is optimal in a situation.


Not me by myself, but it's already happened once, due I believe in part to feedback from people like me. Wizards of the Coast stopped referring to certain challenges as "roleplaying challenges" and started referring to them as "interaction challenges."

That still puts the focus on the challenge and overcoming it, not on the character portrayal. Whether you optimize your movements to safely stab somebody, seek to find out how to phrase things correctly to achieve your ends or canvas a room for traps or treasure, if what you're doing holds no focus on developing the narrative, it's problem solving not roleplaying.


This is as honest a question as I can make it: why do you exclude tactical combat from problem solving, and thus from roleplaying?

I don't. :smallconfused:

It's a part of problem solving and I'm pointing out that a lot of people present it as less worthy than scheming, sneaking and canvassing rooms when trying to argue that old-school dungeon crawls are superior to modern D&D. Tactical combat is very similar to all of those things and all of them are dissimilar from marveling at the world, pondering the themes of actions or doing character exploration. In fact the point was that putting the distinction between tactical combat and non-combat forms of problem solving is stupid and lacking in stringency.


Yes, they withhold it because they see it as something they do, and others do not. People like to think that what they do is worthy, because that's a way to justify their otherwise rather arbitrary preferences.

And people should stop doing that. It's why nerddom is a toxic environment and why outsiders look down on nerds. You're not better because the cartoons you like are older than you are, nor are you because what you do is roleplaying and rollplaying and you're an obnoxious twit for suggesting otherwise. Similarly, you're no better or worse for liking basketball than for liking to pretend to be an elf. Your moral worth isn't dependent on what your hobbies are and even less on the taxonomy of how the hobbies are classified.


How did this become about me?

You know that thing in English where you both means the person you're talking to and a hypothetical person, general attitudes or other abstract entities. In short, it was the generic you, not the personal you.


Yes. Do that. Don't use one word that has multiple meanings. Instead, state in a few words what one is doing. "Getting immersed in my character." "Making cool scenes." "Developing a story." "Exploring a world." "Fighting monsters." All of those are roleplaying and more. People can just say what they're doing, instead of trying to claim a word for themselves.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to ask people what they mean when they say "roleplaying" in the context of a game I'm thinking about joining.

People are probably doing several and most people are pretty crap at being analytical about what they're doing, why they're doing, what they're feeling and why they're feeling it. Humans are also manifestly terrible at letting go of established language to adopt new phrasing that would be technically clearer. Clarifying the meaning of an existing term is immensely easier than getting everybody to adopt new terminology. It's also a much simpler terminology to simply state whether you mean problem solving through creativity or narrative development than to try to break things down further. Especially when games tend to end up going in unexpected directions, but rarely move from focusing on overcoming challenge to developing narrative or vice versa.

Tragak
2015-02-13, 08:26 PM
Your example of the character having her lover killed may be brutal to her, but is it really brutal to you? Wouldn't having the character ignominiously executed, and you needing to bring up a new character from level 1 be a more brutal consequence?

If having an npc killed is the worst thing that has ever happened to any of your characters ever, you have clearly never played the type of game I'm talking about. Do you know you wouldn't get attached and invested in a character that might die? If consequences that are also brutal for you (being forced out of the game while your friends continue playing, etc...) are more fun for you than consequences that are only brutal for the character (failing at something you've role-played as being important to them, etc...), then go ahead and do it.

Duke of URRL
2015-02-13, 11:39 PM
It's not that lethality is incompatible with roleplaying. It's just that roleplaying is strongly correlated with character investment and spending time developing your character, while high lethality disincentivizes both those things. If you emphasize roleplay and high lethality that creates a strange situation where you are at once told two things: develop your character and make them feel human and real; and don't get too attached to the character or put too much work into them because they're likely to get killed.

So is this just Stormwind again? If your gonna say High Lethality players can't role play or be invested in a character or develop a character, is that not exactly like saying an optimizer can't role play?

Darth Ultron
2015-02-14, 12:30 AM
In my gaming, I have found that High Lethality encourages role play. It's the simple idea of the player saying I should role play my character to the best of my abilities at all times, as the character might die at any time.

It's also great for keeping players to pay attention during the game.


Though I'll admit I really don't get the idea of ''well my character might die, so I'm not going to care or do anything or even play the game''. A game, by it's nature has risks, rewards and failure.

Milo v3
2015-02-14, 01:16 AM
Though I'll admit I really don't get the idea of ''well my character might die, so I'm not going to care or do anything or even play the game''. A game, by it's nature has risks, rewards and failure.

It's more "Well, my character wont last more than a day, so I'm not going to care as much for that character while I play the game."

BrokenChord
2015-02-14, 02:30 AM
So is this just Stormwind again? If your gonna say High Lethality players can't role play or be invested in a character or develop a character, is that not exactly like saying an optimizer can't role play?

The difference between "high lethality" gameplay and optimization is that optimization has absolutely no bearing on playing or developing your character in the slightest. On the other hand, highly lethal gameplay directly impacts the fundamentals of character development, because it means players have both less of a reason to get attached to their character (as their long-term goals will most likely never come to fruition) and, perhaps more importantly, less time to come into the character. As a lot of people have said, you usually find your character's "voice" during play, discovering the character's exact personality as you roleplay them, allowing you to develop a connection to the persona you've created. In high-lethality games, there often isn't time for you to develop this connection.

I'm not saying that you can't roleplay well in a highly lethal game. But it's nothing like Stormwind; however much you optimize has absolutely zero effect on how (and how well) you'll roleplay, while the lethality of the game does change the type and method of roleplaying for most people for actual reasons, those being both the expectation and the reality of having less time with each character.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-14, 02:41 AM
The fact that people seem to characterize killing a character in such a situation as "You don't get to play the game anymore" makes me more than a bit...shall I say, confused? Annoyed? It's a massive mischaracterization and subversion of good-faith GM behavior.

If we're playing a high-lethality system, the players get fair warning that they should prepare an alternate character in the event something like that happens. There are not supposed to be hard feelings if you let your players know up-front what kind of game they're playing, and apply the rules fairly. Dumping players into some sort of no-win situation is the real big no-no, unless it's been telegraphed clearly.

All this taken into account, I expect my DM not to pull punches. If my options have a fair chance of success, they should also have some chance of reasonable worst-case failure, or else the stakes aren't meaningful to me. That sometimes means my character's demise, if I'm doing something truly dangerous.

Doesn't mean either approach is badwrongfun, I just wonder why people seem to argue that lethal death traps are an inherently bad thing, or bad GM behavior. They aren't if the group and the GM are on the same page.

Character death can also happen in "meaningless subjective evaluation of lethality"-type games. The post I responded to characterised PC death as "You don't get to play this character anymore", so my characterization as "You don't get to play the game anymore" is far from unfair, seeing how players don't always get a "fair warning" and they don't always have an inexhaustible pile of backup character sheets.

What I am arguing here isn't that high lethality is badwrongfun, it's that it is absolutely not needed and that any decent DM can rise the stakes without ever doing anything to the PCs. In the very post you are responding, I explained that the DM has a wide range of consequences of failure to inflict upon players in a worst-case scenario. There is no need to pull punches if you can be creative about it.


Now, if it's a No Lethality game, Mark and Harry happily have their characters run off to save the Princess. They know that their characters won't die, and even more so, nothing bad will happen. So they just run off, with on real plan, knowing that everything will be alright. They know that every single Stormtrooper on the Death Star can not hit the broad side of a barn..

If I were to DM a "No Lethality" game, I would flat out tell my players that if they ever come to me with this type of expectation, I would have them captured by very competent average Stromtroopers, have Axelimb the Defiler horribly violate the princess, make the PCs watch, strip them of everything and drop them off in a dump to spread the tales of his misdeeds, knowing they will forever be haunted by the knowledge that their naivete resulted in the destruction of their home planets and visions of things that can't be unseen in their nightmares.

So please, drop this hypocritical act and the assumption that "No Lethality" means "No failure". You are being implicitly condescending towards people that reject your style of play in a way that is as ignorant as it is offensive. You like the option of having your character die, other people don't like it (and often for very good reasons).

Tragak
2015-02-14, 10:02 AM
High-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters could die at any time, they go out of their way to explore the characters in as much depth as possible while they still have a chance.

(High / Low)-lethality, Low-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters (could / are not going to) die at any time, they don't bother trying to get invested in the game as anything more than a combat simulator.

Low-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters are going to be part of a very long story, they can explore what happens when the characters fail at something important to them and then role-play their characters' reactions to the consequences of their failure.

goto124
2015-02-14, 10:08 AM
High-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters could die at any time, they go out of their way to explore the characters in as much depth as possible while they still have a chance.

EDIT: Reread your post. I realised you mean that lethality and roleplay are separate.

Won't going out of their way to explore the characters actually LEAD to death? I must be missing something. Like maybe when you said 'high-lethality' you meant the more reasonable kind where you have to be careful, as opposed to ninjas out of nowhere.

Cikomyr
2015-02-14, 10:17 AM
High-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters could die at any time, they go out of their way to explore the characters in as much depth as possible while they still have a chance.

(High / Low)-roleplaying, Low-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters (could / are not going to) die at any time, they don't bother trying to get invested in the game as anything more than a combat simulator.

Low-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters are going to be part of a very long story, they can explore what happens when the characters fail at something important to them and then role-play their characters' reactions to the consequences of their failure.

Can I ask a weird question?

What do you mean, by "high lethality"? I mean, would you consider WFRP 2nd as high-lethality? You only have a handful of HP, and a few swordslashes can end you.

but on the other hand, there are a lot of safety nets available that allow you to dodge, parry or just outright fiat those problems away. Mechanism like "fate point", which allows you to say "you survived, you keep playing". Does that mean the game is still high-lethality?

VincentTakeda
2015-02-14, 10:42 AM
I for the most part agree with Tengu's tiers... The lethality is split into 3 'methods of death' (and a bonus 4th at very high)...
Those 4 methods of death are GM intent.. Dice Intent (aka random chance or 'my dice hate me tonight').. Player intent ... and System intent...

Very Low Lethality for campaigns where the only way to die is to take specific concerted effort to achieve it
The gm himself is interested in your survival and makes efforts towards it. You will never be killed by dice or the gm, but by your actions and your choosing

Low Lethality The gm is careful to give you survivable encounters, so death by gm and dice is low, but blatant poor choices on the players part can kill you even when not intended.

Medium Lethality The gm isnt out to get you yet, but he'll happily let your decisions or the dice kill you with indifference.

High Lethality The dm is actively choreographing deadly encounters, so death by gm (encounter design), dice, and poor player choices is common.

Very High Lethality The rules of the game itself is out to get you. The gm's job is to kill you or worse. The dice mechanics are not in your favor. Even a choice which on the surface seems like a smart choice can be a ringer that gets you killed (grimtooth's traps).

Tragak
2015-02-14, 11:12 AM
Can I ask a weird question?

