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  1. - Top - End - #91
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Sure, you can Monday Morning Quaterback something that happen years ago. If it makes you feel better, and make a offering for the Almighty Rules, just say I typed ''1'' and the ''10" is a typo.
    Point really more being that this should have been wrong enough that everyone at the table felt how ridiculous that is.

    Even if you're misremembering how it actually happened, the fact that you posted it this way just now means it didn't trigger your, "that doesn't feel right" response, which it should have.

    Seemingly because you seem to use a non canonical (and unrealistic) absolute pass/fail in your DMing, which precludes degrees of success and failure.

    You scoff about the Almighty Rules, but the rules were chosen because everyone can read a book. No one can (or should have to) read your mind. When the DM ignores the rules, why did you bother using a book to begin with? It's just extra reading that probably won't come into play. For that matter, why'd you buy the books?

    Because the same book that told them how to make a character for your game is the same one telling them they only fall on a balance check for missing by 5 or more.

    "Rule 0 is in the rules." Yeah, but Rule 0 is really meant for scenarios not already covered by the rules. It's not really meant for literally rewriting the book. That's not Rule 0, that's just homebrewing a spinoff, which is fine, but it's actually dishonest to call that D&D. And it's not under the authority of Rule 0, it's just outside the jurisdiction of the book entirely. They can't stop you making up your own rules.

    Rule 0 really means, "feel free to fill in the blanks or iron out the wrinkles when you need to."

    And Monday Morning Quarterbacking is basically all that happens on this subforum. The live games are in a seperate area. Theorizing and analysis are what this conversation are for.
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  2. - Top - End - #92
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Out of morbid curiosity, what's the PC death rate in your games?
    It depends, mostly at least once a game.

    Though when the group is invading a Tannar'ri living fortress on the 600th level of the Abyss it can be much higher.

    And when the players are new to my game and are optimizers, roll players and players used to soft casual games it can be much higher.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iamyourking View Post
    Also, if you tried to model Conan as a 20th level character you'd run into a lot of issues.
    Well...it does depend on what stories you read too...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    From a different thread but I think it is better referred to here. Could you give me an example? Of your last 5 character deaths could do describe how it added to the game?
    Sure.

    So, the players want to get into the top of a castle tower. It will require lots of climbing, balancing and such....mostly over and around the acid moat. Player Edgar has a blaster wizard Zom with none of those skills. A couple of rolls later Zom falls into the acid moat and dies...and the rest of the group retreats.

    So the group runs back to town, meets a new wizard Zim (Edgar's new character) and goes back to the castle...where Zim dies again. This happens a couple more times(and Edgar gets to wear the Kenny Hoodie). So, then, Edgar gets the idea to make a better character to fit the game. He makes a more general wizard(but still does plan to be a blaster eventually). Somewhat obviously he takes the spell spider climb.

    So after all that character death Edgar learned not to make such 'one trick pony' characters, to have some utility items or magic and learned that being a blaster is no good if you can't even get to the fight. And he even discovered potions. And maybe most of all, Edgar discovered that he lost his character...with all it's built up character and in game actions..could have been prevented easy...and does not want to have that happen again.

    The rest of the group learned the whole 'weakest link lesson', and discovered they could do simple teamwork things like have the characters rope themselves together(though they did ultimately not need to do it as Edgar discovered the spell Spider Climb.) Also the basic ideas that each character should help each other out, and that they could have ''pooled" their money together to buy climbing tools and potions. The other players also see the effects of character loss, lots of bad effects, and don't want that to happen to them.

    Can all the above be learned with out character death...yes, maybe. But the story of how the players ''read the PH and discover lanterns when the wind blows out their torch is not even close to the impact of the Acid Death Story.

  3. - Top - End - #93
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Point really more being that this should have been wrong enough that everyone at the table felt how ridiculous that is.

    Even if you're misremembering how it actually happened, the fact that you posted it this way just now means it didn't trigger your, "that doesn't feel right" response, which it should have.

    Seemingly because you seem to use a non canonical (and unrealistic) absolute pass/fail in your DMing, which precludes degrees of success and failure.

    You scoff about the Almighty Rules, but the rules were chosen because everyone can read a book. No one can (or should have to) read your mind. When the DM ignores the rules, why did you bother using a book to begin with? It's just extra reading that probably won't come into play. For that matter, why'd you buy the books?

    Because the same book that told them how to make a character for your game is the same one telling them they only fall on a balance check for missing by 5 or more.

