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  1. #31
    But then you run into the problem of DM workload. If you design your adventures to the point where you can possibly have so many outcomes, you're pretty much required to do a heck of a lot of heavy lifting that will never see play.

    Laying out an adventure in a grid format isn't a bad idea. I like the idea of adventure flowcharts.

    After all, if you, the DM, know that the princess is a succubus, then you've just reduced the total number of end results to three - they fail to rescue the "princess", they rescue her, kill her and the king believes/doesn't believe them.

    I would point out though, that once you've done this, you've change the initial parameters of the scenario that Matt James outlined. Which is fine. But, once you have decided on the initial parameters, the number of end points becomes pretty limited.

    If we go strictly by the initial parameters of Matt James' example, then none of those outcomes you listed actually can come up. The princess is not a succubus. The kidnappers don't immediately execute their captive. Etc.

    After all, if it's true that the kidnappers immediately execute the princess, then you are left with a very limited number of outcomes. Since the PC's can't really change that, you might as well start there. The PC's have no real control in that situation - they are doing what they probably feel is right, but, the situation is such that they've failed before they even started.

    Very fun scenario with the right group, but, at that point, I no longer need to worry about preparing any sort of "happy" ending, because, the end point is pretty much carved in stone before the situation begins - the party fails. How do they deal with that failure?
    The rules don't give the DM their authority. The consent of the players does. - Mallus

 

  • #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    But then you run into the problem of DM workload. If you design your adventures to the point where you can possibly have so many outcomes, you're pretty much required to do a heck of a lot of heavy lifting that will never see play.
    You're not where I am. I'm not talking about workload at all.

    I'm not saying all those options need to be in your script and ready to play. I was just pointing out that even within a seemingly binary set of outcomes- rescued/not rescued- there can still be a wide variety of plot variants that matter, including victories or defeats that are not what they seem.

    I'm also saying that a fully plotted out adventure can be cool- i've been through my fair share- but that a live DM has the option of changing things on the fly in order to improve the play experience. More than once, players at the table have made suggestions during their speculation of the goings-on in an adventure I was running that, instead of running what was in front of me on the paper, I ran with what the players thought was going on.

    If we go strictly by the initial parameters of Matt James' example, then none of those outcomes you listed actually can come up. The princess is not a succubus. The kidnappers don't immediately execute their captive. Etc.
    Actually, if you re-read the example, "Premise: The newborn child of King Tanner has been kidnapped. The only clue is a single piece of parchment with an odd riddle scribed on it.", none of the scenarios I put forth was ruled out by MJ's example. Succubi are shapechangers; nothing in the premise said the child was alive. Etc.

    After all, if you, the DM, know that the princess is a succubus, then you've just reduced the total number of end results to three - they fail to rescue the "princess", they rescue her, kill her and the king believes/doesn't believe them.
    Those are just some I listed. Actually, there are more possibilities than that.

    They could ally themselves with her- willingly or not- and lead her forces to usurp the throne, killing the King. Then killing her. Or the King could escape.

    Or depending on edition, as part of the rescue, they could nail her with a Helm of Opposite Alignment, bringing the King a powerful ally. They could get her with the Helm, then have her join a convent.

    I could continue, and I'm sure others here could come up with more- don't sell creative players short, nor forget the possibility that the dice will sabotage the plans of the DM, the PCs, or both.
    Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; Saturday, 24th December, 2011 at 08:36 AM.
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  • #33
    In my experience, it's usually not that hard to anticipate most of the player's reactions.

    "Nailing her with a helm of opposite alignment" for instance requires an extremely narrow set of circumstances that, unless the party is actually carrying one, is very, very unlikely to come up.

    As far as ally with her, again, this is going to be an extremely limited number of tables and knowing your players will help here. Let's be honest, the general tone of the game will dictate whether this is realistically possible or not. Any good aligned group, for example, isn't going to do this in all likelihood.

    Yes, we should realize that from time to time, the players are going to take radical turns, sure. But, by and large, it's not really that hard to predict. And, sure, being flexible is great. Players are amazing sources of inspiration after all. But, again, most of the time, you can probably guess what your group is going to do.
    The rules don't give the DM their authority. The consent of the players does. - Mallus

  • #34
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    "Nailing her with a helm of opposite alignment" for instance requires an extremely narrow set of circumstances that, unless the party is actually carrying one, is very, very unlikely to come up.
    Seen it twice, so far.

    As far as ally with her, again, this is going to be an extremely limited number of tables and knowing your players will help here.
    Succubi are quite persuasive: between their shapechanging, energy drain, DC 22 charms and high Cha, they can really do a good job at finding alies. Just sayin'.

    While I know guys fall into ruts- like my buddy who plays Wizards 85% of the time- if you challenge them, they tend to come up with at least one unusual tactic. It then becomes a question of whether the oddball plan has the votes to be carried out.

    Or, occasionally, whether someone uses it as the basis of their "Leroy Johnson Plan."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    In any RPG, you cannot avoid creating all of the elements of a story. You have setting, you have character and during play, you generate plot.

    What else is there? If you have setting, character and plot, you have a story. There's no avoiding it. The point of play is to create that story. Even if you don't want to create a story, you have no choice in the matter. The second that you are playing a game with plausible consequences which follow a logic sequence based on elements drawn from character and setting, you have a story.
    Only in the trivial sense that my daily life also "creates a story".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt James View Post
    A lot of the AAA video game titles you see out there do the same thing, albeit on a larger scale. Take the recent Skyrim game. While it may appear that there is infinite opportunity and options in play, there is really only a few outcomes (no spoilers, I promise). The same goes for the Dragon Age titles, and others.
    Yes, for any computer game, the content (including any random content generators) is all pre-created before the players begin play, so this is the best you're ever going to get. But with a live GM, new content can be created during play.

