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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    I was thinking about the feel of defense mechanics in video games and tabletop games, and I realized there's a fairly subtle difference in approach that could actually make a huge difference in how the mechanics are perceived even if they're mathematically identical.

    Let's consider a defense mechanic which offers some probability of fully negating the damage, while otherwise letting the damage through entirely. In video games where you might be passing through hundreds of damage events per minute of play, mobs of weak enemies cause this mechanic to behave as if it were a fractional damage reduction mechanic, meaning that it may e.g. become unnecessary to bother to dodge. Whereas situations with few, strong enemies cause this mechanic to become unreliable - even if you have a 80% chance of ignoring a strong hit, if that hit would kill you and restart the fight the other 20% of the time you still need to behave as if each threat were going to kill you to make it to the end of the fight (e.g. you need to bother to dodge).

    In tabletop games, the signalling is a lot weaker because we don't have the weight of repeating the situation hundreds of times over an hour of play. So what can we do instead? Well, one thing we have is that the players can be more aware of details that surround how the various outcomes are calculated (whereas in a complicated situation in a video game, you wouldn't have time to track all the individual damage and hit and so on calculations even if they were exposed).

    So this is a bit of a longwinded preface to the core thought: we can achieve very different perceptual effects by rolling damage first before rolling the negation chances, versus rolling damage only if those chances pass through.

    If we roll sources of negation first, then players don't know whether or not their negation chances saved them, or simply marginally reduced the resource drain they will experience over the course of the fight/adventure. If a monster fails to hit my character 4 times in a row and hasn't hit anyone yet in the fight, I might feel that it's not very threatening or dangerous - even if it would one-shot me if it had actually landed that blow. As a result, only monsters able to consistently land blows on the PCs provide feedback about their danger level, meaning that often players might overextend and get hit with seemingly arbitrary consequences (because there has been nothing that has telegraphed the risk).

    On the other hand, lets say we roll damage first. Then, even if you're consistently negating most of the blows, you could perceive what the consequence of that 20% that hasn't happened yet would be. Meaning that we could achieve a higher degree of perceived danger without also increasing the consequences which need to actually occur in the line of play.

    Taking a step back, one of the big paradoxes of an extended campaign is that if a character has even a small chance of dying in every fight, by the end of the campaign they will have had so many fights that they would almost certainly die. A 2% chance per fight over 100 fights turns into a 87% chance by the end. Meaning that the real chance of failure that can be injected into any battle is a very limited resource for any game designer. On the other hand, if you could communicate that there would be a 50% chance of death each fight if you had behaved a certain way (which you have control over), but which can be reduced to a 1% chance if you behave 'correctly' (by which I mean, altering strategy to take into account the telegraphed threat levels), then that becomes a much wider space in which to design a variety of threats or situations.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    So... Hmmm... First off, I think I like PCs doing what you call "overextending", as it's what I call "role-playing" - not acting on knowledge that they don't have.

    That having been said, you don't have to get hit/damaged by an attack to know how strong it is. Narrating how it feels when the blow hits your armor, how much "damage" it deals when it impacts terrain, etc, are or can be very effective ways to telegraph threat.

    That having been said... I recall one time when the party was fighting a creature that they had the option to attempt to dodge, or to take an AoO against. It came down to the last PC, a Fighter, to make his choice. Eventually, he chose the AoO, and killed the creature. Then, OOC, I told them the TPK level of that that the creature had posed, and how, had he chosen differently, and allowed the creature to attack, most of the party probably wouldn't have survived.

    So, I vary how and when I telegraph information, based primarily on my higher principle of role-playing.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-11-01 at 12:07 AM.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    A 2% chance per fight over 100 fights turns into a 87% chance by the end.
    ... this doesnt sound right?
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    ... this doesnt sound right?
    It is.

    I disagree that it means you have to make most fights have a less than 2% chance of danger, though. I submit that what that means is that having 100 fights over the course of your campaign is way too many.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    I don't think displaying the damage before the attack roll would work at all. In D&D, going by-the-book, damage is a huge variable. A huge powerful foe might only do three points of damage...and in the same round a small weaker looking can do 20. Also, there are things worse then just damage.

