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Talakeal
2019-08-26, 08:40 PM
When I was first starting to DM in the late 90s, I read an interview with the creator of the original Resident Evil game where he stated that every room in the game had a purpose, either containing some form of useful item or serving as a passage to further your progress towards your goal; that rooms without a reward are pointless, and if they contain enemies they are active traps.

To this day I consider the original Resident Evil to be one of the greatest site based adventures (i.e. Dungeon Crawls) of all time, and I took that to heart when designing dungeons.

But recently, I realized that video games have multiple play throughs and strategy guides, RPGs don't.

A couple of years ago I was complaining on this forum about how my PCs were stuck when they weren't even investigating any of the hooks, and I laid out that I had three hooks, two of them were false leads and one of them lead to the goal, but the PCs weren't biting any of them, and someone commented that the PCs made the right choice 2 out of 3 times. But I realized, absent any information, it isn't really a decision one way or another, until they investigate them, the PCs have no way of knowing if a lead will pay out.

That got me thinking, does everything in the game need a point? I see how doing this too much could frustrate players, but used sparingly is there anything fundamentally wrong with having a dead-end or a fight / trap with no reward for overcoming it? Because without investigating it, the players have no way of knowing what they are missing out on, and it seems to me that the best way to play is to investigate every possible lead.


Note that investigate does not always mean fully exploring / dealing with; typically sending a scout ahead or using a divination spell / lore skill is enough.


Furthermore, a related issue cropped up in some of my more recent threads, were people were saying that if the DM is going to include a custom monster, a puzzle, or a gimmick encounter they need to provide clues about it beforehand, and a few of them quoted the "three clue rule," but my question is, why?

My understanding is that the three clue rule is to keep the game from stalling out entirely; and in that context it makes sense. But if it is not going to entirely derail the mission, what is the problem with letting the players learn through trial and error and succeed or fail through their own merits without the help of the GM?

Thoughts?

Galithar
2019-08-27, 01:29 AM
Your last thread was very heated, so I kept my comments to a minimum there, but I'll expand a bit here since it's currently calm! Lol

I don't mind 'pointless' things. I actually enjoy them a bit. I also know that most players don't. So while I'll put in side quests, or rooms in a dungeon with no encounter, I don't like to put obstacles with no rewards. If there is a locked door and I can see the POSSIBILITY of a resource being expended to get to the other side then there will always be a reward. Even if it's only a handful of gold or a piece of gear that's only purpose is to be sold... For more gold :P. Sure they could pick the lock and find an empty room and they'd just move on, but what if the Wizard 'wastes' a spell slot on knock? Most players would be upset to not find something on the other side.

Your previous thread fit this model just fine. You had an optional encounter that had no reward except getting the thing in the other side of it. It had no bearing on anything else, and to me that's just fine.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-08-27, 02:23 AM
I don't like most traps and puzzles, for different reasons.

My issue with puzzles is unrelated to this thread, it is simply the same issue I have with the way a lot of social encounters are run, the character will have better stats than me and so either I, in a sense, let the character down or it just turns into a dice roll.

Traps however, well that ties into your thread more directly. You see I do feel that pointless rooms that don't advance the story are fine, in fact if I found guards on every corridor and monsters in every store-room I would wonder the noise wasn't attracting the next room over. They also, when used in moderation, add to a sense of anticipation and tension. Sure THIS room was safe, but what the next one (like any tension this does not work if dragged on too long).

Traps meanwhile are too often backwards progress, particularly if badly thought through. Plus they just create bad feeling most of the time. A trap that just deals damage is utterly forgettable if disarmed, seems unfair is triggered and is a real downer if discovered but triggered by trying to disarm it. Plus they are never in the right places and usually just succeed in damaging verisimilitude. Why trap the store-room or your office? Does a cloud of poison gas in your pantry or a fireball in your library really help you? How long is that money box with lethal poison needles if you open it wrong going to sit there before it kills one of your own guys who forgot the trick to opening it?

I prefer traps that, well, trap. Pits are good not because they do damage but because they PCs then have to work a way out and it can create interesting combat encounters if it also summons guards. Traps that trap create new and interesting problems and, at worse, give you a new mini adventure in "escape the dungeon".

NichG
2019-08-27, 02:31 AM
Asking whether something is 'fundamentally wrong' is an error. Something can be desirable for one group, but absolutely terrible for another group. What you can look at is, how sensitive to the group are different design decisions, and then decide whether you know your group well enough to use high risk/reward designs, or just use safe designs.

Putting a puzzle in without clues is absolutely not a safe design, nor is putting in a puzzle without rewards. Players who enjoy engaging deeply with the world as if they were their characters, using their own abilities to reason out a situation and taking everything as being a reflection of a place that could be real might enjoy it quite a bit and feel that it adds depth and immersion to the game.

Players who want to engage more via their character's mental abilities than their own will find this as a way that the design bypasses what they want - namely, it doesn't provide the interface elements one assumes to exist between the character who, in the fiction, is immersed in their world and has skills, knowledge, and abilities different than the player, and the player's own capabilities. For such players, it isn't guaranteed to be a mistake to run this (some may be okay with it regardless), but it undermines the concept that their role in the game is to make decisions about motivations, values, and characterization, whereas their character's role in the game is to act as a trained expert in something the player themselves doesn't have experience with.

Players who want deep strategic and tactical gaming experiences may find the dead-end puzzles to be a sort of useless element, because the resource cost for engaging with them is primarily table time (and therefore detracts from the focus and pacing of the actual meaningful elements) rather than any real in-game tradeoff.

None of these classes are ironclad categories, but I hope the point is clear that while it's possible for players to experience this as a positive, it's also quite possible for them to experience it as a strong negative. As such, these kinds of things are a design element to be reserved for when you are sure you understand your players' tastes well enough to increase the probability of a good match.

