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  1. #31
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    Watch out, you might get what you're after
    Cool, babies! Strange but not a stranger
    I'm an ordinary guy
    Burning down the house
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  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elon Tusk View Post
    I'm trying to find where the game defines the goals of play you list:
    The goals of play can be found with the following question - why are the *players* bothering to play. The mechanics are there to help the players attain the goals of play.

    For some, really interesting tactical wargaming may be a goal for play. For another, it may be emotional social roleplaying, and so on. Everyone has their reasons to sit at the table.

    From RAW, it seems like gaining levels is the mechanic for goals...
    XP, in and of themselves, are not usually a reason for players to sit at the table. They aren't playing Pac Man, where gaining the high score of points is itself a thing you want to do. XP are merely a means to the ends of attaining rising action, character development, and tactical complexity, among a few other things.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    Well, if you don't do anything towards the goals, or even take on challenging issues, you don't get XP. Burning down a house is something anyone can do, and takes no special effort - oil, toches, whoomph! Done. Why should they get a reward for that?
    IF burning down the house doesn't do anything towards the goals, then there's no XP to get, and no XP to "lose." So I agree with that part.

    My point was that, if the house is full of dangerous enemies, then burning it down definitely DOES do something towards the goals. It does a lot. Awarding or withholding XP based on the PC's method of achieving the goals turns one of the primary decisions the players get to make into a meta-game decision. Rather than "How should we overcome this challenge?" it becomes "How does the DM want us to overcome this challenge?"

    IF burning down the house doesn't do anything towards the goals, then why did the players decide do it? My players are not stupid people. If that really seems like the best course of action, maybe I've miscommunicated somehow?

    I agree with @iserith that the players do bear some responsibility for making "fun" decisions instead of purely pragmatic ones. For example, for most PCs, the purely pragmatic decision is to sell most of your starting gear and become a farmer. My group of PCs literally met at a bar (location 8, the Empty Net) and decided to adventure together for purely meta-game reasons.

    One thing I'm considering is giving characters a Wisdom (Insight) check to get "hunches" about the consequences of major actions. Like, "maybe you'll miss important clues if you burn the house down." This would really just be an excuse for me to tell them things at a meta-game level, without breaking immersion. I'm hesitant though, because for some people doing that would break immersion even worse.
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Last time I designed a haunted house adventure, the players did just that.

    In G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain, a considerable portion of the 8 pages of original text is devoted to just why the PC's can't successfully burn down the dungeon, and what unpleasant things will happen if they try to do so.

    So, in general, my advice is have a plan for what happens if the PC's turn arsonist right from the start.
    In G1, our spellcaster flew to the roof of the main building, cut a small hole in the ceiling, and proceeded to fireball the hall below repeatedly. As the surviving giants fled out the front door of the hall while on fire, the rest of the party easily took them down.

    Our DM was fine with it. He thought it was awesome in fact. Made that adventure finish a bit faster. I think we melted some scrolls, but you, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
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  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by 77IM View Post
    IF burning down the house doesn't do anything towards the goals, then there's no XP to get, and no XP to "lose." So I agree with that part.

    My point was that, if the house is full of dangerous enemies, then burning it down definitely DOES do something towards the goals. It does a lot. Awarding or withholding XP based on the PC's method of achieving the goals turns one of the primary decisions the players get to make into a meta-game decision. Rather than "How should we overcome this challenge?" it becomes "How does the DM want us to overcome this challenge?"

    IF burning down the house doesn't do anything towards the goals, then why did the players decide do it? My players are not stupid people. If that really seems like the best course of action, maybe I've miscommunicated somehow?

    I agree with @iserith that the players do bear some responsibility for making "fun" decisions instead of purely pragmatic ones. For example, for most PCs, the purely pragmatic decision is to sell most of your starting gear and become a farmer. My group of PCs literally met at a bar (location 8, the Empty Net) and decided to adventure together for purely meta-game reasons.

    One thing I'm considering is giving characters a Wisdom (Insight) check to get "hunches" about the consequences of major actions. Like, "maybe you'll miss important clues if you burn the house down." This would really just be an excuse for me to tell them things at a meta-game level, without breaking immersion. I'm hesitant though, because for some people doing that would break immersion even worse.
    I agree. A lot the responses seem punitive and a bit railroaded. The players should do things a certain way. If they don't, all these other subjective factors kick in: the town responding negatively, all the enemies escaping unharmed to the caves, all the clues being destroyed.

    If your players have burned down every house in their way, yes, I think it would be fine to add in more negative consequences. But if this is the first time, it's just as likely burning down the house is more memorable than going through just another building.

    Like the hunches you mention, I sometimes ask players for Intelligence checks to see if they might logical think through some possible consequences.
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  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by 77IM View Post
    One thing I'm considering is giving characters a Wisdom (Insight) check to get "hunches" about the consequences of major actions. Like, "maybe you'll miss important clues if you burn the house down." This would really just be an excuse for me to tell them things at a meta-game level, without breaking immersion. I'm hesitant though, because for some people doing that would break immersion even worse.
    Me personally, I don't really care about "immersion." But I would care as a player if I'm asked to make a check without declaring an action. So as DM I would just honestly remind the players that they have X, Y, and Z as quests and that (if this is truly a sandbox game) they aren't required to complete them, but that taking actions A, B, or C would definitely result in those quests being unfulfilled and what rewards they may be leaving on the table as a result. Maybe they care, maybe they don't. At least that way everyone's on the same page with the outcome and they can make an informed choice.
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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by 77IM View Post
    My point was that, if the house is full of dangerous enemies, then burning it down definitely DOES do something towards the goals.
    I think people are trying to avoid spoilers, but the those who know the adventure know the house is not full of dangerous enemies. The are a few scattered vermin and a dangerous enemy somewhere that would not be affected by any fire. What the house does contain is information that could lead the players to uncover a genuine threat.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by 77IM View Post
    I seek a world in which every player decision, smart or stupid, leads to ever more interesting decisions...
    That's impossible. In fact, it's self-contradictory. By definition, if the player decision - whether smart or stupid - always leads to ever more interesting decisions, then those decisions are not interesting. If regardless of what I choose, I'm going to get an interesting result, then the decision itself is not meaningful. I could roll the dice or flip a coin for every choice. What does it matter?

