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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Today, 08:18 AM
    In case anyone wants to merge this mighty discussion of science in D&D and fantasy with another recent one: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?649157-A-discussion-of-metagame-concepts-in-game-design/ - it starts around post 450.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Today, 07:31 AM
    My understanding is that they wanted the land, and were prepared to drive other people away to get it. That's what happened - to varying but in all cases significant degrees - in Australia, in the "white highlands" in Kenya, in South Africa, in New Zealand. What their moral and political theory was that allowed them to justify this to themselves varied from place to place and epoch to epoch....
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Today, 07:28 AM
    Double post deleted.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Today, 07:11 AM
    But once the connection between scenario prepration and prep is severed, what is scenario creation? It's just the GM playing the game! And what does it consist in? Establishing shared fiction for the players to engage via action declaration for their PCs!
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Today, 12:48 AM
    I don't follow the second paragraph. What doesn't qualify as what? RPGing involves playing the fiction. You keep emphasising the scenario, as if some sort of prep is crucial, when it's one feature of some RPGs. What all RPGs have in common is a shared fiction, which matters to resolution, and which the players can play directly (eg "My guy kicks in the door!" "My guy swims across the river!" -...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 04:42 AM
    If the biggest number on my PC sheet is some form of fighting, and what I (as my PC) want is to befriend someone, then I have a reason not to use my biggest number. Etc.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 03:00 AM
    It is possible to design and/or run a game in which players don't always want to bring their biggest numbers to bear. As the OP suggests, "fail forward" adjudication can support this. Burning Wheel combines that with an advancement system that requires facing some impossible challenges. In my experience, it is possible to establish situations in which players (playing their PCs) will...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 02:54 AM
    Shall we test this with a "damage on a miss" thread?
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 02:53 AM
    Some people narrate it as a mis-aimed strike, fumble, mis-step, etc. It's had to envisage a typical kobold parrying or shield-blocking a solid blow from a 20th level fighter!
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 02:22 AM
    It's left pretty thin in classic D&D, also - which takes us back to playing and adjudicating the fiction.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 02:07 AM
    Relatively few spells require attack rolls. And even for those that do - does anyone narrate a miss with a Firebolt as "You failed to conjure up your flame"? Or is it understood to mean that the target dodged the bolt of fire? Similiarly, if someone is saving for half damage, that indicates that the spell was successfully cast (you don't need to jump out of the path of a fireball if the mage...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 01:58 AM
    We use the standard rules: 1 use per tier, pus 1 per milestone, capped per item as per the item's description. Because the players are in charge of the bookkeeping, I wouldn't be surprised if on the odd occasion the actual usage (per day more likely than per item) has exceeded the permitted usage.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Yesterday, 01:48 AM
    Dispater - good question! At most tables, for an archer to succeed in an archery contest would require a check or attack roll of some type. But likewise, at most tabes, for a caster to succeed in casting a spell does not require a check or roll of some type. Some people will say "It's magic! So it works automatically." But that doesn't explain why the non-magical parts of the process...
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  • steenan's Avatar
    Sunday, 12th August, 2018, 07:32 AM
    Some people just get a lot of fun from playing with numbers and ability combos. This kind of players often take strange, sub-optimal character concepts and make them surprisingly viable. They also often take support roles where they can have enormous effect on party effectiveness without overshadowing other players. I am one of them - I min-max because it's fun in itself. Some people get their...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Wednesday, 8th August, 2018, 10:22 AM
    OK, I think I missed that! But that seems more some sort of infelicity of drafting. Or perhaps "spell" has a technical meaning - eg you can dispel the main effect, but you can't dispel the gentle drifting because its not a spell effect in the technical sense.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Wednesday, 8th August, 2018, 10:20 AM
    Well, it's not expressly stated in the scenario notes. But it's implicit in the idea that the PCs are knights, some of whom might be taken on as mercenaries. This is the sort of thing I mean by "playing the fiction" - it's pretty core to a RPG, I think. But at the appropriate level of abstraction, that is me making moves as a referee. If I don't make those moves, then I agree nothing happens....
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 7th August, 2018, 04:45 AM
    Hussar, apparently there is no escape! (Though I can sympathise with the need to take a break from marking - thus was many an ENworld post born!) I'll have another go too - this claim, as you are presenting it, is not true. Here's a description of a Traveller first session that I actually played. No scenario creation in advance of playing the game. (I'd rolled up a couple of worlds in...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 7th August, 2018, 04:03 AM
    Your examples make the point, though - does heckling a performer and throwing a tomato at them count as "encounter mode"? And for clarity (and with a shoutout to Garthanos), I've got nothing against RPG mechanics that are based around scenes, including different sorts of scenes - I GM MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic, which uses a contrast between action scenes and transition scenes to manage the...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 6th August, 2018, 11:57 AM
    Jus looking at those two spells, Fire Ray has better range and deals a ranged touch rather than ranged attack. And 1d6 + Stat will frequently be better than 1d10.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 6th August, 2018, 07:28 AM
    Having your Wind Walk spell end (an ingame event that your PC is fully aware of) because you entered "encounter mode" (which is a purely at-the-table event about mechanics) seems pretty meta to me.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 6th August, 2018, 12:55 AM
    PF2 has a core notion of "encounter mode" which I think is pretty metagame/"dissociative".
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 5th August, 2018, 02:42 AM
    I don't disagree too much with TheCosmicKid's post not far upthread. He has school kids doing science, I have them learning to do science. Kids in music class whose recorders are out of tune are probably not making music in my view, but they're learning how to make music. In reply to Lanefan: repeatability is a key element of science, and is importantly related to systematisation and...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 5th August, 2018, 02:20 AM
    Why would you be sure of that? It seems like a silly idea, and independenty of that, as a proposition about me, has no evidentiary foundation in anything I've ever posted. In any event: I'm sure that some people think that toddlers in art class are producing art. I tend to think they're learning some techniques that some people can use to produce art. That's not to say that calling it "art...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 04:03 PM
    Middle school science projects can model or deploy the scientific method, but (at least in my experience) they generally are not science - they don't contribute anything to human knowledge. They are training exercises. I don't really know what you mean by "subjective", as it is a term you deploy quite liberally! The question of what counts a science isn't always straightforwardly...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 03:34 PM
    Apocalypse World is pretty well regarded, and not that hard to learn. (It's the original game that led to "Powered by the Apocalypse" games like Dungeon World, Spirit of 77, etc.)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 03:20 PM
    This seems like the sort of thing that would also be more likely if you haven't played a range of systems. It's good to learn I'm not too out of touch with the times!
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 12:22 PM
    Agreed, but while they developed a practice of careful observation, I think the measurement and systematisation that are characteristic of science are missing. History tends to have a particularastic element that is at odds with science. That's not to deny that it is knowledge. Not all knowledge is scientific knowledge. Framing this in the language I have been using, this looks like a...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 07:06 AM
    Is it too soon to talk about dissociated mechanics? Quite a few class abiliites (ie feats) and spells seem to have triggering conditions (for activation; for dispelling; etc) of being in or entering encounter mode. But encounter mode is purely a metagame construction - so how can ingame phenomena, like a Wind Walk spell, or readying your bow to pick off enemies, have regard to it?
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 05:08 AM
    The weird thing is that the RPG community, and perhaps even moreso the D&D/PF community, seems to have a greater proportion of IT/engineering types than the general population, and outside of some indie-ish games shows rather little influence from the humanities or literary studies. Clear rules and 4e-style layout force a clear conceptual distinction between reality ("We're a group of friends...
    136 replies | 6836 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 01:47 AM
    Well, for what it's worth, I don't think this is just about manners. There's a small matter of usage - if everyone in his day described Joseph Banks as a scientist, and made him President of their most important scientific society for more than 40 years, it seems odd to deny that he is one. But there's also the issue of accurately describing a human practice. Science is a human practice...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 4th August, 2018, 01:23 AM
    darkbard - if we had constructive threads about useful techniques, then where would we find the time to argue that metagaming is not really RPGing! Garthanos - I don't think it would break the game to identify ways for fighters to have strong INT- or CHA-based skills. But I don't hae any suggestions on how to change the system to allow this. But as the game is currently structured, here is...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 11:21 AM
    The issue here, in my view, is not that RPGs require creation but that the two campaigns are probably using different systems (though perhaps both derived, more or less tightly, from the same commercially published product), and certainly have different expectations about what counts as a "proper" move. You've probably noticed that I rant against the use of metaphor to describe RPGing, and...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 10:49 AM
    My opinion of history is that it is not a science - it involves careful observation, but not measurement, and does not provide the sort of systematically ordered knowledge that science does. That's not to deny that historians provide knowledge - not all knowledge is scientific knowledge. That's also not to deny that historians can identify causal relationships - not all identification of...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 05:47 AM
    It's doing the same sort of work as "per se" or "ipso facto". Eg hitting a ball with a bat is not per se sport, but it can be if certain other conditions are satisifed. If the other conditions are internal to the hitting of the ball with the bat, then we're talking about some instances of hittings, diestinguished by their internal properties and relations. The features I mentioned as...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 05:38 AM
    Thankfully I tend to find that's not an issue in my group. That's not to say that players don't look for approaches that can draw support from their bigger numbers, but if they really want a certain outcome, and the only way to get that is to do a thing their PC is not too good at, then they will have their PC try that thing. (This comes up most often in relation to the low-CHA fighter with no...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 02:28 AM
    What have you got in mind? Are you thinking of exposures/infections of soldiers and prison inmates?
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 01:39 AM
    I'm saying that public health researchers don't go about spreading disease so as to perform experiments concerning population health. (I'm not talking here about experimenters who infect themselves, which happens from time to time.) That's not an experiment. It's careful observation and measurement. Those are not the same thing! It would be correct to say that correlation does not, per...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 12:44 AM
    But many wargames required decisions to be made about starting positions. I play an old Avalon Hill tile game (Mystic Wood) with my kids, and the first step in that game is laying out the tiles. The setup for some RPGs is more complex than for most boardgames, but that's a matter of degree. And of course you can play D&D without the GM-side set-up, by using the random dungeon and random...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Friday, 3rd August, 2018, 12:14 AM
    Sadras - i think you're trying to pile significance onto "chess variant" vs "adhered to all the chess rules exactly" that those terms won't bear, especially in this context. Playing in ignorance or (for an adult playing with the child) deliberate disregard of certain rules is not the same thing as not seeing that your opponent is setting you up. There's a difference between (i) not noticing...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 11:41 PM
    I've always thought an archer warlord.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 09:36 AM
    Self-ascriptions aren't always accurate, however, from the point of view of historical or social analysis.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 08:54 AM
    Because they're among the more complex of the rules for chess, and hence when you're teaching children you build up the complexity. (That seems very obvious, and so maybe not what you were asking for? Sorry if I've missed your point.) I've also played with adults who described themsevels as knowing how to play chess, but weren't familiar with those rules, because their grasp of the game never...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 08:40 AM
    I don't think the two compulsory skills is so important - it seems more an element of flavour and role formation, rather than going to the core "balance" of the system. But I still think that reducing a rogue's skills makes for a said rogue! In part I see the rogue, and also the skill training feat, as counterpoints to the oft-made claim that, in building a 4e PC, I can't prioritise...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 08:35 AM
    Thanks you! As well as the examples you point to (astronomy) we could point to aspects of biology (Darwin didn't do experiments - he made very careful observations and conjectured the best explanation for them given the constraints he took to be applicable) or demography/public health (no one goes about spreading diseases or polluting water supplies to try and determine the effect on life...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 08:25 AM
    That's not true. Kids who play chess will often not use en passant, or even castling. That doesn't mean they're not playing chess. Or to put it another way: the boundary between "chess" and "chess variant" is nowhere near as tight as you suggest. I've played cards with people who allowed reviewing the previously-played tricks. That's a house rule that (personally) I think undermines the fun of...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 05:53 AM
    Maxperson, what do you think is the difference between "advice" and "prescription" in the context of a voluntary leisure activity?
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 05:20 AM
    pemerton replied to Basic D&D
    X2 predates BECMI - it's for Cook/Marsh Expert - but yes, the basic elements of the system (PC builds and monster builds) are very similar. Which is no surprise, since they're different ways of codifying original D&D.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 05:09 AM