    But more so such mechanics is going along the downward slope of Roll Playing. Where the players are just fighting "Monster Type Seven" that has an AC of X and HP of Y..and then it's just roll until it's dead. Then fight the next monster.



    As a Killer DM that uses the ''behave a certain way" you mentioned. Though a lot of my ''way" is ''not act like a foolish idiot". I see a lot of games where the Dm says monster and the players just fall all over the table yelling and screaming about how their character rushed forward to make three full attacks with a charge and 'go nova'...while the DM has the monster just sit there as a target, and maybe like a slight attack for like two points of damage. Now this way is fine...in that game. But it will get your character killed in a couple rounds in my game.

    Other then not acting like the above, I greatly encourage a lot of common sense things like: picking and choosing battles, picking battle locations, planning, tactics, and teamwork. Players that do such things...have a good chance of having their character live.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    ... this doesnt sound right?
    It's a statistics thing. If you have a 2% chance of dying, after 100 fights the odds of you having died at least once is about 87%. You'd expect it to be 2% but it just isn't how that works. Basically, since all we care about is if it happens at all, you have a 98% of not dying in the first fight. You have that same 98% in the second, but you only get there if you survived the first so you multiply the two together, which gives you 96.04% or 3.96% chance of dying. You keep doing this until you reach the end of your sequence. So, the chance you will die in any given fight is 2%, but the chance you will die at least once in the next 100 fights is 87%.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Actually I'll come right out and say. A fight in which there is no danger is not only boring, but pointless and shouldn't be in the campaign in the first place. I genuinely do not understand the point of fights which you're supposed to win without danger. At that point it seems like you're just wasting a lot of time rolling dice because you like the sound they make. Situations which the result isn't in question in shouldn't be a major part of the game at all, let alone the main focus of it.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    Actually I'll come right out and say. A fight in which there is no danger is not only boring, but pointless and shouldn't be in the campaign in the first place. I genuinely do not understand the point of fights which you're supposed to win without danger. At that point it seems like you're just wasting a lot of time rolling dice because you like the sound they make. Situations which the result isn't in question in shouldn't be a major part of the game at all, let alone the main focus of it.
    That depends on whether resource attrition is an important part of the game / metric for success or not.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    Actually I'll come right out and say. A fight in which there is no danger is not only boring, but pointless and shouldn't be in the campaign in the first place. I genuinely do not understand the point of fights which you're supposed to win without danger. At that point it seems like you're just wasting a lot of time rolling dice because you like the sound they make. Situations which the result isn't in question in shouldn't be a major part of the game at all, let alone the main focus of it.
    Off the top of my head, repeats of previous close (or outright lost) fights that the players are not going to be challenged by can be a good way to show the players that they have become top dogs. Meeting the bandits who ambushed them at the start of their career 5 levels later and wiping the floor with them sounds cathartic, ya know.
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    It is.

    I disagree that it means you have to make most fights have a less than 2% chance of danger, though. I submit that what that means is that having 100 fights over the course of your campaign is way too many.
    Well, you also have to bear in mind the rather large probability of getting resurrected.
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by The Random NPC View Post
    It's a statistics thing. If you have a 2% chance of dying, after 100 fights the odds of you having died at least once is about 87%. You'd expect it to be 2% but it just isn't how that works. Basically, since all we care about is if it happens at all, you have a 98% of not dying in the first fight. You have that same 98% in the second, but you only get there if you survived the first so you multiply the two together, which gives you 96.04% or 3.96% chance of dying. You keep doing this until you reach the end of your sequence. So, the chance you will die in any given fight is 2%, but the chance you will die at least once in the next 100 fights is 87%.
    Yeah I guess it sounds like a lot, but that is over 100 fights, which is a **** load.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    ... this doesnt sound right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    It is.
    And this is why CaW players try really, really hard to make that a 0% chance of dieing in any given fight! Especially the ones who are good at math.

