What is "grim and gritty" and "low magic" anyway? - Page 11




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  1. #101
    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Dyal
    Rather than saying "low magic sucks just because" I think a more useful discussion would be how to make low magic, grim and gritty d20 games work.
    I'm game for that...

    • Most encounters are with Class-Level creatures. This includes Humanoids, Monstrous Humanoids, etc. Creatures that require lots of magic to defeat are extremely rare, held in reserve for when the PCs can handle it and never used if they can't. And, especially, allow most encounters (not all, but most) to have a non-combat resolution or means of bypassing. Most non-avoidable combats are usually integral to the plotline/story, but may also then be much tougher than usual (90%-99% resource depletion with ever-present risk of death rather than 20% with slim-but-increasing risk of death) since it is likely the only combat occuring during that time period.
    • Legendary Weapons (ala Swords of Our Fathers, UA, etc.). These are handy for giving uber-weapons and items to PCs at low-levels without them becoming uber-characters (ala Arthur the squire drawing Excalibur from the stone).
    • Spell Points. Likely doesn't sound low magic, but can be applied in various ways. For instance, spells have a Minimum Casting Level (ex: fireball is 5th), and when cast they are cast at that level (ex: 20th Level Wizard casts fireball for 5d6 damage). The mage can then expend extra points to increase the Casting Level (ex: +5 points = Casting Level 10, or 10d6 damage). This presents spellcasters with a choice: Many low-level low-powered spells or a few major boom-booms.
    • No RP-assumptions in the Rules: No free spells per level based on non-existat research, no spontaneously sprouting magic spells, no laboratory/library without obtaining it through gameplay, religious obligations for divine casters are never overlooked, etc.
    • Enemy/Villainous spellcasters are an extreme rarity. This allows parties without any spellcasters (particularly solo-games or solo-side-treks, both of which I do a lot of) to function without any hindrance. PCs are also more likely to run into cultists (ala Freeport) than Clerics.
    • Superspells like Resurrection, True Resurrection, Wish, etc., rewritten as True Rituals (ala Relics & Rituals), allowing them to remain in play while increasing their cost and risk and adding a chance of failure (Ritual Casting check). Some spells (mostly 3rd Party spells, but some Core spells as well) are also relegated to the Spell Lists for specific Prestige Classes, increasing their rarity and occurance in-game.
    • 3E Psionics re-defined as Arcane Mysticism with BC/Malhavoc alterations generally ignored and psi att/def removed completely; Psionics system from Fading Suns d20 retooled to scale differently than written.
    • Removing the presumption of needing magic to succeed as a character/group. A lack of magic can only be viewed as "screwing" the players if that lack translates as an inability to face the challenges presented. If the magic is both non-existant and non-required, than anyone whining about getting screwed is doing just that... Whining.
    • Wounds/Vitality, Defense Bonus, Defense Rolls (opposed by Attack Rolls, Armor Penalty Applies), DR for Armor, Facing, etc.
    • Remove 20% Exp penalty from uneven multiclassing and instead reward +1 Skill Point per Favored Class level. This, I have found, permits players to combine combative prowess with decent skill selections without "giving away the farm".
    • Most important: Inform the players that the game is harsh and will reflect certain real world conditions. A character jumping from a 100' window will not get up and walk away like nothing happened, a 10th Level Fighter can die at the hands of a mob, equipment needs to be repaired or replaced regularly or penalties will be applied, etc. Players looking for this sort of game are invited; Those not interested have their names/numbers passed on to other GMs in the area that are more intune with his wants. (This I don't really have to do too often as my own players are by far more likely to scrutinize a new member than I am as they don't want the game to change or be disrupted by a new member complaining constantly... Seriously, you should have seen the hoops they made me jump through just to convert to the d20 engine.)
    There's more, of course... There always is. But the above, I think, sets the main conditions of the "world stage" that my games occur in.
    Aedon: Glory, Ice and Pain
    Rare Magic, Psience and False Gods in a grim and gritty world of warfare and strife.
    Age of Frost Open Beta available here
    Heroes' Lorebook 0.1.6 (updated 5.21), Veiled Lorebook 0.0.1 (uploaded 4.20), Aedon Bestiary 0.0.1 (uploaded 4.22)
    End the Age of Frost: When the Walls come Tumbling Down (Apologies to John Cougar.)

