Gary Gygax Q&A: part VI - Page 19




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  1. #181
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    Hello Gary!

    A question that I need to know about. I'm beginning to see that the Dungeon setting might not be so viable after all. You go in, break in the door for somebody's house, and you raid it. You break the Law in doing so. I bet Dungeons were easier to map at the time, and the introductory adventure in the Basic Set (the one I got in 1986) was a basic adventure.

    However, I'm thinking going back to the other Basics will make for an interesting adventure. A good villain, a nice hide out (i.e. a villa or warehouse), some flunkies, and a good motivation for the PCs makes for good stories for the PCs to tell.

    The problem with the "Dungeon" based adventure is that its a bit unrealistic. You go in, you clear a dungeon, you go out, hopefully with your life intact. However, you can improve on a classic. For instance: "The Keep on the Borderlands," or "Return to the Keep on the Borderlands." You have everything in that module to tell an interesting story. Just improve the motivation (The PCs are mercenaries hired to take out the evil cult in one of the caves in typical Covert action) and the PCs can tell a realistic story.

    All module writers really need to do is provide a good map, some villians, allies, and neutrals, and then leave it up to the Players to tell a good story. Right?
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  • #182
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter Bob
    Let me first say, it's an honor to have a chance to chat with you Mr Gygax.
    Greetings Drifter Bob,

    Glad to be here to engage in a bit if discussion with you.

    O have not seen "The Riddle of Steel", but from the sound if its name I should suppose it is a combat game rather than an RPG.

    There is indeed a need for lethality in a single successful attack when simulation of actual combat is desired. That is why I have stayed away from it in the combat systems I have devised for my fantasy RPG designs, (On the old Boot Hill game one could get a character killed in a single exchange of gunfire.) As combat is the most popular activity in the RPG game form, it is pretty well necessary to allow for plenty of it, so...

    Realism when one deals with magic, fantastic beasts, and all that makes up the FRPG seems a marginal concept to me. Verisimilitude is another matter, but the basis for play is improbablity. If the fantastic premises can be accepted, then quibbles about realism within the forum of play have more to do with perception than actuality.

    When I wrote my parts of the Chainmail military miniatures rules (c.1969) I had done considerable historical research, and my interest in the subject of militray history, arms and armor, has not waned since...althouh my available reading time has. I correspond with a fellow who is studying the old fencing manuals, fights thus. Also last year at this time I was a guest speaker at the Higgins Armory Museum, and gained a considerable insight into matters there.

    ...while simultaneously, people outside of RPG's learned more and more about real period warfare (even though historical fighting isn't precisely the same as that in a fantasy setting) to such a degree that there ended up being this big gap, to where today hard core medieval fencing enthusiasts and weapon nuts are so very critical of any RPG. They site the 15 lb swords, seemingly nonexistant armor types, impossible double weapons and etc.
    Perhaps they should reconsider the genre. It is fantasy. They blench at minor things and accept flying, fire-breathing dragons and working magic, which seems to me quite eccentric, like swallowing a camel whole, then straining at a gnat.

    As you note, RPGs are for entertainment and fun. they are not meant to be simulations of something, for that something never existed

    Anyway, I was wondering what you thought of specific ideas such as giving reach advantages to long weapons, allowing the defensive characteristics of weapons to come into play, allowing combattants to choose between aggressive, neutral, or defensive postures, giving armor an ablative or absorbing ability, and etc., with the dilemma of the natural weapons dealt with by some sort of close combat ("grappling", in current D&D parlance) mode...
    Those are valid considerations, but they complicate and extend the time needed for combat. Why include them if a simpler system delivers the same geenral outcome in a shorter period of time?

    As for armor, I have indeed gone to a system where it provided protection that absorbs damage, losing its "health" on the prosess. This is in the Lejendary Adventure RPG. In it there are basically four kinds of armor--cloth, leather, metal mesh, and metal plate, each in half or full. Well-armored Avatars in the game are indeed very hard to wound seriously, but attacks do bypass armor now and then, this reflecting the weak points in any protection.