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    Actually I'll come right out and say. A fight in which there is no danger is not only boring, but pointless and shouldn't be in the campaign in the first place. I genuinely do not understand the point of fights which you're supposed to win without danger. At that point it seems like you're just wasting a lot of time rolling dice because you like the sound they make. Situations which the result isn't in question in shouldn't be a major part of the game at all, let alone the main focus of it.
    Well, on top of what others have already said (resource attrition, demonstrate growth), fights that don't actually threaten character death can have a lot of value. To a CaW player, that's a sign that you've done your job right! It's a great opportunity to roleplay, and to learn about the world (for the world to roleplay?) - "hey, look, that troll were fought was afraid of our torches". It gives the war gamers something to do. It makes "push the button" tasks a lot more tense when there's a fight going on. It gives you the opportunity to use all those cool new toys you got. Etc etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    Yeah I guess it sounds like a lot, but that is over 100 fights, which is a **** load.
    Or, as we used to call it, back before 3e, "level 2".
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-11-01 at 07:16 AM.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    ... this doesnt sound right?
    It is correct.

    You calculate as follows:

    P = 1-(chance of success on single trial)^(number of trials)

    In this case, your chance of failure is 2%, so your chance of success on a single trial is 98%. 1-(0.98)^100 = ~87% (rounded)

    It is important to remember that mathematics is under no obligation to conform to your intuitions. It's the other way around; a mathematician should train their intuitions to conform to mathematics.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    This moved quickly, so rather than respond in detail quote by quote, I'm going to try to collect things into a couple of points.

    On roleplay/rollplay considerations:

    The point was raised that the characters shouldn't have access to information about what would have happened if they had been hit, or that this sort of feedback would encourage playing the numbers rather than playing the game. I think this comes down to the difference between running someone's established setting, versus actually designing a game. For example, in real life if I see an industrial machine fold steel like butter then I don't need to stick my arm in there to know that I will lose it - because I have a point of reference as to how tough my body is and how tough steel is and things like that. I could decide to make a setting in which superheroes are people who start from that perspective and therefore when their body becomes stronger than steel they don't have a real way of knowing 'how much' stronger. I could also decide to make a setting which is not like that, such that very powerful/tough/talented people do actually have ways of gauging their own limits.

    Similarly, I could have a world in which it's possible that between two identical-looking monsters, one has a punch which bruises flesh and the other has a punch that would level a mountain. Or I could have it such that there are underlying indicators which someone in that world would be able to use to tell the difference. Neither is inherently what I must do - but by building tools and concepts for design, I gain the ability as a designer to choose intentionally which I want to do in a given context.

    In terms of encouraging 'rollplay', or using narration as an alternative way of doing this, I think that the best game design for roleplay is that a player who decides to straight out 'rollplay' would find that in the end, they're effectively roleplaying a character consistent with the setting (even if it isn't necessarily a character consistent with how they described it initially). That is to say, if the fiction says that
    X is nonsense and Y is what you should do, good design will have the meta-game considerations reflect that so that it feels natural rather than incoherent. Narration is a powerful tool to convey things, but the bandwidth is limited, and furthermore players may come in with different expectations about how seriously to take the DM's narration (for example, if they've played with other DMs who have used untrustworthy-narrator tricks, or who have just exaggerated things for dramatic effect). The numbers form a stronger commitment to particular consequences, which removes some of those issues - it's saying 'this is what the things you are perceiving mean' rather than 'this is what you see, it's up to you to interpret'. And that aspect of it is something which you can make use of in design.

    On lethality, danger, risk, and consequential conflicts:

    First, I want to bring up a trope which you may or may not be familiar with - the Worf effect. The basic idea is, in Star Trek they spent some effort establishing Worf as a badass. So thereafter, if they wanted to make sure that the audience took a given threat seriously, they'd have that threat beat up Worf. In the long run, this makes that initial badass reputation seem like a joke.

    For someone to establish themselves as a 'killer DM' or otherwise scare players into taking threats seriously, the issue is that're forced into a situation where, metaphorically, they have to beat up Worf. That is to say, if the players actually do play very well and don't screw up (or just plain get lucky), the DM isn't going to be able to legitimately establish the tenor of their game as being potentially lethal until someone screws up, or until the DM forces the issue by ramping up difficulty. In the end, though, either outcome is basically bad for the game - either there's a persistent misconception at the table which can become a gotcha when the players' luck runs out, or the DM is being unfair and is essentially bullying the players just to bring them into line.

