GM Prep Time - Cognitive Dissonance in Encounter Design?

Way back when, we had games that didn't have rules (or stats) for everything, and the GM made them up when the players went beyond the expected. We complained because there was little enforced consistency or predictability.

Then, we had games which had rules (and stats) for almost everything under the sun, and we complained how bloody long it took to stat up the NPCs and monsters so fully.

So, now they give us a bit of a mix - all the combat stuff is statted out for NPCs, but the non-combat stuff is left to the DMs imagination. And still we complain.

It seems to me that satisfying us is an impossible task.
Unpossible, Umbram. Unpossible.
 

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ProfessorCirno

Banned
Banned
Because, as we all know, GMs stick strictly to things as written, and don't step outside the box of what designers hand us?

Because when I buy a module, I buy it so I the DM don't have to do all the crap I'm supposed to be paying for.

I can't imagine how freely money flies around for some people. "Yeah, I bought a module, but then houseruled and changed most the stuff in it. Totally worth my money!"
 


Wicht

Hero
I was trying to get a laugh because it was intentionally absurd. And to satirize it to a point.

It must be a weakness of the medium because I misunderstood you to be making fun of other people's preferences. It is good to know you only meant to satirize other people's preferences in good fun.
 

Wicht

Hero
Because when I buy a module, I buy it so I the DM don't have to do all the crap I'm supposed to be paying for.

I can't imagine how freely money flies around for some people. "Yeah, I bought a module, but then houseruled and changed most the stuff in it. Totally worth my money!"

I don't know. While I tend to use modules as is, and am sort of stuck on doing adventure paths at the moment, I have at times also cut and pasted modules to get something else with a minimum of effort. I don't think its a money issue so much as a time issue. So long as someone felt they got their value out of a product, it really doesn't matter how much they spent so long as they are satisfied as to the value.
 

Hussar

Legend
I find it semi amusing that despite the general agreement that there are different play styles and thus different desires when it comes to stat blocks, it seems hard for some to admit that others might genuinely enjoy slighty longer, more detailed stat blocks.

If you like short stat blocks I'm happy for you. I on the other hand, enjoy being prepared for some contingencies. It doesn't matter how likely or unlikely you think any given piece of information is going to be used, to the person who uses it - it was useful.

Heh, I love how you put it at "slightly" longer. Prepared for "some" contingencies. Hrm, 3e stat blocks aren't "slightly" longer. They can take pages, and yes, that's pages plural. You gave an example of something that had about as much likelihood of occurring as the PC's spontaneously combusting for no reason, but that's apparently only a minor contingency. :confused:

Take this as an experiment. Look at the last ten encounters you ran (not necessarily combat - just encounters with stuff outside of traps or hazards) in your D&D game. Of those ten encounters, tally the total number of NPC's featured.

Now, how many of those NPC's appeared in a second encounter?

I'm willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of NPC's featured in exactly one encounter - either combat or non-combat or possibly a combination of both. So, considering that the NPC will feature in the game for a grand total of about an hour, probably far less than 1% of the total time of the campaign, why does that NPC need a fully detailed stat block?

I mean, for much of D&D's history, OD&D, AD&D, 2e D&D and now 4e, monster stat blocks could be reduced to a single typed line. And, yet, somehow, we managed to muddle through for about twenty years or so of gaming.

What were we doing differently?
 

Hussar

Legend
Because when I buy a module, I buy it so I the DM don't have to do all the crap I'm supposed to be paying for.

I can't imagine how freely money flies around for some people. "Yeah, I bought a module, but then houseruled and changed most the stuff in it. Totally worth my money!"

I would wonder why you are not taking Wicht to task since he said that he added to the module earlier in the thread and talked about it being a strength of the module.

Never mind that most modules assume that you will do at least a basic amount of work personalizing it for your group. The number of DM's who open a module to page one, make zero alterations and run it completely as is, is IMO, pretty small.
 

Benimoto

First Post
Because when I buy a module, I buy it so I the DM don't have to do all the crap I'm supposed to be paying for.

I can't imagine how freely money flies around for some people. "Yeah, I bought a module, but then houseruled and changed most the stuff in it. Totally worth my money!"

As I read Noonan's quote, what he is suggesting is that NPCs should have the stats to fulfill the purpose they serve in a module. Extra stats are completely extra. If it happens that somehow Kalarel gets back into town and involved in a iron-chef-style baking contest with the PCs, then the DM should have no problem deciding what his baking skill level is, or what baking-related powers he should have. But for the purposes of a group intending to run the module as written, such stats are superfluous.
 

Blastin

First Post
Because, as we all know, GMs stick strictly to things as written, and don't step outside the box of what designers hand us?

Way back when, we had games that didn't have rules (or stats) for everything, and the GM made them up when the players went beyond the expected. We complained because there was little enforced consistency or predictability.

Then, we had games which had rules (and stats) for almost everything under the sun, and we complained how bloody long it took to stat up the NPCs and monsters so fully.

So, now they give us a bit of a mix - all the combat stuff is statted out for NPCs, but the non-combat stuff is left to the DMs imagination. And still we complain.

It seems to me that satisfying us is an impossible task.

Quoted for truth and because I can't give you XP yet :D
 

So if the only stats that exist are combat stats...

... and you explicitly made the game that way because you felt that monsters were only useful in combat, then it's probably unsurprising that your adventure modules are grind-happy combat fests.

Are you honestly going to claim that this is a likely outcome? Not only is this a likely event, but, likely to succeed? I mean, your party would have to first successfully bluff her, manage to convince her of their intentions, THEN the DM would have to contrive to send them on this specific mission WHILE she accompanies them, on horseback and THEN they have to decide to attack her at that specific point in time.

This is why we need her ride skill? :/

You can ridicule whatever particular example you like. You can say that it's absurd that the PCs would ever be able to lure her out of her lair; or that she would be able to escape their initial attack; or that they delayed long enough that she rides out for an open assault on the village; or any of a dozen other possibilities.

But the reality is that by providing a well-rounded picture of the gaming environment you are giving hooks that the players and DM can both access, manipulate, and use.

When the only thing you support is hitting things with sticks, then lots of things are going to get hit with sticks.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And WotC's design team actually said, "We think the only thing you want are 5 rounds of nails, so we're only going to give you hammers."

I'm not saying that you HAVE to run 4th Edition as nothing more than an endless slog of 5 round bouts of combat. But I am saying that's the design ethos that gave us both the core rulebooks and the grind-tastic adventures.

And you can't really argue with that, because that's what the designers said. So unless you're calling the designers a bunch of filthy liars, there's really nothing to argue about here.
 

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