Forked Thread: Logan Bonner has some Questions....
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  1. #1
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    Forked Thread: Logan Bonner has some Questions....

    Let's answer them!

    Forked from: Let The Players Manage Themselves Part 3, waitaminute...

    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_Logan
    I'm curious how those of you who don't agree with the way the games are run approach your own games. "I don't agree with this" and "This isn't how I like my games" is too vague if you don't talk about what you like in games, so here are some questions:

    1. What types of game do you run?

    2. What is the overarching goal of your game? What feel do you want and what experience should your players have?

    3. Most importantly, what steps do you take to change the way the game plays, and in what way do they contribute to your goal?
    #1: This is kind of a vague question, but as best I can figure, the types of games I run most often with D&D are the kind where the PC's are part of a living, breathing world, and discover some specific threat that they can solve. This varies between being strong narrative, with a clear "end the world" type villain who menaces them for a dozen levels, and between being "mercenaries for hire" type games where the PC's are just doing a dangerous job for some coin and some fame.

    #2: The goal is to do something that no other hobby can do: to give me the feeling of creating something with the other players, by playing a game. Depending on the focus, I might be creating a world (in a sandbox-style game) or a story (in a more narrative game), and I want to do it with rules and mechanics, not just by making stuff up. I want to feel like I'm guiding this process, and I want my players to feel like they're meaningfully contributing to this process (and that's where the rules come in!).

    #3: The biggest changes I make to the game are usually in terms of focus. If I want to tell a story about a group of youths from a farm village who go in the stereotypical Journey of the Hero, I will plot out specific points I want them to hit, and constantly persuade them to go in that direction, and I will make sure they start as commoner-level farmers and move, eventually, to powerful masters of their fu. If I want to create a "dungeonpunk" world where corporate sponsorship for the adventuring life is expressly performed, I will add rules for gaining sponsors and for going indie and make sure that dungeons are "marked territory," add copyrights to spells, and that sort of thing.

    Ultimately, I play a lot of different campaigns. I don't have just one story to tell or just one world to build. I want to support whatever vision I have for my current campaign by being able to mildly tweak rules to achieve a specific feel of fantasy. For this, in 4e, I need to add rules that handle things that 4e just ignores. At the moment, I need to add so many rules that 4e isn't really worth it at this point, for me personally.

    But that's me.

    ENWorld, I am actually interested in how YOU would answer these three questions (even if Logan isn't anymore ).
    [RIGHT]Jacob J. Driscoll
    [B][I]Astral Plane Campaign[/I][/B]: Take [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/193314/Hereos-of-the-Eternal-Classes-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your heroes[/URL] and [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/190331/People-of-the-Eternal-Races-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your people[/URL] and come to [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/198238/The-Athar-Citadel"][B]The Athar Citadel[/B][/URL], where those who reject the gods learn to wield divine magic!
    [/RIGHT]

  2. #2
    1. D&D games..... the qustion is too vague. The games I run are not armchair generals, or running the gauntlet Diablo style slugfests. The fighting is a small part that furthers the story from point A to point B. Check out some of the old CYOA books for what I am talking about. You get this one thing going in the story, and have to decide what course to take next. Turn to the wrong page and the story is over. Not the story is in there to tie all the fighting scenes together.
      • To tell the story of the adventure that the characters are going on. To allow those characters to reach the goal they chose in life. One that wants to fight in a colesium will likely not be adventuring, but be a part of a local malitia to learn enough to survive the constat fights of his arena career.
      • It should feel like a roller coaster ride. Theplayers should feel a connection to their characters, and live in this fantasy world of our shared imagination vicariously through their characters. They should have happy times, sad times, depression, loss and gain from the game. Just as 4th promote some cinematic action movie style play it is similar, but with much more story to it than the movie Hot Shots or your average porn flick that is just about "action". Role playing is about acting like something else for a short period and see through that persons eyes. So the player should fel like they are that character in the game while they are playing it to get the experience of what that elf/dwarf/orc/warlock/paladin would be going through. Sort of like playing cops and robbers as a kid. you have to get into character to fully enjoy everything it offers. If the robbers just sat around waiting for the cops to walk over to them, it would be really fun as the chase would be missing and not provide that roller coaster ride.
    2. I follow cues from the players to see if the roller coaster is giving them the right highs and lows for everything they do. Also try to include those lulls that will let them recoup fromt he constant extremes the game may place onto the characters for both the character and player to relax and absorb what has happened. When the player seem bored with one type of thing they may quickly find themselves in another type of situation. RP quickly becomes combat, or combats become RP. Never letting the player be able to predict what to expect around the next corner. The players should expect the unexpected and keep on their toes because there will always be surprises for them to interact with in some way. this way the players can enjoy the game, the story, and the situations they are placed in to play together and want to do so next week. Just as any good TV program does, even including breaks in the game right at high suspense moments.