What do you mean, by "high lethality"? I mean, would you consider WFRP 2nd as high-lethality? You only have a handful of HP, and a few swordslashes can end you.

but on the other hand, there are a lot of safety nets available that allow you to dodge, parry or just outright fiat those problems away. Mechanism like "fate point", which allows you to say "you survived, you keep playing". Does that mean the game is still high-lethality? First of all, thank you for quoting my typo in the middle line instead of pointing it out to me :smalltongue:

Second of all, I'm pretty sure that the terms "High-lethality" and "Low-lethality" are more subjective than a lot of people here give them credit for.

Cikomyr
2015-02-14, 12:12 PM
First of all, thank you for quoting my typo in the middle line instead of pointing it out to me :smalltongue:

Second of all, I'm pretty sure that the terms "High-lethality" and "Low-lethality" are more subjective than a lot of people here give them credit for.

Meh. Typos are typos, it happen. I wasn't trying to point it out to you.. I understood your argument well enough despite it :smallwink:

Amphetryon
2015-02-14, 12:45 PM
EDIT: Reread your post. I realised you mean that lethality and roleplay are separate.

Won't going out of their way to explore the characters actually LEAD to death? I must be missing something. Like maybe when you said 'high-lethality' you meant the more reasonable kind where you have to be careful, as opposed to ninjas out of nowhere.

It would only inexorably lead to death if exploring the Characters could only happen during dangerous encounters.

Darth Ultron
2015-02-14, 03:38 PM
So please, drop this hypocritical act and the assumption that "No Lethality" means "No failure". You are being implicitly condescending towards people that reject your style of play in a way that is as ignorant as it is offensive. You like the option of having your character die, other people don't like it (and often for very good reasons).

Well, ''No Lethality'' does mean ''No Game Ending Serious Failure equal to Character Death''. So sure the character can lose an item or something. But that is nowhere never the level of Character Death.

And lots of people don't like ''No Lethality'' type games, for very good reasons.

I'd say more like:

High-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters could die at any time, they go out of their way to explore the characters in as much depth as possible, stay focused in the game, pay attention and are 100% immersed in the game world. The conflict and danger in the game spawns tons of role playing. The game is an exciting edge of everyone seats thrill ride.

(High / Low)-lethality, Low-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters (could / are not going to) die at any time, they don't bother trying to get invested in the game as anything more than a derision and something that takes up a little of their time.

Low-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters are going to be part of a very long story, they can ignore any conflict in the game as it does not matter and it is all ultimately pointless. They know that no matter what happens in a game session, the story will go on with their character as a main focus. The game spawns no role playing by conflict or danger, but a player still might spontaneously role play reactions to things and events.

kyoryu
2015-02-14, 04:41 PM
One of the longest-running games I've played, that had some of the best roleplaying I've encountered, was high lethality. Some players were to the point where you could tell what character they were running before they said a single word.

That's not saying that other games don't have great roleplaying, btw. I mean, I love me some Fate. It's a single data point that does not imply the existence or non-existence of other data points.

But, we can theorize about why that's the case left and right, but it doesn't change the fact that it's something that's been observed, and something that certainly *can* happen.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-14, 07:34 PM
Well, ''No Lethality'' does mean ''No Game Ending Serious Failure equal to Character Death''. So sure the character can lose an item or something. But that is nowhere never the level of Character Death.

The fact that you just compared multiple genocides with losing an item says more about the rationality of your position than I ever could.

kyoryu
2015-02-14, 07:59 PM
Low-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters are going to be part of a very long story, they can ignore any conflict in the game as it does not matter and it is all ultimately pointless. They know that no matter what happens in a game session, the story will go on with their character as a main focus. The game spawns no role playing by conflict or danger, but a player still might spontaneously role play reactions to things and events.

Wow, while I'll admit that some games can run like this, you can certainly have risk even with low lethality.

I mean, sure, your character will live. Great. Of course, the world has been taken over by demons (and it's the PCs fault), they are believed to have deliberately started it and are hunted for this, everyone they have ever known or loved is gone. Everything they have tried to build is destroyed.

But they're alive, so I guess there was no risk or conflict?

Death is not the only source of conflict. A lot of times it's not even the best one. As a friend of mine has as his sig on rpg.net, paraphrased: I don't avoid killing PCs out of mercy. I do it because I'm a sadist. I do it because death ends the pain. If they're alive, I can keep hurting them more.

goto124
2015-02-14, 08:17 PM
It would only inexorably lead to death if exploring the Characters could only happen during dangerous encounters.

In my mind, every event in a High Lethality game is a dangerous encounter. Wait. I think that describes a Very High Lethality game. Even then, as someone who played High Lethality before, I ended up treating the game as Very High Lethality anyway, since I had little idea as to what could happen, not to mention that bad luck could easily lead to rolling a new character. It was fun until I got worn out of being cautious all the time, so much that I couldn't even enjoy RP. 'This guy sounds interesting but what if she goes berserk and kills me, or she has an agenda and kills me to serve her ends, or I say something that makes her suspicious and she kills me, or...'

Terraoblivion
2015-02-14, 08:25 PM
Wow, while I'll admit that some games can run like this, you can certainly have risk even with low lethality.

I mean, sure, your character will live. Great. Of course, the world has been taken over by demons (and it's the PCs fault), they are believed to have deliberately started it and are hunted for this, everyone they have ever known or loved is gone. Everything they have tried to build is destroyed.

But they're alive, so I guess there was no risk or conflict?

Death is not the only source of conflict. A lot of times it's not even the best one. As a friend of mine has as his sig on rpg.net, paraphrased: I don't avoid killing PCs out of mercy. I do it because I'm a sadist. I do it because death ends the pain. If they're alive, I can keep hurting them more.

Not just that, fiction can be meaningful with lower stakes than that. I was far more riveted and emotionally affected by Touko ruining her life through bad choices and pushing all those who tried to be her friends and support her away in Maria Watches Over Us than I have ever been by an action scene.

So for those saying that you cannot be invested or have stakes without death, I need to ask this - What about roleplaying is different so sources of conflict like that are impossible in that medium? Especially in the face of people who have said that they've had them while roleplaying.

Amphetryon
2015-02-14, 08:32 PM
In my mind, every event in a High Lethality game is a dangerous encounter. Wait. I think that describes a Very High Lethality game. Even then, as someone who played High Lethality before, I ended up treating the game as Very High Lethality anyway, since I had little idea as to what could happen, not to mention that bad luck could easily lead to rolling a new character. It was fun until I got worn out of being cautious all the time, so much that I couldn't even enjoy RP. 'This guy sounds interesting but what if she goes berserk and kills me, or she has an agenda and kills me to serve her ends, or I say something that makes her suspicious and she kills me, or...'

Why must non-combat, social encounters be dangerous in order to qualify the game as High Lethality?

Darth Ultron
2015-02-14, 09:23 PM
The fact that you just compared multiple genocides with losing an item says more about the rationality of your position than I ever could.

How do you jump from ''Character Death'' to ''multiple genocides''?



Death is not the only source of conflict.

Death is not a ''source of conflict'', it's the ultimate consequence of a conflict. Character death just does not compare to any other type of loss.

Just think, if Character Death was just like the other types of Loss, like ''your character loses their left shoe'' or ''demons rule the world and it's your characters fault'', then this would not even be a thread.

You might note that it's the people that are against Character Death are the ones that make it special and say they don't do it.

Milo v3
2015-02-14, 10:25 PM
How do you jump from ''Character Death'' to ''multiple genocides''?
They gave multiple genocides as part of an example for failure that doesn't involve character death.

Darth Ultron
2015-02-14, 11:17 PM
They gave multiple genocides as part of an example for failure that doesn't involve character death.

So the character is doing some type of risky action that might involve failure. The ultimate, worst thing that can happen in a Lethal Game is the character dies and the related role playing effects on the game.

And one of the worst things that can happen in a No or Low Lethality game is several races of intelligent beings are be killed off forever. But the character lives to game another day, but gets to role play out the effects of the failure in character...sometimes.

Milo v3
2015-02-14, 11:43 PM
So the character is doing some type of risky action that might involve failure. The ultimate, worst thing that can happen in a Lethal Game is the character dies and the related role playing effects on the game.

And one of the worst things that can happen in a No or Low Lethality game is several races of intelligent beings are be killed off forever. But the character lives to game another day, but gets to role play out the effects of the failure in character...sometimes.

No. :smallconfused:
It's just that you don't Need a High Lethal Game to have failure at the same degree as character death, or to have failure that surpasses character death.

Also, in a Low Lethality game, you can still have character death....

Darth Ultron
2015-02-14, 11:54 PM
No. :smallconfused:
It's just that you don't Need a High Lethal Game to have failure at the same degree as character death, or to have failure that surpasses character death.

Also, in a Low Lethality game, you can still have character death....

Except Character death is the ultimate failure, and one that is final and and one you can't come back from.

Any game can't have a PC fail to meet a goal ''you did not get the magic bean to the field by dawn, you failed'' but that is not even close to ''you can't play the character any more''. Nothing even comes close to character death.

And, again, the easy way to show they are different is few GMs would mix Character Death in randomly with the other types of Failure.

Milo v3
2015-02-15, 12:25 AM
Except Character death is the ultimate failure, and one that is final and and one you can't come back from.

Firstly so what? What benefit does that have over other failures?

Secondly, if you make it a High Lethality game, then character death can be common enough that it isn't considered ultimate failure, just failure, and that non-death would be considered a worse-failure.

Thirdly, many systems have it so death isn't final and that you can come back from it.

Mark Hall
2015-02-15, 12:41 AM
Except Character death is the ultimate failure, and one that is final and and one you can't come back from.

Oh, I disagree. Death can sometimes be the culmination of a character arc. Take Sturm in Dragonlance, for example. And that says nothing of the fact that the story can continue beyond death for the other PCs, and how you roleplayed your character up to that point determines if death is even the end of that story.

And, of course, you can hardly say "you can't come back from" death. (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0487.html)

SpectralDerp
2015-02-15, 02:13 AM
Except Character death is the ultimate failure, and one that is final and and one you can't come back from.

http://www.giantitp.com/comics/images/kDJ2rmxu8uZYwte3Hp2.gif

Darth Ultron
2015-02-15, 02:45 AM
Oh, I disagree. Death can sometimes be the culmination of a character arc. Take Sturm in Dragonlance, for example.

Death is not always the Ultimate Failure, but it can be.

But to use Sturm as the example, the Death of his Character, is a Very Big Deal. If Sturm had just ''fallen down'', it would not even be a story.

And sure, in some games like D&D a character can come back from the dead.....maybe, if they have the right magic. But that is not true of all games.

Milo v3
2015-02-15, 02:54 AM
But to use Sturm as the example, the Death of his Character, is a Very Big Deal. If Sturm had just ''fallen down'', it would not even be a story.
That sounds more in favour of less lethality rather than high-lethality...


And sure, in some games like D&D a character can come back from the dead.....maybe, if they have the right magic. But that is not true of all games.

I never said it was true of all games, just that there are systems where you can come back from death.

Darth Ultron
2015-02-15, 03:26 AM
That sounds more in favour of less lethality rather than high-lethality...

Well, switching gears here, Character Death in a story is very important. Sturm would not be the character he was, unless he died.

And the same is true for all tragic hero deaths from the dawn of time.

goto124
2015-02-15, 03:29 AM
The Tragic Hero Death came after a very long time of surviving, didn't it?