    By that measure, no game anywhere has a prescriptive rule. A book about chess can describe the many ways to play chess, set up the board, assign the moves to pieces, etc. That doesn't meant the the rules aren't prescriptive. They're not descriptions of anything. It's not as if there's some activity, chess, independent of the game rules, that we can set out to describe. Nor is there some...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 04:17 AM
    pemerton replied to Basic D&D
    I recently ran a session of Castle Amber (X2), but using my AD&D variant rules rather than B/X.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 04:15 AM
    Personally I've not seen any issues with the RAW approach to trained skills. But if I was going to push towards uniformity I'd rather level up than level down. A thief without Acro, Athletics, Stealth, Perception, Thievery, Bluff and Streetwise is a sad thief . . . and that's already seven, not six!
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 04:09 AM
    I tend to think in terms of "encounters per day" rather than "encounters per adventure" - the encounter and the "day" (ie interval between extended rests) are fairly key concepts in thinking about 4e pacing, whereas "the adventure" is not (in my view). Here's one old actual play post (from when my game was in mid-Paragon): I don't run that many dungeons (neither in general, nor in 4e)....
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 03:44 AM
    Don't ask me - I'm not defending it, just trying to explain what I take Ovinomancer to be saying. You can see my own suggestion as to how to think about what science is in some of my posts over the past page or two.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 03:42 AM
    And many woudln't call Byzanitum circa 1453 CE the Roman Empire.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 03:41 AM
    Maxperson, the quote from Mearls was "RPGs are distinct in tabletop gaming (and maybe in all of gaming) for being descriptive, as opposed to prescriptive, rules sets, and a lot of bad/misguided design comes from forgetting that." I've pointed to the fact that the rules sets do, in fact, contain clear prescriptions as to how to play the game. (Which is hardly surprising. Every other rulebook...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 03:31 AM
    I take it that, on the conception of science being promoted, it's not science until you have a total model of the biochemistry of heart attacks and of the chemistry of your medicine which allows a demonstration of the precise way in which it will affect that biochemistry.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 03:22 AM
    Scientific navigation is another example of correlation without knowledge of causation. Scientific navigation depends on knowledge about compass needles pointing north; about the motion of the sun in the sky; about the keeping of time by clocks. I don't think reliable clocks can be built without knowing quite a bit about causal processes within a bit of machinery; but the motion of the sun...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 03:11 AM
    Suppose someone does a series of experiments, dropping various objects various distances, and carefully measures the time they take to fall. Those resuts could be published as tables which might then be useful for various purposes That would be an example of scientific knowledge - careful measurment use to produce a systematic body of knowledge - which was not about the discovery or...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 01:28 AM
    On this I tend to go with Orwell in his essay on Newspeak. More words allows nuance, rhythm, assonance, alliteration, etc. It increases the expressive power of the language. Reading on, I see that Sepulchrave II has said the same in reply. Also, on statistics and causation: scientific knowledge isn't limited to knowledge of causal processes. Statistically confirmed correlations may...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 12:42 AM
    I said that, in a RPG, Those players' moves typically correlate, in some fashion, to things done by those fictional characters and take the fictional circumstances of those characters as an input into resolution. Second wind correlates to a direct event in the fiction - the character gets his/her second wind. And it takes fictional circumstances as an input: the character is not at full...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Thursday, 2nd August, 2018, 12:33 AM
    They're part of the game. And prescriptive. So are the rules for building PCs (determine these six stats; choose race; choose class; calculate various bonuses; etc). So are the rules for resolving ability/skill checks and saving throws. Optional rules aren't thereby non-prescriptive. If you opt to use the optional flanking rules, then those rules prescribe a certain circumstance in which...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Wednesday, 1st August, 2018, 01:03 PM
    I don't really get what Mearls is getting at. For instance, the rule in D&D that says an attack is resolved by rolling a d20 and comparing it to the AC that has been assigned to the target monster/creature doesn't look like it's a decription of anything. And it looks as prescriptive as any other game rule.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Wednesday, 1st August, 2018, 12:58 PM
    Reading this took me back to my posts upthread. You are describing a version of what I would think of as a conventional sandbox - the GM establishes elements, and (in your case) makes sure they have "story" attached that the players will engage via their PCs. Another way to get those elements with attached "story" that players hook onto is for the players to introudce them. Like your approach,...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Wednesday, 1st August, 2018, 09:16 AM
    TheCosmicKid - are you a philosopher, or trained in philsophy of science or some similar field? (I have non-scientifically but also non-arbitrarily formed such a conjecture on the basis of your posts in this thread.)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 11:16 PM
    The absence of disagreement about the nature of good, or moral truth, does not self-evidently prove (i) that these are not objective matters, nor (ii) that any candidate account or definition of them is not objectively true. Ratskinner mentioned consilience as a marker of knowledge. The absence of consilience in moral philosophy is relevant to the question of whether or not moral philosophy...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 10:58 PM
    I don't think these things - structure and meaningful choice - have to be traded of against one another.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 02:19 PM
    What is a language, if not its stock in trade of phrases? A simple formal definition of a language is a vocabulary plus syntax - and in the case of English Shakespeare contributed to both! If you're a strong Platonist who thinks that there's no such thing as inventing new mathematica techniques, or improving upon then, then I guess you would treat is a trivial consequence that science can't...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 01:15 PM
    The claim that "good" is subjective preference is controversial. Obviously many ordinary people disagree. I would say that the majority of contemporary English-speaking philosopher think that good is objectively defined, either in some Aristotle-type human interests fashion or some Kant-type mutuality of reason fashion. When you add in those who deny objectivity but aren't subjectivists...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 01:07 PM
    This struck me as odd. After all, I'd regard it as patently obvious that Shakespeare did make the English language better. How many expressions that are now commonplace originated in his works? And I'd be surprised if there's no area of mathematics that was not improved by its use in science - because improve in relation to maths can be taken in multiple ways I'm not sure if you would count...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 09:59 AM
    I never owned Mentzer Basic, but did see a copy once at someone else's house. My first was Moldvay Basic. My copy came with KotB, but dark blue dice that needed to be crayoned. My Expert set, acquired not much later, came with light blue dice that also needed crayoning, but - I assume due to some sort of error in a factory - had 2 d10s and no d12. So my first ever separate dice purchase was of...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 01:07 AM
    Argument to best explanation is not Occam' Razor (though Occam's Razor may be an element in such reasoning). For a good treatment, which include discussion of the external world and other minds, see AJ Ayer's The Origins of Pragmatism - drawing especially on the work of the American philospher CS Peirce (who used the term "abduction").
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Tuesday, 31st July, 2018, 12:27 AM
    If I was going to explain RPGing to someone who was familiar with other games but not RPGs, I'd probably start by describing the piece and the way one makes moves or makes plays with it. BUt in any event, the topic is about defining RPGs, not about explaining them to beginners. It's often the case that the definition of something isn't easily accessible to someone whose never thought about...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 30th July, 2018, 11:54 PM
    The assertion that moral truth is a thing in the universe is contentious. "Thing in the universe" is not really a technical term, but if some form of meta-ethical expressivism of some form is correct, then it seems reasonable to deny that moral truth is a thing in the universe. The best argument I'm aware of that Sepulchrave II (and other minds in general) exist is a version of that developed...
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    Monday, 30th July, 2018, 01:03 PM
    Which route? Nothing in the definition that I put forward has this implication. I said that, in a RPG, Those players' moves typically correlate, in some fashion, to things done by those fictional characters and take the fictional circumstances of those characters as an input into resolution. Metagame mecahnics frequenty take the fictional circumstances of a player's PC into account as an...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 30th July, 2018, 05:17 AM
    Your best campaigns sound interesting, but I'm not seeing how they sit on any sort of continuum between two other ways of RPGing.
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 30th July, 2018, 04:59 AM
    What Eurogames have you got in mind that let you directly play the fiction - eg dig through the floor of the room you're in without that needing to be a mechanically defined move in the game? There are a billion-and-one games like this one that Maxperson describes - they don't involve authoring a shared fiction (at least as typically played), and even moreso don't involve playing the fiction...
    169 replies | 3185 view(s)
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    Monday, 30th July, 2018, 12:32 AM
    By this measure, my daughter's Monopoly set is a "game creation engine" because it has an optional rule ("speed dice"). I don't undestand on what basis you are saying X is a different game from Y, and why you think it matters to draw this distinciton in the way you're drawing it. Well, I've posted an answer to this two or three times already in the thread. It's not an answer I made up...
    169 replies | 3185 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Monday, 30th July, 2018, 12:22 AM
    If the GM decides at every point what the PCs do, that doesn't show the PCs lack (imagined) agency in the (imaginary) gameworld, but it would seem to indicate that the game is a railroad!
    69 replies | 1963 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 04:01 PM
    That there are players with pieces who make moves is, I think, sufficient (even if not necessary) to make a RPG a game. This also helps distinguish a RPG from simply shared storytelling. That the pieces and the moves relate to, and are contributions to generating, a shared fiction is what helps distinguish RPGs from boardgames and wargames that otherwise have some pretty close resemblances to...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 03:20 PM
    A couple of years ago I backed the Prince Valiant kickstarter, which had the goal of getting Greg Stafford's other Arthurian RPG (ie the one that's not Pendragon) back into print. I'd heard of it but never played it. A year or so ago the PDF was distributed; the hardcopies turned up a week or two ago (Australian time). For the past year and more my group has rarely been fully quorate, but...
    0 replies | 185 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 02:23 PM
    A discussion about cars vs trucks, that assumes there's no such thing as motorcycles - let alone (say) air, rail or water transport - might sometimes benefit from noting that those other possibilities exist out there, and that the discussion is not covering the whole of the field of motorised road transport, let along transport in general. Also,, these discussions suffer badly from an...
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 02:14 PM
    Fair enough. But then I've lost track of your point. Yes, the start conditions for a game of Traveller are different for those of a hand of poker. But both are different from the start conditions for charades (to stick to games that might be thought of, at least broadly, as "parlour games") or for football or some othr sporting or athletic game. In this game of chess, so-and-so uses the...
    169 replies | 3185 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 02:25 AM
    You roll on the random patron table. At a certain point someone has to make somthing up, yes. That's part and parcel of playing a game that has the authoring and retelling of ficiton as a core part of the activity. That doesn't make it cease to be a game.
    169 replies | 3185 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 02:23 AM
    When a group of children play "families" or "houses", the roles they take on, the correlation of realworld surrounds to imagined places ("this couch is the bed; this box is the oven"), the permitted moves ("No! You can't go to sleep because we're playing daytime, not nighttime") are all highly variable and contextually settled, often through ongoing negotiation between the participants. ...
    169 replies | 3185 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 02:17 AM
    What you suggest here doesn't seem to distinguish RPGs from a range of story telling games and imaginative play. For RPGs that follow the traditional model (GM and players) key additional, distinguishing features include things like player control over a particular element of the fiction - the PC - which is also the player's game piece; and something like a distinctive role for the GM in...
    169 replies | 3185 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Sunday, 29th July, 2018, 01:24 AM
    In the ones I've run, the GM has established the menu by estabishing game elements. Part of the transition of those games - which have mostly been 8 to 10 year campaigns - from sandbox to "scene framing" has been in the shfiting of authorial control over salient elements of the fiction from GMto player.
    69 replies | 1963 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 28th July, 2018, 02:05 PM
    GMing would be no harder for a 17th century GM than a 20th century one. For all I know Gygax had never heard of the strong and weak nuclear forces, yet was able to GM pretty well by all accounts. JRRT certainly had never heard of nuclear forces when he started working on his fantasy stories (given the relevant dates), but seemed to do OK also on the world-building front. Common sense and...
    957 replies | 21569 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 28th July, 2018, 01:39 PM
    Mathematics in itself tells us nothing about the world. As Hilbert said, if you can't substitute "beer mugs" et al for "points, lines, et al" then you haven't got to the heart of the mathematical proposition (or something to that effect). Mathematical physics tells us about the world because it is anchored in measurement. The Ancient Greeks had excellent geometry, but they were able to use...
    957 replies | 21569 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 28th July, 2018, 01:22 PM
    Another way to look at it, then, is - who decides what is on the menu for character destinies? In a game normally described as a sandbox, that would be the GM.
    69 replies | 1963 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 28th July, 2018, 02:44 AM
    I was waiting for that. Einstein relied on observation. The Michelson-Morely experiement had shown that light had no velocity relative to the aether. And the constancy of the speed of light, whatever the motion of its source, is a key assumption in Einstein's thought experiments. Plato thought that scientific knowledge was able to be generated by pure reflection on ideas. He was wrong. ...
    957 replies | 21569 view(s)
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  • pemerton's Avatar
    Saturday, 28th July, 2018, 02:32 AM
    Ovinomancer, to the best of my knowledge Galileo actually saw some moons through his telescope; he didn't just conjure them up in imagination and thereby conclude that Jupiter had moons.
    957 replies | 21569 view(s)
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Monday, 16th July, 2018