    "Rule 0 is in the rules." Yeah, but Rule 0 is really meant for scenarios not already covered by the rules. It's not really meant for literally rewriting the book. That's not Rule 0, that's just homebrewing a spinoff, which is fine, but it's actually dishonest to call that D&D. And it's not under the authority of Rule 0, it's just outside the jurisdiction of the book entirely. They can't stop you making up your own rules.

    Rule 0 really means, "feel free to fill in the blanks or iron out the wrinkles when you need to."

    And Monday Morning Quarterbacking is basically all that happens on this subforum. The live games are in a seperate area. Theorizing and analysis are what this conversation are for.
    This is a thread about game design, though, so it's absolutely a place where it's okay to throw out the rulebook and write your own - because that's actually what we're discussing how to do. In that sense, I can't consider a criticism on the basis of 'the rules say it should have been X' to really be in line with the spirit of the overall conversation here. Whether something is or isn't called D&D is also irrelevant.

    From a game design point of view, you have to address 'why should the rules say it should be X'. Or even better 'what does ruling X vs ruling Y achieve?'.

  4. - Top - End - #94
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    I can't speak of Conan but I do know The Lord of the Rings well enough. I think Sauron, you know the invincible foe over the mountains, would be out-done by a level 20 D&D wizard, let alone any members of the fellowship.
    Well, he can't be much higher level than Gandalf, who according to a famous article in Dragon magazine was a level 5 Magic-User.
    (I saw an old Dragon where Gygax tried to shoehorn Conan as an AD&D character.... and failed. To make Conan even close to as competent as he is in the stories, Gygax had him a level 20+ multiclassed monstrosity with subconscious psionic powers. It was hilarious.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    It depends, mostly at least once a game.
    Is that once a CAMPAIGN, or once a SESSION?

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    So, the players want to get into the top of a castle tower. It will require lots of climbing, balancing and such....mostly over and around the acid moat. Player Edgar has a blaster wizard Zom with none of those skills. A couple of rolls later Zom falls into the acid moat and dies...and the rest of the group retreats.

    So the group runs back to town, meets a new wizard Zim (Edgar's new character) and goes back to the castle...where Zim dies again. This happens a couple more times(and Edgar gets to wear the Kenny Hoodie). So, then, Edgar gets the idea to make a better character to fit the game. He makes a more general wizard(but still does plan to be a blaster eventually). Somewhat obviously he takes the spell spider climb.

    So after all that character death Edgar learned not to make such 'one trick pony' characters, to have some utility items or magic and learned that being a blaster is no good if you can't even get to the fight. And he even discovered potions. And maybe most of all, Edgar discovered that he lost his character...with all it's built up character and in game actions..could have been prevented easy...and does not want to have that happen again.

    The rest of the group learned the whole 'weakest link lesson', and discovered they could do simple teamwork things like have the characters rope themselves together(though they did ultimately not need to do it as Edgar discovered the spell Spider Climb.) Also the basic ideas that each character should help each other out, and that they could have ''pooled" their money together to buy climbing tools and potions. The other players also see the effects of character loss, lots of bad effects, and don't want that to happen to them.

    Can all the above be learned with out character death...yes, maybe. But the story of how the players ''read the PH and discover lanterns when the wind blows out their torch is not even close to the impact of the Acid Death Story.
    Such ROLEPLAYING.

    This is straight out of grognards.txt - except that the players didn't think to bail out the moat, sell the acid and retire early on the proceeds and you didn't have to come up with some ridiculous excuse to stop them.
    Last edited by Arbane; 2018-11-06 at 02:15 AM.
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  5. - Top - End - #95
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    This is a thread about game design, though, so it's absolutely a place where it's okay to throw out the rulebook and write your own - because that's actually what we're discussing how to do. In that sense, I can't consider a criticism on the basis of 'the rules say it should have been X' to really be in line with the spirit of the overall conversation here. Whether something is or isn't called D&D is also irrelevant.

    From a game design point of view, you have to address 'why should the rules say it should be X'. Or even better 'what does ruling X vs ruling Y achieve?'.
    Except he backpedaled when I pointed it out instead of explaining his intent by it. It wasn't intended, it was a goof, which should be delineated in talking about intentional rule changes.

    There is no "why a rule should be X" when the rule was always supposed to be Y instead. I'm highlighting the problem of bias that potentially damages design expressly because it extends beyond self awareness.