    Above all you must make sure that all the players goal are the same, and understand that not all players want the same thing from a game. DMs may even switch from type of game to another to prevent burn out just like the players. You have to watch for that and be prepared to make sure EVERYONE playing is having fun. Some DMs like throwing out combats, while others like giving big stories. The players also may like one or the other, and you must meet in the middle, or you may need to find people that you can meet int he middle with to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

    Basically know the other players, and make sure you want the same things out of the game because RPGers are like snowflakes, no two are the same.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_Logan
    1. What types of game do you run?
    I've run lots of different types over the years, ranging from Twin Peaks-esque psychodrama to cornball Munchkin-style silly games. In fantasy, my general preference is for low-level style sword and sorcery adventure and that's what I usually run, although right now I'm finishing off Red Hand of Doom, which is a bit more "Tolkienish epic fantasy".

    Outside of fantasy, I've done hard SF, wild space opera (currently running a SWSE game), superheroes, Paranoia, you name it.

    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_Logan
    2. What is the overarching goal of your game? What feel do you want and what experience should your players have?
    The overarching goal of any RPG that I run is have fun with a group of friends 'round the table by participating in a shared narrative. Different games have different sub-goals ... Uncanny Midnight Tales is designed to present the players with spooky mysteries to unravel. SWSE is designed to recreate the feel of Star Wars with the player characters as the heroes. I generally use Dungeons and Dragons as a vehicle for engaging the players in shared stories of fantasy adventure.

    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_Logan
    3. Most importantly, what steps do you take to change the way the game plays, and in what way do they contribute to your goal?
    Honestly, it depends on how "out there" the goals are, but usually it's by giving the players some guidelines up front about what the campaign will be like, and then in my choice of scenarios. For my 3E games, I generally picked a setting, told the players the initial scenario setup, and then let them do as they would. I then pulled modules and/or copies of Dungeon magazine off my shelf and began to weave scenarios together, adding my own where needed or where I had a cool idea, until something like a cohesive whole existed.

    Once I finish RHoD, I probably won't use 3E off the shelf any more, but instead use my various SWSE kitbash games. How the campaign will actually be built, I'm not sure, as I'm running out of untapped 3E material and I don't care for 4E in style or presentation. I'm sure that eventually something will step in to fill the gap. I tried the first Pathfinder AP from Paizo, but for various reasons I'm not real excited by that either. (I was already tiring of the "adventure path" concept before Dungeon was killed; I want to be given smaller blocks and put them together myself.)

    One good thing about the new edition of D&D, is that it's rekindled my interest in non-D&D games -- I'm getting real into Call of Cthulhu these days, for instance.

    -The Gneech

  4. #4
    I do agree with the basic premises listed by the editorial. And I think that a lot of other people do too, and are just reading waaaay too much into certain specific statements. I mean, advice to the effect that, if something isn't fun, you should avoid spending time on it? That's not really offensive advice. You have to read a fair amount in between the lines to conclude that its an insult to your style of play.

    But whatever, the questions are fun. So I'll answer.

    1. What types of game do you run?

    Short campaigns with heavy theme. For example, I might run a campaign based on a war between two nations. Players would be expected to show up ready to go, with characters appropriate to the setting as I described it in advance. I would have already told them in advance what the setting was like so that they could make sure they fit into it, and I'd probably have even told them what squad or unit they were in, and to assume that they already knew each other- and possibly to consult while creating PCs so that they had pre existing friendships or rivalries all set for the first day.

    I wouldn't do this dictatorially. If my players weren't interested in the campaign I described, I'd give it up and write something else.