    In essence, to communicate the threat this way, it is necessary to make combat not just dangerous, but risky. While a 'dangerous' situation is one in which you could succeed or fail, it isn't necessarily one in which there is some unavoidable probability of failure. For example, you could have a situation in which if you act one way you have a 0% chance of dying, and if you act another way it's an 80% chance, and it's neither easy nor impossible to know for certain which action corresponds to which chance. In retrospect, the campaign might consist of a number of situations that once that decision was made were totally safe, but those situations are all still relevant to play through because it isn't a given that the players will actually correctly discern the best actions. On the other hand, you could have a 'risky' situation in which no matter what you choose, there is some probability that you die despite that.

    If the only way to communicate the actual threat levels is to have the consequences occur, you're forced to use 'risk' rather than 'danger' - because anything that doesn't happen will feel as if it couldn't happened. But if you make use of some side-channel information about what could have happened (such as the damage rolls) then you can start to have situations in which the danger is high but the risk is low.

    A real-life example of this might be something like suppressing fire, where pretty much anyone in that situation knows what would happen if they went into the suppressed area or stuck their head out (because they have some prior knowledge about how the human body reacts to bullets) but at the same time, may have access to a place which protects them quite effectively from the fire so long as they don't take the obvious bad action (and as a result, they can be herded into a less-obvious bad action or inaction).

    On variance and reliability of damage numbers:

    This is very system dependent, but it could easily be folded into the same kind of design considerations. If you're rolling big bags of d6's for fireball damage, it's going to be pretty low variance. Similarly, if it's high-level D&D and most of the damage comes from constants added on (weapon +'s, power attack, modifiers from stats) then the variance will be low. Low-level D&D, or crit-heavy situations, will have misleading damage numbers. Whether or not you want the damage numbers to be misleading becomes a factor that can be used for effect.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG
    *Snip*
    I like the idea of rolling damage numbers first, then determining if it hits or misses. It could help give missed swings a more concrete sense of "weight," which I feel is important to dramatic action. I'll add that I also find it entirely reasonable that someone would be able to judge the force behind a missed swing (tons of examples of this sort of thing in both real life and fiction).

    It also increases the ability for players to have rational tactical expectations, which helps support tactical depth.

    It also seems like it could be used to speed up play, since the attacker doesn't have to break up their resolution with the target's resolution.

    So... at least three reasons I like this design idea.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    If your damage roll and attack roll are two separate things, do them both at once. Everything else is badwrong (barring special cases like "roll NdX instead if your attack is 18+")

    But seriously, roll it at the same time to speed things up.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    I read your initial post last night before going to bed and I rolled it around in my head. I was entertained by the idea so it kept me busy and my wife and I talked about the psychology behind it. In the end, your idea, and what we talked about, sounds like an interesting experiment, I am going to try this at my table.

    I've got a group that I've been DMing in a homebrew campaign for about 3 years, I'll be doing this experiment with them. My control is my wife, she knows that I'll be switching to announcing damage first, narrating the scene, and telling them if it hit. The rest of my players, four in total, are of varying ability and understanding of the game. They're used to me rolling to hit and damage but I'll narrate the scene then tell the damage amount after. I think this will be fun and interesting.
    Last edited by DMThac0; 2018-11-01 at 10:35 AM.
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Roleplaying

    Sure, I'll agree that there are bad GMs out there. This is just another reason why demonstrating what kind of GM you are, by narrating correctly, is so important.

    Some creatures are exactly as strong as they seem. Some, like Superman, are deceptive. To facilitate Roleplaying, the GM should narrate exactly what the PCs perceive, and not tell them that, when Superman missed the grab, he would have dealt 99999999 damage.

    The Worf Effect

    I'm decidedly not a fan of the Worf effect. It's Narrative gaming killing Simulationist play. In other words, it goes against my gaming religion, and part of why I'm all about burning Narrative thinking at the stake.

