What is "grim and gritty" and "low magic" anyway? - Page 16




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  1. #151
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf Ratbane
    No, of course you can. I have done.

    But such characters are soon eclipsed in their abilities by even the simplest magic.

    Consider that a cloak and boots of elvenkind (which a 3rd level caster can make) grant 20 skill ranks.

    An 8th level fighter strives to master his weapon and gain improved critical; meanwhile the elven wizard has had keen edge since 3rd level (and true strike since first).

    And on and on...

    Wulf
    Exactly, very well stated. The way the core rules are set up, its MUCH more economical and efficient to simply use magic to enhance your character's abilities than have the character develop those skills himself. While King Arthur had Excalibur, and Frodo had the One Ring and Sting, these items didn't define the character or his abilities as absolutely as items and magic do in D&D. This is a notion that peculiar to D&D, and nowhere else in fantasy fiction or myth.

    The low magic/GnG crowd seeks to downplay the role of magic in the game so that the characters can shine. While its possible to have wit, skill, and resourcefulness be defining character traits in a standard D&D game, those qualities often take a back seat to acquiring more potent abilities and magical solutions IME. The scry/buff/teleport or greater invis/fly/fireball phenomena of dealing with high-level threats in D&D is proof of this, and is something NEVER found in fiction or legend. This isn't relying on the resourcefulness of characters, but instead it is the "optimal" way of dealing with high level threats according to the core rules. If even ONE player in a standard D&D game goes for magical power over skill, wit, and resourcefulness, then all the other players are FORCED to comply with the same power escalation or be left in the dust. Obviously, not all high magic games are like this, as evidenced by some posters here, but all the high magic games I have ever played in (and unfotunately run once) ended up this way. To me, this is when the soul of the game and fantasy is lost. Reducing the magic level is one way to preserve character balance across the board if the DM wants to make sure the game focuses on the characters rather than a magical arms race.
    Last edited by Gothmog; Saturday, 13th March, 2004 at 05:38 PM.
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  • #152
    Quote Originally Posted by Spatzimaus
    *- "Good system" and "system that can lead to good games" are two different things. If I took D&D and removed every spell above 4th level, I could still make a good campaign out of it, as long as the players cooperated, but that wouldn't make it a balanced game system.
    I would venture that the former (a good campaign) is far more important than the later (a balanced game system). For instance, I know that, looking at the game market, my material isn't exactly balanced; However, I also know that, at my table, with my players, playing the way we like, it is balanced far better than the Core Rules themselves because it's a more exact fit to our tastes, styles, and genre preferences.

    All a "balanced game system" did was make the task of customization more problematic.
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  • #153
    Sigh.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bendris Noulg
    I would venture another outlook: Low Level D&D is the only part of D&D that even remotely resembles the fantasy genre, and the higher level you get, the less the game resembles the genre from which it was born.
    This has been a part of D&D ever since day one. It's a bit late to complain about that, don't you think?


    In the end, this is the general complaint many LM/GnG gamers have: They don't want to be confined to low levels in order to emulate the genre.
    From what I've seen, many such gamers want to be confined by the expectations of that one particular genre. They have no particular desire to do things that fall outside that genre: teleporting, flying, taking on armies single-handed, etc. Therefore, it's only logical that if mechanically speaking they don't want to change much, their levels shouldn't change much, relatively speaking.


    I've not seen Wulf's book yet (it's near the top of my list, though...), but what you find most of "us" doing is making an attempt to open high level play to characters without the burden/dependance of magic that Core balance/expectations appears to impose. The idea that low magic games should be confined to low levels is patently false; It illustrates a misconception that magic is necessary in order to play the game right and that low magic games should be confined to low levels because that's when magic is "light".
    There is no such thing as "playing the game right", at least not in the way you seem to be implying. D&D handles low magic perfectly well, and high magic perfectly well. It handles low magic at low levels, and high magic at high levels. The two are different games. You can certainly try to shoehorn the low magic style into high levels, but why bother? You'll be doing nothing that you couldn't already do at low levels.