Other design elements may have lower peaks and lower variance, and are more reliable to make use of. Even then, you're not going to ever have a game design that everyone 'has to like' because you did what you were supposed to do. If you run a weakly branched sequence of easy fights (with decisions like fight A or fight B, fight in place A or fight in place B, fight or avoid), that's pretty safe as far as design elements go, but people who like meaningful choices, or socialization, challenges, or deep stories will be dissatisfied over time even if they're less likely to be immediately furious about an outright terrible game element.

There's no shortcut - you have to know who you're designing for, understand the experience from their point of view, and take that into account in how you design the game.

One thing that might at least help with understanding what will get players pissed of is, play time is the most valuable resource, period. You get 4 or 8 hours a week to do things, and anything you might want from the game is fighting with everything else to happen within that interval. So things which expend play time but do not move towards the specific interests of the player at the table are likely to be bad ideas for that group. In the context of these dead-end puzzles - if none of the players like puzzles, and the puzzle doesn't move towards something that anyone likes, then nothing is gained by including it but a large cost in the most valuable resource - time - is incurred.

Great Dragon
2019-08-27, 03:03 AM
@Talakiel: I stayed out of the last thread, because not only did I feel that I didn't have anything helpful to really add, but like Galithar said, it quickly became a heated mess.

I'll drop in my Idea pebbles into the still quiet pool, here - in the hopes of only causing thought ripples, and not destructive waves.

You are correct, a tRPG isn't like a video game. There can be rooms that are empty, and only serve as a passage to another area.

There absolutely can be unsolved mysteries in a Dungeon, since - as you said, unless the Players explore the area, searching and investigating things as they go, those Mysterious Things won't even be known about.

But, if the PCs come to a restricted area, usually by a locked door, and they spend the time to get past it (Rogue picking the lock, Mage using Knock spell, Barbarian breaking the door down) and they find - an empty room (that they verify as such) - the players will wonder why the door was locked to begin with. (Listening to in game Conspiracy Theories can be lots of fun !)

My favorite Dungeon is D&D's Undermountain . For several reasons. It had lots of rooms that had Challenges in them, the hallways had Random Encounters that (usually) made sense: but there were still lots of rooms that were empty, first to represent (In Game) that this place was big enough that even the monsters might not be able to fill every space, and second (OoC) to let each DM add things to make their version different.

Now, over the years, Undermountain changed, usually to "fit" into the latest D&D edition; and for the most part, I didn't mind. (Selling books is how the company stays alive, after all)

The newest version: DotMM? I'm kinda on the fence about. The book says that PCs should be at least 5th level to enter, but Dungeon Level One mostly didn't have much in the way of actual CR 5 Challenges, instead seemingly set up for 3rd level PCs - at most. That's another Rambling Rant - No Spoilers, so I won't give too much detail.

Part of the above Rambling, was the fact that there were Areas that had nothing in them, but each time the Party went back, there could be something new to be found, because the monsters moved around. (Halaster secretly changing stuff was a great Explanation for these changes, too)

For the most part, everything in the Dungeon served a purpose, either to present an interesting Challenge or simply to represent the size of Undermountain. With some tunnels that connected to whatever the DM wanted.


*****
As for Puzzles/Riddles/Tricks etc:
Personally, I tend to keep these to a minimum.

Sure, like most "Experienced" DMs, I like for the players to think beyond "Hit something until it stops moving" (Zero HP)

But, I find Puzzles to be tricky to actually use.

Like your last thread, where the Players didn't quite get the Clue/s given; I either give the Answer away with too many Clues, or the game stalls because no one can figure any of the Clue/s out.

If I do include a Puzzle Boss (I did like your "Regrowing Hydra" Variant, I'll most likely be stealing that for some Players to figure out) I'll include at least two ways to solve that.

(I also didn't like Gygax's tendencies to not allow any Answer but his to solve a Challenge/Puzzle)

I'll also improve if the Players think of a possible way to solve the Puzzle I hadn't thought about at creation. (To me, this is just part of DMing)

I know that you usually make a Dungeon/Encounter well in advance, and try to stick with it. Which is (to an extent) what I also do. It's a shame that your current players don't really appreciate your efforts.

TL;DR: As the DM, you're in control of what goes into the Dungeon/Game. Having dead ends and empty rooms is ok; But, if there's a barred area / locked door, there should be some kind of reason for why it's there. Otherwise, you're Players might think your just doing LoL-Random.

Well, I hope this helped, or at least amused you.

Pelle
2019-08-27, 04:43 AM
That got me thinking, does everything in the game need a point? I see how doing this too much could frustrate players, but used sparingly is there anything fundamentally wrong with having a dead-end or a fight / trap with no reward for overcoming it?


It's not at all fundamentally wrong, but it's a good idea to not let players waste game time pointlessly overcoming it. Ask the players what they want to achieve by doing it, and clear up any misunderstandings they have and set the right expectations.



Furthermore, a related issue cropped up in some of my more recent threads, were people were saying that if the DM is going to include a custom monster, a puzzle, or a gimmick encounter they need to provide clues about it beforehand, and a few of them quoted the "three clue rule," but my question is, why?

My understanding is that the three clue rule is to keep the game from stalling out entirely; and in that context it makes sense. But if it is not going to entirely derail the mission, what is the problem with letting the players learn through trial and error and succeed or fail through their own merits without the help of the GM?

Thoughts?