    And instead of just owning the mistake and setting a simple disclaimer on his advice ("oh yeah, I tend to run hard railroaded, grognard lethality campaigns, so my design advice will tend to produce that experience in your games"), he felt the need to suggest that I was somehow the one in the wrong (stop monday morning quarterbacking).

    This comes down to an argument of, "good game design cites its sources." When someone else can cite a counter example, it's not helpful to deflect blame, as if we should be ashamed of making a mistake.
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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Acid Death Story.
    A couple of things:

    I was referring to the times were the players will fondly recount "and then [my character name] died", although I didn't actually say that the first time. You have any of those?

    It took 3-5 five deaths for the player to learn that lesson? I can usually get that down to 0 character deaths and trips back to town. Sure it does not scare the lesson into them the same way (although considering they just seem to be remaking the same character, not a lot of emotional investment there) but it takes a lot less time.

    What do you mean "don't make one-trick ponies"? As long as you acknowledge that they have one-trick and play appropriately it can work. Some of my best characters have had only one trick. Maybe it is harder to make work, but it is do-able.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Well, he can't be much higher level than Gandalf, who according to a famous article in Dragon magazine was a level 5 Magic-User.
    (I saw an old Dragon where Gygax tried to shoehorn Conan as an AD&D character.... and failed. To make Conan even close to as competent as he is in the stories, Gygax had him a level 20+ multiclassed monstrosity with subconscious psionic powers. It was hilarious.)
    This is the real issue with martial/caster disparity in my mind. There are plenty of awesome martial character concepts that I will never get to play in D&D because the game just can't handle it.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Except he backpedaled when I pointed it out instead of explaining his intent by it. It wasn't intended, it was a goof, which should be delineated in talking about intentional rule changes.

    There is no "why a rule should be X" when the rule was always supposed to be Y instead. I'm highlighting the problem of bias that potentially damages design expressly because it extends beyond self awareness.
    The context of talking about 'rule changes' rather than 'rules' suggests that there is a true ruleset we're discussing, and then centering the discussion around deviations from it. There is no such thing however. There is no thing that 'the rule was always supposed to be' - that's something you're importing. DU's response was not backpedalling, but pointing out that the specific numbers behind the probability of failure were, at least to what they were trying to communicate, irrelevant.

    You can argue that the numbers are relevant because 5% and 50% lethality are a huge difference, for example, and if you wanted to forward a line of argument based on that I'd say that it was constructive. But the fact that they differ from the way it would be calculated in RAW D&D 3.5 isn't at all meaningful.

    Furthermore, the line of argument you're pursuing moves from being a conversation about design principle or rules in the abstract, and is starting to become an ad hominem against a particular poster. Rather than addressing the actual proposed rule or the content of DU's games as described - about which there are plenty of things which could be criticized on the basis of design intent and consequence - you're focusing on DU themselves. That's bad form.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    I was referring to the times were the players will fondly recount "and then [my character name] died", although I didn't actually say that the first time. You have any of those?
    Well, character death is not exactly a ''fond" type memory. It's more like a break up memory, like remember when you broke up with your high school sweetheart?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    It took 3-5 five deaths for the player to learn that lesson? I can usually get that down to 0 character deaths and trips back to town. Sure it does not scare the lesson into them the same way (although considering they just seem to be remaking the same character, not a lot of emotional investment there) but it takes a lot less time.
    I find everywhere that it often takes people 3-5 or more times to learn something....and some never learn. Sure in Edgars case he remade a wizard each time, but his group was one of the groups that falsely believed they must have one of each 'type' of character in the group.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    What do you mean "don't make one-trick ponies"? As long as you acknowledge that they have one-trick and play appropriately it can work. Some of my best characters have had only one trick. Maybe it is harder to make work, but it is do-able.
    Well, this is more on game style. My game is half combat and half role playing, and you can expect a lot of non combat encounters. And a lot of encounters that can be either. And I don't do the very special type of limited games where everything fits into a tiny box.

    But one trick ponies, even more so, the all and only combat ones...can only fight. As half of the game will not be fighting, this has such a character at a huge disadvantage. And it's far more worse when the character is over specialized to do one thing.

    Can a one trick pony character work....yes, but it all falls back on the players gaming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    This is the real issue with martial/caster disparity in my mind. There are plenty of awesome martial character concepts that I will never get to play in D&D because the game just can't handle it.
    What do you mean?

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Well, character death is not exactly a ''fond" type memory. It's more like a break up memory, like remember when you broke up with your high school sweetheart?
    Well that sounds... absolutely not like a game I would want to play in. I'm sorry but "imaging breaking up with your first love over and over again" is not a compelling game pitch to me. Or I would venture, many people.