Darth Ultron
2015-02-15, 03:51 AM
The Tragic Hero Death came after a very long time of surviving, didn't it?

Depends on the needs of the story, of course. Plenty of heroes die in the first or second act.

Fiery Diamond
2015-02-15, 10:15 AM
Well, ''No Lethality'' does mean ''No Game Ending Serious Failure equal to Character Death''. So sure the character can lose an item or something. But that is nowhere never the level of Character Death.

And lots of people don't like ''No Lethality'' type games, for very good reasons.

I'd say more like:

High-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters could die at any time, they go out of their way to explore the characters in as much depth as possible, stay focused in the game, pay attention and are 100% immersed in the game world. The conflict and danger in the game spawns tons of role playing. The game is an exciting edge of everyone seats thrill ride.

(High / Low)-lethality, Low-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters (could / are not going to) die at any time, they don't bother trying to get invested in the game as anything more than a derision and something that takes up a little of their time.

Low-lethality, high-roleplaying: Since the players know that their characters are going to be part of a very long story, they can ignore any conflict in the game as it does not matter and it is all ultimately pointless. They know that no matter what happens in a game session, the story will go on with their character as a main focus. The game spawns no role playing by conflict or danger, but a player still might spontaneously role play reactions to things and events.

I can't tell if you're building a strawman, being deliberately antagonistic, or just have no ability to immerse yourself unless the stakes are death and don't see that that inability isn't universal. What is special special-awesome about death? (In games with no resurrection) death is simply the sudden cut-off of your ability to play that character. How is that so special and good? Do we have to live in fear of not being able to play a character we like in order to have an immersive game or something? Because that's wrong.

"So sure ... can lose an item or something.": What. Are those seriously the only two possibilities to you? "Well, I can die... or maybe somebody will steal my Xbox. Clearly, those are the only possibilities." Put things into the perspective of either a) a story or b) real life and your arguments about death being the only important thing quickly show their ridiculousness.

Your description of low-lethality high-roleplaying is definitely a strawman, and it's actually quite offensive since it basically amounts to saying "All you people who claim you have meaningful conflict in low lethality games? You're lying". Allow me to give my interpretation of the set.

High Lethality, High Roleplaying: Since players know their characters could die at any time, every encounter is a thrill. Delving into their characters in the time they have, the players create realistically dynamic characters who act with survival as the highest priority, just as people living in such a dangerous setting would. While this does cut off a wide variety of character types from being played, it leads to the ones that are played being played with a level of nuance not seen otherwise.

High Lethality, Low Roleplaying: Since players know their characters could die at any time, every encounter is gut-wrenching. The player must choose between living in fear of losing a character they like or not allowing themselves to become attached. As a result, they often become apathetic and resign themselves to a continuous roster of characters with little depth because "what's the point?"

Low Lethality, Low Roleplaying: Since players know their characters won't (or very likely won't, depending on how low lethality we're talking about) die, they see no reason to immerse themselves in the character. Without the threat of death, the thrill is gone and the player feels they can do whatever they like without consequence because "hey, it's not like I'm gonna die!"

Low Lethality, High Roleplaying: Since players know that their characters won't be snatched away from them, they are able to take the time to play a character truly embedded in the world around them. Attachments, bonds, goals, dreams, emotions... they all become real and moving. Without the constant threat of death looming, players are free to immerse themselves in all aspects of the character, not just those based around survival. Many more character types are available than in high lethality games since motives and actions that run counter to simple survival are free to be explored.

I think that's a much fairer interpretation, especially since it doesn't put down either high or low lethality.



How do you jump from ''Character Death'' to ''multiple genocides''?



Death is not a ''source of conflict'', it's the ultimate consequence of a conflict. Character death just does not compare to any other type of loss.

Just think, if Character Death was just like the other types of Loss, like ''your character loses their left shoe'' or ''demons rule the world and it's your characters fault'', then this would not even be a thread.

You might note that it's the people that are against Character Death are the ones that make it special and say they don't do it.

That's patently absurd. Conflict and death aren't even necessarily related; how does death get to be "the ultimate consequence of a conflict"? Character death doesn't compare? Hm... how about NPC death? Those are characters too. Yet because it's not the PC, somehow it isn't important? Yeah, that's ridiculous. About as ridiculous as you equating losing your shoe with demons overtaking the world. Let's pretend that we're talking about real life for a second. Still think losing your shoe and demons overrunning the world are the same? Yeah, I thought not.

Oh, and for the record? Emotions are more meaningful than just life by itself. I stand by that both as a truth about characters in games and in the real world.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-15, 10:55 AM
Of course, most games that are low on roleplaying has little to do with the degree of lethality. Mostly it comes down to the other players and the GM not really being invested, so everything is sort of shallow and nobody really feels comfortable roleplaying. More than the level of lethality, I think this is the most likely source of bad roleplay.

Darth Ultron
2015-02-15, 03:57 PM
Low Lethality, High Roleplaying: Since players know that their characters won't be snatched away from them, they are able to take the time to play a character truly embedded in the world around them. Attachments, bonds, goals, dreams, emotions... they all become real and moving. Without the constant threat of death looming, players are free to immerse themselves in all aspects of the character, not just those based around survival. Many more character types are available than in high lethality games since motives and actions that run counter to simple survival are free to be explored.

I think that's a much fairer interpretation, especially since it doesn't put down either high or low lethality.


Except your bias against High Lethality shows.....

It will come down to the game system though. Some games have no death. A lot of games, the more adventure type games, do have death. And death is a very big deal.

But when you play an adventure game, with death in the rules, and then turn it into a story free form game...well, it's a wonder you even want to use the game crunch.

Just take D&D, and make a nice crunchy dwarven fighter. And then spend hours immersed in all the many role playing aspects of the character as they do so many amazing pure free form role playing type things. But, that is not exactly playing D&D. If your not using the game rules and rolling dice, your not playing the game. Your just free form role playing.

Fiery Diamond
2015-02-15, 04:00 PM
Except your bias against High Lethality shows.....

It will come down to the game system though. Some games have no death. A lot of games, the more adventure type games, do have death. And death is a very big deal.

But when you play an adventure game, with death in the rules, and then turn it into a story free form game...well, it's a wonder you even want to use the game crunch.

Just take D&D, and make a nice crunchy dwarven fighter. And then spend hours immersed in all the many role playing aspects of the character as they do so many amazing pure free form role playing type things. But, that is not exactly playing D&D. If your not using the game rules and rolling dice, your not playing the game. Your just free form role playing.

Um, no. To just about everything you said. I'm done; I don't need to be talked down to like this.

Amphetryon
2015-02-15, 04:53 PM
Except your bias against High Lethality shows.....

It will come down to the game system though. Some games have no death. A lot of games, the more adventure type games, do have death. And death is a very big deal.

But when you play an adventure game, with death in the rules, and then turn it into a story free form game...well, it's a wonder you even want to use the game crunch.

Just take D&D, and make a nice crunchy dwarven fighter. And then spend hours immersed in all the many role playing aspects of the character as they do so many amazing pure free form role playing type things. But, that is not exactly playing D&D. If your not using the game rules and rolling dice, your not playing the game. Your just free form role playing.

Lots of the game rules for D&D (from at least 3e on, and arguably before), which involve rolling dice, don't have death as a reasonably expected consequence of them. See also: Skill Checks, and a majority of Saving Throws (as SoD is a minority set of the spells involved).

Darth Ultron
2015-02-15, 05:29 PM
Lots of the game rules for D&D (from at least 3e on, and arguably before), which involve rolling dice, don't have death as a reasonably expected consequence of them. See also: Skill Checks, and a majority of Saving Throws (as SoD is a minority set of the spells involved).

Um, ok, your right that if you roll a Cooking Skill Check the Skill Check Rules don't have a Death Paragraph.


But the point is D&D has hit points and the rules for a character dying. From anything. This is why a lot of harmful things do hit point damage. Too much damage and a character dies.

And skiil checks and saves do have death attached. Fail a skill check for a dangerous thing, like climbing a high wall and a character can fall to their death. And even without save or die effects, if a save is failed and a character with 10 hit points takes 12 damage....they are dying.

Milo v3
2015-02-15, 07:40 PM
But the point is D&D has hit points and the rules for a character dying. From anything. This is why a lot of harmful things do hit point damage. Too much damage and a character dies.

And skiil checks and saves do have death attached. Fail a skill check for a dangerous thing, like climbing a high wall and a character can fall to their death. And even without save or die effects, if a save is failed and a character with 10 hit points takes 12 damage....they are dying.

And yet those don't make it high lethality game in general. It makes it a game with lethality. Which can be high or low, depending on the players and GM.

goto124
2015-02-15, 08:00 PM
Of course, most games that are low on roleplaying has little to do with the degree of lethality. Mostly it comes down to the other players and the GM not really being invested, so everything is sort of shallow and nobody really feels comfortable roleplaying. More than the level of lethality, I think this is the most likely source of bad roleplay.

I see your point. Lethality is but a factor in investment. High lethality can cause one person (probably a risk-taker) to be highly invested, and another person (probably someone who just wants to escape from the risks of RL) to get apathetic. Same for low lethality.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-15, 08:36 PM
Yeah. Though lethality should still be matched to both the group and the feel, genre and themes of the game. Failing to do that can reduce investment or lead to frustration from mismatched expectations. If you were told to expect Pirates of the Caribbean and got six month lifespans before the character got hanged or died of scurvy, you'd probably be frustrated even if you'd otherwise be into a realistic pirate game. Or vice versa, for that matter.

Mutazoia
2015-02-16, 02:48 AM
Hiding, scheming and avoiding isn't really roleplaying if it's based on "how do I survive this". It isn't about portraying a role, but about optimizing chances of success, just in a different way from optimizing your build for maximum killing potential. You can roleplay in a game about either, but no matter the form of optimizing chance of success as long as what you're focused on is that it isn't intrinsically roleplaying.

:|

So.... what your saying is..... A character, when presented with a gang of trolls, should not be figuring out a way to survive? What, pray tell oh mighty sage, should he be doing? Act II, Scene III from Hamlet!?

I think this discussion is missing one very big point. What "Role Playing" actually is.

Role Playing is YOU...a real person, in the real world, pretend to be a fictional character: A mighty wizard, or a daring thief, or a strong warrior, or a Jedi, or what ever. You dictate the actions of your fictional character based on fictional goings on in a fiction world presented and/or created by another real person. That is role playing...you are pretending to be a fictional character for a time....you are having a collective day dream as it were.

The depth of information you create for your character and the amount of acting you choose to do during this time is solely up to you. But whether you choose to a basic frame work, or write a War and Peace sized novel for a back story and quote the "Crispins Day" speech every time you draw your sword is irrelevant....as either way you are role playing.

Saying that some one isn't "role playing" because they are thinking of ways their character can survive an encounter that include "sneaking" (or any other method for that matter) is pure tripe. You don't HAVE to preform Shakespeare at the Gaming Table to be role playing.

Now the basic comment that sparked this thread was this: If there's a strong chance my character may die, the I can't role play and I poo-poo games like that.

Too bad, so sad.

Just don't play those kinds of games.