You don't need to use the three clue rule, but it's just an easy way to reduce the risk of players not enjoying themselves. The only problem with letting the players learn through trial and error etc, is that the players might not enjoy that playstyle (or the implementation of it).

wallyd2
2019-08-27, 10:35 AM
Nah, empty rooms, pointless combat encounters, and objects with no relevance are just fine. I include them all the time. The world doesn't always have to tie together... But, sometimes when I include mundane items in an otherwise empty room and a character takes particular interest in an object they found there... nothing can turn into something.

For puzzles, Resident Evil was a huge inspiration for me in the 90s. In fact, it is now the main focus of my D&D content creation and I have an entire YouTube channel devoted to it. I'll have to admit though, I've never heard of a three-clue rule.

For me... there are CLUES... which are needed to help solve the puzzle. I will scatter these about where I need them to be
and there are HINTS... which I give out depending on the result of a character's INT or WIS ability check. But I usually only do this if the players are struggling to solve the puzzle.

Hope you find the answers you are looking for!

Evil DM Mark3
2019-08-27, 11:00 AM
I'll have to admit though, I've never heard of a three-clue rule.

I've heard a number of versions of it, but it boils down to "You need to include more clues than you think you do." Three clues for every single answer is the typical advice, on the idea that some will be missed and some will be misunderstood.

Example from a real game I ran. There was a monster attacking the village at night. The four clues I left around were , the temple of the local sun deity had been defaced, but only externally, the monster had escaped from a locked well it had been tricked into one misty night, the victims had been torn apart but there was less blood than expected and the local herbalist had been approached TWICE but the monster passed him by.

The party assumed the monster was avoiding the local Cleric, but didn't twig why (the Sun domain) as the sun god was, in their heads, the healing god.
They never registered the fact that my mentioning mist wasn't just scenery.
They failed the roll to notice the level of blood.

They did however ask if the herbalist stocked garlic. Yes he did, in a box next to his moneybox in his shop.

Any one of those would have been enough to get them thinking vampire, if they had been the right players in the right situation, but if I had only included one then they might have gotten confused and frustrated.

Gallowglass
2019-08-27, 11:29 AM
This is very subjective to individual experiences. You will have and need different answers for different groups.

From my perspective. I'm 45, have a full time job, have many hobbies outside of gaming, game mostly with a group of old friends i've played with for years if not decades. So for me, I'm only going to dedicate a few hours a month, at most, to gaming.

So for me, those hours are precious. And I want to fill them with meat.

So for me this is not preferable:


****

DM: "Okay, after beating the gnolls, which way do you go."

Players: "Left"

DM: "Okay, you enter a stone chamber, 10 x 40 with nothing in it but a door on the opposite wall."

Players: "We spilt up and start searching"

DM: "Okay' *rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls*

DM: "You find no secret doors or anything. You find some scratched along the bottom of the wall on the right that could be from some kind of monster"

Player: "Or it could be a door we can't find! I stone shape my way through it."

DM: "Okay. *looks up spell*. Your stone shape opens up a deep hole in the wall, but does not reveal anything beyond it. There is no chamber, the stone just goes on. So it wasn't a door."

Players: "Oh. Okay... uh... go to the next room"

DM: "In the next room you find a circular 30' chamber with three doorways out of it. There is a statue with a torch on it between the first and second door. An empty column where another statue might have stood is between the second and third door"

Players: "Uh, split up and search"

DM: "Okay" *rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls* "There must've been another statue at one point. You can find some broken stone and the remains of metal pins that once held it in place. The other statue is plain stone, of a goblin in plate armor"

Players: "Okay" *tries two hours game time of things to make the statue do something interesting."

DM: "Nothing happens!"

Player: "Fine, we move on to the next room."

****

For me, this is preferable:

DM: "Okay, after beating the gnolls, which way do you go."

Players: "Left"

DM: "You wind your way through a series of empty chambers. In one you find some scratches that indicate some clawed beast passed this way recently. In another you find a statue of an armored goblin priest and an empty column where another similar statue once stood. In a third you find a pool of clear crystal water, but it proves nothing but pure and drinkable. You at last come to a room with two closed and locked doors. One marked with a etching of an armored Goblin Priest and the other with an empty crevise where a similar etching once was, but has been carved out."

Players: "Hmmm... " *starts interacting with the next dungeon element that might actually lead to some outcome.*

****


I realize that my experience isn't everyone's experience. For some, including myself as a younger man, I would've liked the slow exploratory crawl. Now, I'm fine with being led past it if its not something that need interaction with.

Also, my group tends to be more of the road quest to complete objectives kind of group rather than the dungeon exploration kind of group.

OldTrees1
2019-08-27, 05:58 PM
Furthermore, a related issue cropped up in some of my more recent threads, were people were saying that if the DM is going to include a custom monster, a puzzle, or a gimmick encounter they need to provide clues about it beforehand, and a few of them quoted the "three clue rule," but my question is, why?

My understanding is that the three clue rule is to keep the game from stalling out entirely; and in that context it makes sense. But if it is not going to entirely derail the mission, what is the problem with letting the players learn through trial and error and succeed or fail through their own merits without the help of the GM?

Thoughts?

1)
The 3 clues rule is because puzzles are easier once you know the answer. Therefore every puzzle you include is MUCH harder than you imaging. So you use 3x the clues as a rule of thumb for how much easier you need to make it merely to overcome that cognitive bias and return to the difficulty to what you expect it to be.

Consider the math problem in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M64HUIJFTZM&ab_channel=3Blue1Brown
At the end of the video the answer might seem obvious. But remember this was on the 2011 International Mathematical Olympiad. So it was nowhere near obvious.

2)
The other reason for the 3 clues rule is to account for player agency. If you want a player to know a thing, don't put it in just one place.


In both cases the exact multiplier will need to scale depending on your group. If they are distrustful then you might need to have more clues. If they are unpredictable then you might place the clues in more places.

