What is "grim and gritty" and "low magic" anyway? - Page 12




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  1. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf Ratbane
    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.
    But if the player can just roll up a new character...? (and I've seen it -- "JimBob the fighter is dead. Meet ... LarryBill the fighter!")

    Now, if you've got a rule that says "if your PC dies, you (the player) are out of the group!" -- now that's interesting!

    (tongue in cheek here...)

    Seriously, though, what happens after PC death in your "ideal" game? (I'm curious -- I'm running a game where one of the PCs could very well die soon, and there's no real easy solution like raise dead IMC. I'd like to hear what my options are when that happens...)

 

  • #112
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    But if the player can just roll up a new character...?
    You've still got morale issues. Players get rather attached to their characters, remember....and campaigns with a string of deaths seems to result in loss of player motivation (thinking anecdotes about RttToEE here).
    "They've taken all the fun out of slaying things and stealing treasure!"
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    Again, though, it doesn't necessarily follow that low-magic or grim/gritty instantly equals more deaths -- in some ways IMC it's harder to just outright die without going through a couple of different stages of disability ("injured", "disabled" or "staggered", "unconscious", "dying", etc.).

    But you're right -- some players would rather stick to one character for as long as possible. Which of course is the motivation that presumably makes them more careful with their characters. Unfortunately, sometimes players who are being too careful end up bored -- avoiding everything, less motivation to explore the unknown/dangerous, etc... It's a hard balance, and certainly not for everyone...

  • #114
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    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.
    Except when things are guarded by higher levels of illusion/obscuring. One of the greatest forms of divination, Discern Location, still can be trumped by another spell Mind Blank, or by simply never meeting the person or seeing the object. One of the most potent illusions, Screen *specifically* foils scrying. Even True Seeing can be foiled by a wall. Even Commune has significant limitations. These spells have existed for millenia, to not make use of the counter-measures offered for them is just not playing the rules as they are written, IMHO. Even the local farmer knows that if Magey McMagicpants can get a lock of your daughter's hair, he can find her.

    You posited that there is no fear of the unknown. Even when the PC's can ask their god "Is there something looming in the dark?" "Is it dangerous?" "Can we rest safely here tonight?" "What is the alignment of King Steve?" "Is that approaching dragon real?", that doesn't dispel the unknown. At most, they know there *is* something in the dark, that king steve *is* strongly chaotic evil, that they *cannot* rest safely here tonight......that's plenty scary. There is still fear of the unknown, because the known is never, ever complete.

    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.)
    See, just asking a deity whether it is 'right' or not is useless....it's the effects of the actions that the PC's will have to live with, wether they're moral or not. I can ask Pelor if killing the evil king is Right, and regardless of what he says, still come to the descision myself. If he says 'no,' maybe I just need to think of a way to incapacitate the king without killing him......is letting the people suffer right?

    Commune only answers yes or no questions, man. And even if it did provide a 'trump card divination,' you don't need to change to a low magic setting just because you don't like one spell, or even a handful of spells.

    And it can still be an alignment detector...("Is McBaine Evil?")

    You posited that there was no moral uncertainty. I'm saying that's patently untrue because even if you know what is right, what is good, what is wrong, what is evil, the circumstances that the players are in will dictate their actions. Even if harming King Steve in any way is the most vile act you could comit, if he comes at you swinging a flail, the character has two choices -- die or sin. This is very much morally challenging.

    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.
    The fact of the matter is, Lord of the Rings != D&D. To imagine LotR within the D&D rules, you'd have to assume Sauron knew about Teleportation, and that he either took that into account....Gandalf had never been to Mount Doom, he couldn't've teleported there if he wanted to, since the spell requires a knowledge of the area. And the hobbits were in an even worse boat.