But don't tell me that I'm not role playing if I choose to play one, ok?

There is a point in everybody's psychological development (usually adolescence to early teens) where people fantasize about being the "invincible warrior". They easily win all fights, all the girls (or guys) fall in love with them, they get rich and powerful, yada yada, yada. Of course nothing ever bad happens, or if it does it happens to an ancilllary character that they can rescue/comfort/avenge, or it's something overcome with out much effort and show how bad arsed they are.

Most people grow out of this phase, but some don't. Nothing really wrong with not growing out of it...it doesn't really effect the real world any (unless there are more psychological issues involved). But those are the types of people who want to role play and not have any real risk to their characters. Or rather, not have any real risk to their characters that they, themselves didn't invent and therefore can get themselves out of.

I've played with a guy like this....he literally threw temper tantrums like a 4 year old if ANYTHING bad happened to his character. 1 little point of taint in L5R and OMG you would have thought the GM just raped his dog, kicked his wife and stole his truck. Yelled and cussed for 30 minutes then had the character commit suicide. When is Iron Hero's character fell unconscious during a fight, he rage quit the game because he was SURE it was all over, even though the rest of the party was still alive and just finishing up the encounter. And boy you should have heard him squeal like a stuck pig when his NPC wife (that he forced our male GM to role play constantly) was killed...because it interfered with some epic novel he had written in his head, where his character(s) came out on top every time.

Now he was an extreme example, obviously not every one who only wants to play low lethality games are going to be like this, but refusing to play high lethality games because "I don't get a chance to role play" is basically just latent control issues. Again, nothing against it (again unless there are other issues combined) but saying basically saying "This is what I consider role playing, and since you are not doing exactly that, you are not role playing" is wrong, and a sign that you really need to let things go and just enjoy spending time with the hobby you enjoy, regardless of whether others play it exactly the same way you do.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-16, 03:00 AM
Um, ok, your right that if you roll a Cooking Skill Check the Skill Check Rules don't have a Death Paragraph.

But the point is D&D has hit points and the rules for a character dying. From anything.

Actually, no, it does not have rules for "dying from anything". The common core among all systems of DnD is that a character dies from having its hitpoints drop below a certain value and nothing else. There is no rule for death due to failing a certain number of skill checks in a row, there is no rule for death due to not following alignment, there is no rule for death due to a cause tied to the amount of wealth a character has accumulated and so on.

I have no idea what's (or rather, what's not) going on in your mind if you are able to assert such a complete and utter falsehood the moment after you acknowledge it's falsehood!


Except your bias against High Lethality shows.....

What?


High Lethality, High Roleplaying: Since players know their characters could die at any time, every encounter is a thrill. Delving into their characters in the time they have, the players create realistically dynamic characters who act with survival as the highest priority, just as people living in such a dangerous setting would. While this does cut off a wide variety of character types from being played, it leads to the ones that are played being played with a level of nuance not seen otherwise.

High Lethality, Low Roleplaying: Since players know their characters could die at any time, every encounter is gut-wrenching. The player must choose between living in fear of losing a character they like or not allowing themselves to become attached. As a result, they often become apathetic and resign themselves to a continuous roster of characters with little depth because "what's the point?"


Fiery Diamond has characterized "high lethality"-games as potentially going two ways, namely that the group enjoys it or not. But acknowledging "low lethatilty"-games as something that can enjoyed by players due to the fact that it specifically avoids what might turn players off from "high lethality"-games shows a bias against "high lethality"-games?

I've asked myself whether or not you even read the posts written by people who disagree with you when you compared multiple genocides to "losing an item or two" but now I have to ask myself whether or not you read what you write yourself!

Or rather, I'm not going to do that. It's clear that your position is irrational and biased, something you can only hold through avoiding the facts. Your behavior is both ignorant and offensive and I am done talking to you.

Mutazoia
2015-02-16, 03:17 AM
Actually, no, it does not have rules for "dying from anything". The common core among all systems of DnD is that a character dies from having its hitpoints drop below a certain value and nothing else. There is no rule for death due to failing a certain number of skill checks in a row, there is no rule for death due to not following alignment, there is no rule for death due to a cause tied to the amount of wealth a character has accumulated and so on.

I have no idea what's (or rather, what's not) going on in your mind if you are able to assert such a complete and utter falsehood the moment after you acknowledge it's falsehood!

Hmmm....

You can die if you fail a certain number of swim checks in a row...or climb checks....or survival checks......

I think the point was that D&D allows for character death, and that it's up to the players to avoid it as best they can.

Depending on the style of the game this can be very easy or very hard. It's up to the DM and the characters to discuss the type of game they want before starting play.

And there is a rule for death due to a cause tied to the amount of wealth a character has accumulated...its called "encumbrance" and is closely linked to things like move speed when running from a hungry Tarasque or failing a certain number of swim checks in a row.

Earthwalker
2015-02-17, 06:51 AM
I have to say my opinion has changed since I first posted in this thread. I did offer some general agreement to the statement that high lethality can diminish role play. I think I should change that. And say its perfectly possibly to role play in a high lethality environment.

I do believe the fact the game is highly lethal may influence different people in different ways in terms of their ability to role play.

Also replying to some posts on this thread, in general rather than specific.
The world is not split into two types of game. On one side highly lethal and on the other a game where nothing bad can happen to characters. Also if a game is not Highly lethal it doesn’t mean that no one can die.

I believe that character death is one of the worst ways to play out a failirue as it means that it removes the player from the game as they get another character it’s a way of saying no you can’t play with us for a while. There are so much more interesting failures that keep the whole table playing and more the story forward.

I loved one post explaining that some people like spending 20 mins to open a door and some people don’t. See this made things click for me. Personally this is what I don’t like having to describe in minute detail my action just to open a door saftly. I don’t get anything from it.

I do have one question for the pro-high-lethality advocates here. Are you normally a GM or a player. Or would it be an equal mix of both ?

Alex12
2015-02-17, 07:27 AM
High lethality, in my experience, does affect roleplay.
For example, I'm currently running a bard in a PF adventure path with a 3-person party. The GM has previously stated that he considers a fight that ends with the winners having one person left with one hit point and the others in the negatives is a good fight, and that's been demonstrated often enough in this one- that's been the outcome of basically every fight we've had so far. I am seriously considering retiring that character because I'm too attached to her- she has a family and friends outside the adventuring world, and is only adventuring to raise money so she and her mate can open up a candy store together. It's not that I want no risk, but I feel that the level of risk in this campaign is too high for that character.
High-lethality doesn't ruin role-playing, but it does influence it. A high-lethality campaign limits certain character options as well as certain roleplay options. I don't want to be making new characters every session, and so I want to have a character powerful enough to survive in such an environment. By the same token, a low-lethality setting with non-death failure modes would encourage different roleplay options.

Mutazoia
2015-02-17, 10:47 AM
I do have one question for the pro-high-lethality advocates here. Are you normally a GM or a player. Or would it be an equal mix of both ?

Both...but I would say I like to play them a little more than GM...just because I like the challenge.


High lethality, in my experience, does affect roleplay.
For example, I'm currently running a bard in a PF adventure path with a 3-person party. The GM has previously stated that he considers a fight that ends with the winners having one person left with one hit point and the others in the negatives is a good fight, and that's been demonstrated often enough in this one- that's been the outcome of basically every fight we've had so far. I am seriously considering retiring that character because I'm too attached to her- she has a family and friends outside the adventuring world, and is only adventuring to raise money so she and her mate can open up a candy store together. It's not that I want no risk, but I feel that the level of risk in this campaign is too high for that character.
High-lethality doesn't ruin role-playing, but it does influence it. A high-lethality campaign limits certain character options as well as certain roleplay options. I don't want to be making new characters every session, and so I want to have a character powerful enough to survive in such an environment. By the same token, a low-lethality setting with non-death failure modes would encourage different roleplay options.


See...now I would take that as a reason to role play ways to avoid combat as much as possible, and only enter combat when I know I have the upper hand. That and I would take it as a sign that your GM is a prick...but it would still afford me the opportunity to plan ways around combat, or plan an ambush, or to find a way to lure a nearby monster into attacking the band of orcs and then finishing off the survivors. As I've said before, there is more to role playing (read "conflict resolution") than "I hit it with my sword."

SpectralDerp
2015-02-17, 10:57 AM
I have to say my opinion has changed since I first posted in this thread. I did offer some general agreement to the statement that high lethality can diminish role play. I think I should change that. And say its perfectly possibly to role play in a high lethality environment.

"High lethality can diminish roleplay" and "It's possible to roleplay in a high lethality environment" aren't contradictory. To say that roleplay can diminish is not to say that it always does. While I have only briefly skimmed this thread, I doubt anyone who has argued that "high lethality" can turn off some people some of the time would also argue that it will always turn off all people all of the time.

Even supporters of "high lethality" don't seem to dispute the possibility of diminished roleplaying through high lethality and instead focus that it is "low lethality" that will diminish roleplaying.

goto124
2015-02-17, 11:05 AM
Lethality does affect roleplay. But how it affects RP differs from player to player. In a high lethality, 1 player thinks 'how am I supposed to enjoy the game and make suboptimal choices when fighting for my life', another thinks 'awesome, being on my toes all the time means more RP'. In a low lethality, 1 player thinks 'awesome, I get to do lots of things without dying', another thinks 'what's the point of playing when there's no risk?'.

It can go both ways.


See...now I would take that as a reason to role play ways to avoid combat as much as possible, and only enter combat when I know I have the upper hand. That and I would take it as a sign that your GM is a prick...but it would still afford me the opportunity to plan ways around combat, or plan an ambush, or to find a way to lure a nearby monster into attacking the band of orcs and then finishing off the survivors. As I've said before, there is more to role playing (read "conflict resolution) than "I hit it with my sword."

The argument of a player who prefers low lethality: That's not roleplaying, that's making tactical decisios to stay alive. It can be fun to play tactical (avoiding) combat, but you're not thinking 'what would my character do', you're thinking 'what would maximise survivability'. Granted, there's a lot of overlap between the 2 in a high lethality game (even the 'you should avoid combat' kind), which really muddies the waters...

My experience tells me that after a while, it's just plain exhausting.

Alex12
2015-02-17, 11:08 AM
See...now I would take that as a reason to role play ways to avoid combat as much as possible, and only enter combat when I know I have the upper hand. That and I would take it as a sign that your GM is a prick...but it would still afford me the opportunity to plan ways around combat, or plan an ambush, or to find a way to lure a nearby monster into attacking the band of orcs and then finishing off the survivors. As I've said before, there is more to role playing (read "conflict resolution) than "I hit it with my sword."

Believe me, I try. I believe I mentioned I'm playing a bard, yes? My first reaction normally is to use diplomacy and talking and such to neutralize threats in a non-combat manner. The problem is that, at least for now, we're dealing with things that can't just be talked out of doing whatever it is they're doing. Things that are slavishly devoted to someone who isn't there but wants to engulf the country in endless winter, mindless undead, creatures that attack from ambush without giving us time to talk, that sort of thing.
It's a published Adventure Path, so there's a certain degree of inflexibility there, but we definitely have tried alternate methods to stop the oncoming ice apocalypse. Heck, after our first foray as level 1 characters almost dying to an arctic tatzlwurm that one-shotted the frontline melee guy in a surprise round, we decided as a group that the situation was above our capabilites and went for reinforcements. That didn't work, like, at all.