Pleh
2019-08-27, 08:36 PM
I had an english teacher once who told us, "you have to know the rules to break them."

The three clue rule and Chekhov's Gun are exactly the kinds of rules that can reasonably be broken (even subverted), but you have to have a reason and intent behind it. If you don't, it looks like a rookie mistake, because you didn't understand what the rule was there to prevent. Professionals break the rules all the time, but it's usually because they know the benefits and limits the rules impose and how to work outside the rules productively.

In this case, the general purpose for the rules you've submitted is to avoid the Text Based Adventure Block, which is to say the game consists of solving the game by trial and error, guessing what the scripted narrative is trying to get you to say. Not that it's a badwrongfun to play that way, but it's not what most are looking for in a TTRPG.

However, the other extreme to watch for is tipping your players to the fact that something valuable is in literally every room. This incentivizes them to hold off on the main quest until they've explored everything else. That's not badwrongfun either, but some players will appreciate having a more tactical game. Leaving some dead ends can put players in the position of deciding how much exploring can they afford to pursue and how much they can afford to pass up.

The big thing is to not be overly harsh in such a game (unless the table is looking for Dark Souls level of soul crushing).

Inchhighguy
2019-08-27, 10:55 PM
That got me thinking, does everything in the game need a point? I see how doing this too much could frustrate players, but used sparingly is there anything fundamentally wrong with having a dead-end or a fight / trap with no reward for overcoming it? Because without investigating it, the players have no way of knowing what they are missing out on, and it seems to me that the best way to play is to investigate every possible lead.


Yes, for the most part.

The biggest issue is the waste of time. Really anything that takes more then a minute or so, and has no point, is a huge waste of game time. And the sad fact is, very often this type of pointless thing take take up an hour or more. Of pure wasted time.

As a typical game sesion is five hours or less, to waste a hour on nothing is a big deal. Often just one waste of time means the game play does not advance much that session. Say the main focus is the players are tracking a den of werewolf thugs in a typical five hour game. And they encounter a pointless wererat den for an hour. This means that, most likely, they WON'T get to the big ''werewolf final combat" ending. You will get the say ending that as it turn Midnight, the game will only be at the 2/3 rd's mark...like the players will be at the part where they are JUST about to find a map to the werewolf lair: but as it's Midnight, and everyone must go home, the game ends. With no ''ending".

Now, sure, you can just continue the game next time....but still it's a big downer.

Another big issue is the waste of resources. Players can waste a lot of things on the pointless nothings, and then not have them when they are needed later in the adventure.





Furthermore, a related issue cropped up in some of my more recent threads, were people were saying that if the DM is going to include a custom monster, a puzzle, or a gimmick encounter they need to provide clues about it beforehand, and a few of them quoted the "three clue rule," but my question is, why?


This is really more a question of play style.

IF you have the sort of players that do like lots of details, hints and clues...and want to figure things out ahead of time, then sure this is a good idea.

However, if your players are not really into the whole ''figuring things out", then anything you do as a hint or clue will be pointless.



My understanding is that the three clue rule is to keep the game from stalling out entirely; and in that context it makes sense. But if it is not going to entirely derail the mission, what is the problem with letting the players learn through trial and error and succeed or fail through their own merits without the help of the GM?


Trial and error is the HARD way to learn.....and it's ''no fun". It's a perfectly valid way to learn....but a lot of people don't like it.

Again, this comes back more to style.

Some players are fine with loosing and can pick themselves up and try again.

Some players breakdown and whine and cry if everything does not go perfectly for them all the time.


I think a lot of the questions come down to this basic point: Is the campagain a short one or a long one.

A short campagain is expected to last a couple weeks, maybe two mounths or maybe like a dozen game sessions. It's sort of exprected that the game will ''flow" along easily and get to the conclusion. Everyone ''can't wait" until the game is over, as they want to try a new character, idea or even whole other game.

The long term campagain is basicaly is intended to go on.....forever. And for a lot of people this can be a long time: there ARE peope will campagain that go back years and years. Everyone has no intention of ever doing anthing else.

So everything you asked about works just fine in the long term game.

Jay R
2019-08-28, 07:49 AM
Yes, there are missions, quests, and jobs. But the players' primary goal at level n is to reach level n+1.

Therefore any encounter where PCs can earn experience points is not pointless.

Cluedrew
2019-08-28, 09:01 AM
Yes, there are missions, quests, and jobs. But the players' primary goal at level n is to reach level n+1.I have stumbling across a number of quotes recently that sum up some problems with role-playing games. This is one of these, I think the primary goal should be to do interesting things and weave a fun story. Now you aren't wrong but it annoys me how right you are.

Actually this is somewhat on topic because I think Talakeal might be more like me in this situation while the players are in the level n+1 group. So if Talakeal puts down something because he thinks its interesting his players will either try to circumvent it or get as much reward from it as possible and then leave it behind.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-08-28, 09:39 AM
I have stumbling across a number of quotes recently that sum up some problems with role-playing games. This is one of these, I think the primary goal should be to do interesting things and weave a fun story. Now you aren't wrong but it annoys me how right you are.

The thing is, the payers do not know how much they are actually achieving in the narrative, they can't see how much of the story is left and making progress is important to a lot of people. Level n+1 is definite progress they can see and count down towards. There are lots of ways to square this circle, from just ensuring the route to n+1 is an interesting and fun story to keeping party xp in mind when plotting the story. Taking out the third of four dark whatevers is a lot more impactful if it ALSO ticks that n+1 over, even more so if its to a really fun level like Wizard 5 or Fighter 6.

Pelle
2019-08-28, 09:52 AM
Therefore any encounter where PCs can earn experience points is not pointless.

But the question was rather, what if it is indeed pointless? For example if it doesn't provide any experience points, which can easily happen under milestone leveling, level-less systems or games which don't give xp for combat.