    Risk, and Player Knowledge

    The TPK Ooze was an example of a 5%/80% fatal encounter, with no easy way of the players knowing what the correct choice was. Not the best encounter from a CaS Gamist perspective (although, by RAW, it was well within their CR range (which isn't something I guarantee, either)). I told them about its damage after the fact, in part because it helped establish that I'm a Simulationist GM who will give you what's there, and not pull my punches. And made them aware of what their characters should have known - that the world is dangerous, and that they needed to be prepared for that. Because there was no kindly GM looking out for them, to make sure that they succeeded, or even lived.

    Metagaming

    So, it's an interesting idea, that one could set as a design goal to make a system where the metagame answer is the same as the roleplaying answer - where acting with knowledge of the mechanical effects of things is identical to acting on character knowledge. I agree that, most of the time, these should be the same - because if you've lived in the world, are familiar with the world, then you should intuitively understand roughly how the world operates, and a normal human shouldn't assume that getting hit by a cement truck moving at 100mph will total the truck while only mildly inconvenience them. Unless, of course, as in several systems, that's actually exactly what they should assume.

    However, I find such worlds where everything is known to be boring.

    I, personally, don't like playing in a world that is just a copy of this reality. Also, I don't like playing in a world where everything is Known. My primary source of enjoyment in a game is Exploration - I want the world to be filled with Unknowns, I want the joy of learning that Kryptonians are a whole lot stronger and tougher than they look. Yes, by all means, make sure that the Players and the PCs are on the same page about the 99% of the world that they're familiar with, but don't make ingrained into the system the impossibility for the 1% of Unknowns that exist in the world to actually be treated as unknowns. Make those Unknowns learned reasonably - when bullets bounce off of Superman's eye, and he punches through the side of a tank.

    Summary

    I agree that a good GM should make sure that the Players have the knowledge that their PCs should have about how threatening the world is. I disagree that the proposed system will correctly accomplish that for any world I'd care to play in.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by exelsisxax View Post
    If your damage roll and attack roll are two separate things, do them both at once. Everything else is badwrong (barring special cases like "roll NdX instead if your attack is 18+")

    But seriously, roll it at the same time to speed things up.
    This. If you want the damage potential more transparent to the players you can change any NdX+Y to MdX. Say a monster with 1d6+11 damage gets 4d6 instead. To reduce the variance you can use smaller dice, but then it gets more fiddly to add all the dice results together, though.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Well, on top of what others have already said (resource attrition, demonstrate growth), fights that don't actually threaten character death can have a lot of value. To a CaW player, that's a sign that you've done your job right! It's a great opportunity to roleplay, and to learn about the world (for the world to roleplay?) - "hey, look, that troll were fought was afraid of our torches". It gives the war gamers something to do. It makes "push the button" tasks a lot more tense when there's a fight going on. It gives you the opportunity to use all those cool new toys you got. Etc etc.
    I didn't say no threat of death, I said no danger. A fight that has a good chance of costing you important resources when you're probably going to get into more fights immediately thereafter before having a chance to replenish them is still dangerous. Or, a fight in which you're not in personal danger but the people you're protecting have a decent chance of being killed. A fight that could have killed you if you approached it stupidly is also dangerous, even if you're canny enough to arrange it so that it becomes easy.

    But no, I don't think a fight designed to show how cool and tough you are is worth playing. You can just let the players describe in detail how they wipe the floor with the pathetic downtrodden goblin masses and move on.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by DMThac0 View Post
    I read your initial post last night before going to bed and I rolled it around in my head. I was entertained by the idea so it kept me busy and my wife and I talked about the psychology behind it. In the end, your idea, and what we talked about, sounds like an interesting experiment, I am going to try this at my table.

    I've got a group that I've been DMing in a homebrew campaign for about 3 years, I'll be doing this experiment with them. My control is my wife, she knows that I'll be switching to announcing damage first, narrating the scene, and telling them if it hit. The rest of my players, four in total, are of varying ability and understanding of the game. They're used to me rolling to hit and damage but I'll narrate the scene then tell the damage amount after. I think this will be fun and interesting.
    Cool! If you don't mind, I'd be interested in hearing how this goes!