    Odds are that the campaign would cover only a few levels. In 4e, maybe I'd expand that to covering the majority of a tier. After the campaign closed, we'd run a different campaign with new characters, and put the characters from the war campaign on ice for a while. If or when we decided to revive them, I'd sit down and come up with something further.

    The key here is that the world, as a whole, is NOT an organic, living, breathing place. But, because of the focus available to me in planning, the part of the world the PCs interact with is an organic, living, breathing place. I find this to be all that really matters.

    2. What is the overarching goal of your game? What feel do you want and what experience should your players have?

    To have fun. Exactly what that means varies with the nature of the campaign. Some campaigns are purely experimental- I ran a no-combat campaign in 3e a while back (it was kind of a mystery plotline). Its ok to experiment and mess around if there's less long term investment. No one's stuck in a crappy campaign for years on end, or stuck with the task of repairing a fundamentally ill-thought-out DMing venture.

    I usually try to use a fair amount of combat. I like to start every session with a fight, just because its easier to get the blood flowing if I do. It also allows me to end sessions on cliff hangers, with a combat about to start. Planning occurs, but it tends to be strategic- "We need to take out the hobgoblin siege weaponry, so here's how we're going to do it..." and usually leads to combat eventually.

    3. Most importantly, what steps do you take to change the way the game plays, and in what way do they contribute to your goal?

    I've basically given up on traps completely. Maybe I'll start using them again with the 4e trap rules, but overall I've found traps very unsatisfying and most of the times I've used them I've immediately realized that I made a mistake. They don't provide for enough opportunity for interaction, and its not as satisfying when they break.

    I encourage my players to make plans out loud, so that I can hear them and make sure that the game world reacts in a plausible way to their machinations. I hate screwing up because I didn't entirely get what the player was trying to accomplish, and I made the world react in a way that, had I completely understood the plan, I would not have chosen.

    Sometimes, when my players come up with a really good plan, it might completely negate the upcoming challenge or fight. When that happens, it often turns out that, unbeknownst to them, the challenge or fight was way tougher than they expected- and had they not come up with the awesome plan, they'd have assuredly lost. They don't know how many hobgoblins were going to ambush the supply caravan, so if I have to add two dozen more to make sure that even with their awesome plan there's still some challenge, it doesn't matter. Nothing is written in stone until the PCs have reason to know of it.

    I'm not too proud to explicitly counter PC abilities, but I try to do it in a way that they'll feel that their ability worked. For example, suppose a 3e cleric has all kinds of investment in turning undead. In a fight against an undead horde of equal CR, he can basically incinerate them with a single standard action. Well, if that's the case then I just pad the encounter with half a dozen zombies. He gets to incinerate half a dozen zombies, then the real fight begins. He feels cool because he trashed all the zombies in one shot, and my fight isn't ruined.

    I'm all about recurring villains.

    That's about it. None of these things are crazy, new ideas, but they get me through the day.

  5. #5
    reposted to the correct thread


    1. What types of game do you run?
    As others have stated, player-driven plots in a sandbox. I am blessed with very motivated players who take genuine interest in the world around their characters. Their choices heavily shape and mold the storyline from their perspective. Our focus is mostly on cooperative storytelling, with combat as the last resort for conflict resolution.

    2. What is the overarching goal of your game? What feel do you want and what experience should your players have?
    The goal of the campaign is to shape a cooperative piece of literature from different perspectives through suspension of disbelief as players take upon the persona of their character at the game table. I present a believable world from a low fantasy perspective, intermingled with real-world issues and the players combat those issues on a personal and a macro level. 4E used for the metamechanics of what players can do, but consequences are rarely rules-driven so much as story-driven. Establishing alliances with personalities within the campaign world and making choices based on personality traits influence what the player can do and cannot do, thus driving the story. Since the game is reflected in varying shades of gray when it comes to the world around them, the players are also fairly complicated when it comes to morality. It reflects a dark reality where players are pitted against foes that cannnot be necessarily defeated outwardly through combat. Politics, religion, urban conflict, factuous wars, gritty violence, low magic, low fantasy and low horror - these themes are the backbone of the story. No one person is a villain or a hero in a general sense, it's all a matter of perspective.