Thrudd
2015-02-17, 11:15 AM
I do have one question for the pro-high-lethality advocates here. Are you normally a GM or a player. Or would it be an equal mix of both ?

I GM more than I play. But if I were to play, I would be more excited to play the kind of game I like to run, that's why I run them that way (if we're talking about D&D).

It is not a DM versus players thing at all, I want them to succeed. My games are not especially deadly and I make a point to give players opportunity to gather information and prepare before they begin a dangerous adventure. But I also make sure to tell them when the game begins that no dice will be fudged once the rolling begins, and things that seem dangerous and deadly probably are.
It's not normal for a group to lose more than a few characters in total over the course of a campaign (not counting hirelings and henchmen). It is just not guaranteed that those deaths will be heroic and climactic.

My goal ultimately is to engage the players themselves in the game world, to surprise and excite and shock and entertain them.
I don't want the players acting out a pre-scripted drama that we agreed upon, where only the characters are surprised and shocked, but the players pretty much know what to expect. Nor to tell the players a story which they have little or no ability to alter. That is not exciting to me, either as a DM or a player, unless it is in a game system which creates different sources of excitement.

Mutazoia
2015-02-17, 11:23 AM
Believe me, I try. I believe I mentioned I'm playing a bard, yes? My first reaction normally is to use diplomacy and talking and such to neutralize threats in a non-combat manner. The problem is that, at least for now, we're dealing with things that can't just be talked out of doing whatever it is they're doing. Things that are slavishly devoted to someone who isn't there but wants to engulf the country in endless winter, mindless undead, creatures that attack from ambush without giving us time to talk, that sort of thing.
It's a published Adventure Path, so there's a certain degree of inflexibility there, but we definitely have tried alternate methods to stop the oncoming ice apocalypse. Heck, after our first foray as level 1 characters almost dying to an arctic tatzlwurm that one-shotted the frontline melee guy in a surprise round, we decided as a group that the situation was above our capabilites and went for reinforcements. That didn't work, like, at all.

Well that's actually a problem with your GM, not a High lethality style of game. Just because a game is "high lethality", doesn't mean it should be. Sounds contradictory, I know...but it's not. There should be encounter scale, so that while you have a chance to die, you should also be able to live, as long as your not either stupid or very unlucky. If your GM thinks that "a good fight" is all but one person bleeding out, and that one person is a sneeze away from bleeding out themselves....he's not a very good GM (IMHO)

SixWingedAsura
2015-02-17, 12:10 PM
This thread strikes me as an exercise in "Find the Killer DM." Doesn't ANYONE play medium difficulty?

charcoalninja
2015-02-17, 12:26 PM
I know from my experience with DMs that prided themselves on the high lethality of their games (and other cascading terrible DMing habits) that those experiences have left me as a consummate optimizer. I have a very very hard time not optimizing any character concept I make out the wazoo for fear of my character's story being cut short by some malice. I enjoy succeeding in high lethality games, it makes you feel accomplished for being able to make a character that can survive such a grueling ruleset, but ultimately the yay I'm great feelings don't measure up to the joy of experiencing a character's story develope and grow. If your characters die every couple of sessions, you never get to see where their story might have lead. When I make a backstory and hammer out my character I do so in the hopes that their story is one I'll actually be exploring. I was recently playing in a 5e game where I drew up a great backstory, had my character's personality hammered out, did some character art, and was really loving the RP with the other characters, but I rolled terribly on my death saving throws and so the character lasted only 1 session.

I was absolutely saddened by the loss, this guy had a story and because my dice suck terribly (lol) I now don't get to enjoy not only his story, but acting out his character as well.

Mark Hall
2015-02-17, 02:31 PM
This thread strikes me as an exercise in "Find the Killer DM." Doesn't ANYONE play medium difficulty?

Goes back to the "how do you define medium difficulty" though, doesn't it?

Kurald Galain
2015-02-17, 03:38 PM
This thread strikes me as an exercise in "Find the Killer DM." Doesn't ANYONE play medium difficulty?

Please check my earlier post where I point out that "hard" difficulty (anything between medium and ridiculous-difficulty-as-parody, really) is enjoyed by basically nobody, except for killer DMs.

huttj509
2015-02-17, 04:14 PM
I'm in an Expedition to Castle Ravenloft game. We meet once a month or so (well, it varies, we has some wonky schedules). My character is the only one who has not died at least once. It's not uncommon to have a character death or more per session (last session we all lived, due to finding Huge Monsterous Centipedes on our sorc's summon monster list, to the annoyance of the GM).

I commented to a friend in the game, well before this thread started, "I'm trying to decide about my next character. There's stuff that could be interesting, but then my reward will be making another character sooner."

And this is an adventure where the GM wants us to have secret goals and drives, wondering with each significant plot point if this is when someone else in the party's gonna turn on the rest of us. It's exhausting.

Mutazoia
2015-02-17, 08:35 PM
Please check my earlier post where I point out that "hard" difficulty (anything between medium and ridiculous-difficulty-as-parody, really) is enjoyed by basically nobody, except for killer DMs.

And that's where you would be wrong. I enjoy playing them very much.

Just because a game is highly lethal, doesn't automatically mean your character dies frequently.

Think about it.

Life is a highly lethal setting.

I'm a combat vet, and I've probably killed more people than you have hair on your head. I've been in fire fights that make Hollywood war flicks look like Disney animated shorts. Yet I'm still here. If your logic were to hold true, I would have died several times and been rezzed, or re-rolled a dozen times.

Telok
2015-02-17, 08:36 PM
ridiculous-difficulty-as-parody

Paranoia? Paranoia-with-infinite-clones? D&D with infinite free resurrection? Is that any different than D&D where you can't die unless you want to? Is it still "high lethality" if the dead come back easily and regularly? What about one-shots? If the character isn't going to last beyond that session does that mean you can't RP? Does a character that lasts fifty sessions and over a RL year automatically mean RP happens?

I've seen people be all over the map in how much they roleplay. I can't tell if death rate correlates to RP levels. But I can tell that player attitude towards RP determines RP levels. If someone says that they find death rate affecting how or if they roleplay that's fine. They have their play style. The next person in line probably has a different play style. Congratulations, you're individuals who are different from each other. That's the best I can do on the subject of lethality influencing roleplay.

Oneris
2015-02-17, 09:03 PM
And that's where you would be wrong. I enjoy playing them very much.

Just because a game is highly lethal, doesn't automatically mean your character dies frequently.

Think about it.

Life is a highly lethal setting.

I'm a combat vet, and I've probably killed more people than you have hair on your head. I've been in fire fights that make Hollywood war flicks look like Disney animated shorts. Yet I'm still here. If your logic were to hold true, I would have died several times and been rezzed, or re-rolled a dozen times.

What about the people you killed? :smallconfused: Don't they have to be rezzed or re-rolled?

Terraoblivion
2015-02-17, 09:31 PM
Life is a highly lethal setting.

I'm a combat vet, and I've probably killed more people than you have hair on your head. I've been in fire fights that make Hollywood war flicks look like Disney animated shorts. Yet I'm still here. If your logic were to hold true, I would have died several times and been rezzed, or re-rolled a dozen times.

I sincerely hope this is hyperbole, because I'd prefer not to think that I'm talking to a mass murderer with more than 140,000 lives on their conscience. :smallwink:

In any case, whether life is highly lethal depends heavily on where you live. If you're in Syria or Congo or Pattani, definitely. But what about Japan? They have a very high average life span, hasn't been to war for 70 years and at 0.3 murders per 100,000 a year it has the second lowest murder rate in the world after Singapore. There has to be hell of a lot of violent accidents for life in Japan to be considered highly lethal, even counting deadly accidents.

Mutazoia
2015-02-17, 11:17 PM
What about the people you killed? :smallconfused: Don't they have to be rezzed or re-rolled?

Nope. And that's why life is a "High Lethality" setting. Your best hope is to play your role in life as best you can, with the time you have, and not count on that time lasting to old age. Nobody is guaranteed to die at home, in bed, surrounded by great grand children.


I sincerely hope this is hyperbole, because I'd prefer not to think that I'm talking to a mass murderer with more than 140,000 lives on their conscience. :smallwink:

In any case, whether life is highly lethal depends heavily on where you live. If you're in Syria or Congo or Pattani, definitely. But what about Japan? They have a very high average life span, hasn't been to war for 70 years and at 0.3 murders per 100,000 a year it has the second lowest murder rate in the world after Singapore. There has to be hell of a lot of violent accidents for life in Japan to be considered highly lethal, even counting deadly accidents.

If you get hit by a car, you don't get to roll DR. There is no "cure disease" to cure cancer or AIDS, and you may or may not survive a gun shot. Think about how close a car traveling in the other direction actually is next time you drive down a two lane black top at 60 mph. Just a couple of feet separate you from a horrible crash. In real life you can die at any time...you don't need war or murder. And yet we still carry on playing our roles in life.

Again, I think you are confusing "highly lethal" with "you are definitely going to die violently every few minutes". You are assuming too much.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-18, 02:42 AM
And that's where you would be wrong. I enjoy playing them very much.
So the difficulty I was talking about, in the post I mentioned, is not some vague subjective definition of "hard", but specifically that characters do die frequently in a way that they can do nothing about, so either because of randomness or DM fiat. Number four on the tengu scale.

And you enjoy that? Hm, you'd be one of the first then.

Or were you in fact talking about your own vague/subjective defintion of "hard"?


Paranoia? Paranoia-with-infinite-clones? D&D with infinite free resurrection? Is that any different than D&D where you can't die unless you want to? Is it still "high lethality" if the dead come back easily and regularly? What about one-shots? If the character isn't going to last beyond that session does that mean you can't RP?
I didn't say anything about being unable to RP.

Mutazoia
2015-02-18, 03:40 AM
So the difficulty I was talking about, in the post I mentioned, is not some vague subjective definition of "hard", but specifically that characters do die frequently in a way that they can do nothing about, so either because of randomness or DM fiat.

If characters die frequently due to randomness or DM fiat that's the fault of a bad DM not a high lethality system. If you find that you are playing a high lethality system and you are getting into combat frequently, then some thing is wrong. You should be finding ways to avoid combat as much as possible, and if combat is unavoidable find a way to stack the deck in your favor before hand.

Which again boils down to the "I hit it with my sword" mentality. Not all problems need to be solved with combat, and not all combat needs to be a fair fight. If you are not being presented with alternatives to combat (or not being allowed to present alternatives to combat) this is your DM's failure, not the systems.

You seem to be forming your opinion based on experiences with the kind of DM's that think they "win" a role playing game if they kill the players.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-18, 04:02 AM
If characters die frequently due to randomness or DM fiat that's the fault of a bad DM not a high lethality system.

Well, that's why we just spent half the thread figuring out what the term "high lethality" means to people and how we can be more specific about it.