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    I didn't say no threat of death, I said no danger. A fight that has a good chance of costing you important resources when you're probably going to get into more fights immediately thereafter before having a chance to replenish them is still dangerous. Or, a fight in which you're not in personal danger but the people you're protecting have a decent chance of being killed. A fight that could have killed you if you approached it stupidly is also dangerous, even if you're canny enough to arrange it so that it becomes easy.

    But no, I don't think a fight designed to show how cool and tough you are is worth playing. You can just let the players describe in detail how they wipe the floor with the pathetic downtrodden goblin masses and move on.
    Ah, I... should have responded to what you said, not what I thought you meant to say.

    In that case, I mostly agree. There are a few exceptions, though. For one, if the PCs don't know that it's not a threat, they may expend resources that they will need later. Also, roleplaying and learning are still a thing.

    But, yes, the Players did once ask about going on a mission, and I told them up front that there would be absolutely no danger in exterminating the Ninja Clan that they disliked. I told them that they could if they wanted, but... I really should have just said, "OK, you do it, have a level, I'll give you the loot sheet next week."

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    I like the idea because it adds tension to the game, which can be lacking. I agree with the issue that you identified where it is difficult to convey the danger of a threat unless either a) the GM describes it well and the players understand that description or b) the characters suffer the damage from the foe. I also think that rolling dice that may be superfluous will slow down the game. Instead of rolling those dice, just let the players know their foes' average damage roll with their highest damage ability (e.g., 2d6+2 -> 9) and their bonus to hitting with their most accurate attack if applicable (e.g., +9 damage).

    If the numbers seem too gamey for you, you could try to water it down to a rating system of very high threat, high threat, medium threat, low threat, very low threat, but that runs into a similar issue where players aren't sure what a "very high threat" means compared to a "medium threat".
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I, personally, don't like playing in a world that is just a copy of this reality. Also, I don't like playing in a world where everything is Known. My primary source of enjoyment in a game is Exploration - I want the world to be filled with Unknowns, I want the joy of learning that Kryptonians are a whole lot stronger and tougher than they look. Yes, by all means, make sure that the Players and the PCs are on the same page about the 99% of the world that they're familiar with, but don't make ingrained into the system the impossibility for the 1% of Unknowns that exist in the world to actually be treated as unknowns. Make those Unknowns learned reasonably - when bullets bounce off of Superman's eye, and he punches through the side of a tank.
    Not to push the idea too heavily, but if you establish as standard telegraphing the damage, you can use the contrast when you stop to establish strangeness or newness for certain special elements. E.g. everyone you fight for the first 15 sessions of the campaign is telegraphing damage, but then suddenly you encounter a single enemy with some odd visual glitches going on who unexplainedly doesn't provide that feedback, etc.

    I like to have access to various methods to communicate or establish things without saying them explicitly, because then those channels become ways to create visceral impressions of distinctions within the game world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    I like the idea because it adds tension to the game, which can be lacking. I agree with the issue that you identified where it is difficult to convey the danger of a threat unless either a) the GM describes it well and the players understand that description or b) the characters suffer the damage from the foe. I also think that rolling dice that may be superfluous will slow down the game. Instead of rolling those dice, just let the players know their foes' average damage roll with their highest damage ability (e.g., 2d6+2 -> 9) and their bonus to hitting with their most accurate attack if applicable (e.g., +9 damage).
    In terms of maintaining game speed, I think having the DM not need to go back and perform another verbal interaction after the opening statement saves more time than removing the dice roll, so I wouldn't want the threatened number and the final reported number to differ. 'The orc threatens 9 damage against AC 18', 'hit', 'you take 11' seems clunky to me. I'd rather it be 'The orc threatens 9 damage against AC 18', 'okay, that hit, I'm still up'.

    Of course, since we're talking system design here, we can also imagine cases where we actually design the damage ratings to be flat or even explicitly description-based damage tracks (Fudge-like), so rolls wouldn't be an issue.