    As to realism and survivability, I think you can always find good mechanics if one looks closely at real life. There is some reason why so many remarkable "heroic" indivudals from history survived so many battles and adventrues. One of the things they seem to be learning just very recently in a lot of the Historical fencing groups is just exactly how effective armor really was. Rivited mail, for example, worn with a padded coat, seems able to endure attacks from most period weapons, including longbows and lances. I imagine thats why people tended to wear the stuff! Nor was it as heavy and bulky as people thought, as you know.
    Hmmm... Yes, I agree with the value of armor, how it protected well. However, I disagree about field plate being proof against lances and longbow arrows, or even heavy crossbow bolts at close range. There was a serious effort to ban the heavy crossbow from warfare, you know, because it could pierce plate. The French knights fell in droves from English (Welsh) longbow arrows, and there is an histotical record wherein examples are cited: an arrow piercing shield, armored arm, and then cuirasse, pinning the lot to the target sybject's chest; the same for a rider's leg armor being pierced on both sides, pinning the leg to his horse. I think this is in CWC Oman's work on medieval warfare. Somewhere, and I don't recall where, there is a study that shows the foot-pounds of pressure on a square inch of metal--the point of a lance being driven at a canter by a man in armor seated upon a heavy warhorse. Only a deflection could prevent it from penetrating the best of steel plate. There is also the example of Charles the Bold of Burgundy whose plate-armor-protected leg was severed, his horse wounded by a single blow from a Swiss halbred.

    Just a few thoughts, I'm not dogmatic about it like some people, I'd be fascinated to hear what you think.

    DB
    If that's just a few of your thoughts, I had better gird-up for some essay-lenght replies if you express many of there here

    Cheers,
    Gary

  • #183
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    Felicitations Sir Elton,

    I short response to a rather lengthy question.

    The dungeon adventure is certainly the favorite of the plurality of FRPG players. this is demonstrable simply by looking at the success of paper modules featuring such setting, and the sales and play of like games for computer-based play.

    What you suggest, a loose plot with antagonists developed, assumes that the Game Master is ready, willing, and able to do the other 75% or so of the work necessary to make the module into something the group can have a good time playing. Generally, a GM picks up a module because he doesn't want to have to expend all that effort to entertain the players for whatever reason, but usually because of lack of time.

    As for dungeon adventures being unrealistic, what about the whole premise of the FRPG? the dungeon setting is assuredly as realistic as flying horses, magic wants, spell casting, weird monsters, and heroes able to use the magic and defeat behemoths

    The story comes from the players interacting with the environment provided by the GM. If they enjoy the environment, interact well with it, and eachother, achieve success in the process, the story created will be one that all enjoy, with or without a carefully crafted villain. Poor interaction with an environment that has all manner of cleverly done material provided by the GM results in a dullgame and a "Story" nobody cares to relate save in derisive terms.

    Remember, the GM is there to facilitate the interaction of the players; characters with the environment. GM direction of what characters do is not game play, it is scripted theater (of undoubtedly low quality). More importantly, any "story" that is told comes only after the conclusion of the interaction, as a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end

    Cheers,
    Gary

  • #184
    Heh Mr Gygax, I'm glad to see that, on the whole, your view on most of the "complaints" about D&D or even FRPGs in general reflect mine. I fondly remember answering a rather long tirade about the fact that nowadays female characters had basically the same STR as male characters, including lenghty references to biological and sociological surveys with the simple "Ok, but you're fine with fireballs?", and I'm glad to see you would basically have answered in kind. Realism in fantasy can only go so far, eh?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Col_Pladoh

    As for dungeon adventures being unrealistic, what about the whole premise of the FRPG? the dungeon setting is assuredly as realistic as flying horses, magic wants, spell casting, weird monsters, and heroes able to use the magic and defeat behemoths