  • 01:35 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post The roots of 4e exposed?
    ...tension to be managed from conflict to conflict and from scene to scene. So a "roll to hit" in Scene A is the same as in Scene B in terms of whether the target takes damage, but it's not the same in terms of the acting character's motions, intentions, and experience of the action. * It retains the key role of constraint on in-game events. The dice (or whatever) are collaborators, acting as a springboard for what happens in tandem with the real-people statements. Of course, nobody actually uses those Forgite terms accurately anyway. When people call 4E "gamist", for example, I can't help but laugh and roll my eyes. 4E is probably the version of DnD least suited to a Step On Up creative agenda. Meanwhile it maps to "simulationism" pretty cleanly with its fidelity to heroic fantasy genre emulation. All of which ignores the fact that Forgite creative agendas refer to gameplay table experiences and not to actual game systems. What a joke!I agree re 4e and gamism - though Balesir on these boards articluated a coherent gamist version of 4e which is nothing like Gygaxian "skilled play" but rather is quite "light", and is about showing off your schtick in a given encounter. LostSoul used to argue that 4e is a type of high concept simulationism as you suggest - I tend to agree with AbdulAlhazred, that it is best suited to "story now" instead. Not that it couldn't be done in a high concept fashion, but I think that would tend to make for more tedious play because the "heaviness" of the mechanics would still be there, but they wouldn't be giving as much payoff (with the outcomes pre-settled) as they do with a more "story now" focus. And I think it's pretty obvious how many 4e mechanics exhibit the features of FitM resolution that Edwards calls out in the passage I just quoted. EDIT: Just saw this follow-up post: most of what gets passed off as "story-focused" or "story-oriented" play around these parts, and would probably get labelled as "narrativism" ...