    But one trick ponies, even more so, the all and only combat ones...can only fight. As half of the game will not be fighting, this has such a character at a huge disadvantage. And it's far more worse when the character is over specialized to do one thing.
    Yeah, I built that character (she could win almost fight but had no other skills of note) and managed to pull it off (in a campaign that was like 1/3-1/4 combat). Still there was 4-5 PCs in that game so not getting the limelight the rest of the time was fine. Didn't even have center stage during all the fights.

    What do you mean?
    The example I had in mind was a pair of god-slayers. A body and mind pair with a wizard and a master of hand to hand combat. Both were capable of single handily killing a god and shattering armies. They are higher powered characters than I am usually interested in playing (they were background mentors in the original story), but let's say I want to play them. I think I could get a good representation of the wizard with a level 10-15 sorcerer*. The hand-to-hand one? Level 60 monk or something? Most varieties of actually awesome physical character are just aren't available.

    I think things are improving, but they have a ways to go.

    * Just accounting for the setting differences.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Well that sounds... absolutely not like a game I would want to play in. I'm sorry but "imaging breaking up with your first love over and over again" is not a compelling game pitch to me. Or I would venture, many people.
    Well, it is more for a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain. It's not for everyone. The same way living happily ever after is not for everyone.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Well, if we're talking game theory, I'll (mostly) stand on DU's side on this one.

    If you telegraph that the game is harsh and easily fatal, then you know not to get too attached to your characters, or to put much work into their personality or backstory until you learn the system, and learn how to create and play characters that survive.

    So, first, you play the "I'm a noob, my characters have no personality and die like lemmings" minigame. Since most people don't prefer that, it encourages a "get good noob" attitude that says that once you learn how to play the game, you can play a much broader range of characters / you can play the character you'd like / you can play a character that matters.

    Why would I weigh in on the side of "get good noob"? Well, let's take the Warhammer universe as an example.

    I'm pretty clueless in such a game. It would strain credulity if someone spouting off the random wrong things I'd say we're actually a competent being. That just doesn't add up. Until I take the time to understand the setting, grok the rules, and otherwise learn enough to be able to make and play good characters who make good choices, the only option available to me is to play a string of incompetent redshirts. If I care enough, and am able to really "get" the setting, then I'll get to - if I choose to - run characters who can impact the setting meaningfully. Until then, my cluelessness is mirrored in my characters.

    It's easiest for everyone (not just me) to roleplay their characters if my insane, clueless comments can be treated as just that.

    So, if you get strong feedback that you've done the wrong thing, it is, IMO, easier to learn what the correct thing is, and to build the player skills necessary to run competent characters.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Well, if we're talking game theory, I'll (mostly) stand on DU's side on this one.

    If you telegraph that the game is harsh and easily fatal, then you know not to get too attached to your characters, or to put much work into their personality or backstory until you learn the system, and learn how to create and play characters that survive.

    So, first, you play the "I'm a noob, my characters have no personality and die like lemmings" minigame. Since most people don't prefer that, it encourages a "get good noob" attitude that says that once you learn how to play the game, you can play a much broader range of characters / you can play the character you'd like / you can play a character that matters.

    Why would I weigh in on the side of "get good noob"? Well, let's take the Warhammer universe as an example.

    I'm pretty clueless in such a game. It would strain credulity if someone spouting off the random wrong things I'd say we're actually a competent being. That just doesn't add up. Until I take the time to understand the setting, grok the rules, and otherwise learn enough to be able to make and play good characters who make good choices, the only option available to me is to play a string of incompetent redshirts. If I care enough, and am able to really "get" the setting, then I'll get to - if I choose to - run characters who can impact the setting meaningfully. Until then, my cluelessness is mirrored in my characters.

    It's easiest for everyone (not just me) to roleplay their characters if my insane, clueless comments can be treated as just that.

    So, if you get strong feedback that you've done the wrong thing, it is, IMO, easier to learn what the correct thing is, and to build the player skills necessary to run competent characters.
    I guess this brings it back around, in that I like the idea of figuring out ways to get that message across without actually having to have characters die first. That is to say, make it so that a single character trajectory can include the process of learning about e.g. what is dangerous and what is safe, or things like that. In that way, the character growth itself can become part of the fabric of the campaign. It's not for every game or every table, but the idea that it should be possible to do keeps me coming back to experimenting with very weird systems or premises.