I was talking about a class-4 death-by-randomness system. What you describe is a class-2 death-by-stupidity system. That's not the same thing, even though some people might use the term "high lethality" for both.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-18, 04:18 AM
Maybe the supporters of "high lethality" can answer this: How high does the probability for any given character not to survive a session have to be for a game to be "highly lethal"?

goto124
2015-02-18, 04:25 AM
Is that assuming the player/PC had optimized survivability and was extremely cautious throughout the game (session)?

Mr. Mask
2015-02-18, 05:18 AM
High lethality: Well, I like the idea that swords, guns, dragons, that they are dangerous. This may be due to my experiences with these things, but it's hard for me to take a situation seriously where these things aren't dangerous (then it's just a number game, for me). Now, when you do have high lethality swords... isn't it easier for the players? Players tend to fight several times their number throughout a campaign, or even one session.

If you want to test this, remove healing from a DnD game, and try testing a series of fights with halved or even quartered HP. In low HP games, a group of adventurers ought to stand a better mathematical chance of killing more enemies before they're finally taken out.

So, I don't see lethality as difficulty. Lack of healing and recovery options do cause a difficulty spike, as monsters don't normally have to worry about that, but your group does. Of course, you could make use of that, so that it does become an issue for your enemies; wounding them then escaping and letting them die from gangrene.

That brings me to the main point. If you're taking all your enemies head on, it's no wonder you're getting killed frequently. The more deadly a game, the more options a GM must supply to allow you to evade, or to engage with an advantage. If you force your enemies to surrender without a shot fired, was that game deadlier or less deadly? Or you ambush an enemy from superior positions so they never hit you while you riddle them with shots. Or the guard could kill you all single handed, but you sneak up behind and stab him in the back and he falls dead.

There is potential for higher difficulty situations, which you should flee from or attempt to subvert so you're fighting with an advantage. With clever players and a bit of luck, you can make plans that give you a good chance of succeeding unhurt.

Mutazoia
2015-02-18, 05:53 AM
Well, that's why we just spent half the thread figuring out what the term "high lethality" means to people and how we can be more specific about it.

I was talking about a class-4 death-by-randomness system. What you describe is a class-2 death-by-stupidity system. That's not the same thing, even though some people might use the term "high lethality" for both.

Again....no such thing as death by randomness only death by bad GM. These are not board games with rules that can't be altered. These are RPG's with a GM...the M standing for "master". The person who is supposed to make sure that death by randomness doesn't occur. Death by stupidity maybe, but not death by randomness. A good GM would rule zero something that could insta-pk some one and mitigate the effects. That he/she chooses not to is a sign of either incompetence or sadism.

So I would say your "Class 4" system doesn't really exist.


Maybe the supporters of "high lethality" can answer this: How high does the probability for any given character not to survive a session have to be for a game to be "highly lethal"?

Again....I think you (and several others) are misunderstanding what a High Lethality type game is...or maybe what you think of high lethality and what I think of as high lethality are different.

To me, a high lethality game is one where you can die from a single gunshot, or hit from a sword. One where you aren't carrying around a mountain of HP and you don't have an AC that looks like the number for a Swiss bank account. In those kinds of games you don't just charge in swinging your sword (or blazing away with your gun) because you will probably die unless you are either lucky or have planned things before hand. You don't try the zany off the wall stunts that you would in a low lethality system because the odds are better than average that you will hurt (or kill) yourself doing something stupid.

High Lethality systems are those where the rules run much closer to real live consequences for actions than not.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-18, 06:04 AM
And what function do snake pit traps have in your games? Because those have been brought up as something that can only work in high lethality games, yet it seems to me their only possible function would to give the DM the option to say "You didn't find the trap, so you fall in and die".

Also, I spot the HP=meat fallacy.

The Insanity
2015-02-18, 06:08 AM
Please check my earlier post where I point out that "hard" difficulty (anything between medium and ridiculous-difficulty-as-parody, really) is enjoyed by basically nobody, except for killer DMs.
So I'm a nobody? I know at least one other person, other than me, that enjoys such games. And neither of us are killer DMs. We just like Hardmode sometimes.
We also enjoy Very Low Lethality games where your character is very unlikely to die, for whatever reason, and the player knows it. One of the more fun and memorable games we had was when my girlfriend played an incredibly powerful combat monster who, in span of the entire game, not once faced an opponent who was her equal power-wise.

Earthwalker
2015-02-18, 06:28 AM
Again....no such thing as death by randomness only death by bad GM. These are not board games with rules that can't be altered. These are RPG's with a GM...the M standing for "master". The person who is supposed to make sure that death by randomness doesn't occur. Death by stupidity maybe, but not death by randomness. A good GM would rule zero something that could insta-pk some one and mitigate the effects. That he/she chooses not to is a sign of either incompetence or sadism.

So I would say your "Class 4" system doesn't really exist.

This is the defination we were working on, set up earlier in the thread.

Very Low Lethality
PCs die when their players want them to die.
Example: I want to give my character a good sendoff, so I talk with the DM about it and he creates a situation where my PC can perform a heroic sacrifice.

Low Lethality
PCs die as punishment for doing something very stupid or suicidal.
Example: My character attacks the BBEG's army alone (and it's not Exalted or another game where PCs are expected to do that kind of thing).

Medium Lethality
PCs die as punishment for failure.
Example: A random encounter starts. Due to bad rolls and/or suboptimal tactics, my character is killed by the monsters.

High Lethality
PCs die even when they didn't do anything wrong.
Example: A random encounter starts. Immediately, two orcs charge at my character, and deal enough damage to kill me before I can even react.

Very High Lethality
PCs are expected to die all the time and it's probably played for laughs.
Example: Insert any session of Paranoia or Kobolds Ate My Baby here.


Kurald Galain was saying only killer GMs like the class 4 option. Thats when the debate started that you like high lethal games. Unfortunatly your definition differes. Which may have caused some confusion.

Seems like that yeah only killer GMs like class 4 games (From what has been posted anyway)



Again....I think you (and several others) are misunderstanding what a High Lethality type game is...or maybe what you think of high lethality and what I think of as high lethality are different.

To me, a high lethality game is one where you can die from a single gunshot, or hit from a sword. One where you aren't carrying around a mountain of HP and you don't have an AC that looks like the number for a Swiss bank account. In those kinds of games you don't just charge in swinging your sword (or blazing away with your gun) because you will probably die unless you are either lucky or have planned things before hand. You don't try the zany off the wall stunts that you would in a low lethality system because the odds are better than average that you will hurt (or kill) yourself doing something stupid.

High Lethality systems are those where the rules run much closer to real live consequences for actions than not.


Lets use some DnD type game as an example. It takes 6 hits with a sword to kill you.
What happens is we play the combat mini game, get to use our characters abilities and try to get those 6 hits in. At the end someone is alive and someone is dead. You do get to use options other than "I hit it with my sword"

Your type of game.
One sword hit kills someone.
The players and GM play the out of combat mini game. Getting to a point where the players get anough advantage to attack and kill the bad guys.

Now having the options to avoid combat is the same for both types of play.

What I find are there are alot less rules concerning the out of combat actions to set up advantage (in the games I play) covered by the rules. It becomes more a case of playing the GM not playing the game.

You also get the situation as soon as the GM does it back to you, you are scuppered.

Earthwalker
2015-02-18, 06:32 AM
So I'm a nobody? I know at least one other person, other than me, that enjoys such games. And neither of us are killer DMs. We just like Hardmode sometimes.
We also enjoy Very Low Lethality games where your character is very unlikely to die, for whatever reason, and the player knows it. One of the more fun and memorable games we had was when my girlfriend played an incredibly powerful combat monster who, in span of the entire game, not once faced an opponent who was her equal power-wise.

Awww man I just posted under this saying no one had come forward LOL.
I guess some players do like games where the GM can start an encounter with a roll or die situation.

Mutazoia
2015-02-18, 07:23 AM
And what function do snake pit traps have in your games? Because those have been brought up as something that can only work in high lethality games, yet it seems to me their only possible function would to give the DM the option to say "You didn't find the trap, so you fall in and die".

Also, I spot the HP=meat fallacy.

Snake pit traps are not necessarily as deadly as you make them out to be. Have you ever actually tried gathering enough snakes to fill a pit, got them all in there, kept them from crawling out and not starving while you wait for some hapless adventurer to fall in?

In a fantasy setting this would be easy to magically summon them...but then you could magically cure the poison as well, so the lethality of your trap drops considerably.

In a high tech setting, its just not feasible to dig a random pit and try to fill it with snakes, because of the problems mentioned above, and snake bites themselves do very little damage...it's the venom you have to worry about, so getting bit by 10 rat snakes will hurt like an sob but I doubt your going to die from it.

And again...if a GM put's an insta-kill trap into his game...its the fault of the GM not the system. I fail to see how you keep missing this simple fact.


High Lethality
PCs die even when they didn't do anything wrong.
Example: A random encounter starts. Immediately, two orcs charge at my character, and deal enough damage to kill me before I can even react.

Again, you are assuming that because a DM set up an encounter do to this, that it is the systems fault, not that of the DM. You keep confusing killer DM's with killer systems. No decent DM would put a character into a save or die situation unless it was a plot device and/or your team was reasonably expected to be able to defeat the orcs and bandage you up.


Kurald Galain was saying only killer GMs like the class 4 option. Thats when the debate started that you like high lethal games. Unfortunatly your definition differes. Which may have caused some confusion.

But you can have killer GMs in low lethality games as well. I've played in several games where the system was designed to allow greater than average character survival and the GM just threw over powered encounters at us until we died. There is no such thing as a class 4 lethal system, only class 4 lethal GMs.


Seems like that yeah only killer GMs like class 4 games (From what has been posted anyway)

See above.


Lets use some DnD type game as an example. It takes 6 hits with a sword to kill you.
What happens is we play the combat mini game, get to use our characters abilities and try to get those 6 hits in. At the end someone is alive and someone is dead. You do get to use options other than "I hit it with my sword"

Your type of game.
One sword hit kills someone.
The players and GM play the out of combat mini game. Getting to a point where the players get anough enough advantage to attack and kill the bad guys.

Now having the options to avoid combat is the same for both types of play.

What I find are there are alot less rules concerning the out of combat actions to set up advantage (in the games I play) covered by the rules. It becomes more a case of playing the GM not playing the game.

You also get the situation as soon as the GM does it back to you, you are scuppered.

Ok...if you play the combat mini game, you are starting with combat and only doing combat, so you don't get an option to avoid it...you are forced in to it.

Let's take a look at a system that is designed where it takes very little damage to kill you. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Weapons are deadly and can kill quickly. That's why there's a system for armor to negate damage. Or Call of Cthulhu...if you fight the wrong thing you are going to die...no question. You can also go stark raving mad if your not careful. Yet people have characters that survive entire campaigns in that system.

Mr. Mask
2015-02-18, 07:56 AM
Snake Pit: A more practical alternative is a simple bamboo or wood spike trap, covered in waste material. Cheap, easy to make, and results in infection that is difficult to cure. No need to dig a pit someone falls into, a little hole to turn their ankle works fine.

These sorts of traps are an issue. Without magical medical care, or slow and cautious progression, these can be a problem. And there's no rule saying an enemy can't attack you while traps are present, so you don't always have time to look. A reason not to walk into ambushes and rush into defensive lines. Let mooks do that for you.