    The story comes from the players interacting with the environment provided by the GM. If they enjoy the environment, interact well with it, and eachother, achieve success in the process, the story created will be one that all enjoy, with or without a carefully crafted villain. Poor interaction with an environment that has all manner of cleverly done material provided by the GM results in a dullgame and a "Story" nobody cares to relate save in derisive terms.
    Then you are quite correct there, Gary. Thanks for the answer!
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  • #186
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barak
    Heh Mr Gygax, I'm glad to see that, on the whole, your view on most of the "complaints" about D&D or even FRPGs in general reflect mine. I fondly remember answering a rather long tirade about the fact that nowadays female characters had basically the same STR as male characters, including lenghty references to biological and sociological surveys with the simple "Ok, but you're fine with fireballs?", and I'm glad to see you would basically have answered in kind. Realism in fantasy can only go so far, eh?
    Howdy Barak!

    Just so. The only limit I placed on female PCS was no Str above 18. In actual history female participation in what would be considered adventuring was virtually nil. i am always amused when history programs on the tube attempt Political Corectness by featuring the only examples of female duelists, pirates, warriors, etc. They represent less than one percent of the whole being considered, and featuring one-armed men in the same roles would be at least as meaningful historically. Frankly, not only did society generally prevent such participation, but I believe most women were generally not the least interested in engaging in such dangerous and questionable activities.

    That said, I never enforced the rule in my own game, for the milieu is fantasy, and given that, why have a physical power barrier when there are no others? If any player, male or female, wants to have a female character that is as strong as any male, there is no reason not to allow that.

    Cheers,
    Gary

  • #187
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Elton
    Then you are quite correct there, Gary. Thanks for the answer!
    Welcome,Sir Elton,

    I can speak to the matter of a dull story, because now and again I have spent a lot of time creating adventure material that left the players quite flat, and nary an interesting tale came from such exercise, although the lads would grimmace and roll their eyes when the scenario was mentioned... :\

    As one excellent novelist advised, take that part of a story you like best and throw it away, is it is likely the worst part. Sometimes that will prove to true in both fiction and module crafting.

    Cheers,
    Gary

  • #188
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    Arrows and armor and halberds, Oh my!

    Quote Originally Posted by Col_Pladoh
    Greetings Drifter Bob,
    have not seen "The Riddle of Steel", but from the sound if its name I should suppose it is a combat game rather than an RPG.
    No, it's a game alright, and a pretty good one. Kind of in the spirit of the old Robert E Howard Conan stuff, with a lot of historical influence as well. It's actually been quite well recieved in general, in spite of some unpopular features like it's magic system. The combat s very fast, strategic, and even incorporates role playing elements, but it is quite lethal. It wouldn't have to be, IMHO, but that's how they wanted this game to be.

    There is indeed a need for lethality in a single successful attack when simulation of actual combat is desired. [snip] As combat is the most popular activity in the RPG game form, it is pretty well necessary to allow for plenty of it, so...
    With all due respect, there is always the issue of quality over quantity. To put it in perspective, I would compare say, an old school D&D game where I might go through 5 or 6 memorable and challenging combats in a game session, to say, any number of vaguely D&D inspired computer role playing games, where you slaughter hundreds of monsters in a more or less indistinguishable flood of bad guys....

    Or you could compare a movie like Akira Kirosawa's Yojimbo, to the average Xena episode. The Xena episode has a lot more fights, but the realistic scrapes in Yojimbo are way more exciting to me. (Not that I'm knocking Xena....)

    Realism when one deals with magic, fantastic beasts, and all that makes up the FRPG seems a marginal concept to me. Verisimilitude is another matter,
    And yet, weapon tables exist, rules for different types of armor and etc. exist, all of which helps make the game more internally consistant. You can have a magical universe with internal consistency. I don't advocate being a 'slave' to realism, but that one can borrow from both history and real physics (and places where they meet, as in the fencing techniques from the Fechtbuchs, which TROS makes ample use of) to find fun mechanics for your game.