    If the numbers seem too gamey for you, you could try to water it down to a rating system of very high threat, high threat, medium threat, low threat, very low threat, but that runs into a similar issue where players aren't sure what a "very high threat" means compared to a "medium threat".
    Yeah, I think the numbers are special in the sense that the players can virtually resolve what happens next in their head on their own. I don't get the 'whew, I almost died!' feeling from avoiding a 'high threat hit', but I do get it if e.g. I discover that I had a +2 AC that I had forgotten about which prevents the hit that would have taken me to -20. Of course, if 'very high threat' means something mechanically specific, that could be different.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Not to push the idea too heavily, but if you establish as standard telegraphing the damage, you can use the contrast when you stop to establish strangeness or newness for certain special elements. E.g. everyone you fight for the first 15 sessions of the campaign is telegraphing damage, but then suddenly you encounter a single enemy with some odd visual glitches going on who unexplainedly doesn't provide that feedback, etc.

    I like to have access to various methods to communicate or establish things without saying them explicitly, because then those channels become ways to create visceral impressions of distinctions within the game world.
    That's... Art, I suppose. Rather than notice his confidence, or the wind from his missed punch, you notice that Superman doesn't return a damage value. It's OOC instead of IC, but it kinda does the same job of making you pay attention, I guess.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    ... this doesnt sound right?
    It is, and others have explained. I'll just put a name to it: It's called a Binomial Probability.
    Interestingly, halving the chance(to 1%) doesn't halve this probability. You go from 87% chance to 63% chance - only a 24/28% decrease, depending on if you look at absolute or relative difference(boy is this confusing in this case).

    @Koo
    Fights without danger have a place. I'll give an example:
    Imagine at Level 2 going against a bunch of kobolds that nearly slaughter your inexperienced asses.
    Then at Level 12 you go against a similar encounter and you completely steamroll it.
    It gives you a clear sense of progression, lets you roleplay how far you've come, essentially validates your advancement. Plus, it feels awesome(power fantasy and all that jazz).

    If all the fights you go up against are dangerous, which is the same as saying threats scale closely to advancement, then there is simply no reason to advance, since there will never be contrast to demonstrate your growth.

    Quote Originally Posted by LudicSavant View Post
    It is important to remember that mathematics is under no obligation to conform to your intuitions. It's the other way around; a mathematician should train their intuitions to conform to mathematics.
    Well and good, but I'd love to see anyone who has an actual intuition for Bayesian probability.


    Onto OP:
    IMO this can be achieved through good DMing, but this method might be a good fallback for those who are less inclined to appropriately flowery and evocative descriptions. Though it can be a tool to add tension to the game. If you have a high-damage foe, rolling damage first will definitely make for a more memorable encounter, as the players agonize over those moments of uncertainty.

    About that big statistical paradox you mention:
    It isn't actually a paradox because your numbers are wrong due to the nature of the game. Most encounters are ablative. They're designed to drain resources, not threaten death.
    Contrast this with Save or Die mechanics, which have classically been a pain point in games precisely because they exhibit the binary nature of your proposed paradox.
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    In terms of maintaining game speed, I think having the DM not need to go back and perform another verbal interaction after the opening statement saves more time than removing the dice roll, so I wouldn't want the threatened number and the final reported number to differ. 'The orc threatens 9 damage against AC 18', 'hit', 'you take 11' seems clunky to me. I'd rather it be 'The orc threatens 9 damage against AC 18', 'okay, that hit, I'm still up'.
    I was envisioning a statement at the beginning of combat. The orcs do 9 damage on average. Maybe a token on the table that indicates their damage. That lets the players gauge roughly how dangerous their foes are while still leaving open some surprise.