You can realistically get an insta-kill or insta-cripple/wound trap, in a high lethality game. Someone might notice it before it triggers, or evade it when it does. I'd suggest avoiding situations where PCs have to rush through trap filled areas regularly.


Lethal Systems: What I said earlier, is that any lethality in the system ought to be weaponizable against enemies in turn. If you're thrown into a situation without any good options, then the situation is as lethal as the GM decided.

Mutazoia
2015-02-18, 08:11 AM
Snake Pit: A more practical alternative is a simple bamboo or wood spike trap, covered in waste material. Cheap, easy to make, and results in infection that is difficult to cure. No need to dig a pit someone falls into, a little hole to turn their ankle works fine.

These sorts of traps are an issue. Without magical medical care, or slow and cautious progression, these can be a problem. And there's no rule saying an enemy can't attack you while traps are present, so you don't always have time to look. A reason not to walk into ambushes and rush into defensive lines. Let mooks do that for you.

You can realistically get an insta-kill or insta-cripple/wound trap, in a high lethality game. Someone might notice it before it triggers, or evade it when it does. I'd suggest avoiding situations where PCs have to rush through trap filled areas regularly.


Lethal Systems: What I said earlier, is that any lethality in the system ought to be weaponizable against enemies in turn. If you're thrown into a situation without any good options, then the situation is as lethal as the GM decided.

The old poop-on-a-stick trap works fine (as any Vietnam vet can attest to), but it is not an insta-kill trap...its not designed to be. It was designed to force your enemy to drag a wounded soldier (forward or back to camp). It takes 2 people to carry 1 wounded soldier any significant distance...so you take 3 soldiers out of action for every 1 you wound.

Naturally your enemy can attack while you are looking but that would negate the purpose of the trap, and unless they are attacking with ranged weapons they risk blundering into their own traps as they charge in. (The ambushed party can retreat back along the route they came in, thus avoiding any traps you have prepared.) It's been my unfortunate experience that the ambush starts AFTER the IED's go off. (some times after the medic starts treatment.)

Mr. Mask
2015-02-18, 10:22 AM
Yeah, that's correct. Sorry, I didn't mean to imply it was insta-kill. It can really incapacitate one guy, was that I meant to say, taking them out of the adventure as you described (where their new role is luggage). With poor medical options, however, the chance of surviving the infection could be severe, possibly necessitating an amputation. This can make a blunder pretty severe for a player character.

It is true that you can retreat the way you came when ambushed--which is what you should do, but I figure many players would fail to realize that point (hopefully they learn from that, or play a different game). Still, if the ambushers have kept track of where their traps are, they can move with relative freedom, knowing where all the gaps are. Of course, if it's a prepared ambush, they ought to have decent defensive positions from which to shoot at you from, with guns or bows or even just rocks and sticks. Since you haven't checked the area for traps, your field of movement in the area is limited while theirs isn't. Which is why retreating is probably the best strategy (unless the enemy left some good defensive positions on your side of the ambush--which are certainly trapped).

What I meant to say is, if you start a fight when traps are around and the enemy knows where they are, your options are very limited. Whether you spotted them while they were waiting for you to step into the trap, or they attack you as you're trying to disarm or step around a trap.

kyoryu
2015-02-18, 12:34 PM
Maybe the supporters of "high lethality" can answer this: How high does the probability for any given character not to survive a session have to be for a game to be "highly lethal"?

Good luck. I have yet to get an answer to that question from anyone.

Heck, I've had people brag about how highly lethal their games were, and when they got down to brass tacks, they had *one* character death in about three years of playing.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-18, 12:44 PM
And again...if a GM put's an insta-kill trap into his game...its the fault of the GM not the system. I fail to see how you keep missing this simple fact.

So you want want a single gunshot to be fatal in your games, but you don't want your DM to use traps that involve guns?

Telok
2015-02-18, 01:21 PM
I didn't say anything about being unable to RP.
Sorry, posting from a limited tablet into a limited communication system again. That wasn't aimed at you for you alone to answer. I really don't understand much of this thread because the questions I ask are ignored by what seems to be people having individual arguments for the sake of winning.

Is a game of D&D with automatic free ressurection a high lethality game? If your character having no future inhibits RP what does that say anout one-shot games? In my experience character longevity does not equate to roleplaying, player effort does. Are people saying that they don't make any effort to RP if there is a chance of character death?

In my experience the only difference in whether or not someone roleplays is whether or not they try to roleplay. Is that true of other people?

Thrudd
2015-02-18, 01:22 PM
Maybe the supporters of "high lethality" can answer this: How high does the probability for any given character not to survive a session have to be for a game to be "highly lethal"?

How would one go about calculating such a probability?
At first and second level in D&D, characters mostly have low enough HP that one hit could potentially drop them to zero or below. However, they can potentially survive that, if the other players can help them. So much depends on the players actions that you can't place a reliable probability on it (assuming a DM that is not actively trying to kill the pc's with no-escape scenarios and purposefully overpowered monsters and automatically lethal traps).

I support "believable" lethality, in the service of simulating a believable fantasy world, without DM intervening with the outcome of the players' actions and the results of the dice. This assumes a DM that is responsible and reasonable in their world design and the way they present challenges, so the players always have a reasonable fighting chance of success. This should result in more deaths in the early levels, where luck plays more part, but most likely each player won't lose more than one or two characters each before they get one to level up to a more survivable point. At higher levels, bad mistakes and tactics will usually be the only source of death. Though the DM will understandably increase the challenges to sufficiently threaten the more experienced players, their savvy should keep them alive better than it could at level 1.

I do not think being a "killer" adversarial DM is something to take pride in, and if the agreed upon definition of "highly lethal" is that characters can die without warning at any time, that sounds like it would require an adversarial DM. Or a humor game, like paranoia.

Thrudd
2015-02-18, 01:24 PM
In my experience the only difference in whether or not someone roleplays is whether or not they try to roleplay. Is that true of other people?

Yes, that is pretty much it.

YossarianLives
2015-02-18, 01:37 PM
Again....no such thing as death by randomness only death by bad GM. These are not board games with rules that can't be altered. These are RPG's with a GM...the M standing for "master". The person who is supposed to make sure that death by randomness doesn't occur. Death by stupidity maybe, but not death by randomness. A good GM would rule zero something that could insta-pk some one and mitigate the effects. That he/she chooses not to is a sign of either incompetence or sadism.

So I would say your "Class 4" system doesn't really exist.
I'm not sure if that is true. In many games a lucky critical hit from a monster can kill a PC in one hit. In the original Gamma World game a character could randomly die at any moment from radiation.

SixWingedAsura
2015-02-18, 02:56 PM
Well, I already figured out my problem. I'm looking at High Lethality as the tabletop equivalent of "I Wanna Be The Guy" where everything and anything is trying to kill you. I agree with what some people are saying then, about how High Lethality and Low Combat games can foster quite a bit of RP, moreso in fact, than High Combat/Any sort of Lethality.

It all really depends on what people like to play. I don't want things to be piss easy, but I don't want to go killer DM on my party, so I try to run most games where the things that will get the party killed are simply bad tactics, bad decisions and absurdly bad luck. I give the players enough rope and watch them hang themselves. :D

kardar233
2015-02-18, 02:56 PM
Again....no such thing as death by randomness only death by bad GM. These are not board games with rules that can't be altered. These are RPG's with a GM...the M standing for "master". The person who is supposed to make sure that death by randomness doesn't occur. Death by stupidity maybe, but not death by randomness. A good GM would rule zero something that could insta-pk some one and mitigate the effects. That he/she chooses not to is a sign of either incompetence or sadism.

That's patently untrue: Thrudd's post that I've quoted below indicates to me that they're a "play it as it lies" GM, who when faced with a one-shot fatality for a character wouldn't fudge it and would let the character die. That's a perfectly valid (and from what I've read, reasonably common) method of play.


How would one go about calculating such a probability?
At first and second level in D&D, characters mostly have low enough HP that one hit could potentially drop them to zero or below. However, they can potentially survive that, if the other players can help them. So much depends on the players actions that you can't place a reliable probability on it (assuming a DM that is not actively trying to kill the pc's with no-escape scenarios and purposefully overpowered monsters and automatically lethal traps).

I support "believable" lethality, in the service of simulating a believable fantasy world, without DM intervening with the outcome of the players' actions and the results of the dice. This assumes a DM that is responsible and reasonable in their world design and the way they present challenges, so the players always have a reasonable fighting chance of success. This should result in more deaths in the early levels, where luck plays more part, but most likely each player won't lose more than one or two characters each before they get one to level up to a more survivable point. At higher levels, bad mistakes and tactics will usually be the only source of death. Though the DM will understandably increase the challenges to sufficiently threaten the more experienced players, their savvy should keep them alive better than it could at level 1.

Okay, so I'd characterize that as a sliding scale of lethality going from Type 4 (death is potentially around any corner) to a type 2 (where death is mostly only brought on by stupidity or bad planning).


I do not think being a "killer" adversarial DM is something to take pride in, and if the agreed upon definition of "highly lethal" is that characters can die without warning at any time, that sounds like it would require an adversarial DM. Or a humor game, like paranoia.

Dying without warning at any time is I think an exaggeration of high-lethality games. Dying with very little warning is one extreme of high-lethality, though. Highly lethal games that I've read of run the gamut from one character death every few sessions to one per session.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-18, 03:52 PM
Well, I already figured out my problem. I'm looking at High Lethality as the tabletop equivalent of "I Wanna Be The Guy" where everything and anything is trying to kill you.

Good point. Do note that IWBTG is very much a skill game, not a luck game; therefore it's a class-3 (death by lack of skill), not a class-4 (death by randomness).

huttj509
2015-02-18, 03:53 PM
Dying without warning at any time is I think an exaggeration of high-lethality games. Dying with very little warning is one extreme of high-lethality, though. Highly lethal games that I've read of run the gamut from one character death every few sessions to one per session.

Which would you consider a game where there's a monster with an attack bonus of "I didn't roll a 1? He hits," who stuns any nonevil character he hits for a round (no save), and has high AC and HP? And focuses on the Cleric until dead. When the plot was on rails to go down into the church basement.

Or when the party visits a Vistani encampment, and due to how the tarot turns out, the fortune teller wailes about how they're doomed. Then when they leave the tent the Vistani in camp attack them, including 2 flanking the tent exit who both hit and sneak attack the sorcerer, killing him?

Thrudd
2015-02-18, 03:56 PM
Which would you consider a game where there's a monster with an attack bonus of "I didn't roll a 1? He hits," who stuns any nonevil character he hits for a round (no save), and has high AC and HP? And focuses on the Cleric until dead. When the plot was on rails to go down into the church basement.

Or when the party visits a Vistani encampment, and due to how the tarot turns out, the fortune teller wailes about how they're doomed. Then when they leave the tent the Vistani in camp attack them, including 2 flanking the tent exit who both hit and sneak attack the sorcerer, killing him?

That is a DM that is out to get you.

Satinavian
2015-02-18, 04:38 PM
Good luck. I have yet to get an answer to that question from anyone.