    For example, a game where you play a soul that gets reincarnated over multiple generations of characters - everyone knows that every 9 sessions their characters will all die of old age no matter what they do, but depending on what they do in their life they can pass advantages or connections on to their next life. Or a game where there is some set of parallel universes and when any of the characters die, that universe collapses and the viewpoint jumps to a different one that may vary in subtle or overt ways, with the overall campaign goal to ensure that at least one universe remains by the end.

    What are the set of techniques which can be used to as quickly and cheaply as possible bring players into alignment with how the world works?
    Last edited by NichG; 2018-11-06 at 11:10 PM.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    What are the set of techniques which can be used to as quickly and cheaply as possible bring players into alignment with how the world works?
    Good players do come around quite quick. Really I see the problem more of too many easy casual games. Players are too used to the evil lich king targeting them with 'ray of zap' that does 1d4 damage. So they are quite shocked when in my game they are hit with 'necromatic wave of death, doom and destruction' for lots of damage and effects.

    A good thing to do is have a new player to the game play with more hold hands of the game. They can show them the ropes during the game play.

    Also, a 'Game Zero' is a great idea. More of a pick up type game where the players can learn the game style, but not with their ''Main Characters". I do this one a lot. And often tie it into the main character somehow...like the pick up characters are the ancestors, parents or such of the main characters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I'm pretty clueless in such a game. It would strain credulity if someone spouting off the random wrong things I'd say we're actually a competent being. That just doesn't add up. Until I take the time to understand the setting, grok the rules, and otherwise learn enough to be able to make and play good characters who make good choices, the only option available to me is to play a string of incompetent redshirts. If I care enough, and am able to really "get" the setting, then I'll get to - if I choose to - run characters who can impact the setting meaningfully. Until then, my cluelessness is mirrored in my characters.
    I think I follow you, has character-focus written all over it. I just have one question.

    Why a string of incompetent redshirts? If you must play a small fish, play in a small pond for a while and move to larger and larger bodies of water. Tone down the campaign, play at a small scale then crank things up as you know more and more about the setting. Really this is how competent people are formed in real life, slowly gaining experience and taking on bigger and bigger problems. Its not like 10 people are thrown at a problem and one of them knew how to handle it all along.

    Plus in an ongoing campaign with other more experienced players, why not have them play more experienced characters who could mentor the less experienced characters as the less experienced players learn themselves?

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Why a string of incompetent redshirts? If you must play a small fish, play in a small pond for a while and move to larger and larger bodies of water. Tone down the campaign, play at a small scale then crank things up as you know more and more about the setting. Really this is how competent people are formed in real life, slowly gaining experience and taking on bigger and bigger problems. Its not like 10 people are thrown at a problem and one of them knew how to handle it all along.
    This is exactly how 5e D&D is designed.

    T1 (levels 1-4): village heroes.
    T2 (levels 5-10): local/small kingdom heroes.
    T3 (levels 11-16): continent/word heroes
    T4 (levels 17-20): inter-planar heroes

    This widening focus goes along with major power boosts at 5, 11, and 17.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Good players do come around quite quick. Really I see the problem more of too many easy casual games. Players are too used to the evil lich king targeting them with 'ray of zap' that does 1d4 damage. So they are quite shocked when in my game they are hit with 'necromatic wave of death, doom and destruction' for lots of damage and effects.

    A good thing to do is have a new player to the game play with more hold hands of the game. They can show them the ropes during the game play.

    Also, a 'Game Zero' is a great idea. More of a pick up type game where the players can learn the game style, but not with their ''Main Characters". I do this one a lot. And often tie it into the main character somehow...like the pick up characters are the ancestors, parents or such of the main characters.
    Depends a lot on how you get your players. I tend to play with people I've known and played with for years, so at least in that respect we have a lot of background knowledge of eachothers' styles. So the issue is clarity in the specific world or setting case - here's a new set of premises, so it's initially unclear which decisions are critical life-or-death one chance to do it right things and which decisions are a matter of preference. In this game, are villains going to take you captive or are they going to kill you on the spot? If you let someone go, will they become an ally in the future or are they just going to turn around and attack you again? Etc. Those are game elements which get juggled around a lot based on genre, specific details, relationships between the PCs and the antagonists (and the type of antagonist), etc. So communicating setting and game expectations is, in some sense, a never-ending process even with players I've worked with for a long time. We also don't tend to stick to a single system, and new systems tend to try to subvert old expectations or try to re-frame the game in a new way.