Tuesday, 7th March, 2017

  • 03:06 AM - Manbearcat mentioned Balesir in post Skill Challenges and Action Points
    darkbard - Milestones are achieved at the completion of 2 consecutive Encounters without taking an Extended Rest. - Skill Challenges are definitely Encounters. - Hence, Skill Challenges count toward the Action Point refresh due to Milestone achievement. Neither DMG1 nor DMG 2 nor RC canvass options for the deployment of Action Points in Skill Challenges. I've read all of Dragon and Dungeon and I can't recall any such article in UA or anything. I also don't recall there being anything on any of the design/hacking articles. Now that doesn't mean there aren't any, it just means that I don't recall (but my recall is rather good so I'm pretty confident). I know pemerton (and I believe Balesir may as well?) allows the deployment of APs for a myriad of effects; up front +2 (like a deployed SS), an interrupt to make an SS to add +2 or to cancel a failure. I think that usage is a house rule or perhaps something pulled from a module (or again, an article I'm unaware of)? I neither run modules nor pick them apart/use them for inspiration so I'm not aware of the content therein. While I don't use any AP Skill Challenge house rule. However, the Milestone Reward Cycle is still extremely coherent even if you don't use APs in SCs. This is because APs are meant to supplement the loss of Dailies, incentivizing the players to push on rather than turning back or attempting to make camp for a refresh. Dailies are meant to be deployed in Skill Challenges, earning at least 1 auto-success (DMG2 86). I universally give PCs 2 auto-successes for the savvy deployment of a Daily which is a thematic/mechanical match for the present fictional positioning of the unfolding situation. My ...

Saturday, 4th March, 2017

  • 12:24 AM - Manbearcat mentioned Balesir in post Speculation about "the feelz" of D&D 4th Edition
    ...ant numbers of different conditions with different durations, detailed action mechanics, etc. to be simply overwhelmingly complex. Thus they just bin everything that comes with 4e's combat system into an "its too complex" mental bin, and conversely everything in 5e's combat system into a "this is simple" bin, regardless of any objective measures of complexity or any reasoning about what might provide improved play or any kind of balance between complexity and quality of play. This may not account for all cases where 5e clearly is more complex or rejects 4e-type simplifications, but it does provide an understanding of the basic place that its coming from. Obviously stuff like calling out spells in monster stat blocks is something else entirely, which I would chalk up to stubborn traditionalism and unwillingness to admit there's an argument for 4e simplicity at all. This is good analysis, but I think there is another ingredient in the mix here as well. A few people ( chaochou , Balesir , Tony Vargas , Neonchameleon , and I believe yourself as well?) have very astutely pointed out that folks on these boards tend to substitute or conflate "familiar" with "rules lite" or non-complex. That conflation or substitution is obviously a product of, or at least heavily influenced by, perception bias. People (naturally) orient themselves toward a subject and begin developing a mental framework and concomitant investment in that developing framework. As time marches on, that mental framework may churn, it may refine, but it will just as likely (or moreso) ossify. Cognitive biases are born. Most often they're born out of the need for processing efficiency/functional cognitive shorthand/intuition/common sense (all models are wrong, but some are useful). Unfortunately, coinciding with all of this comes a profound seduction...the need to legitimize your own cognitive biases and cement them as legitimate/orthodox/normative/canonical. That is how "familiar" becomes non-...

Sunday, 1st January, 2017

  • 12:43 AM - C4 mentioned Balesir in post Three Years in the Making...
    After three years of work, my Points of Light game is...still not done. But! There's enough to start playtesting and to finally start experiencing this thing I've been creating. PoL is my love letter to 4e D&D -- a sort of "What might 4e look like, if taken to its ultimate conclusion?" I think it's closer to 4e than other games commonly cited as 4e-successors -- notably 13th Age and Strike! -- but it's still very much its own game. Link to the PoL foreword. (google docs) Those interested are invited to PM or email me (Complete4th@gmail.com) for links to the PDFs! I call upon those who may be interested in taking a peek... @AbdulAlhazred, @Manbearcat, @Cyvris, @Igwilly, @Tony Vargas, @doctorbadwolf, @Tequila Sunrise, @Kelvor Ravenstar, @pemerton, @Myrhdraak, @shidaku, @tyrlaan, @MoutonRustique, @Balesir And finally, happy New Year!

Wednesday, 2nd March, 2016

  • 04:37 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    ...nts that are possible within the fiction that satisfy (1) and (2), yet nevertheless are causally downstream of the failing character's action. His argument is based on player enjoymentThis is his reason for affirming (2), yes. But on it own it tells us nothing about (3) or (3'). And that is what I am interested in. I disagree that this is Monte's position or reasoning for wanting to reduce character ineptness driven fumbles.I'm not even talking abot his reason for wanting to reduce ineptness-driven fumbles! I'm asking why, given that he wants to do this, is he moved to say that they should be mostly external circumstances? Monte doesn't even claim they shouldn't primarily or typically be major screw-ups by character incompetenceWhat do you think, then, is the meaning of the phrase far more often it should be some external circumstance? Which is used to contrast with such screw-ups as accidentally shooting a friend or dropping a weapon? But this is a secondary point (as Balesir has pointed out not very far upthread). Even if he thinks that incursions should, typically, be major screw-ups, he nevertheless contrasts major screw-ups with external circumstances that are not, in-fiction, causally downstream. Why? Why are these the two options he puts on the table? GM Intrusions are not necessarily big eventsI think you misunderstand what I mean by "big event". I used the phrase in post 302 upthread, which was a reply to you: if the idea is that a nat 1 result should, in some way, stand out from a typical failure, then something bigger and more distinctive has to happen on a nat 1. Otherwise, what is the point of the intrusion-triggered-by-nat-1 mechanic? different events and big events are not synonymsCan we please move on from semantics! In post 302 I made it clear what I am meaning by the phrase "big event" - I mean something different from a normal failure, that stands out enough to make the mechanic worth having at all. If you don't like the phr...
  • 02:10 AM - Imaro mentioned Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    ... @pemerton's point is that he doesn't see (and, incidentally, neither do I) that it is possible to have all three conditions true at once. "Proof" that you can have (1) and (3) without (2) on the grounds that Monte doesn't say you must always have (2) is irrelevant; if you are to have ANY GM Intrusion (i.e. not a simple failure: 1) that follows Monte's advice (of sometimes having an Intrusion not caused by PC incompetence: 2) you are going to have to have it arise from some factor other than the PC's action (i.e.: 3) unless you can find some cases that are different from a normal failure (1), are not the result of character incompetence (2) and flow causally from what the character is rolling for (3). In other words, if you follow Monte's advice, you must have GM Intrusions that are not caused by the character's action - or you must simply not follow Monte's advice (a perfectly admissible course, even if arguably not playing the game as the creator intended you to). @pemerton & @Balesir... The easiest example I can think of to disprove what you are claiming are equipment (armor, weapon, cyphers, vehicles, tools, etc.) failures and malfunctions... especially in Numenera where the technology is supposed to be poorly understood and re-jiggered to purposes it was never originally intended for. Flows causally, has nothing to do with PC incompetence and can have different effects than a normal failure...