    Most importantly, what steps do you take to change the way the game plays, and in what way do they contribute to your goal?
    The players chose their own goals. Each and every player in my game has a story to tell about themselves and their past, and I've worked with each player in secret to slowly expose who and what they are throughout the lifecycle of the game by creating plots that bring to light their pasts to one another. Simply put, no one player knows the alignment, the personality traits, the real name or the true history of their comrades (you have to read my campaign story to understand why this is Deismaar: Year 200 / Gothric Campaign). They are allies out of neccessity, fighting for their own survival. It is a very nonstandard storyline that takes influence from George RR Martin and Fritz Lieber with a heavy dose of David Mamet, creating very complex yet rewarding storylines. There is very little handholding on my part to drive my players.

    We employ some light houserules to support the gritty nature of the world including changes to healing surges, resting and wounding. Otherwise, no rules changes are required as combat resolution, the skill system, rituals and the like fit my setting perfectly. 4e works out very well because it mirrors my homebrewed system we'd used before switching over to 4e (Saga/3.5 hybrid). Without "fanboying" it up, I'd say 4E is one of the best iterations of D&D to date because it feels familiar to my players and I.


    Cheers~

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Moniker View Post
    The players chose their own goals.
    This comment reminds me: How many of you use quest rewards? Do you do it as presented in the DMG and, if not, how do you alter them?

    I find in some of the games I'm in, we forget to keep track of them, I think because it was a new thing and we still aren't used to thinking about it. Not getting quest XP can slow advancement, and it's easier to keep track of what our goals (at least our initial goals) were when we use quests.

  7. #7
    1. What types of game do you run?
    Heroic adventures. With the exception of a small handful of evil/neutral campaigns, I primarily focus my attention on making the PCs the good guys (even if they have to do bad things to be good guys). I'd say the mix of activities is 40% combat, 30% social roleplaying and 30% skill challenges.

    2. What is the overarching goal of your game? What feel do you want and what experience should your players have?
    Well, obviously, first and foremost my goal is fun for all of us. Otherwise, my goal is to make the players feel like they had a real impact on the events, and that without the PCs their side would have failed. My players really enjoy being the last line of defense between the innocent and the things that go bump in the night.

    For "feel," I try to get across the notion that heroism isn't easy, but it is all the more rewarding because of the difficulty.

    3. Most importantly, what steps do you take to change the way the game plays, and in what way do they contribute to your goal?
    I don't usually change the game unless there is an underlying fundamental reason for me to do so. The less work I have to do with the mechanics, the more work I can put into all the other aspects of the campaign.

    The last time I changed the game was when I ran a campaign centered around the importance of life, and the detrimental effect that killing creatures (even evil ones) has on that focus. I used a variant of the Taint system to measure the effects that being a "deathbringer" has on the PCs.

    How many of you use quest rewards? Do you do it as presented in the DMG and, if not, how do you alter them?
    Before the 4e DMG, I used to make quest cards that were formatted in a similar fashion to WoW quests. Once I saw the 4e format, I scaled back the amount of detail in my quests cards so that they are more of a reference than the entire description/goal. I created a statblock template that I use, and I print them out on business cards to hand off to my players.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_Logan View Post
    This comment reminds me: How many of you use quest rewards? Do you do it as presented in the DMG and, if not, how do you alter them?

    I find in some of the games I'm in, we forget to keep track of them, I think because it was a new thing and we still aren't used to thinking about it. Not getting quest XP can slow advancement, and it's easier to keep track of what our goals (at least our initial goals) were when we use quests.
    Not as such as you may be thinking, don't recall exactly how it is presented in the DMG.

    Quests have always been the thing that moves the players from one activity or adventure to the next. Never really had players want to just go find something unless it was spell components or side-quests for the story, or just randomly explore the world.

    I wouldn't let a game be completely player driven as thee is no over arcing story that keeps anything together, and little fun for a DM that wants to present something to the players, and turns the DM mostly into a rules judge.

    I think the best quest rewards are what happens along the way int erms of treasure found to complete the quest, if the players choose to keep any or turn in item X that they were sent after, and the XP for killing whatever they run across.

    To use an example from an MMO that is easy to remember....