    And yes, you get lots of feats and skill points and whatnot at high levels. This is irrelevant. You can just as easily give out more feats and skill points at low levels, and this has the benefit of not having to deal with the other baggage of high-level play: more hit points, better BAB and saves, tougher monsters, etc. Or you could just play out these things freeform, without the need for game mechanics. It would save a lot of time and hassle, and furthermore, get around another of the common complaints: "it's all die rolling, there's no roleplaying anymore".


    However, what this belief translates as is "because you have chosen not to use high magic, your characters are mentally and physically crippled and can't get past 5th Level." That is just as rediculous as it is wrong.
    The only thing that's wrong is this silly strawman of yours. Who, exactly, is crippled at 5th level? Even if you take bog-standard D&D, a 5th level fighter can take on a platoon of orcs without too much trouble, a 5th level rogue can sneak into most places untouched, etc.

    The only thing that could possibly make a 5th level fighter look "crippled" by comparison is a 20th level fighter. But if your campaign ends at 5th or 10th level, then 20TH LEVEL FIGHTERS DON'T EXIST. The ceiling is redefined, and that's what counts. Why do you care if, in Joe Munchkin's campaign down the road, 40th level wizard/paladins are matching up with balors and whatnot? Within the reality of your game world, Joe Munchkin is irrelevant.


    You do realize that Gandolf is listed on page 5 of the ELH as an expample of an Epic Character. Consequently, so are Conan, Fafhrd, and the Gray Mouser, three characters not exactly known for their huge stock piles of gold and endless lists of magical trinkets.
    The ELH is a pile of garbage. There is nothing particularly "epic" about Gandalf, except maybe the fact that he's an angel. The ELH conflates two entirely different meanings of the word epic, and befuddles more than it illuminates.


    What I see is the opposite: The game that used to only be limited by our imaginations is now wearing a high magic straight jacket and those that are comfortable in that straight jacket can't understand why someone else would want to get it off and scratch an itch.
    The people who play in one, rather narrowly-defined genre, and want a game to support only that genre, are the ones who aren't wearing the straitjacket. Right.
    Last edited by hong; Saturday, 13th March, 2004 at 06:01 PM.

  • #154
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bendris Noulg
    I would venture another outlook: Low Level D&D is the only part of D&D that even remotely resembles the fantasy genre, and the higher level you get, the less the game resembles the genre from which it was born.

    In the end, this is the general complaint many LM/GnG gamers have: They don't want to be confined to low levels in order to emulate the genre.

    I would agree with this, and think that this is exactly what I have been saying. GM's don't want to admit they are playing low level D&D, so they rip out all the stuff that makes a game high level and then say they are playing high level.

    When characters advance they get feats, spells, skills and BAB. Each class is strong in one or two of those catagories. Since the mages aren't ever going to challenge the parties theif or fighter on hitpoints, skills, BAB or feats, the only real thing they gain in comparison to the party is spells. If you take away the spells or cripple the spells system, the caster esentially falls behind at every level. Until finally they are the same level in name only, and they are really just third or fourth class citizens in the party.

    DC's for skills increase, hitpoints and AC's for monsters increase, but so does the skill level and damage per round of the fighters and rogues. So, in that sense the challenge to the party stays the same for those classes. They have around the same chance of success killing the monster as they did at first level, and they have about the same success rate of picking the tricky locks at high levels as they did the low level locks at first level.

    So, you get a situation where the challenges get increasingly hard for the casters, while the challenges stay relatively the same for the fighters and rogues. Add into this the SR and other mage beating stuff that higher level monsters have and guess who isn't having a good time and isn't able effectively participate in the combats.