    So being able to design new systems so that they basically teach people how to play them quickly is a useful tool to have. The game zero thing is basically nearly mandatory in this sort of setup, though generally that'll take the form of everyone having a single 'free rebuild' of their character when we start since none of us (me included) actually know how the things are going to run once they actually hit the table in play.

    I realize this probably is a fairly nonstandard way of going about the hobby, of course, so these may not be as pressing considerations for others...

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    In this game, are villains going to take you captive or are they going to kill you on the spot? If you let someone go, will they become an ally in the future or are they just going to turn around and attack you again?
    I think this is a bad way to go. To say a thing will or will not be will hurt the game more then it helps. And it's worse when your too specific. To say ''ok this is a back stabbing game" or "you can't trust anyone in the game" . It's like you side before: DM says it's a backstabbing game, the players all take in game precautions, so it turns out the game never has any backstabbing.

    I think the far better ''anything can happen" is much better for a healthy game. It's far better for a DM to pick a style, then switch around a lot. A single style should be open enough to fit a wide range of play.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    I think this is a bad way to go. To say a thing will or will not be will hurt the game more then it helps. And it's worse when your too specific. To say ''ok this is a back stabbing game" or "you can't trust anyone in the game" . It's like you side before: DM says it's a backstabbing game, the players all take in game precautions, so it turns out the game never has any backstabbing.

    I think the far better ''anything can happen" is much better for a healthy game. It's far better for a DM to pick a style, then switch around a lot. A single style should be open enough to fit a wide range of play.
    Saying it is one thing, but ultimately what I want is to have shown, such that the players do not think 'I was told this', but make a confident and correct prediction about how things will go in a given situation, as quickly as possible upon starting to work with the system. The more developed that ability is, the more complex and open-ended the sort of question I can use the game to ask, and the more I can get the game to really allow access to ways of thinking or mental spaces that were otherwise difficult for people to operate in.

    One of my favorite moments in a campaign I ran was when one of the players in a civilization builder type of game figured out a way to essentially control the world despite having zero territory and zero actual mechanical resources, simply by recognizing a way to negotiate a collective collaborative treaty that would amplify the power over everyone else, but with them essentially holding the strings. In essence, the player spontaneously and correctly recognized the potential in both the setting and in the system to realize something like the UN and to turn its creation into his sole power base.

    In that instance, for that player, the system communicated the way it was meant to be played without me needing to explicitly point out all the places where cooperation would lead to results greater than the sum of the parts, or without me needing to make an explicit mechanic for it.

    On the other hand, I ran a different campaign where the underlying mechanic was basically that everyone had amnesia that they could in some sense voluntarily resolve, and that by doing so (by editing their backstory as an in-character, conscious action) they could actually directly influence the present by forcing it to become consistent. By the end of the campaign, the gimmick had been figured out, but it wasn't something that the players were able to really able to use effectively to achieve their goals - or even to relate that ability to their goals. In that case, the gimmick was something potentially very powerful, but I had presented it in a way that basically made it impossible or nearly impossible in character to figure out how it might be controlled, and as such it basically was only used accidentally except in one particular instance.

    It's a curious thing that even if you were to tell a group of players that there are literally no limits to the character they are allowed to play, you will still get wildly different power levels, ways of interacting with the world, etc. And furthermore, even upon seeing other people set the limits differently, often it will prove immensely difficult for players to voluntarily move those boundaries once they've decided upon them. I'm not sure this is necessarily the same thing as the setting and system being designed to communicate their nature to a player, but at some level I do feel like it's a connected phenomenon - that there's a difference between the visceral feeling of something being possible or impossible (which is created entirely within the player's mind, regardless of what you say or do as DM) and the stuff that is being presented externally.
    Last edited by NichG; 2018-11-07 at 11:52 AM.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    I think I follow you, has character-focus written all over it. I just have one question.

    Why a string of incompetent redshirts? If you must play a small fish, play in a small pond for a while and move to larger and larger bodies of water. Tone down the campaign, play at a small scale then crank things up as you know more and more about the setting. Really this is how competent people are formed in real life, slowly gaining experience and taking on bigger and bigger problems. Its not like 10 people are thrown at a problem and one of them knew how to handle it all along.

    Plus in an ongoing campaign with other more experienced players, why not have them play more experienced characters who could mentor the less experienced characters as the less experienced players learn themselves?
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    This is exactly how 5e D&D is designed.