    There is a "quest" in EQ to get orc belts and turn them in for XP. This may work for level grinding in a video game, but PnP really doesn't need you to jump up in levels to do something as something can always be present for the level you are in. So you don't need those kind of quests just for XP with little else gained along the way.

    The best places for player driven quests is initial game start to get an idea of what type of adventure the players envision for their characters, and the spots along the way once the DM sets forth creating a story for them to rip apart and shape the world with. You shouldn't just have filler thrown in in the middle of an ongoing story in the way of player quests as it doesn't account for the other things going on in the main plot.

    Take an old TV show called Dallas. Pam wakes up one morning and says she has a dream, and it was the entire last year worth of episodes. None of it really mattered to the story and just wasted time. This is what side-quests could cause when placed in the wrong places of the plot architecture.

    So you have to make sure not only that any player chosen event or quest happens at the right time, but that it isn't solely for the purpose of gaining the enxt level. If the players are feeling too low level for what you have already created, you are not doing a very good job as a DM and need to scale back some thing that are seeming to be too hard. The players could just be wanting that next power from the new level. Your story may be boring them.

    All of those things should be worked out in other ways. When there are lulls in the given plot and there is no immediate responce needed from the characters is the perfect time for them to grab a player driven quest. Maybe yielding some item that will help them out like a custom magic item you think they will need, or something special someone has been wanting. They could meet a new friend that you have no idea how to properly introduce other than, "you meet this guy at the tavern...", or any number of other things that do not just hand out XP.

    This doesn't mean they shouldn't get XP, but quest should not be used as a vessel to just get XP like leveling in a video game where you go kill 100 Blue Jellies and a few Marlboros to get to the next level because the code requires you to be at that level for the next part of the story. So XP should be a minor thing in player driven quests. They should give the players chances to catch up on things they may have been rushed to do before, like clearing out the catacombs of the City of Justaheim of the other treasures, etc.

  9. #9
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    This comment reminds me: How many of you use quest rewards? Do you do it as presented in the DMG and, if not, how do you alter them?

    I find in some of the games I'm in, we forget to keep track of them, I think because it was a new thing and we still aren't used to thinking about it. Not getting quest XP can slow advancement, and it's easier to keep track of what our goals (at least our initial goals) were when we use quests.
    XP? Naaah. I just give out a level every 3-4 sessions to everyone all at once. Usually I try to plan it so that this happens on the same session that some significant plot or character development happens.

    For instance, if I'm using a "save the world" type game where the bad guy hounds the PC's, I'll plan the "leveling session" to focus on a raid on one of his chief underlings that will lead the PC's a bit closer to the final showdown. They get information, they get a level, it really feels like they've accomplished something. In the next session, it's back to red herrings and narrow escapes.

    In a more exploratory game, where the PC's just survive in a dangerous world, the "leveling session" usually focuses on some PC-specific corner of that world. For instance, if the party has a dwarf, the leveling session might take place near that dwarf's hometown while he defends his family from some ancient threat that has always menaced them, defeating the rival clan once and for all. The entire party gains a level from this, and the world gains a lot more immediacy. Then it's back to overland journeys and dungeon survival.

    If the PC's have goals for their characters themselves, all the better -- I can key a "leveling session" to that. That's implicit character development. It makes it easy for me as a DM. But even if they don't, I look for that level of involvement, and call it out by making every third or fourth session something of very immediate importance in the campaign. It sinks in a little better when the message is also accompanied by a power-up.

    Awarding XP is so last century.
    [RIGHT]Jacob J. Driscoll
    [B][I]Astral Plane Campaign[/I][/B]: Take [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/193314/Hereos-of-the-Eternal-Classes-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your heroes[/URL] and [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/190331/People-of-the-Eternal-Races-of-the-Astral-Plane"]your people[/URL] and come to [URL="http://www.dmsguild.com/product/198238/The-Athar-Citadel"][B]The Athar Citadel[/B][/URL], where those who reject the gods learn to wield divine magic!
    [/RIGHT]

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_Logan View Post
    This comment reminds me: How many of you use quest rewards? Do you do it as presented in the DMG and, if not, how do you alter them?
    We don't use them because we don't need them. The players are so used to coming up with goals for their characters on their own and they are rewarded enough with the story line that additional bribery never seemed needed.

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