    IMHO, a fighter is just as interesting to play at low levels as high levels. I actually think a rogue is most interesting upto 5th level. Since, their game doesn't change that much at high levels, the only thing you gain, or fear from going to high levels is the caster threat to game stability. So why not just admit it and play at those levels. Casters won't ruin your game, and it won't actually change the core play of the other core classes.
    Last edited by kamosa; Saturday, 13th March, 2004 at 06:11 PM.
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  • #155
    I'm not sure I understand why it's a big deal that folks have espoused and supported the low magic / grim and gritty style of play in this thread, since that is what the original poster asked for.

    How do you define low magic? How do you define grim and gritty? What makes these seemingly more attractive than standard Core Rules D&D for many? Is this a direction more campaign settings and sourcebooks should go in? What about the core rules?
    Of course everyone has an opinion of the game and the way they like to play it. I don't spend my time evangelizing the "lmgng" style of play, but when a fellow board member specifically asks about it, I put my 2 cents in. No one is overtly trying to attack the default 3.x systems, but it is going to come out that way from anyone who can answer the question asked: What makes these seemingly more attractive than standard core D&D? That is the topic.

    On the flip side of this, I have no problem with all the comments that start "I played/DMd this style and hated it." That answers the question, too, and it comes from experience. If you need to explain the position further, I'd suggest a thread called "Why core D&D is seemingly more attractive than other game systems". But this topic isn't why the core system is just fine. So why all the flak on both sides?
    Last edited by ManicFuel; Saturday, 13th March, 2004 at 06:17 PM.

  • #156
    Quote Originally Posted by kamosa
    I would agree with this, and think that this is exactly what I have been saying. GM's don't want to admit they are playing low level D&D, so they rip out all the stuff that makes a game high level and then say they are playing high level.
    Actually, what I posted and what you posted are the opposite...

    You say low magic games should stay low level.

    I'm saying that's arrogant, elitist, and ignorant thinking.
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  • #157
    [sarcasm]

    Quote Originally Posted by ManicFuel
    I'm not sure I understand why it's a big deal that folks have espoused and supported the low magic / grim and gritty style of play in this thread, since that is what the original poster asked for.
    Oh, that's simple.


    See, when someone posts, "I like low magic games", what we're really saying is, "high magic sux and those that like it are loosers."

    Didn't you know that?

    [/sarcasm]
    Last edited by Bendris Noulg; Saturday, 13th March, 2004 at 06:30 PM. Reason: Clarify Sarcastic Tone
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  • #158
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    This is the best thread I've read in a while.
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  • #159
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    Quote Originally Posted by nemmerle
    This is the best thread I've read in a while.
    Agreed, though again folks: watch the tone. Throwing words like "arrogant, ignorant and elitist" around at your fellow gamers isn't going to get you far. This isn't DefCon 1 here, we're just trying to figure out why some people like it one way and some people like it another. If you think someone is snapping at you, snapping back doesn't make the situation better.

  • #160
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    I've had some additional thoughts based on something Wulf said a few posts back about the "distance" between the player and the character.

    I think some people want to be closer to their character, and some want to be further away. And it may not be consistent for a particular player.

    If my goal is to have a close-to-reality or close-to-plausible experience, LM/GnG is right up my alley because the character I play is going to be closer to what I personally could do or be if I were transported into that setting. When I play such a character and the character succeeds, it may feel more like it was "me" who succeeded because it wasn't my high AC or my stats in general that won the day, it was my own cleverness.

    Conversely, if my goal in gaming is to get to "be" someone I never really could be (like a wizard or a tiefling or an awakened rust monster), maybe standard-magic D&D is going to get me there. My spells, my magic items, my supernatural powers, my better-than-humanly-possible skills help the character achieve things that normally no one could achieve. I still have to use my own cleverness to "win the day" though because (if the DM is doing a good job) the opposition may have similar or superior powers. But maybe (and this is up for debate) more of my character's success is due to the stuff he earns as a reward/consequence of playing the game (from his race, class, magic items, etc.).

    Is this making any kind of sense? I kind of lost my train of thought. I'll come back and try again in a bit...

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