Saturday, 27th February, 2016

  • 10:59 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    Balesir, thanks for the reasoned response. I didn't know about Harn's "Eye of the Gods" rule. Aldarc, it would be great to hear your thoughts/perspective if you're able to post something.

Saturday, 20th February, 2016

  • 06:32 PM - Manbearcat mentioned Balesir in post Who's still playing 4E
    ...ercome by a hoard of fleeing mutates and malignant, Far Realm mists. This is an example of a "Chase" SC. Nested in there was a combat. Here is an example of a "Seeking Shelter" Skill Challenge, level (6), Complexity 1 Skill Challenge which starts with post 18 and ends with post 24. Here is an example of a "Perilous Journey/Exploration" Skill Challenge, level (6), Complexity 3 Skill Challenge. It starts with post 27 and ends with post 44. Nested in there was a Combat and a complexity 1 SC to Pursue Fleeing Prey. Here is an example of a "Parley (Social)" Skill Challenge, level (7), Complexity 2 (in post 52, you'll see the denoument of the prior action scene where I gave the PC an Advantage to use in any upcoming social action scene), starting with post 53 and ending with post 72. There is a nested level (7), Complexity 1 SC in there. That covers a decent number of classic D&D tropes. If you have any questions, you can PM me or start a thread or post in the thread that Balesir linked to.

Thursday, 4th February, 2016

  • 08:35 AM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Failing Forward
    ...e Dramatic Need. However, at the start of the story, the Protagonist doesn't really have much of a Dramatic Need. Their life is going on basically okay, until you... Add the Antagonist. This is the character(s) that provide the Dramatic Need - something the Antagonist is doing changes the world in a way that creates a Dramatic Need the Protagonist takes up. I submit that this is actually how much heroic fiction is structured. <snip> With my construction, how pre-authoring and scenario design fit in becomes obvious - it is providing a series of large and small scale dramatic needs. Now, again, the GM needs to have pretty solid grasp of the characters to provide such a series, or conversely, the player needs to be not terribly picky about what will provide a satisfying need. I think this approach poses some challenges for RPGing. Which you recognise in the last sentence that I've quoted, I think, but which I want to explore a bit more. In the approach to RPGing that Balesir, upthread, called "mainstream", the second disjunct of the final quoted sentence comes into play. The GM - via the authoring of the backstory, the BBEG, etc - provides a menu (perhaps a very short menu) of possible dramatic needs, and the players (via their PCs) are expected, as part of the social contract of play, to engage with an item on that menu. I think this is the sort of approach that sheadunne has called "pinballing", because of - in his case - the lack of connection he as a player feels to the stuff that, in the fiction, his PC is meant to be engaged with and caring about. What about the first disjunct? I'm not sure that the GM's solid grasp of the characters is enough, because - as per your Luke Skywalker example - the character may not be fully "given" or fully revealed when play begins. No matter how well the GM knows that Luke Skywalker's dramatic need is to get off this podunk backwater desert planet, that is not going to tell the GM that Luke's future dramatic need w...

Wednesday, 3rd February, 2016

  • 05:23 AM - Manbearcat mentioned Balesir in post Failing Forward
    ...ere inspired by Burning Wheel's Beliefs. 4e's Quests, Themes, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies (which naturally commingle/interface) are that system's analog. Does it become more difficult to integrate/maintain coherency/relevance as more players get in the mix? Potentially. It puts more pressure on overall table communication/calibration and player malleability I'd say (hence one reason why I only run games for 3 people anymore!). I have to strongly disagree with you. Most of what you have described above is a result of pre-authoring and using your own DM bias for the NPC antagonist you created to use at some point in play and to colour failed skill checks. The disconnect I think I see in a lot of these conversations comes from this: That "DM bias" you're detecting? That is the game's "bias" that your attributing to the person running the game. That is "running the game by the prescribed GMing directives/ethos and addressing the focused premise of play itself." Balesir's post above talks about play that focuses like a laser beam on protagonism, Dramatic Need, and antagonism interposing itself between the two. I think that is as good a way as any to put it. That Dark Elf that pemerton was pondering outside of play? That could have come in many shapes or forms. The play wasn't about the Dark Elf. He became a part of the setting mosaic when he was introduced into the fiction, yes, but it wasn't about him. Play turns on the Situation (a) challenging a Belief (or multiples) and (b) forcing the players to address the What (do I want out of this Situation) and How (am I going to resolve it). The Dark Elf is just the means for pemerton to facilitate that proper GMing (which isn't his bias). It isn't a story about his Dark Elf. It is a story about his players' Beliefs being tested in the crucible of high/dark fantasy conflict (over and over and over) and seeing what shakes out of it (character progression/evolution and story emergence). In this cas...

Saturday, 23rd January, 2016

  • 06:41 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Failing Forward
    ...nt from Dark Lord-wise or some similar knowledge skill reflecting the conjectured link between the identity of the ring and the movements of evil forces. When the check is made and resolved - if successful, the ring is the One and behaves as predicted, if not then it is not the One and the GM narrates something else appropriate ("fail forward") - the players, in character, learn something new about the gameworld. They didn't choose it - the dice did that. It was not under the players' control. It's true that Gandalf's skill in ring lore made him more likely to be right than would otherwise be the case, but that is entirely appropriate - when a person skilled in ring lore sincerely conjectures that a particular ring is the One, it should be more likely that s/he is right than when an unskilled person does so. In this respect the non-pre-authorship approach deftly solves the problem of how to reflect knowledge skills in play other than by playing 20 questions with the GM. (I think Balesir already made this point upthread.) What is under the player's control is forcing a determination of a particular issue. By declaring that the ring is thrown into the fire, Gandalf's player forces the table to address the question of whether this ring is the One, and forces the generation of some answer within the fiction. But forcing things to be authored is not the same as authoring them. To give a parallel example: the key for a classic D&D dungeon might have one room labelled as the orcs' barracks, with a notation that 30% of the time the orcs are sleeping and so make no noise, but 70% of the time are carousing and so can be heard via listening at the door, with a +10% bonus to the chance of success. A player, by declaring that his/her PC listens at the door, forces the GM to roll the % dice and find out whether the orcs are sleeping or carousing. But no one back in 1977 ever thought that this meant the player was authoring the gameworld and hence not learning a truth beyond t...
  • 08:53 AM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Failing Forward
    Whether the DM or players make the changes is completely beside the point.What changes? There are no changes. Authoring is not changing the fiction - it is bringing it into being. There is zero perception on my part that this Schrodinger's aspect of whether it was or was not the one ring was ever in play. I have never discussed the books or movies with anyone and received the slightest indication that they felt that a character not knowing a truth within the fiction made that truth in doubt to the larger story. I want the experience of being in the story that way.To me this seems to miss Balesir's point about immersion. For Gandalf and Frodo, sitting in Bag End, the truth is not known. There is doubt - and the possibility that the ring is not the One. So experiencing being in the story would mean experiencing that doubt - which, mechanically, means not knowing how the dice will roll. To me (and, in light of his post, I think also Balesir), learning the GM's pre-authored fictional truths is not experiencing being in the story at all, but rather having the meta-experience of learning the content of an already-written story. Relating this back to the example that you described as changing: the players in my BW game, both for themselves and in character, are wondering and debating the nature of the mage PC's brother. Was he evil before he was possessed? Unexpectedly, when looking for something quite different (the mace), they find the black arrows in his (now ruined) private workroom. This is a new, and hitherto unexpected, sign which suggests (i) that he was evil b...

Wednesday, 14th October, 2015

  • 11:13 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Improvisation vs "code-breaking" in D&D
    Balesir - your comments on game theory are well made. I don't understand what the mathematical theory of payoffs in interactive contexts has to do with The Forge, or D&D. In the case of "whacky electricity traps" and such like, though, I think a rod is made for the GM's back. Trying to say as a sort of shortcut to "rules" that something is "just like the real world, but, y'know, with allowances for magic..." is a recipe for muddle and pain.No disagreement with that, but surely you agree that the muddle and pain you describe is pretty core to a whole swathe of classic D&D tropes? The point I was trying to make was a descriptive one, not a normative one - namely, whether it's good or bad that RPGing involve that sort of improvisation, classic D&D certainly did, and hence it's simply wrong to assert that an absence of improvisation is of the essence of D&D. Were the Simulationist essays incomplete or unfair? I have an opinionSo do I. They're spot on. I've GMed hundreds (probably thousand...