    T1 (levels 1-4): village heroes.
    T2 (levels 5-10): local/small kingdom heroes.
    T3 (levels 11-16): continent/word heroes
    T4 (levels 17-20): inter-planar heroes

    This widening focus goes along with major power boosts at 5, 11, and 17.
    Planar heroes who can still be taken down by a squad of orcs? I can totally see myself playing a 20th level character hiding in a small village, who cringes whenever he earns the local lord's attention.

    But that might not explain it too well. Let me try again.

    So, suppose you're playing a campaign, and, 6 months in, a new player joins. What do you do? Well, most likely, you give him a statistically equivalent playing piece*. Let's say that this player is as system savy as the rest of your group, asks questions to get up to speed on the campaign, and this works fine.

    Then, 9 months in, another player joins the game. Based on your previous success, you give him a statistically equivalent playing piece*... But, this time, it fails badly.

    If it falls because the player is too good at the system, too good at the character creation minigame, or too good at making good choices - relative to the rest of your players - it's usually pretty easy to deal with: most groups declare him a min-maxing munchkin, and kick him out. Or maybe they ask him to tone it down. Or maybe they accept the power disparity, and let the new guy rule the roost. Or maybe they realize that they aren't the top of the food chain, and try to up their game to match. But, no matter which path a given group takes, is an easy one (to find, at least).

    But if the player is below the standards of the group?

    Sure, you could try to drop back to "small village" level, where maybe** they could survive a session without getting themselves killed. But do you really want to put your campaign on hold while you train the noob - especially when people are going to be graduating soon? I recall asking a question similar to this years ago, and getting a rather strong "no" back from the Playground - that modern gamers don't have time to babysit 1st level characters (let alone 1st level Players) in their high-level parties***.

    So, there only two options, as I see it: either the noob plays a series of redshirts until they get the game, or they're handed a totally OP playing piece (Tzeentch, or the god-emperor of man, in Warhammer) to allow them to contribute equally.

    -----

    As to the last bit, as Max especially liked to point out, in many systems, a statistically equivalent playing piece usually implies having already survived being a small fish, and it stains credulity as it is for their statistically equivalent playing piece to somehow be this incompetent. Why would Zull the mighty warrior, slayer of a dozen dragons, think that he would need to train High Priest Lux, chosen of his god and vanquisher of the archdemon zxcvbnm, that bathing in lava is a bad idea?

    There's a limit to even how much even a GM can do to help, before they're completely removing player agency, and just playing the character.

    * At most D&D tables, that would look something like, "make an x-level character".
    ** I wouldn't count on it for me to survive grocery shopping in Warhammer 40k, though.
    *** And that was even without the time constraints of "finish the campaign now or never".
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-11-07 at 06:02 PM.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    But if the player is below the standards of the group?

    Sure, you could try to drop back to "small village" level, where maybe** they could survive a session without getting themselves killed. But do you really want to put your campaign on hold while you train the noob - especially when people are going to be graduating soon? I recall asking a question similar to this years ago, and getting a rather strong "no" back from the Playground - that modern gamers don't have time to babysit 1st level characters (let alone 1st level Players) in their high-level parties***.

    So, there only two options, as I see it: either the noob plays a series of redshirts until they get the game, or they're handed a totally OP playing piece (Tzeentch, or the god-emperor of man, in Warhammer) to allow them to contribute equally.
    I can agree with the idea that most groups don't want to slow down and disrupt their game to teach and help a player that is not up to the group standards. I would not want to do that either. And this is really true in a lot of group activities. Still, I'd be fine with helping the player, in say another game, getting up to that level.

    I do the 'red shirt' a lot in my games...really, it's unavoidable. Most people are just not prepared for the extreme action and adventure that is typical in my games. After all, most games are somewhat...passive. My games are like after a couple minutes the tavern explodes and the characters are fighting some negoi on the backs of flying plane-hopping turtles. And a lot of people get lost even just at ''what flying turtles?", though people that have gamed before have a much harder time.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So, there only two options, as I see it: either the noob plays a series of redshirts until they get the game, or they're handed a totally OP playing piece (Tzeentch, or the god-emperor of man, in Warhammer) to allow them to contribute equally.
    I did have a solution for this, which is have the other players+ mentor the new player, and justify the occasional don't do that moment have the new character be mentored by the more experienced characters.

    Getting a character that is a bit weaker but still can contribute meaningfully might be a trick. On the other hand maybe you could have them play someone with similar or above raw power. In a fantasy or superhero games someone with a lot of power they don't know what to do with wouldn't be that hard to justify. As the player learns the character learns.