I say if it is truly pointless, it's just a boring waste of time and should be skipped or summarized. But if it can offer the right kind of pay-off, it might be worth including still...

kyoryu
2019-08-28, 01:38 PM
The thing is, the payers do not know how much they are actually achieving in the narrative, they can't see how much of the story is left and making progress is important to a lot of people. Level n+1 is definite progress they can see and count down towards. There are lots of ways to square this circle, from just ensuring the route to n+1 is an interesting and fun story to keeping party xp in mind when plotting the story. Taking out the third of four dark whatevers is a lot more impactful if it ALSO ticks that n+1 over, even more so if its to a really fun level like Wizard 5 or Fighter 6.

Different people like different things. "N+1" is true for some folks, and untrue for others.

Know your group, and either run a game appropriate to them or don't run for them.

Kaptin Keen
2019-08-28, 04:01 PM
Games are ... bait, and traps.

Sure, there are other elements - but ... frankly, those are also either bait, or traps, but generally both.

Like ... a plot? The plot is bait, and trap. You want to save the world, you really need to trigger the trap - or you get to stay in Silverbrook and be a farmer all your days.

Generally, any problem in any game can be solved in one simple way: Make your bait obvious and juicy enough.

The traps are harder. Not everyone likes a really challenging trap - but some do. Bloody players =)

Jay R
2019-08-28, 04:08 PM
I have stumbling across a number of quotes recently that sum up some problems with role-playing games. This is one of these, I think the primary goal should be to do interesting things and weave a fun story. Now you aren't wrong but it annoys me how right you are.

It doesn't bother me at all, because that's what the players should be trying to do. The rules are laid out to give them cool powers and abilities when they reach level n+1.

Don't confuse the meta-goal with the in-game goals that get you there.

It is the DM's job to design a scenario in which the PCs, by meeting the challenges in front of them, and trying to improve their skills, wind up doing interesting things and weaving a good story.

Similarly, the NFL wants to put on entertaining and impressive football games. But the best way to make them interesting and impressive is for the players to want to get the ball and score touchdowns.

No football player should ignore the goal of trying to win the game in favor of the goal of being entertaining and impressive -- because the most entertaining and impressive thing they can do is try to win the game with all their skills and abilities.

"We're too far ahead of the other team. It would be more impressive and entertaining if I fumble now."

No. Just ... no. That's not playing football.

Two chess players sit down to play because they want to have a great game testing their chess skills. To do this, neither should ever make a move to "test my chess skills". Each move should be to develop ones own position in order to eventually checkmate the other king.

Similarly, no D&D player should ignore the goal of defeating or winning the current encounter in favor of the goal of weaving a good story. That's meta-gaming, and a lesser story.

Wonder Woman shouldn't be trying to do interesting things. The most interesting thing she can do is try to stop Ares.

Luke Skywalker shouldn't be trying to weave a good story; he should be trying to blow up the death star.

Frodo shouldn't be trying to do interesting things, except to reach the goal of destroying the Ring of Power. [He and Sam even talked about the story they were in. But they never took an action to make the story better; they acted to destroy the Ring.]

Buffy shouldn't be trying to weave a good story. The best story for her is one in which she is trying to slay vampires.

1. The PCs' goal should be to defeat the ogres in front of them, complete the quest, and rescue the princess.
2. The players' goal should be to gain more and better abilities for their PCs -- by having the PCs achieve their goals of defeating the ogres, completing the quest, and rescuing the princess.
3. The DM's goal should be to create a sequence of ogres, quest and princess so that as the players achieve their goal by having the PCs complete their goals, they will wind up doing interesting things and weaving a good story.

The game is based around the idea that characters grow into greater power and abilities by defeating encounters. It's all right for the players and PCs to want them to grow into greater power and abilities by defeating encounters.

That's the most straightforward way to do interesting things and weave good stories.

Bohandas
2019-08-28, 04:51 PM
I don't like most traps and puzzles, for different reasons.

My issue with puzzles is unrelated to this thread, it is simply the same issue I have with the way a lot of social encounters are run, the character will have better stats than me and so either I, in a sense, let the character down or it just turns into a dice roll.

That's actually what I thought this thread was going to be about when I saw the title. The way puzzles and social encounters are handled relies extensively on metagame knowledge.

Enixon
2019-08-28, 10:37 PM
Wonder Woman shouldn't be trying to do interesting things. The most interesting thing she can do is try to stop Ares.

Luke Skywalker shouldn't be trying to weave a good story; he should be trying to blow up the death star.

Frodo shouldn't be trying to do interesting things, except to reach the goal of destroying the Ring of Power. [He and Sam even talked about the story they were in. But they never took an action to make the story better; they acted to destroy the Ring.]

Buffy shouldn't be trying to weave a good story. The best story for her is one in which she is trying to slay vampires.



The thing is almost none of your examples actually act that way, Wonder Woman and Buffy let the bad guy of the week get away becasue they stop to save friends or innocent bystanders rather than finish the job "like they're supposed to". Luke runs off to Cloud City to save his friends rather than finish his Jedi Training and just ends up with a missing hand for his trouble.

I can't think of anything in particular Frodo did in the book off hand, unless you count him leaving the Fellowship and going out with just Sam to begin with, that ended up being for the best but to someone that doesn't know how Lord of the Rings ends already it looks like he's just begging to get captured and need saving later.

Now of course the "character" doesn't think "I'm doing this becasue it makes a better story", they do it becasue it's what they think is the right thing to do, they arn't automatons that think only of completing an objective list. I think that's one of my biggest gripes with "old school" games and their "everything is out to kill you" design, if your character has any character traits other than "paranoid survivalist" it's just asking for a TPK the moment you show an ounce of curiosity or otherwise act in anyway other than a emotionless robot running dungeon_crawler.exe

NichG
2019-08-28, 11:34 PM
It doesn't bother me at all, because that's what the players should be trying to do. The rules are laid out to give them cool powers and abilities when they reach level n+1.