Saturday, 10th October, 2015

  • 06:28 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Improvisation vs "code-breaking" in D&D
    ...hey have made decisions that extrapolate, as best they are able, from some combination of the existing rules (for falling; for damaging objects with siege weapons; etc) and their own understanding of the causal processes involved (the furthest I personally have ever jumped into a pool of water is about 50' or 60'; I've never cut down a door with an axe, but have split wood for a fireplace; so those are the experiences I would draw upon). I don't know what label you use to describe that process of rules invention. Most posters on these boards call it improvisation. Various D&D texts have talked about adjudicating things or actions that the rules don't cover. At no point are referees to interfere with the game, as you say "improvise" by moving stuff around, removing or adding pieces as not directed to under the rules.But this is not the sort of improvisation that Celebrim, or I, or Roger Musson, is talking about. (Except for the bit about adding rewards - which, as I noted and as Balesir has further discussed, he regards as problematic or at least irregular in some fashion.) Celebrim has been emphasising the need to make up rules, similar to my previous paragraph. Roger Musson is interested in giving practical advice to GMs for when the players get to the edge of the map or get to parts of the map for which the referee has not yet written up any descriptions. That is what his Emergency Room Register is for. Musson clearly regards the ideal as one in which the GM has fully prepared the map and key. But he recognises that human time, energy and ingenuity is finite, and is offering advice for what to do when those limitations mean that not everything has been written up. NPCs and their behaviors as contained within their statistical design just like every other game component. They can be gamed through code breaking --the act of mastering a game-- and manipulating the game design. These statistics are largely in AD&D books, but mechanics like reaction rolls, ali...

Friday, 21st August, 2015

  • 05:44 AM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post Collaborative storytelling RPG, is it a thing?
    Burning Wheel was mentioned upthread by Balesir - it's very collaborative/player driven, but not mechanically "lite" at all (it's a cousin of Torchbearer and Mouseguard that aramis erak describes in the post above this one). A mechanically fairly light system that is still fairly traditional in its basic set-up (players build PCs with attributes, and confront GM-authored challenges with DCs) is HeroQuest Revised. EDIT: This website seems to have the Story Engine in PDF - a free descriptor, player-driven system that can be seen as a type of precursor to HeroWars/Quest. Story Bones is the introductory version, and seems to be free here.

Wednesday, 8th July, 2015

  • 03:18 PM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post What makes us care about combat balance in D&D?
    Rule 0 is not changing anything - it is the most basic, fundamental assumption of any system.Nonsense. Off the top of my head, here are three great RPGs with no rule zero: Marvel Heroic RP, Burning Wheel, and 4e D&D. When the DM alters some aspect of the system, he is creating the system as it exists in the world the characters understand.The concern with rule zero isn't its affect on the characters (who don't actually exist, and are not affected by anything that happens in the real world - including use of rule zero). The concern is its affect on the players - namely, it subordinates their agency to the GM's agency, which - as Balesir posted above - can undermine the whole point of playing the game. While this is perfectly fine as a personal feeling, you are not describing a problem with the system except insofar as that system does not meet your personal preferences. <snip> As for advanced, nuanced, and thesis papers on "good" games, a "good" game is a rather subjective idea <snip> Simply assigning positive terms to things you like and negative terms to ones you don't isn't very convincing.This is very confusing to me. If "good" is subjective, then how is anyone supposed to assign positive or negative terms except by reference to what s/he likes? If "good" is subjective, then when you assert that various non-4e RPGs are good, aren't you just reiterating that they meet your personal preferences? In which case, why are you rebuking another poster for doing the same? It may be a common problem that casters become dominant, but it's also a common problem that DMs do not know how to design encounters...

Saturday, 18th April, 2015

  • 02:29 AM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post The Best Thing from 4E
    ...ted in my last post, speaks to a more gamist aspect of process-sim, that it is ideally a process in which the DM's judgment is engaged as little as possible, thus insuring not realism, but a lack of bias. Bias in this case being measured as something like "if I ran 100 parties through this adventure their outcomes would distribute around some typical results" and no one of them would be able to say "you made it harder for us!" just perhaps "we got unlucky." <snip> The narrativist points out, quite logically, that his scenes are framed in narratively coherent terms and present elements asked for by the players, so they cannot possibly be 'biased' or 'railroading'. The naturalist points out that the sum total of the plot generated in this fashion is a long series of coincidences. My puzzle is what any of this has to do with railroading or player agency. Which was my question to LostSoul and JamesonCourage and, in a subsequent post, Saelorn. I think it is also the question that Balesir is asking. What you describe above is an aesthetic preference - that the world be "naturalistic", that if 100 adventuring parties arrive at the Garden Gate then the scenes the GM describes occur with roughly the percentage likelihood they would in "real life", etc. As you said, it's about "the world seeming authentic enough to provide a pleasing play experience". As Balesir asked, what do departures from this aesthetic preference - eg direct GM authorship rather than GM-authored random charts whose application is mediated via dice rolls - have to do with railroading? How do the players have more agency if the GM writes a chart and then rolls on it?

Friday, 17th April, 2015

  • 10:56 PM - Manbearcat mentioned Balesir in post The Best Thing from 4E
    ...t can be distinguished from the narrativist one I would follow (at a more meaningful level than just "different results happened"). I can grasp, and once pursued, this sort of goal. The problem with it, fundamentally, is it simply cannot be achieved in any meaningful way. The DM is simply, IMHO, decreeing whatever events he feels like decreeing for whatever reasons he has. He may have some limits to how far he'll go with that, and he may well respect player agency within certain bounds, but he'd be just as well off to include player agency and dramatic considerations in there as not, it won't make his decisions any 'less realistic' because there is no measurable degree of realism in an RPG to begin with, at least in this sense. I was involved in at at the beginning (2.5 weeks ago to be exact) with this post on (at least) 4 cognitive biases that pervade any table and any GM aiming at the "naturalistic" approach. Posted others back and forth with Saelorn a bit but I'm so firmly in @Balesir's camp, and I've already posted on it, so I don't have much more to say. Suffice to say that (a) I believe it is all cost (GM-overhead and time consuming prep) and no benefit. The "no benefit" portion being because each party's cognitive and perception bias drift in real life...with their own 1st person conception...creates a mental model of any given situation that diverges, sometimes radically and/or in significant ways, from others around them. Consider that reality, then remove the 1st person conception and replace it with "GM as proxy/conduit/filter" (regardless of how good the GM is)...you get the picture. Long story short. I am a damn good GM. And I can do a hell of a job running scenarios with process-sim-intensive, "naturalistic" temporal and spatial considerations (and mechanics that support them). But that doesn't improve my players tactical/strategic agency over something like 4e, Dungeon World, Apocalypse World, or Dogs. Their opinion as well as my own. What's m...

Monday, 13th April, 2015

  • 11:13 PM - AbdulAlhazred mentioned Balesir in post The Best Thing from 4E
    You can have the DM describe each conversation in vague terms as it is overheard, and only go into detail if the player indicates that they want to pay attention. Mention that there are some people over there talking about the weather, and someone at the bar who is drinking heavily and complaining about her boss. If you get too many people in a room, it becomes difficult to tell what anyone is saying, so that problem is somewhat self-regulating. As long as there are few enough conversations as to be ineligible, the DM only needs to figure out what they're saying at the same rate as the players can ask, which isn't too difficult. (A problem roughly on par with coming up with names for these characters, should they become relevant.) I think Balesir's point is that we can extend this to every possible common situation which will now and then present some interest to the players. In fact in a real living world we are bombarded all day with a myriad of information. Today I've seen 1000's of cars, 100's of people, overheard 10 different conversations, talked to several people, heard a bunch of stuff on the radio, and observed a vast number of other rather mundane and trivial facts. Of course I am a pretty mundane person living in a mundane world, I'm not looking for things that are out of the ordinary or interested in getting into anyone else's business as a general rule. What if I was an adventurer? Every day I hang around in streets and alleys and shops, frequent bars and taverns, talk to people both familiar and unfamiliar, and all in the course of some sort of agenda, while probably watching out for possible enemies, rivals, allies, etc. Clearly there is simply no way, not even close to any way, to reproduce the full texture ...
  • 01:46 AM - pemerton mentioned Balesir in post The Best Thing from 4E
    ...utcomes of play. It is a GM-driven game. If the players don't feel like their choices matter, then it could be a failure of the DM to present the world, or just a mis-match between player and DM expectations for the game. One of the problems with a strong-DM system is that it is prone to failures of the DM.By "matter" I think you mean "affect the GM's narration." It's clear in the example being discussed that the players' choices affect what the GM narrates. So would the players choosing whether the GM should reveal his/her left or right hand (one with the black ball, the other with the white). But that wouldn't make the choice meaningful from the player perspective. To the extent that "mismatch between expectations" is in play, that seems to be an issue of metagaming - the players aren't able to read the GM's preferences for tropes, plotlines, narrative elements etc. Which strikes me as plausible, but somewhat at odds with what I took your preferences to be. (Eg upthread when Balesir talked about the importance of metagaming the GM in this sort of way, I thought you disagreed.) The players don't choose to encounter the mysterious stranger. Encounters are determined by chance and circumstance.The players don't choose to encounter the stranger, no. My point is that the GM chooses whether or not they do, by choosing where the stranger is imagined to be. If the GM makes that choice independently of the players' choices (eg writes down on a bit of paper the inn the stranger is in, and doesn't change that regardless of the players' later choice of inn for their PCs) then the fact that the PCs never meet the stranger is not reflective of the players being in control of their destiny (which is how you described it upthread). It is a result of the GM being in control of secret backstory. There's a difference between players deciding to undertake actions - to pick up one of many plot hooks - and the DM deciding that something will happen regardless of player actio...