    Age of Glory Open Beta available here (Imperial Lorebook 0.0.1 uploaded 4.27)

    qtgg.icehex.net
    d20Resources.com

 

  • #102
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    I guess I don't hate "low magic, grim & gritty" as much as I dislike gamers who think that playing such campaigns somehow makes them more mature and enlightened than people who play "standard magic, non-grim & gritty" campaigns.

    I mean, so what if you think a campaign setting is the greatest thing since sliced bread and all other settings suck compared to it because magic is rare and encounters usually result in more dead PCs? In the end, you are still playing a glorified game of make-believe just like the rest of us.
    Last edited by Dark Jezter; Friday, 12th March, 2004 at 09:05 PM.
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  • #103
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    Thinking back over this thread, and going back to the original question (what is grim & gritty and low magic?), I think we can now safely identify a few things they are not...

    1. They are not interchangeable terms (you can have grim & gritty with "normal amount" of magic; you can have low magic without "grim & gritty").

    2. They are not inherently the tools, preferences, or outcomes of an inexperienced DM or one with so-called "poor" skills.

    3. They are not inherently the result of a DM who is a control freak or someone who wants to ruin the game for the players.

    We may be able to say that they *are*...

    1. A spectrum of campaign styles. It's not on/off, or black/white, but shades of gray -- it can be "a little" grim/gritty or "a lot" low-magic, and you can tweak things a little or a lot.

    2. Not well supported by the core D&D rules. And as with any straying from the core rules, it gets trickier the further afield you go. However, there are subsystems throughout various D20 and ogl products that could easily lend themselves to such a campaign style. But integrating them is a real challenge because one change can trickle down through the rules pretty quickly.

    3. Some people have been burned by bad experiences as players in these kinds of campaigns. (But just because they got burned doesn't make them whiny munchkins, necessarily!)

    4. A matter of taste. Maybe you only like to read "gritty" fantasy. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with people who like to read "high" fantasy. And the same goes for the games they choose.

    5. Is it easier to die? Eh, maybe. Is it easier to get hurt? Possibly. Does it take longer to recover from being hurt? Probably. Is coming back from the dead a common occurrance? Probably not. Are resources scarce? Not necessarily -- a good DM will make sure there are resources -- they might not be scrolls of cure light wounds, but they might be, say, herbal ingredients that might accelerate your healing rate or something like that.

    Add more!
    Last edited by EricNoah; Friday, 12th March, 2004 at 09:07 PM.

  • #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Jezter
    I guess I don't hate "low magic, grim & gritty" as much as I dislike gamers who think that playing such campaigns somehow makes them more mature and enlightened than people who play "standard magic, non-grim & gritty" campaigns.

    I mean, so what if you think a campaign setting is the greatest thing since sliced bread and all other settings suck compared to it becaues magic is rare and encounters usually result in more dead PCs? In the end, you are still playing a glorified game of make-believe just like the rest of us.
    Amen!

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    Quote Originally Posted by EricNoah
    There may be a perception, possibly correct, that "any chump can run a standard D&D game, but only a master GM can run a successful grim/gritty/low magic game." So maybe it's a question of (perceived?) bragging rights.
    I'd say it is this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Dyal
    One of my biggest beefs with D&D is that it is a genre unto itself. It doesn't resemble Tolkien-style epic fantasy, it doesn't resemble Howard or Leiber style swords & sorcery, it doesn't resemble Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith wierd tales, it doesn't resemble Mercedes Lackey romantic fantasy, it doesn't closely resemble Burroughs planetary romance; in short, it really doesn't closely resemble anything other than itself anymore in terms of the conventions, themes and "feel" of the game.

    Therefore, it seems completely logical and reasonable to me that a great many players will want to explore other styles and subgenres in fantasy. Many other games do this. I personally think d20 is a perfectly fine vehicle for low magic, grim and gritty.
    Fans of low/gritty simply want an experience that more closely approximates the fantasy genre they grew up reading.

    (Raise dead is the real culprit, here. It's damn hard to have an interesting story when you don't have to worry about the death of the characters...)


    Wulf

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget
    WRONG. Divination doesn't solve all your problems, and there are always counters to any spell.
    Divination, by the default rules of the setting, is the "trump." Nothing can be hidden that cannot be revealed through a higher form of divination, short of DM fiat.