    What I, and I think others, are trying to say, is that the best advice for at-table play is advice which helps the GM to create new content during play, in response to player input. And a major factor is that, as Danny says, the possible outcomes for tabletop play are effectively unlimited. So using even good computer game design, or gamebook design, as a model for at-table play, is leaving money on the table; it's not taking advantage of the strengths of the tabletop-RPG medium.
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    eriktheguy, on S'mon's latest idea:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    But then you run into the problem of DM workload. If you design your adventures to the point where you can possibly have so many outcomes, you're pretty much required to do a heck of a lot of heavy lifting that will never see play.
    No, you need to not be nailing everything down pre-play. The GM creates the start conditions, he should not be trying to pre-determine all possible end points.
    ***Henry/S'mon Super Quick d20 NPC Generation System*** The Gods of the Copybook Headings With Terror and Slaughter Return!

    eriktheguy, on S'mon's latest idea:
    There are 2 major problems with your idea:
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    2: see 1

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    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    Yes, for any computer game, the content (including any random content generators) is all pre-created before the players begin play, so this is the best you're ever going to get. But with a live GM, new content can be created during play.

    What I, and I think others, are trying to say, is that the best advice for at-table play is advice which helps the GM to create new content during play, in response to player input. And a major factor is that, as Danny says, the possible outcomes for tabletop play are effectively unlimited. So using even good computer game design, or gamebook design, as a model for at-table play, is leaving money on the table; it's not taking advantage of the strengths of the tabletop-RPG medium.
    I don't see how this approach would prevent one from improvising.

    For example, when I sketch out an adventure, I'll use broad strokes to paint the likeliest picture of that adventure. If the PCs are going after a gangster, I'll stat up the encounter with the thugs guarding the entrance.

    That doesn't mean, however, that I won't allow the PCs to use reduce person and fire resistance to pop down a chimney and circumvent the encounter (or simply delay it, should they set off an alarm inside the house). The PC's choices matter, and I'm still capable of improvising.

    I'm not really the kind of DM who can usually run a good game without anything planned though. As someone mentioned upthread, it's easier to improvise when you have a plan. I certainly find that to be the case for myself. I'd rather have an adventure in front of me, and only use 10% of it, than be forced to improvise everything.

    As such, I don't see how this method would prevent one from improvising, any more than having a piece of paper in front of you would. The cards are just there to make your job easier, and that's something I can very much appreciate as a DM.

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    It doesn't prevent improvisation, but I think Matt's gamebook approach may discourage improvisation because it encourages the GM to consider player activity as taking place only within the pre-scripted game matrix. The risk is that if the GM has put (considerable) effort into detailing 3 options, but the players go 'off script' and choose option 4, then the GM may be less able to react than if he had simply created a situation with the intent that the players address it however they wished.

    I see this a fair bit with 4e DMing advice from eg Chris Perkins or the 'ID DM' blog - lots of advice on steering players back 'on script' if they err from the pre-charted course. I think Matt was the third GM to post something similar in the past 2-3 weeks; plus also having just been reading through EGG's Yggsburgh and seeing a completely different & IMO better approach, I may have reacted a bit too strongly to Matt's advice in particular. Because it is good advice for video game authors, and it's pretty good advice for writers of plot-based adventures for publication, too. It's just that IMO it's not such good advice for GMs at their own tables.
    ***Henry/S'mon Super Quick d20 NPC Generation System*** The Gods of the Copybook Headings With Terror and Slaughter Return!

    eriktheguy, on S'mon's latest idea:
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    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    Yes, for any computer game, the content (including any random content generators) is all pre-created before the players begin play, so this is the best you're ever going to get. But with a live GM, new content can be created during play.

    What I, and I think others, are trying to say, is that the best advice for at-table play is advice which helps the GM to create new content during play, in response to player input. And a major factor is that, as Danny says, the possible outcomes for tabletop play are effectively unlimited. So using even good computer game design, or gamebook design, as a model for at-table play, is leaving money on the table; it's not taking advantage of the strengths of the tabletop-RPG medium.
    These two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, you can incorporate the on-the-fly adjustments into your grid creation, rearrange the grid, rewrite the grid items to incorporate the on-the-fly nature of the tabletop game, etc.

    In fact, I think a blending of both really indicates the sort of facile GM everyone wants. S/he thinks deeply enough and far enough out to have meta-plots and big level plots, and incorporates the choices of the group during each session into the planning for the next session, all while shuffling the meta-plots around to mesh in with the creation of content during play.

    Think of it like a branching tree. You plan up to the first splits of the trunk, the first branches, and the first set of twigs. During play the players take a trunk you didn't plan for, but that doesn't mean all the branches and twigs after that split can't be shifted to account for the change in play. And it doesn't mean they all have to shift, either. You can take the split trunk and create entirely new branches and twigs to mesh in with the already created ones.

    That's how I see it, and that's how I try to GM. Does it mean I create a lot of content no one will ever see? Sure, but more often I find a way to logically tie the content together. And many times it actually seems to fit in better than the original plan.

    Maybe you'd be surprised, but maybe not, but this is exactly how military planning works, and I think that probably accounts for it being the way I approach my GM planning sessions, my personal writing projects, and my classroom instruction. To wit--I have specific content I'm trying to get students to understand (I teach college composition), but no two classes are ever the same, even if I start from the same base for each lesson. Some classes work better than others, and I reflect on those to see why, then alter plans to suit the new lessons.

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