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Wednesday, 18th April, 2018

  • 06:12 AM - AbdulAlhazred quoted Balesir in post Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Artifact or Magic Item?
    Well, the "Why?" is because that is explicitly what artifacts are in 4E. One of the neat little modifications made in 4E, to my mind, was the removal of the naff definition of artifacts as "level 10 spells, but for magic items". 4E has a simple, functional and most importantly useful definition of an artifact as an item tied into the game world, the background and the game situation rather than a player resource for character expansion (possibly earned through adventure). This makes so much more sense than the "same as magic items, but uber" non-definition that we had earlier that I find myself just facepalming that it's being regressed (and that the regression started with Essentials, in point of fact)... So, my answer to your second point - there is no such thing as a "minor" artifact. An item with magical or special powers in 4E is either a levelled magic item, designed and intended by the DM as a player group resource, or is a unique and DM-controlled entity that is designed to fulfi...

Monday, 25th April, 2016

  • 09:13 PM - Ovinomancer quoted Balesir in post Harassment in gaming
    I think it may be important to inject a bit on language here. Specifically about "responsibility" and "guilt". This will be relevant for any number of cases where one is part of, or heir to, a group that committed some wrongs. In colloquial use, we don't often differentiate between these terms, but discussion becomes *tons* easier if we do. If a person is "responsible" for something, that actually means that they are expected to do something about it, to take some action. If a person is "accountable" for something, then when we go looking for why it went wrong, we are going to look to them. If you are looking to punish, or assign guilt, you're actually looking for the person who is accountable for it - "the buck stops here" tells you where the accountable person is. So, in a completely non-criminal example: If you have a software project, the engineers are responsible for writing code - it is their assigned task. If the overall project fails, however, it is the project owner w...

Monday, 11th April, 2016

  • 11:04 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    *Shrug* I guess I'm just not the target audience -Did you ever love D&D? You're the target audience. Stop dodging, let WotC draw a bead on you, already. ;) I'm still not getting it. 4e magic items were a party build tool - the only one - and as such had a unique role in the game.OK, now I don't get it. Do you mean item sets? I seem to remember items being used in optimized character builds. And party balancing??? As GM, why in blue blazes would I want to have any part in that?You can tune it to whatever your campaign demands. For instance, if you wanted to go outside the box and have a Hero/sidekicks kind of dynamic in the party, you could make it happen. Or you can establish balance in spite of, say, differing levels of system mastery.
  • 10:32 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    Mmmmm, yeah, that is a point. Its like 4e minions can be trivial or a real menace, but if you translate weak monsters into 5e they always come down on the 'menace' side of the coin.Quite apart from how you translate them (I'd just pull the closest thing from the 5e MM, there's little point to 'designing' or 'converting' monsters), just sheer numbers count for so much under Bounded Accuracy. If there's 20 monsters, it's going to be a problem, it doesn't much matter what they are. Either an AE can automatically wipe them all out, or they're going to add up to some pain. While its true that high level 5e monsters work OK as a sort of 'solo' in some respects things get pretty skewed with the weaker ones, particularly for low level PCs. I really think that KotS would be best approached as being a level 3 adventure in 5e.That'd help tremendously. I'm not sure what you do about things like the kobold lair. I guess the only really viable answer is that the players have to be given some sor...
  • 10:25 PM - MwaO quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    Quite so - I should feel excited about this (as either a player or a GM) why, exactly? As I noted earlier, I think one of the things that 4e generally got slammed for was the idea that the important thing was fun at the table rather than the DM being in charge. One of the big problems D&D has in terms of growing is that being the DM either takes a special mindset or it sucks. 4e? You can throw an encounter together in a few minutes. Other systems? If you do that, you really need to know your group or it will be a walk or TPK. I think the way that 1e-3e+5e compensate that is by creating artificial tension in the form of gotcha powers. Which if they work, tend to leave a player not doing a whole lot for the rest of the combat. Which is why 5e emphasizes speed of combat. Have lots of little combats, have some gotcha powers, maybe a monster rolls well, and then a PC gets warped for a round or two. But because martials have so few complexity dials, that round goes quickly. Which makes it a reall...
  • 05:36 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    Except 4e had Artifacts, to cover just this "need". It seems that some GMs got stuck on the "magic item" term, though - just as some players found class names to be a sticking point.Not the same issue at all. It's not that 5e has DM-moderated 'just better' magic items, as well as make/buy items as a component of player-designed 'builds,' it's that it has DM-moderated items [i]instead of[i/] make/buy items. It's DM empowerment, but, IMHO, one thing 5e got wrong was building for DM empowerment as if 'empowerment' were 0-sum. That, in order to empower DMs they had to disenfranchise players. "The Return of the 3 Pillars(!)" was one of the clarion calls of 5e development. Exploration was especially invoked. It guess it's a little odd to 'return' to something you just made up. In that sense, I guess 4e 'returned to Class Roles' and 3e 'returned to system mastery.' ;) They could have gone with the Basic version of exploration mediated by tight play procedures and a neutral refe...

Sunday, 10th April, 2016

  • 11:18 AM - Manbearcat quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    I'm not sure about that second sentence. Anyway, unless I'm missing something something, yeah, that's a 2e-ism, but not particularly Empowerment related. I was contrasting with Basic here. "The Return of the 3 Pillars(!)" was one of the clarion calls of 5e development. Exploration was especially invoked. They could have gone with the Basic version of exploration mediated by tight play procedures and a neutral referee: - Exploration Turns @ 10 minutes:120 movement, 1 in 6 will be rest, check for Wandering Monsters every 2 turns, if yes, roll table and then encounter distance (etc). Instead they again went with the AD&D 2e fantasy world psuedo-physics/ecology simulator mediated by GM discretion (simultaneously managing the role of lead storyteller...which is certainly not neutral!). As far as I can tell, you just end up with all the ecology stuff and the GM discretion advice about triggering random encounters (contrast with Basic) on page 85. Again, "GM empowerment." No...

Thursday, 7th April, 2016

  • 11:56 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    Player-applied leverage is inevitable and fine as far as it goes, but I prefer if it doesn't become the main focus of play. Especially for me as GM. Hence system mastery is preferable to GM manipulation, but it should prefereably provide only quite limited advantage (but not none).Sure. 'None' isn't a plausible goal, but a well-balanced system mutes the effects of mastery. To get such a state it's important that the system is shared with the players in a full and transparent way, and that it be well balanced. With GM judgement based systems it is hard to have transparent sharing of the system (because it frequently only becomes firm at the moment it is invoked) and resistance to imbalance tends to be limited.True. A clear/consistent/playable/balanced system can not just be played transparently, it works better when it's played 'above board' like that. A 'judgment' system works better when more resolution is taken behind the screen, with little or no transparency - you get the full bene...
  • 10:14 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    I'm not really talking about improv, as such. If I run 4E or PrimeTime Adventures or 13th Age (or, I expect, Dungeon World and other AWE games that I haven't got around to running, yet), I don't need to house rule or make judgements 'on the hoof' - the rules work just fine as they are. As GM I get to "just play" and see what happens.OK. I find a big issue with "judgement GMing" is that, once they figure out that there's more mileage in leading the GM to judge your DCs softly and in reading what the GM thinks is a "good idea" than there is in making bold character decisions, intelligent players focus their play there, rather than on the character decisions.That is absolutely true, yes. The other end of the spectrum, a very consistent, functional system, lends itself to leverage from system mastery. It's not like there's a 'happy medium' in-between, either - a system that 'compromises' with mostly-OK mechanics and 'only when needed' DM intervention is just vulnerable to both forms of manipul...