    Please understand, I'm not trying to challenge your experience! I have immense respect for you and for old school D&D in particular. But consider the way you so successfully borrowed the real mechanics of the Medieval Criminal underworld in your excellent D20 book, The Canting Crew, by incorporating them into the fantasy milieux and making them your own. I think the same can be done with things like realistic combat mechanics, without necessarily screwing up game balance.

    Of course, what the hell do I know :0 I'ts just my dumb theory....

    When I wrote my parts of the Chainmail military miniatures rules (c.1969) I had done considerable historical research, and my interest in the subject of militray history, arms and armor, has not waned since...althouh my available reading time has. I correspond with a fellow who is studying the old fencing manuals, fights thus. Also last year at this time I was a guest speaker at the Higgins Armory Museum, and gained a considerable insight into matters there.
    I do a lot of this kind of stuff as well. I've been playing those old table top wargames since my dad introduced them to me back in the 70's. I just hosted a gathering of ARMA (probably the largest and best established of the new "Western Martial Arts" historical fencing groups) here in New Orleans, about a month ago. I've been sparring with padded swords for 20 years but seeing the Fechtbuch techniques actually applied by some people who have truly grasped them was an eye opener. WMA is every bit as real as traditional "Eastern" martial arts, in some ways it's more impressive, IMHO

    Perhaps they should reconsider the genre. It is fantasy. They blench at minor things and accept flying, fire-breathing dragons and working magic, which seems to me quite eccentric, like swallowing a camel whole, then straining at a gnat.

    As you note, RPGs are for entertainment and fun. they are not meant to be simulations of something, for that something never existed
    Of course, and yet, (again, with all due respect) I think there is always some element of "Sim", to use RPG grognard parlance, in any rpg game. My point is that where we are borrowing mechanics from reality or history, we should get the real ones, (not accidentally transpose fake ones from say, hollywood) and also seriously examine what are the most relevant. Just as you did when first designing D&D.

    I don't think many game designers since your day have done the kind of research that you did. Not until very recently at any rate.

    Those are valid considerations, but they complicate and extend the time needed for combat. Why include them if a simpler system delivers the same geenral outcome in a shorter period of time?
    Well, you are always going to model some factors, whether the system is simple or complex. Personally, from my sparring experience, I think skill and weapon size (and weapon balance) are more important for defense than say, naturally inherent co-ordination. You could take the most agile acrobat from cirque de soleil, give him a 20" short sword, and send him at an old fat guy like me with a 36" arming sword, and I'm going to nail him every time.

    I have actually put this to the test (almost!) several times.

    Similarly, I think reach is a more important factor than almost anything else in determining who strikes first....

    As for armor, I have indeed gone to a system where it provided protection that absorbs damage, losing its "health" on the prosess. This is in the Lejendary Adventure RPG. In it there are basically four kinds of
    I'd really like to check out Lejendary Adventures, Iv'e been interested in it ever since I got the canting crew. It's definately on my list the next time I get a little extra scratch.

    You are right about bypassing armor too, btw. I think until people started really being armored literally from head to toe in the late 12th century, the best way to defeat armor was to go around it. Excavations at the Wisby battlefield in Sweeden show that 2/3 of the skelletons which showed signs of injury had cut marks to the lower left leg, below the hauberk and below the shield...

    Hmmm... Yes, I agree with the value of armor, how it protected well. However, I disagree about field plate being proof against lances and longbow arrows, or even heavy crossbow bolts at close range. There was a serious effort to ban the heavy crossbow from warfare, you know, because it could pierce plate. The French knights fell in droves from English (Welsh) longbow
    Well, this still contraversial, and I certainly don't want to start an argument about it, but on the assumption that you are probably interested to know this, the current best evidence suggests that in the famous English longbow victories such as Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt, etc., the longbows did not actually penetrate the armor of the French Knights, in most cases they actually killed their mounts. At Agincourt this apparently led to the French knights slogging on foot uphill through mud toward the English defenders...

