Consequence and Reward in RPGs


I like to compare trends in the game industry as a whole with individual segments, such as RPGs. Often what’s happening “out there” will turn up in the individual segments, if it hasn’t already.



The most striking trends in hobby games is the movement from games of consequence to games of reward. Players in hobby games in the past have been expected to earn what they received, but more and more in hobby games we’re seeing games that reward players for participation. This is a general trend in our society, where schoolkids expect rewards for participation rather than for achieving excellence, and in fact excellence is sometimes not allowed!

Reward-based games have always been with us via party games, and to a lesser extent family games. Virtually no one cares who wins a party game, and all of these games tend to be very simple and fully accessible to non-gamers. Mass-market games are much more reward-based then consequence-based. Hobby gamers might call them “not serious”.

A reward-based game is more like a playground than an organized competition, and the opposition in reward-based games tends to be weak/inconsequential/nonexistent.

Home video “save games” have always tended to make video games a “you can’t lose” proposition. We’re moving beyond that.

With free-to-play video games dominating the mobile market and a strong influence in other markets, designers reward players so that they’ll play the game long enough to decide to spend money in it. We see players who blame the game if they fail, who expect to be led around by the hand, even in games that people purchase.

Tabletop RPGs generally involve an unspoken pact between the players and the GM, so that the players can have fun and not have to worry too much about losing. But the game tends to be more enjoyable when there’s a possibility of failure - the triumphs are sweeter. The co-creator of D&D (Gary Gygax) put it this way in one of his last publications (Hall of Many Panes) "...a good campaign must have an element of danger and real risk or else it is meaningless - death walks at the shoulder of all adventurers, and that is the true appeal of the game."

Classic games involve conflict. Many so-called games nowadays do not involve conflict, and there are role-playing "games" that are storytelling exercises without much opposition.

Reflections of this trend in RPGs often involve abundant healing and ways to save characters from death, such as the ridiculous Revivify spell, usable by a mere fifth level cleric in D&D Fifth Edition, that brings back the dead on the field of battle.

35 years ago, a young player GMed his first game for our shared-characters campaign. He really wanted to ensure the players had a good time - so he gave out lots of magic items. We wanted players to earn what they received, so myself and the other lead GM waved our hands after the adventure and most of those items disappeared.

I’m a senior citizen, in my roots a wargamer, and I prefer games of consequence. But that's not where the world is headed.

contributed by Lewis Pulsipher
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's not all physical. Dice by weapon, adds by +1 per point over 12, –1 per point under 9, for each of Strength, Dexterity, and Luck.

If it's not "1st gen", your categorization is totally F*f, as its 1975 publication date and post-GenCon 1974 writing date put it as one of the first 5 RPGs in print.
Sounds more like it might be an example of "0th gen" along with OD&D.
 

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aramis erak

Legend
Sounds more like it might be an example of "0th gen" along with OD&D.

Perhaps; it's much less a wargame than is D&D.

For some groups, a melee is just one big fight for all in scene characters and monsters.
For others, a single fight scene is a collection of multiple melees. The latter tend to use tokens or minis to mark who is where.

In practice, it's not that simple.

Step 1: declarations
step 2: any needed saves, including missile to-hits and spell casting saves (for over-level spells)
Step 3: melee rolls and missile damage rolls.
Step 4: totals
Step 5: allocate damage
Step 6: reduce damage by armor
Step 7: apply damage

Steps 1 & 2 make it very much unlike D&D in practice.
Why? Because in the rules since 4th ed, perhaps before (I've not seen prior to 4th), the example allow pulling various stunts which potentially increase damage rolls, or change how damage will be allocated, or include/exclude various PC's/NPCs from the combat.
Failed SRs not only fail to accomplish whatever, but also do damage to the guy attempting it.

D&D doesn't strongly encourage wild creativity; T&T does. D&D, if anything, encourages wargame mode.

Other elements of T&T are in fact explicitly reactions to LBB/LWB D&D:
  • Luck instead of Wisdom
  • Spell level is the level of the character required to cast without rolling a save.
  • No difference between wizards/clerics.
  • No alignments.
  • Attribute multipliers rather than additive modifiers for species
  • Alternate terms: Type instead of Class, Kindred instead of Race
  • Type is about magic use almost exclusively: Warrior = no magic, Rogue = untrained/semi-trained caster, Wizard = trained caster. (D&D class in LWB/LBB D&D is source of magic: None, Gods, Training)
  • Experience increases level, level increases attributes directly and casting capability. (D&D level increases HP and To Hit, as well as casting for Wiz/Cler; the D&D rogue wasn't out yet. It also increases saves.)
  • Saves always on luck* (LBB/LWB D&D saves based upon class and level, with small attribute mods) In 5th and later, saves on other attributes explicitly allowed for adjudication of skilled efforts.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
It's not all physical. Dice by weapon, adds by +1 per point over 12, –1 per point under 9, for each of Strength, Dexterity, and Luck.

If it's not "1st gen", your categorization is totally F*f, as its 1975 publication date and post-GenCon 1974 writing date put it as one of the first 5 RPGs in print.
The generations are not necessarily temporal. I'm given to understand that there was a very early Arthurian game that featured some heavily narrative mechanics. (the name eludes me and I never played it back in the day.) Nonetheless, the description still sounds 1st gen. "Luck" is the only thing I've heard so far that might be questionable.

Also, keep in mind that this is just how I personally view the development of narrative or story centric mechanics in rpgs. I'm not suggesting that everyone adopt this or even that its the most important "trend" in rpg history.

Sent from my LG-TP450 using EN World mobile app
 

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