Wednesday, 6th April, 2016

  • 11:39 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post 4th to 5th Edition Converters - What has been your experience?
    I guess it depends what you mean by "style of play", but that seems to me to completely obviate the one style of play that I increasingly find that I enjoy, as a GM - giving the story over to the players and the dice. If I as GM am deciding what type of game we are playing, how hard it is to do whatever players decide to have their characters do and the relative difficulty of every alternate approach to the characters' "mission"I actually find the 'Empowered DM' emphasis works well for improv, as well, just 'everything's a ruling' instead of 'everything's a house rule' and zero prep instead of tons. The only approach you have to worry about resolving is the one they actually take. It can be 'that worked, and this stuff happened' or 'that didn't work, and this other stuff happend' or 'roll DEX + Macramé DC 35' or whatever else seems like a good idea in the moment. You can riff off what the players are interested in and ask about instead of trying to fill the whole world in ahead of them. ...

Sunday, 20th March, 2016

  • 02:50 AM - AbdulAlhazred quoted Balesir in post [4e] Paladin (feat) advice needed
    That can happen if the players hoard treasure to their character and buy items individually, for sure - which was encouraged by the equivalence of items and money. Where I really think the player-realm items shine, though, is in being party-level customisation. It's part of character building, but it's done across the party as a whole because, unlike all other build-resources, it's not tied to the characters. For my next campaign I intend to experiment with separating residuum and money. Residuum will be more-or-less priceless stuff that can be combined with ordinary items to create magical ones. Destroying the item will destroy the ordinary item, but leave the (full) residuum behind, so that residuum is eternal but it costs gold (effectively) to convert it from one form to another. Consumable items and rituals also just cost gold (or bought ingredients). Hopefully, that will make the residuum a party build resource and the gold more of a short-term or transformation resource. Artifacts, of ...

Friday, 18th March, 2016

  • 11:12 PM - AbdulAlhazred quoted Balesir in post [4e] Paladin (feat) advice needed
    To me this shows how different strokes will suit different folks. As a GM I found the 4E approach to items a breath of fresh air - and I'm talking about the original one, not the (personal opinion warning) nauseating "rarity" gumph that came later. The split between (player controlled, roughly) "magic items" and (totally GM controlled) Artifacts was genius. If I'm going to foist on the players stuff that I think is cool/want their characters to have I feel much better having the decency not to pretend it "belongs to them", now. Not that I can't see the attractions of McGuffin scenarios where you have to visit Mount Zapp and combat the Zapp Monster to get your Zapp-o-Matic staff, but I view them as rather a cheap motivation source and for use only when otherwise uninspired. And then I would probably just assign a level to the site and let the players choose a suitably thematic item to acquire. Actually, a DungeonWorld style roll might be fun: state what you are seeking and do a research task. ...

Wednesday, 9th March, 2016

  • 10:42 PM - Tony Vargas quoted Balesir in post D&D4: Most Unique and Interesting Powers.
    That clarifies things a bit, for me. 4E is certainly not good if this is the world style you want; to be honest, I don't think any version of D&D does it well. Perhaps you could frig it with 2e or 3.x, but I never tried D&D isn't ideal for a world where magic is terribly rare and unexpected - but it does work just as long as PCs are among those few with magic. In fact, it makes the PCs with magic that much more effective and important, because most potential enemies (and virtually all bystanders and potential victims) are unprepared for their abilities. Which, maybe, stretches 'does work' in a certain direction. ;) And, 3.x and 4e don't assume that PC classes are universal. 3.5 assumes class/level is universal, but has low-impact NPC classes, so there's no reason a lower-magic would couldn't have had a population with (virtually) no other PC-class casters and few Adepts - but lack of magic items could be an issue. 4e didn't even assume classes are universal, so NPCs were whatever the DM ...

Sunday, 6th March, 2016

  • 11:29 PM - Saelorn quoted Balesir in post D&D4: Most Unique and Interesting Powers.
    "Ha ha - pop through the door and give Mikal a fright!" "Funny, but I can't - I can only jump to places I can see"If the mysterious faerie creatures start explaining their powers, then the world stops resembling pseudo-Medieval-Europe-but-with-magic. You could get a similar result if you had wizards go around and try to explain their spells to everyone. Magic stops being magical if random Muggles start understanding how it works. You could make a world where everyone knew that magic was real, and even the constable was aware of standardized counter-measures against spellcasters, but that seems like the exception rather than the rule, and it wasn't the world we were playing in.
  • 10:57 PM - Dannyalcatraz quoted Balesir in post D&D4: Most Unique and Interesting Powers.
    Thay wouldn't need to see the game rules - just have non-violent relations with an eladrin for a while. It stands as an assumption if all humans and eladrin ever do is fight (in which case what has being a crminal go to do with anything?), but hang out with one another for a while and it'll become fairly well understood. "Ha ha - pop through the door and give Mikal a fright!" "Funny, but I can't - I can only jump to places I can see" That assumes they're willing to reveal that weakness in front of other races. I'm not sure that's exactly realistic. There might even be a strong cultural taboo against it.

Friday, 4th March, 2016

  • 10:52 PM - Imaro quoted Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    And whaddaya know - I was right! :lol: :D So tell me because I asked earlier and all you've done is everything but clearly state what it is you are arguing for... What is the point you are trying to make? Or is this question so hard to answer because ultimately you don't even know what it is?
  • 10:33 PM - Imaro quoted Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    Thanks for the condescending cheap shot, but that is the discussion between you and @pemerton and nothing to do with what I was responding to. So reviewing the conversation that you jumped into the middle of and responded too is condescending. I can't even... This is tangentially related to what I was responding to, because the representation of what was originally asked and your response was not quite like this. What I was responding to was these comments about the possibility of "unexpected reinforcements": Context is everything... thus the recap... you jumped in the middle of a conversation between me and @pemerton and apparently didn't understand the context of the discussion going on... and now instead of admitting that, you've created a separate conversation around posts taken out of their original context... the point of which only you seem to have known (I guess I should have read your mind and realized it was a separate tangent). My "point" is that all of this is a great bi...
  • 10:20 PM - Saelorn quoted Balesir in post What's your style?
    1) Consistency = the models that the players hold in their heads of the imaginary situation in the game are the same; i.e. they are consistent from one to the next. 2) Consistency = no set of established facts about the imagined world are directly contradictory; i.e. if A, B and C have been established as true, in no case should A and B, either independently or combined, make C nonsensical.The second one is what I consider more important, but from a practical standpoint, I'm not sure how you would go about guaranteeing that unless you have one "true" situation that you're checking against, as the GM is imagining it. If you're just establishing facts as you go along, without checking each against a central authority, then you would need to check each new fact against every other fact in order to guarantee that there is no contradiction. If the GM is imagining the "true" situation, then you only need to check each new fact against that one model, and you'll know that none of the facts contrad...
  • 03:11 AM - Maxperson quoted Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    By that measure, wouldn't the PC missing because the opponent ducked be "external"? Sure. Internal and external are basically decided by the narrative. It's all in how the DM describes what happens. As an aside, most if not all plausible ways I can think of for a sword to actually break arise directly from the interplay of moves by the fighters - in other words, they do very much depend on the relative skills. Skill has nothing to do with flaws in the sword. That's at a minimum one plausible way for a sword to break that doesn't involve skills, relative or otherwise.
  • 12:26 AM - Imaro quoted Balesir in post Monte Cook On Fumble Mechanics
    This doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. By this measure, it is a "failure of perception" that we don't know the location of every other creature on the planet - this is obviously false. Perception isn't about being aware of some creature or not - it's about when you become aware of a creature that may interact with you. If I have no idea if my neighbour across the road is at home or not, that's not a "failure of perception". If I miss them leaving via their front door, it's more a matter of happenstance whether I happen to be stood by a window that overlooks their front door than any skill on my part. If I miss them coming in my front door (while I am in the house), on the other hand, the claim of "failed my perception" would hold considerably more weight. For the reinforcements, nothing so far said (as far as I can tell) suggests that they have to pop up in close or even melee range of the PCs. They might be 30 or 40 yards away or more, emerging from a wood or a nearby village, or closer ...


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