    I've heard this sort of thing before, but it always seems to exist in theory and never in practice. In practice, some decisions don't lead to immediately interesting things. You can pursue the players with a story, but you can't make them have one. Heck, I've even ran a game for 5 year olds using a system of my own devising where serious failure consequences were basically non-existent and could always be fixed by "Mom" at the end of the session, and fully prepared to have adventure spring up around them whatever they do, but truth is, you can't make every choice interesting. Turns out 5 year olds will often actively flee anything that implies risk. It's a rational choice, but it's not an interesting one. And I'm not just picking on 5 year olds. I have had the same problem on occasion with adult players, which eventually led to a rule that you could not play a character who primary motivation was to be uninvolved, isolated, and uncooperative. You had to play some sort of character that had a motivation to get involved in risky danger filled activity. You couldn't for example play a character whose response to danger was to go home and hide and then complain that the other players weren't doing a good enough job convincing an uncooperative stranger to help them and that you were bored because you were successfully hiding. Yes, that was an adult, not the 5 year old.

    Fundamentally, an RPG is a cooperative endeavor that requires a certain sort of active participation by all parties. If the players make interesting choices, you can always have interesting consequences. But there are some sorts of choices you can't give interesting consequences and still have choice be meaningful. Excessively stupid, excessively short-sighted, excessively risk adverse, or excessively passive play must result in logically less interesting consequences if it is persisted in, or else none of the choices matter. There is only so much the GM can do to put in what the players are leaving out.

    If the player's burn down the house, I can continue the adventure. Things will be different. There will now be rubble where the house was, and the surviving vermin in the house will perhaps come to reinhabit the rubble. The smuggling will continue. Eventually things will happen. But as much as I will try to continue the adventure I can not promise that the decision to burn down the house will be as interesting as the decision to enter it, nor can I promise that the end results will necessarily be as satisfying, nor can I in fact force the players to make some new interesting choice rather than making choice that attempt to evade risk and interest. For example, I can't stop the party from deciding to go fishing. I can in fact arrange for them to have an interesting encounter if they do, but then I can't make the party decide not to flee that encounter rather than interact with it. I can keep chasing the players with the fun, but I can't stop them from choosing passive and evasive behavior. I can try to keep the story moving, but I can't promise that it doesn't end with, "Heavily armed Sahuaghin invade town, surprising inhabits.", while the still 1st level characters who have evaded all interaction evade this interaction, fleeing the consequences of all their choices and perhaps complaining about how unfair it is that they were expected to stop a huge Sahuaghin army.

    The PC's are still alive. They are still in some sense, "Failing forward." I may be desperately seeking something that they care enough about to make a stand on. I can present them with all sorts of interesting problems. But I cannot guarantee that their choices are interesting, and if I could then in doing so I would have guaranteed that none of their choices are interesting.

    The only choices that are interesting are choices that have interesting consequences, and to be interesting the consequences must logically follow from the choice so that you can own it otherwise you aren't a participant, and some of the possibilities have to be defeat otherwise there is nothing at risk.
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  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    That's impossible. In fact, it's self-contradictory. By definition, if the player decision - whether smart or stupid - always leads to ever more interesting decisions, then those decisions are not interesting. If regardless of what I choose, I'm going to get an interesting result, then the decision itself is not meaningful. I could roll the dice or flip a coin for every choice. What does it matter?
    It matters because the interesting consequences could be very different. Both interesting, but different.

    Also, it's not impossible. In Apocalypse World, for example, boring outcomes are explicitly against the rules; it's actually easier to obtain interesting outcomes for any group that has more creativity than a lump of lead. The difficulty for me is that D&D is much more preparation-based, which makes this a bit harder to pull off. (I am starting to think that @Shiroiken's advice of "take a 15 minute break" is probably the best thing on this thread.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Fundamentally, an RPG is a cooperative endeavor that requires a certain sort of active participation by all parties. If the players make interesting choices, you can always have interesting consequences. But there are some sorts of choices you can't give interesting consequences and still have choice be meaningful.
    ...
    There is only so much the GM can do to put in what the players are leaving out.
    This part, I definitely agree with. The players bear equal responsibility for making the game FUN. "Let's just burn down the adventure" is probably the most recognizable example of a decision that, in a D&D adventure, puts a lot of burden on the DM to very suddenly come up with a bunch of interesting stuff to replace all the stuff that just got burned down...

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elon Tusk View Post
    I agree. A lot the responses seem punitive and a bit railroaded. The players should do things a certain way. If they don't, all these other subjective factors kick in: the town responding negatively, all the enemies escaping unharmed to the caves, all the clues being destroyed.
    It's not railroading if the world responds realistically to the players' actions*.

    Railroading would be if, having burned down the house, they stumbled over a clue directing them to the next adventure location anyway.


    * This is where it helps to "know what you are talking about (TM)". Those people who have actually read the adventure know that the consequences of burning down the house would be counterproductive ON THIS PATICULAR OCCASSION. It's not a case of "punishing the players", on some adventures burning down the house might be helpful, just not this one.
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