Two chess players sit down to play because they want to have a great game testing their chess skills. To do this, neither should ever make a move to "test my chess skills". Each move should be to develop ones own position in order to eventually checkmate the other king.

Similarly, no D&D player should ignore the goal of defeating or winning the current encounter in favor of the goal of weaving a good story. That's meta-gaming, and a lesser story.


Narrative examples aside, this isn't even really true for no-frills competitive games like chess (or, more within my experience, Go). In Go at least, players will often play in a way that is less than the best course to victory because a large component of playing one game of Go isn't to win that game, it's to learn about ways to play For example, there might be a particular opening sequence which is dominant in the win/loss statistics, but pro players won't just play that sequence every time - they'll experiment with alternate openings, alternate lines of play, etc. One game they might try a fighting-heavy style, while the next would be a more measured set of closed trades, while another might be an experiment with the construction of a large-scale moyo and learning how to use soft influence to control the course of play.

There's even a Go proverb (well, there's one for everything): "Lose your first 100 games as quickly as possible"

So the idea that a game has a goal, the players' job is to beeline for that goal to the exclusion of all else, and that results in the best, most interesting, and most valuable play doesn't even hold up in zero-sum competitive games. That's because for the human at the table, the outcome of that one fight is less important than what the act of going through the game means for them. And that may sometimes be better served by intentionally holding back in some ways, in order to (in the long run) learn more about what you're not immediately seeing yet.

Psyren
2019-08-28, 11:44 PM
Not everything/every room needs "a point"; but Resident Evil has very different design goals than D&D.

RE is survival horror; in survival horror games, resources are very finite and combat is to be avoided. It drains your precious resources (ammunition and healing) and is often intentionally designed to be outright unfun to play to emphasize your goal of avoiding it wherever possible. As a result, the core paradigm of such games is maximizing exploration while minimizing unnecessary combat; every needless fight potentially reduces your chances of achieving your long-term goal of beating the game.

Compare to D&D - while resources may be finite within a given adventuring day, so long as you have a place and time to rest they are functionally unlimited. Even if you don't have those things in a given session, combat is still inherently rewarding - even if monsters drop no loot at all, they still give XP, which helps you to achieve your long-term goal of being high enough level to beat the game. Combat is also designed to be fun and engaging, which leads to players seeking it out.

TL;DR rooms with monsters in them satisfy very different objectives in both of these games, and as a GM your job is to recognize that and design accordingly. An article or interview about one type of game won't necessarily translate well to the other.

Pauly
2019-08-29, 12:02 AM
Video games back in the days of Resident Evil (no number) were operating on machines with much less processing power and memory. Therefore anything you included in the game that did not directly propel the story forward was a waste of limited computer resources. Now with much faster and better machines the need for everything to have a purpose is gone.

We've all played games where we have to trudge through endless hallways and talk to everybody because the NPCs had no indicator as to who was or wasnít important. Games can do it now because they have the resources to run that. The developer made a choice based on how they wanted to tell their story, not how to cram everything into limited space.

Empty rooms and random encounters are fine as long as they arenít preventing the main story from playing out.

The real problem with traps and linear dungeons is that they only exist as fantasy tropes. Evil McEvil the Evil overlord does not want to walk through 40 rooms deactivating and resetting traps every 10 paces each time he wants to go out and say hi to his mom.
IRL there are locks and alarms. Traps as such are only used in times of war in areas where the enemy is expected to travel. You donít use them as the security system for your castle because you donít want your own soldiers accidentally killing themselves. If you do have lethal type traps in your dungeon they should be either (1) guarding a vital part of the lair that is restricted from regular foot traffic or (2) part of a kill box designed to eliminate intruders.
IRL the boss had his rooms in the citadel of his castle. All the rooms for kitchens, stables, guard rooms, store rooms etc. were placed in small buildings outside the main keep. Use real castle floor plans to create realistic challenges. Allow the players to engage the dungeon by the path they think seems right to them. Allow the bad guys to move about in response to the hullabaloo created by the players.

Bohandas
2019-08-29, 12:03 AM
Compare to D&D - while resources may be finite within a given adventuring day, so long as you have a place and time to rest they are functionally unlimited. Even if you don't have those things in a given session, combat is still inherently rewarding - even if monsters drop no loot at all, they still give XP, which helps you to achieve your long-term goal of being high enough level to beat the game. Combat is also designed to be fun and engaging, which leads to players seeking it out.

To be fair though, having time to rest strains versimilitude in many cases

Great Dragon
2019-08-29, 03:47 AM
To be fair though, having time to rest strains versimilitude in many cases

IMO/E verisimilitude has two ways to be portrayed: (1) PC Viewpoint
or (B) Mechanics. (Metagamming)

Only if the DM is (A) always "Running the Clock" {which is a valid Game Style} or (B) has stated that the Quest has a time limit: And is constantly reminding the Group of this fact; can break "verisimilitude" for the Player/s. But this is (mostly) Metagamming.

Now, there are very few times that the Characters know that there is a Time Limit (even if one exists, like stopping the Dragon Cult from Summoning Tiamat; but there are clues to that end. The Prophetic NPC outright telling the Party about said Cult and a Time Limit is very, very rare) and as such Short Rests by the Party are more often, and both Short and Long Rests being the decision of the Players is assuming that it's from the Character's Viewpoint, thus maintaining verisimilitude.