    And you make the adventure the journey by making the goal something to be accomplished on the way. "Getting from Point A to Point B" is a very simplistic plot idea, and it works for the low levels. After that, especially in going back to places where you've already been, it's just annoying. But if the Epic Gewgaw lay lost somewhere near the Mount of Evil, all the teleporting in the world won't help you to *find* it. And when you do find it, using it is a quest in and of itself. Or heck, if you have it in your hands immediately, and have even been to Mount of Evil before, Teleport is still unreliable....methinks the fate of the free world is a bit too much to risk on a potential mishap with the Epic Gewgaw. And if it's the PC's that are doin' it, and they still arive on target, they should still have enough fire elementals, orcs, and goblins to keep them busy on their way up the mount.

    Mordor in LotR was about one character's struggle with the burden of evil. Combat was avoided because it was deadly. If LotR met D&D it would've been a different story, but it wouldn't have removed all the arduous journey out of it.

    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.
    You need a body part, or at least a piece of one, for all but the highest level of resurrection -- tackling a dragon who might kill you might also kill your friends, and would definately kill them if they had to drag your corpse around. Also, this is why you burn them, slash them, smash them, eat them -- no corpse = no resurrection. Throwing yourself down the mouth of a dragon is VERY heroic, because you DO sacrifice yourself, except with maybe a lot of gold and a true resurrection, I don't see you comin' back from that, or most of your friends. It's not in your control anymore, it's in control of your buds. And by the time they can afford to True Res you, they can also afford to have the dragon wished out of existence, so the concept of sacrificing yourself to a single monster is very much lost anyway.

    You posited that there was no noble sacrifice. Gold, XP, time, and your friends, are plenty of things to sacrifice. And you still sacrifice your life, if but for a day or two, in order to further the cause, to ensure your friends escape, etc. You give up a lot, and make your party give up a lot, every time you die -- it's not something to be considered lightly just because it can be done.

    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.
    I'm not redefining anything, or using DM fiat. And yes, simply getting rid of a problematic spell or three is vastly superior to restructuring the entire bloody magic system. All I'm doing is RTFM, and assuming that these spells are not rare and once-in-a-lifetime events, because the rules almost posit specifically that they are not.

    Divinations do not remove fear of the unknown, because knowing, say, 20 things doesn't make you know it all. Commune doesn't equal no moral ambiguity, because the tasks you must accomplish are sometimes at cross-purposes to what you believe. Teleportation doesn't negate arduous journeys, because new places still must be journeyed to, and epic gewgaws are far too important to trust to a roll of the dice. Raising the dead does not negate noble sacrifice, because you still make the sacrifice in terms not measured in life, and it's still for a 'greater cause.' I'm not re-defining the spells, I'm simply applying the rules as they are written. As they are written, the rules allow anyone to use the unknown, moral ambiguity, arduous journeys, and noble sacrifice in their campiaign without changing a word.

    And if you can't wrap your brain around a noble sacrifice that you can come back to life from, you don't need to overhaul the spell system -- just alter or remove the spells you have a problem with. That's making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Now, if you don't like the feel of a lot of magic or an impermanent death in general, now we're in territory I can cede.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saeviomagy
    Simply put - if someone uses either of these phrases to describe their campaign, it means that they didn't really think about the campaign world beyond their own personal DMing preferences.
    From personal opinions to ignorant insults in the course of a sentence.

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  • #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget
    And yes, simply getting rid of a problematic spell or three is vastly superior to restructuring the entire bloody magic system.
    Only if you believe the default bloody magic system is any bloody good. I'm not really partial to it, myself.

    "I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry

  • #117
    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget
    Except when things are guarded by higher levels of illusion/obscuring. One of the greatest forms of divination, Discern Location, still can be trumped by another spell Mind Blank, or by simply never meeting the person or seeing the object. One of the most potent illusions, Screen *specifically* foils scrying. Even True Seeing can be foiled by a wall. Even Commune has significant limitations. These spells have existed for millenia, to not make use of the counter-measures offered for them is just not playing the rules as they are written, IMHO. Even the local farmer knows that if Magey McMagicpants can get a lock of your daughter's hair, he can find her.
    Granted, this is true. However, it is also one of the issues that some people (myself included) have with high magic games: I, as a GM, must constantly and continuously hunt out the exceptions, the counters, and the trumps. True, as a GM, this is part of the territory, but there comes a time when you put so much of your effort into countering what the high magic rules give to the PCs that it takes away from the reason RPGs exist: Story, setting, and plot.