    I don't think they are going to die immediately. We have had purposeful incompetent characters get pretty far. Mostly by just because there are a multitude of ways for characters to fail that don't involve dying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    My games are like after a couple minutes the tavern explodes and the characters are fighting some negoi on the backs of flying plane-hopping turtles. And a lot of people get lost even just at ''what flying turtles?", though people that have gamed before have a much harder time.
    The tone of the games is "a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain" and you fight on the tops of flying turtles. Well good job reconciling those two flavours. That is a trick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    The tone of the games is "a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain" and you fight on the tops of flying turtles. Well good job reconciling those two flavours. That is a trick.
    Well, "a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain in an exciting action adventure high fantasy multiverse". The Caravan to Nowhere adventure was just a week ago. The neogi capture and enslave else turtles, large wagon sized turtles that fly and plane shift, for their merchant caravans. The PCs want to both free the turtles and get the loot. The else turtles have an avoid planual effect field on them and anything touching them. And I use the very 2E multiverse where much of it is very hostile to normal life (so the Elemental plane of Fire is 6d10 damage a round, blindness, no gravity, magical alterations and has no air). So the players need to stay on the else turtles, be aware of what plane they are on and be careful 'turtle jumping'. But it also gives clever players the nice openings of if they can knock the bad guys off the turtles or such the plane will effect them (the clever barbarian grappled and lifted them up off the turtle), the fun of a three dimensional fight, and the quirk that you just have to be in 'touch' with a else turtle, but not be on the shell back. No character's died in the encounter...but a couple came close.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    The tone of the games is "a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain" and you fight on the tops of flying turtles. Well good job reconciling those two flavours. That is a trick.
    He means, "gritty realism for the characters, not the setting/npcs."

    It's like Who Framed Roger Rabbit where you have to consider the grim consequences of cartoon characters treating real people like they were also cartoon characters.
    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    Some play RPG's like chess, some like charades.

    Everyone has their own jam.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    I love how this works in relation to another popular gaming philosophy: 'game balance' and 'challenge rating'

    Instead of the idea that fights have a 2% chance of producting a fatality, we design encounters to be tense and dramatic by making sure that every fight is in fact organically probabalistically challenging in its own right... We say that this creature has a challenge rating that make sthe opponent an 'even match' for the party. In this case the fight, in order to seem exciting to the players in the moment, has a fatality producing probability of about 50%...

    Now imagine having to win 100 coin tosses in a row... OR DIE! And what are the odds that someone will have needed to roll up a new character at some point during those 100 fights. Thats the math behind making every combat encounter an exciting 'even match'. And they say 2e was deadly.
    Last edited by VincentTakeda; 2018-11-08 at 07:49 PM.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    The tone of the games is "a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain" and you fight on the tops of flying turtles. Well good job reconciling those two flavours. That is a trick.
    Nah, not much of a trick. Basically, itīs just the difference between "setting as the stage" and "setting as the backdrop". For example, when I gm, I use PF as the rules set and Golarion as the backdrop/source for context, the actual game is neither of the two, itīs the scenarios/encounters/adventure I've prepared.

    For me, both, the chosen rules system and setting are tools to facilitate what I consider to be the actual game itself. The two related issues, "rules as physics" and "what if?" don't really have a place on this style of gaming.

    Ergo, I donīt have qualms to just create stuff that make for fun and interesting encounters.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Well, "a gritty realism of heartbreak and pain in an exciting action adventure high fantasy multiverse".
    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    He means, "gritty realism for the characters, not the setting/npcs."
    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    Nah, not much of a trick. Basically, itīs just the difference between "setting as the stage" and "setting as the backdrop".
    It is entirely possible, I just think it is harder to do properly than just sticking to one flavour. And I was going to say more but I am suddenly drawing a blank.

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    Default Re: Counterfactuals and the perception of game mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    Nah, not much of a trick.
    It's a pretty big trick. Most DMs for D&D, really it seems just about all of them sometimes, are very much suck in the game settling must be exactly like Earth was in 1000 AD.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    It is entirely possible, I just think it is harder to do properly than just sticking to one flavour. And I was going to say more but I am suddenly drawing a blank.
    Well, Everything Plus the Kitchen Sink is a Flavor :)

    Though I will say a great many players don't like anything weird. A couple minutes into the game and they encounter a Ghost Door, a Mimic Tavern or a Dowhar(penguin people) and they run from the game screaming about how crazy it is.

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