I believe that verisimilitude requires effort on both sides to maintain. After all - as the GM - I can't match a computer: Not in memory or computing/processing speed, and especially not in graphic renderings.

Also, "verisimilitude" shouldn't be that the Player/s literally forget that they are sitting around a table playing a game with (funny shaped) dice.

Edit: 2:30 am
@NichG: I like your Go example (although I don't play, I do understand what you meant)

To me tRPGs are more complex versions of this kind of game. Where similar to chess, each piece is different and has an impact on the game, and like Go - there are lots of different opening moves, and none are really "wrong".

Starting out with a Classic Opening (You meet in a Tavern) but each time it changes, because of the choices made by the Players (usually different Race and/or Class), or maybe a Plot Twist by the GM, are part of the fun.


I think that's one of my biggest gripes with "old school" games and their "everything is out to kill you" design, if your character has any character traits other than "paranoid survivalist" it's just asking for a TPK the moment you show an ounce of curiosity or otherwise act in anyway other than a emotionless robot running dungeon_crawler.exe

I just joined a Homebrewed OSR Retro Clone group, and was reminded about another aspect that added to the above.

Gold >IS< exp
Which is the main reason "Murder-Hobos" became a Cliche.
(And Gygax listing NPC treasure, and locations, in towns didn't help)

Now, myself and another Player are "Experienced" enough that we didn't just try and kill every "Orc" we come across, and actually talked to them in the effort to find out more information about the (mega)Dungeon that we are Exploring. We even made a Deal with some Orcs in order to get a Mahogany Throne out in order to sell for gold.

But, now that my Dwarf has Plate Armor (+7 AC), Shield and Sword (1d8, where everything else is 1d6, the Dagger is 1d4, and only the 2-handed Great Sword does 1d10) he's probably going to be more reluctant to part with Treasure beyond the agreed upon Party Split (including Hirelings).

He'll still talk in order to get more information about the Dungeon, but less forgiving about too many more Deals.
(PCs are aware of the importance of Treasure)
And the "Balance" of Risk vs Reward of fighting also changed.

Stuebi
2019-08-29, 08:02 AM
On a baseline, I think it is a helpful philosophy to design and plan your game based on the thought: "I want them to overcome this."

Clues, explanations, provided knowledge and all that serve to give the players the tools to deal with whatever obstacle they might encounter. And I (try) to design all of my encounters, whether they are combat or puzzle, in a manner that also promotes a decent game flow.

In that sense, dead-ends, fakes or any sort of challenge based around "hit wall until either your head or the bricks break" is something I avoid like the plague. Mostly because of these reasons:

1. You are playing with meta expectations more than you are with any sort of logic or realism inherent to the world. I get that not every room needs a hidden tunnel, not every drawer needs a hidden compartment and not every hook needs to be on point. What I DO believe is that trying to deliberately and repeatedly fake people into believing that this is the case, even though it isn't, does not add anything worthwhile to the game. Probably the opposite.

2. You are, at least to a degree, undermining how players take your descriptions or any sort of information you provide. I learnt this from experience, trying to be too vague or avoiding straight answers will make them distrust you in general, and pushes the game more towards them caring less about what you say, and more what comes out of their dice rolls.

3. Ultimately, and this is probably a very relative aspect, ask yourself whether trial & error is a fun way to resolve the current problem. It CAN be, I just think most often, there is a better way to handle it. It also depends on how it's delivered. I'm fairly confident that anything that simply works around "You have 1 key and a 100 doors, start checking!" is almost guaranteed to just not be fun. And a lot of scenarios can quickly fall into that scenario, in particular Monsters with only 1 or 2 specific weaknesses, puzzles that need brute force solutions, that sort of thing.


As an Addendum to the "3 clues" thing. I'm somebody that is incredibly pedantic and obsessive about covering multiple angles. I'm the guy that writes about twice as much background and NPCs and has reserve maps for a lot of otherwise "mundane" locations, because I'm terrified of the group feeling railroaded or disinterested. So I am kinda biased when saying that I apply the rule quite liberally to a lot of my gaming.

Psyren
2019-08-29, 11:18 AM
To be fair though, having time to rest strains versimilitude in many cases

Hence the "even if you don't" portion of that post

Quertus
2019-08-29, 01:44 PM
Narrative examples aside, this isn't even really true for no-frills competitive games like chess (or, more within my experience, Go). In Go at least, players will often play in a way that is less than the best course to victory because a large component of playing one game of Go isn't to win that game, it's to learn about ways to play For example, there might be a particular opening sequence which is dominant in the win/loss statistics, but pro players won't just play that sequence every time - they'll experiment with alternate openings, alternate lines of play, etc. One game they might try a fighting-heavy style, while the next would be a more measured set of closed trades, while another might be an experiment with the construction of a large-scale moyo and learning how to use soft influence to control the course of play.

There's even a Go proverb (well, there's one for everything): "Lose your first 100 games as quickly as possible"

So the idea that a game has a goal, the players' job is to beeline for that goal to the exclusion of all else, and that results in the best, most interesting, and most valuable play doesn't even hold up in zero-sum competitive games. That's because for the human at the table, the outcome of that one fight is less important than what the act of going through the game means for them. And that may sometimes be better served by intentionally holding back in some ways, in order to (in the long run) learn more about what you're not immediately seeing yet.

I was trying to figure out how to express similar sentiment. Closest I had gotten was "we don't all play the one optimal character build" and "even in MtG, I build decks to have fun, to try out new things, not just to win".


2. You are, at least to a degree, undermining how players take your descriptions or any sort of information you provide. I learnt this from experience, trying to be too vague or avoiding straight answers will make them distrust you in general, and pushes the game more towards them caring less about what you say, and more what comes out of their dice rolls.