Heck, I've had people brag about how highly lethal their games were, and when they got down to brass tacks, they had *one* character death in about three years of playing.
I have been for half a year in a game with around 1.5 permanent character deaths per session. This might seem less high if one takes into account that we were 7 PCs and that one player managed to get a third of the deaths by himself . It was still the most lethal normal game so far.

I did not like it, but mostly for other reasons. In the end i quit.

A quite lethal campaign i actually enjoyed had on average 1 death every other session.


Still i would none of it count as 4th kind lethal.


Again, you are assuming that because a DM set up an encounter do to this, that it is the systems fault, not that of the DM. You keep confusing killer DM's with killer systems. No decent DM would put a character into a save or die situation unless it was a plot device and/or your team was reasonably expected to be able to defeat the orcs and bandage you up.I disagree. There are a lot of groups around where the GM does not have that kind of power. In fact, in the last three years i have never been in a group, where the GM was allowed to arbitrarily change the rules(rules are decided by the whole group) or to "cheat" to keep a character alive. In Systems with real random encounters the groups rules might demand, that the GM isn't even allowed to change the encounter. Some players like it this way.

Baxter Konrad
2015-02-18, 04:55 PM
Just a quick question; why do people seem to assume that death is the only fail state?

Here's a scenario - the king's daughter has been kidnapped by the Generic Evil Cult of Generic Evil, who for Reasons are going to sacrifice her at midnight. The party reach the edge of the Evil Doom Fortress at 11pm on the dot. You have 60 exploration rounds (or 600 combat rounds) to rescue her. Go.

Now think of how many ways non-fatal setbacks can ruin your day. Injury alone is a good one - every time you stop and heal, that's burning time off the clock. If your injuries slow you down, that means it takes longer to get to where you need to be; yet more time lost!

Throw in getting lost, failed lockpick rolls, combats that drag on, etc. and suddenly the risk is very clear indeed!

Generally speaking, I don't like death to be a surprise. It's one of the reasons I don't like magic in combat - when you know the guy with the axe is dealing between 4 and 17 damage a hit, you can make an educated guess and say "I need to pull out and heal at 18 hit points". When the mage is dealing between 20 and 200 damage, you can't make that kind of judgement and you need DM fluffing the roll if you want any hope of living.

That's not to say players shouldn't be able to die, but they should see it coming. Ideally, death should be something they choose to happen - they chose to stand their ground when the NPCs all fled; they chose to take the quick and dangerous path instead of the long, safe path; they chose not to fall back and heal when their health was low. They have been given clear indication that death is a possible outcome, and so if they die then it's a fair death.

Games get interesting when linked to stuff like I mentioned at the start. Do you rush the altar at 11:59 to save the princess, even though you could get swamped and die? Or do you take it slow and live, but fail to save her? Death is most interesting when it has a purpose. Dying because you fluffed a roll is boring; dying because you were trying to steal one more fist-sized diamond out of a dragon's hoard? That's kind of awesome!

Tengu_temp
2015-02-18, 07:08 PM
I'm a combat vet, and I've probably killed more people than you have hair on your head. I've been in fire fights that make Hollywood war flicks look like Disney animated shorts. Yet I'm still here. If your logic were to hold true, I would have died several times and been rezzed, or re-rolled a dozen times.

So edgy I cut myself.

Thrudd
2015-02-18, 07:32 PM
dying because you were trying to steal one more fist-sized diamond out of a dragon's hoard? That's kind of awesome!
When are you not trying to get one more fist-sized diamond?

My point of view is that the adventurer's life is, by definition, one of danger and excitement. Everything they do is in pursuit of a big payoff. Death is always a possibility because extravagant wealth, fame, glory and power is also always a possibility.

D&D to me isn't about being "awesome", necessarily. It is about people who hope to become awesome, and the dangerous process they must go through to get there. By definition, most people can't be awesome, otherwise how would you know who was awesome? Therefore, most adventurers don't make it through that process, either dying or retiring early on.

Earthwalker
2015-02-19, 04:16 AM
Again, you are assuming that because a DM set up an encounter do to this, that it is the systems fault, not that of the DM. You keep confusing killer DM's with killer systems. No decent DM would put a character into a save or die situation unless it was a plot device and/or your team was reasonably expected to be able to defeat the orcs and bandage you up.

That was not my asumption but from earlier in the thread trying to clarify by what we mean by high lethality (this definition is in the realms of KillerGM)

I will say I am confused by the two statments of.

Wanting a system where one sword blow can kill.
No decent DM would put a character into a save or die situation.

Does this mean that NPC are not allowed to use swords on the PCs ? Is there no level of proactive attack from the NPCs. If a single sword blow can kill, wont that mean ever time a sword is used its a save or die. (Or roll your parry / defense or die ?)





But you can have killer GMs in low lethality games as well. I've played in several games where the system was designed to allow greater than average character survival and the GM just threw over powered encounters at us until we died. There is no such thing as a class 4 lethal system, only class 4 lethal GMs.

I think we are talking at cross purposes sometimes. As I am talking about games and not systems. I think you are talking about prefering hegh lethal systems. From the chart I would peg you as a mid level lethality in game. You can die and will but only if as a player you make a mistake. (Or you get an incredibly bad run of dice)



Ok...if you play the combat mini game, you are starting with combat and only doing combat, so you don't get an option to avoid it...you are forced in to it.

Let's take a look at a system that is designed where it takes very little damage to kill you. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Weapons are deadly and can kill quickly. That's why there's a system for armor to negate damage. Or Call of Cthulhu...if you fight the wrong thing you are going to die...no question. You can also go stark raving mad if your not careful. Yet people have characters that survive entire campaigns in that system.

The players chose to play the combat mini game it wasnt the GM forcing it upon them. They could have avoided the situation. Of course different people want different things from the game and some like the combat mini game. There is clearly nothing wronf with that. It also shouldnt be degraded to be described as "I hit it with my sword".
If you dont like it fine but it can still be an exercise in intelegent thinking.

huttj509
2015-02-19, 08:12 AM
I think we are talking at cross purposes sometimes. As I am talking about games and not systems. I think you are talking about prefering hegh lethal systems. From the chart I would peg you as a mid level lethality in game. You can die and will but only if as a player you make a mistake. (Or you get an incredibly bad run of dice)


I see a potential source of confusion. The term "high lethality game" can refer validly to at least two things:

1. A high lethality campaign, or session.

2. A high lethality system.

As an example of the latter, the phrase "DnD is a high lethality game" would be a sensical statement, though its accuracy could be argued (I just picked DnD for an example gaming system).

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-19, 08:22 AM
Again....no such thing as death by randomness only death by bad GM. These are not board games with rules that can't be altered. These are RPG's with a GM...the M standing for "master". The person who is supposed to make sure that death by randomness doesn't occur. Death by stupidity maybe, but not death by randomness. A good GM would rule zero something that could insta-pk some one and mitigate the effects. That he/she chooses not to is a sign of either incompetence or sadism.

Wrong. Especially the underlined part. It basically shows you have no idea what the game master's role originally was about and why dice are used in the first place.

"GM has the final word" stems from refereeing wargames. It was intended to solve adversarial conflicts, where both parties involved had a case for them, but the rules didn't or couldn't tell which one should take precedence.

Dice and random chance were used for impartiality. When a GM decides dice are to be rolled, that's an admission by him that all results of the roll are valid. Ergo, it's okay for this guy to win, but it's also okay for the other guy, let's use fair chance to decide which. This is the point where GM cedes authority of the game to chance, and has to stick with the results lest he engage in blatant favoritism.

So originally, the GM's purpose was exactly the opposite what you claim. The GM's purpose was to introduce death by randomness and then make sure all other participants adhered to ruling of the dice.

If the GM can overrule dice after making the decision to roll them, the GM is blatantly favoring either the player characters at the expense of GM's own characters, or blatantly favoring his own character at expense of the players'. It undermines the point of having dice in the first place - if the GM can just dictate how events happen, you don't need dice. There are several systems, such as the Finnish STALKER, which follow this to the logical conclusion and are completely diceless systems.

You can say you like systems like that more than the original wargame-style conflict resolution, but please don't pretend the GM's default role is or even should be opposite to what it originally was.

SpectralDerp
2015-02-19, 09:08 AM
I'm a combat vet, and I've probably killed more people than you have hair on your head. I've been in fire fights that make Hollywood war flicks look like Disney animated shorts. Yet I'm still here. If your logic were to hold true, I would have died several times and been rezzed, or re-rolled a dozen times.

Oh wow, I somehow missed this amazing part. This is one of the funniest dishonest brags I've ever come across, up there with the "trained in gorilla warfare"-meme.

goto124
2015-02-19, 09:32 AM
There could be different types of roleplay. In a die-every-minute game, you roleplay knowing that you'll roll a new char soon, and it's okay since in fact, the character archetypes you play are fun in the short run but annoying in the long run (eg blind people). You're essentially writing short stories with the DM.

Longer stories would mean surving for longer :P

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-19, 09:43 AM
The point about long and short stories is a good one. You can extend it to a game level too. Even if you've signed up for a 4 hour convention game, it can still be acceptable to die at 1 hour mark if the game was great fun to that point. Or if watching the antics of other players continues to amuse you even when you can't influence them.

kyoryu
2015-02-19, 11:58 AM
I see a potential source of confusion. The term "high lethality game" can refer validly to at least two things:

1. A high lethality campaign, or session.

2. A high lethality system.

As an example of the latter, the phrase "DnD is a high lethality game" would be a sensical statement, though its accuracy could be argued (I just picked DnD for an example gaming system).

D&D *is* a high lethality system, with the exception of 4e. Proof: Save or Die effects. I could give more examples, but in many genres D&D is even more lethal than GURPS.



If the GM can overrule dice after making the decision to roll them, the GM is blatantly favoring either the player characters at the expense of GM's own characters, or blatantly favoring his own character at expense of the players'. It undermines the point of having dice in the first place - if the GM can just dictate how events happen, you don't need dice. There are several systems, such as the Finnish STALKER, which follow this to the logical conclusion and are completely diceless systems.

And this is why I am anti-fudging. If the GM wants to modify the events that are output from the dice *before* they roll, that's great, whether it's done as a houserule or a one-time ruling. (That's not to say that people that fudge are BadWrongFun and morally inferior or anything of the sort, just that I find doing the modifications *before* you roll the dice to be more effective and up-front).

Mark Hall
2015-02-19, 12:13 PM
And this is why I am anti-fudging. If the GM wants to modify the events that are output from the dice *before* they roll, that's great, whether it's done as a houserule or a one-time ruling. (That's not to say that people that fudge are BadWrongFun and morally inferior or anything of the sort, just that I find doing the modifications *before* you roll the dice to be more effective and up-front).

IMO, it's also an argument for metagame mechanics, such as Force Points, Honor, Willpower, etc. They are an expendable resource that allow people to control the flow of the game... to a point. If they go too deep into their Grace of God points, then the GM is within his rights to drop a hammer on them (as was literally the suggestion for HoL's Grace of God points; if your players used GoG to deflect a falling piece of Skylab with a fly, eventually that fly is going to mutate into a world-devouring beast when your insane luck runs out).