    When the game is more of an arms race instead of a vehicle for interactive story making, it comes to feel as if the rules have lost their place in the scheme of things, becoming the reason to play instead being the tool by which play is possible. When that happens, I (and I'm going to assume others) begin to loose their interest in playing at all, and GMing and campaign design go from being a labor of love to a laborous chore you try to get out of along with taking out the trash.
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  • #118
    I'm quite enjoying this thread...

    Role Playing is an act of imagination...I think everybody agrees on that. What I'm seeing in this thread is a basic break down into two different TYPES of imagination.

    Group one -- who's imagination focusses on their role in the world...and playing the part of a character with exceptional (and sometimes magical) powers, in a world otherwise based around the same assumptions as ours.

    Group two -- who'se imagination focusses insteas around the changing the assumptions of the world...whose PC's/NPC's are seemless parts of a world, the entire context of which is changed from our own.

    It's not splitting hairs, when you think of it. Group one, while willing to suspend disbelief about many things (the existence of magic & monsters) expects the rules (and the DM's interpretation of them) to uphold certain preconceptions of reality (e.g. that each time you get with a sword, there should be a chance of serious injury or death). Group number two are willing to do away with the notion of reality which they feel bogs down the cinematic escapism of playing...therefore group two would tend not to favour grim & gritty playing (and would probably, more often than not prefer high magic)

    Perhaps the difference can best be analogised to those whose imagination tends towards reflecting historical dramas, to those whose imagination reflects many cartoons. There are many shades of gray, and one approach is no better than the other.

    Sorry to get esoteric on you here. I just think, on many of these debates, what is often overlooked is the role of personality. There is a real continium of the kind of escape people desire from roleplaying...and fascilitating this escape, more than anything else, is the deciding factor on the kind of rules players prefer.

    On a totally unrelated point...

    IF you work from the premise that grim & gritty means a higher danger level (i.e. risk of character death) from mundane encounters, then I'd reccomend Bastion's Press's 'Torn Asumder' book...which adds tremendous 'gritty' impact through the critical hit mechanic...

    I've done up a little ditty that ties this mechanic to the instant death mechanics in UA. Haven't tried it in a game yet. But am itching to.

    thanks for providing the entertaining read, folks

  • #119
    Quote Originally Posted by nothing to see here
    Perhaps the difference can best be analogised to those whose imagination tends towards reflecting historical dramas, to those whose imagination reflects many cartoons.
    Like Excalibur vs He-Man?
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  • #120
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bendris Noulg
    Granted, this is true. However, it is also one of the issues that some people (myself included) have with high magic games: I, as a GM, must constantly and continuously hunt out the exceptions, the counters, and the trumps. True, as a GM, this is part of the territory, but there comes a time when you put so much of your effort into countering what the high magic rules give to the PCs that it takes away from the reason RPGs exist: Story, setting, and plot.

    When the game is more of an arms race instead of a vehicle for interactive story making, it comes to feel as if the rules have lost their place in the scheme of things, becoming the reason to play instead being the tool by which play is possible. When that happens, I (and I'm going to assume others) begin to loose their interest in playing at all, and GMing and campaign design go from being a labor of love to a laborous chore you try to get out of along with taking out the trash.

    So why not just play at low levels? It is perfectly acceptable to not give out as much experience and keep the game at the low levels that you seem to prefer. When players advance to higher levels they gain more powers. If they can't use those powers, what did they really gain? If you squik the powers of clerics and mages are you also taking away great cleave and power attack from the fighters? If your not, does that seem fair to you?

    I can definitly appreciate you comments on the rock paper scissors nature of high level gaming. However, I've played in great games that stayed at low levels and avoided this. My awful experiences with GnG have come in games where the GM wanted to act like they were playing high level D&D, without actually dealing with these issues.
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