Admittedly, I probably didn't understand half of what you were saying, but why would you ever be vague / avoid straight answers as GM? What were you trying to accomplish?

kyoryu
2019-08-29, 01:47 PM
I was trying to figure out how to express similar sentiment. Closest I had gotten was "we don't all play the one optimal character build" and "even in MtG, I build decks to have fun, to try out new things, not just to win".

People optimize for different things. Sometimes you optimize to win this one game. Sometimes you optimize for a different goal.

Sometimes your goal is to to b uild knowledge or explore strategies that will help you win more in the future.

Talakeal
2019-08-29, 02:12 PM
Admittedly, I probably didn't understand half of what you were saying, but why would you ever be vague / avoid straight answers as GM? What were you trying to accomplish?

In character stealth or deception.

A failed perception roll to notice a hidden enemy. "There doesn't appear to be anyone there," but a more straightforward answer will either risk giving away information the character doesn't have or, worse, be an outright lie.

Great Dragon
2019-08-30, 10:51 AM
In character stealth or deception.

A failed perception roll to notice a hidden enemy. "There doesn't appear to be anyone there," but a more straightforward answer will either risk giving away information the character doesn't have or, worse, be an outright lie.

Then your problem with the current group may be the difference between you wanting only IC info and them wanting Meta information. Absolutely drop IC and go Meta to avoid outright lying.

Quite frankly, I don't hide stuff behind the "IC only" wall (I also roll openly, the DM Screen is only for quick reference and to hide my notes)

If the Player rolled Perception, but not high enough to detect the Assassin/Ninja - sure, I'll say "Jason doesn't see anything".

But, if the Player asks how Freddy got the drop on their PC (Jason) I'll simply tell them what the Perception DC was (and the conditions that let them hide), and remind them of their total.

But, not sure if you changing would really help.


On a baseline, I think it is a helpful philosophy to design and plan your game based on the thought: "I want them to overcome this."

Resist the "I don't want it to be easy" urge.
I've had what I thought were Super Hard Puzzles and the Players solved it in less than 5 minutes game time; I've also given what I thought were super easy problems and that turned into a three session game as they fought to figure it out.


Clues, explanations, provided knowledge and all that serve to give the players the tools to deal with whatever obstacle they might encounter. And I (try) to design all of my encounters, whether they are combat or puzzle, in a manner that also promotes a decent game flow.

Very nice. After the Encounter is dealt with, share some OoC banter about it.


In that sense, dead-ends, fakes or any sort of challenge based around "hit wall until either your head or the bricks break" is something I avoid like the plague.

After three failed attempts by the PC/s to find something - I simply inform the Players of the fact that it is indeed a Dead End. Loss of In Game Time shouldn't be too big a deal, but wasting too much RL Time can be frustrating.

@Stuebi

1. I'd add that rewarding players for IC efforts is also helpful. Didn't plan a secret compartment in the desk, but the PC got well over 20 with their Investigate check? (Also, don't make them roll for each drawer where only a good roll there finds stuff) Take a quick Break and put something that might help with the next Encounter, even if it's the BBEG's notes on the expense of building the Trap - or comments on how proud they are at obtaining (or how expensive for feeding) the Monster.

2. Kinda lines up with my comments above.

3. Trial and Error, like any other Style, is Dependent on the Players. Session Zero should be where the Genre and Style are determined.

Tanarii
2019-08-31, 01:01 AM
Dead ends and red herrings have some important prerequisites:
- they must not block the critical path to completion
- in-game time must be a resource

Even then first of those two can be tossed if there's competition involved. Either directly, as in modules originally designed for tournament play. Or inherent to the campaign, as in party A failing to proceed and loot a dungeon results in Party B doing so later.

But ultimately that's why dungeon modules are so often designed with multiple critical paths, as well as plenty of dead ends. Because until D&D (and other RPGs) started removing in-game time as a resource, it mattered if you wasted time exploring a dead end. And you, as a player, were fully aware that you were spending a resource, and it could result in a failure of the adventuring session, and possibly even loss of your character.


Yes, there are missions, quests, and jobs. But the players' primary goal at level n is to reach level n+1.

Therefore any encounter where PCs can earn experience points is not pointless.
Well said. Although, earning XP in the most efficient way possible may be a subsidiary goal. For example, in classic, combat as a serious risk compared to figuring out a way to get XP from GP without combat. It wasn't pointless, but it certainly wasn't optimal. Because you have to survive in order to reach level n+1.

And of course there isn't any assumption that you will always be presented the opportunity to have meaningful encounters. Sometimes figuring which are the meaningful ones out for yourself is the challenge.

Bohandas
2019-09-02, 03:26 AM
Resist the "I don't want it to be easy" urge.
I've had what I thought were Super Hard Puzzles and the Players solved it in less than 5 minutes game time; I've also given what I thought were super easy problems and that turned into a three session game as they fought to figure it out.

https://www.yesthievescan.com/thievescant-comic/you-must-be-at-least-this-tall-to-solve-the-puzzle/
http://www.handbookofheroes.com/archives/comic/sword-skills
http://rustyandco.com/comic/level-6-35/

Chauncymancer
2019-09-08, 12:14 PM
I think the issue with wrong paths and red herrings is: if clues are a reward for completing certain encounters, and I have my choice of encounters, than getting a red herring, even if I immediately recognize it as a red herring, feels like a failure. I feel stupid for having chosen to engage with the encounter, and wasted time and character resources on something with no reward. In this way, I think that when you are placing a red herring, you should ask yourself "If I put a cursed sword as the only treasure here, how would my players feel?"
Also, logistical concerns aside, there's another part of the three clue rule. If every scene only had one clue in it, and every scene can only be found with one clue, then your plot line is perfectly linear. The three clue rule is meant to open up your mysteries and make them less railroady.