    WRONG. Since when does knowing an alignment mean there is no moral uncertainty?
    My comment was in reference to commune. Commune is not an alignment detection spell, so I'm not sure what your argument is. Commune is the act of petitioning the gods directly for the answer to any question-- and the knowledge that whatever action is suggested is the right action. (And if not-- atonement.)

    WRONG. You just have to make the adventure the journey and not the destination.
    I think you got that backwards. It is impossible to "make the adventure the journey" when the journey is accomplished by teleport and is over in the blink of an eye. That's not much of an adventure.

    Imagine Lord of the Rings with a Helm of Teleportation.

    WRONG. It's just that heroic sacrifice now is the soul, and not just the body.
    There is no such thing as a "soul" defined in the game nor is there any finality of "soul"; in fact, the spell description says just the opposite. Unless the player chooses NOT to be resurrected, he's resurrected. Such a choice is not a "sacrifice." Tackling the dragon when you know there's no coming back is a sacrifice. Tackling the dragon knowing you, personally, might just decide, "Ahh, I'm tired, screw it, I'll stay dead." is not a sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving yourself over to things beyond your control.

    So, in conclusion, WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. Don't tell me my game can't have all that, just because I have those spells. Spells don't define what the story can do. I do.
    So you're saying you are forced to redefine what the spells say they do, in order to make the story do what you want it to do.

    I kinda think that's what the low-magic DMs are doing, too.

    Leaving the spells in your game and then completely nerfing them through DM fiat is no better than just removing them in the first place.

    Wulf

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf Ratbane
    (Raise dead is the real culprit, here. It's damn hard to have an interesting story when you don't have to worry about the death of the characters...)
    I think I have issues with your definition of "interesting". I've run games that had raise dead in them that I thought were quite interesting. I think I know what you're getting at -- it certainly changes the way the PCs react (and thus the players react) when they know death is "it". But I don't think that's the only "interesting" way to play.

  • #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by EricNoah
    Well I think we can all agree that...

    *it takes a skilled DM to run a high-level standard D&D campaign because of all the possibilities the spells open up;

    *it takes a skilled DM to run a low-magic/grim/gritty campaign and have it be "fun" because D&D's core assumptions don't directly support such a game;

    *and it takes practice to become a skilled DM no matter what kind of game you are running, and as a consequence sometimes you'll screw up, and sometimes the players will get caught in that.
    Amen.

    I am not particularly skilled in either high-level, high-magic DMing, nor am I in low-level, low-magic DMing.

    But I can say with certainty, all things being equal and a good DM at the helm, I find a low magic game more compelling in the long term.

    And a high magic game better in the short term--- ahhhhh, for makin' big piles of dead bad guys on a Sunday afternoon...


    Wulf

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    Quote Originally Posted by EricNoah
    I think I have issues with your definition of "interesting".
    Compelling?

    Personally invested in the game?

    There's already a "barrier" between player and character, in that the player knows that his character is simply a fiction-- he (the player) can't "die."

    Removing death-- finality, heroism, sacrifice-- divests the player even more from the character and the conflict the DM presents.

    Granted, I'm assuming the DM is presenting a greater conflict than, "Where's the next dungeon?"


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    Low Magic

    I just read through pages 1 and 2, and I have been itching to get to my reply, so I apologize to anyone on page 3 and 4 who I may be echoing.

    Of all the low magic types I would consider running a game with, I would personally go for the " magic level = relative technology level " route. And that said I would use a rule like " Your maximum spellcaster level in any class cannot exceed your HD/2 rounded up. " . Not particularily my favourite type of mechanic, but it does have a few advantages, i.e. multiclass fighter/wizards can cast the highest level spells, paladins and rangers (if you have them) can cast comparable level spells, etc, etc, best of all, if you are running a game with monster PCs, their spellcasting levels doesn't have to suck compared to non-monster PCs... in your 9th level party, you might have a Wizard 5/Sorcerer 4 and a Lizardman Druid 4/Ranger 2 as opposed to a wizard 9 and a lizardman druid 6. Magic items are just as abundant, but can't have a caster level of more than 10. In such a campaign, your grand finale may even have something to do with PCs ' discovering ' the 6th level of spells.

    Just a thought.
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