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Of course, since we're talking system design here, we can also imagine cases where we actually design the damage ratings to be flat or even explicitly description-based damage tracks (Fudge-like), so rolls wouldn't be an issue.
    Yeah. That's probably better.
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    In the context of D&D, at least, it seems like you could achieve some of this, and also mostly avoid the problem of players acting on information their characters don't have, simply by rolling damage and to-hit simultaneously and openly. Seeing the damage dice that will be rolled will communicate the potential damage, even before the roll. But they don't need to know that there will definitely be ten damage if they don't use their defensive ability on this round - just that the monster uses d10's.
    Since knowing the potential damage is already the case with humanoids using particular weapons, just from description, it makes sense that the characters might also see a dragon's claws or a monster's sharp teeth or spikes and know how potentially damaging they can be, and that is something that can be translated for the players into damage dice, just like it is for weapons (because players have a list of weapon damage in the PHB). It also saves the DM from having to describe things as "the teeth look as sharp as longswords" or something similarly silly/obvious to communicate potential damage.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    For someone to establish themselves as a 'killer DM' or otherwise scare players into taking threats seriously, the issue is that're forced into a situation where, metaphorically, they have to beat up Worf. That is to say, if the players actually do play very well and don't screw up (or just plain get lucky), the DM isn't going to be able to legitimately establish the tenor of their game as being potentially lethal until someone screws up, or until the DM forces the issue by ramping up difficulty. In the end, though, either outcome is basically bad for the game - either there's a persistent misconception at the table which can become a gotcha when the players' luck runs out, or the DM is being unfair and is essentially bullying the players just to bring them into line.
    The Worf Effect is not really related to this. The Trope here is more False Advertising. The DM is saying one thing, and then doing another.

    To scare players, or people in general, is an art. Not everyone can do it. Scary horror writing and atmosphere and game play is hard. And it's a fine trick to keep the players right on the line of despair...where they will simply leave the game. When it's done right, the players are on the edge of their seats and fully immersed in the game.

    And it does not have to be character death. A more classic is just item loss....even more so special item loss. A couple minutes into the game....and Bob's character Spike looses his spiked chain when a foe sunders it. Bob is in tears, his silly one trick pony character is now utterly useless and the rest of the players are in shock. This snaps everyone quickly into ''this is not a DM lets you do silly wish fulfillment/ego boost fantasies here" type game.

    Also, big note, just about every game will have one of Those Players. No matter what is said to them....they will still do "stuff".

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    A real-life example of this might be something like suppressing fire, where pretty much anyone in that situation knows what would happen if they went into the suppressed area or stuck their head out (because they have some prior knowledge about how the human body reacts to bullets) but at the same time, may have access to a place which protects them quite effectively from the fire so long as they don't take the obvious bad action (and as a result, they can be herded into a less-obvious bad action or inaction).
    Interestingly 'fire' from missile weapons is often a big killer in my games as many players don't grasp the concept. Missile attacks are common in my world: a lot of foes try to avoid melee. But few players even grasp the idea of cover...until a soft target, often like an animal companion, is hit and killed. Suddenly, after Sir Bearalot dies, the players will flip open the rules and read ''oh, cover stops missile weapons from killing". And then have their characters duck and cover.


    The vast majority of most RPGs games, and even more so D&D, is played in a much more Disney Romp style. That is, the game is just fun ''action and adventure", with no real ''bad things" or "consequences" or even a ''slight frown". The players know there characters will just ''survive and do whatever it is they want to do", so the whole ''game" is just ''ok, we know we already did it...now lets play out and see how we already did it". In this game hit points are useless...they might go 'down' sometimes...but it does not mean anything.

    So when you have a game were suddenly the players discover that ''wait..if the character looses all their hit points they...are...dead?" it can be a huge shock to the player.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    I didn't say no threat of death, I said no danger. A fight that has a good chance of costing you important resources when you're probably going to get into more fights immediately thereafter before having a chance to replenish them is still dangerous. Or, a fight in which you're not in personal danger but the people you're protecting have a decent chance of being killed. A fight that could have killed you if you approached it stupidly is also dangerous, even if you're canny enough to arrange it so that it becomes easy.

    But no, I don't think a fight designed to show how cool and tough you are is worth playing. You can just let the players describe in detail how they wipe the floor with the pathetic downtrodden goblin masses and move on.
    I agree, a fight where nothing is at stake is not meaningful. Combat should usually pose a dramatic question which includes the survival of the PC's.

    Once in a blue moon you can throw in a meaningless combat just to showcase the badassery of the heroes, but that kind is the exception that proves the rule so to speak but this can just as easily be narrated

    Of course you don't have to prevent the PC's from starting a fight but epic heroes participating in a bar brawl can just be described by the players themselves

    Often when the dramatic tension of the fight is over I just narrate the rest of the fight
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