    (More about crossbows further down)

    arrows, and there is an histotical record wherein examples are cited: an arrow piercing shield, armored arm, and then cuirasse, pinning the lot to the
    There are always anecdotes like this, but few self bows (i.e. bows) that have been tested recently with a variety of arrows seem to be able to pierce actual plate armor. Again, it's contraversial and I don't want to start an argument, but if you check the forums at ARMA, AEMMA, Sword Forum online, Myarmoury, etc., you can see that several tests have been done recently. Some period weapons like polearms and very heavy crossbows will penetrate armor, but not many can, and it's never easy....

    that shows the foot-pounds of pressure on a square inch of metal--the point of a lance being driven at a canter by a man in armor seated upon a heavy warhorse. Only a deflection could prevent it from penetrating the best of steel plate.
    Actually, with all due respect, there was another recent event which seems to contradict this. This may be because, as you probably know, there has been revolutionary changes in the understanding of how to properly make medieval armor in the last few years, particularly mail, which they used to make "butted" at Renaissance festivals and such, but have now come to understand was never actually used except when made with each link actually riveted.

    There was just very recently an experiment done by Eric Schmidt, the mail maker and armor historian, at Royal Armories in Leeds, where they took a lance head and tried to pierce riveted mail armor with a thin cloth backing, at various amounts of pressure. Supposedly the mail finally broke slightly at only the very highest amount of pressure, but it was estimaed that the lance would not have penetrated through to the flesh.

    There is also the example of Charles the Bold of Burgundy whose plate-armor-protected leg was severed, his horse wounded by a single blow from a Swiss halbred.
    Yeah, poor Charles had nothing but trouble from those uppity Swiss peasants. I am familiar with this anecdote, and I think it is a true one. The Halberd was specifically designed to penetrate armor, and like most pole-weapons and other specifically armor piercing weapons, it could do so when applied with massive force (i.e., a haymaker).

    The same can be said for the very heaviest of crossbows, some of which from that period were made with as much as 1,000 pounds of pressure, but these were specialist weapons and very expensive. The typical hunting crossbow was unlikely to penetrate mail, let alone plate.

    And armor kept improving as well as weapons. As I'm sure you know by the Renaissance they were regularly turning out literally bullet "proof" armor which they would shoot with a musket and mark the dent (proof).

    If that's just a few of your thoughts, I had better gird-up for some essay-lenght replies if you express many of there here
    Cheers,
    Gary
    yeah, I tend to be quite long winded, one of my many faults. I promise I wont post here often though. I'll take a long time to digest what you have said so I can really learn from it, rather than just replying off the cuff... this is too good an opportunity squander over ego!

    thanks for taking the time to respond to my post.

    DB
    "As for the pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs."

    -Henri David Thoreau

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    Quote Originally Posted by Col_Pladoh
    Welcome,Sir Elton,

    I can speak to the matter of a dull story, because now and again I have spent a lot of time creating adventure material that left the players quite flat, and nary an interesting tale came from such exercise, although the lads would grimmace and roll their eyes when the scenario was mentioned... :\

    As one excellent novelist advised, take that part of a story you like best and throw it away, is it is likely the worst part. Sometimes that will prove to true in both fiction and module crafting.
    That part can be heart wrenching. I had to revise the current module I'm working on because it felt like I was writing a novel. So I had to do a different approach. The Argonautica is fun to read and watch on screen, but the way I was writing it as a novel, it would be hated by the community that would buy it.

    I had to reduce the story of Jason and the Argonauts to a Timeline for the DM's reference, and then describe each area as an area of adventure. The other way I was doing it, I might as well be writing a novel.
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  • #190
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    Drifter Bob,

    To cut to the chase here, for I haven't the time to spare for more point-by-point reply to so long a missive, in my considered opinion detailed "realistic" combat rules are a detriment to the RPG, not a benefit. There is already undue stress placed upon combat as the central theme of the game form, while it is in fact only one of several key elements. The designer would better serve the audience by stressing the other elements than would be dine by spending yet more content space on detailing fighting.

    Cheers,
    Gary

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