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D&D General "Hot Take": Fear is a bad motivator

Please don't copy/paste entire stacks of wikipedia lists haha.
Yeah. But their sheer numbers proves a point, no? No doubt, amongst them all, there are some examples, as well, of non-contest types, such as in some childhood traditional games and parlor games, so these can be referenced to rebut, in part, and thus do better than me just saying "Thousands of games" without proofs.
 

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loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
Publisher
OT a bit, but I am not consigning games to the dustbin of history due to some social experiment. This is what (below), in part, is eradicated through the objection of win-lose, contest,competition; and with it goes critical thinking, social and scientific leaps (Game Theory, Play Theory, Economic Theory. et al) progress and learning advantage advances through these that are noted as fact, not feelings. I embrace the past that forwarded us to the present It is part and parcel of over 2,000 years of human endeavor in this area and I will not toss it to a ditch, and its thousands of examples and billions of adherents and designers. Good day.
Bruh, are you okay?

I don't consign anything to a dustbin. You do.
 

Bruh, are you okay?

I don't consign anything to a dustbin. You do.
Well, you know that this is going no where when my ideas, fully supported by historical fact, are referred to as "Super Weird" and when I support them with proofs that my inferred mental state ("are you okay?") is brought into question. FWIW at this point I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater as I am not refuting or dismissing any part of game history and its many progressions, social, scientific, or otherwise. I have stated this many times that there are many roads in RPGs. BUT they are not bought at the expense of others, just as play and game theory are not oppositional though distinct in their applications to the point of wide differences in many cases. Good day and fair winds to you.. I will not continue participating in defending the negative while circling this off-topic point.
 

nevin

Adventurer
With that provocative title to grab your attention, let me explain what I mean. Please, as with all things of this type, keep in mind a giant neon sign that says, "OBVIOUSLY NOT APPLICABLE TO 100% OF PEOPLE."

In D&D of even a somewhat "old school" bent, it has always seemed to me that the game outright encourages inducing paranoia in your players. Making them distrust every offer of allegiance, every kind gesture, every calm scene, every peaceful town. Making them rightfully believe that they're in constant danger of losing their ability to participate in play, aka, in constant danger of character permadeath, for light and transient causes. I've even been told, just recently and on this very forum, that such paranoia absolutely is how play should work.

To that, I say bollocks.

Yes, fear is an "effective" motivator, in the narrow sense that it usually succeeds at producing some kind of response. But being effective at producing some kind of response at all is not the same as being effective at producing an enjoyable experience.

Fear alone is, in all honesty, kind of boring. I mean, it's "exciting" in a certain sense, but at least for me, only because I want it to go away. It is "exciting" in the way that a nasty, dramatic, but temporary illness is "exciting": it disrupts, confuses, and invites rash action. And the consequences of death for the player experience are...not getting to play anymore. Instead of creating new stakes, new costs, new challenges, character death just...ends everything. That can of course mean loss for the other players, but for the individual directly affected, it just means "you LOSE. Good DAY, sir!"

Again, I do not mean to rail against the use of fear as ONE tool in the toolbox. But for me it is best used sparingly, a pungent spice to be added as needed, not a core ingredient. Instead, for my part, the main motivators should be enthusiasm and affection.

Enthusiasm typically manifests as the player bringing something to the table. A personal story idea they like. A race they want to play. An open-ended mysterious backstory, or maybe a unique trait or quirk that sets something in motion. Feeding and supporting genuine player enthusiasm--that is, rooted in simple joy about something, and not a desire to exploit or coerce--is much more effective as a base motivator in my experience. It gives the player a feeling of belonging, even ownership; the game is, in at least some small part, "theirs," and that motivates them to see it flourish and change. As long as the player understands that supporting their enthusiasm does not mean guaranteeing success (failure is a vital part of most stories worth telling!), I see few ways that genuine enthusiasm produces perverse incentives.

Affection, meanwhile, tends to be more reactive. It's the player's response to things, characters, and events as they unfold. That silly NPC the DM threw in as a joke, who became a beloved friend and whose noble sacrifice to save the party was both tragic and triumphant in turns. The way an offhand remark about family grows into a whole adventure to save them. These bits of affection, when nurtured, become key parts of the game the players will remember fondly, long after play ends. And they motivate players, not out of fear of losing these things like some miser hoarding his coin, but out of the desire to help and support them, to see them grow and improve rather than decline or lose. Unless it's directed toward those enemies you just love to hate! But I'd lump that in with affection too, even if it's an affection for rubbing the smug snake's face in the dirt. Righteous indignation!

Again: fear shouldn't be removed. It is too fundamental, too core to human experience. But its unquestioned central position, its absolute dominance of the player motivation field, is a disservice to the game. Embracing and encouraging these more positive, intrinsic motives rather than the imposed, extrinsic motive of fear...just produces better games, IMO, whether you prefer Zero to Hero or High Adventure type journeys.

If you do everything you can to have genuinely enthusiastic players who find and express affection for the game they play, fear need be only a sometimes food. Instead of paranoia and anxiety, they'll be full of passion, curiosity, indignation, maybe even pride and hope! Failure, not a dreaded menace, but an accepted difficulty on the journey.

So. How about it? Does "don't fear the reaper roller" sound like blasphemy or beatitude? Would it "not be D&D" if fear weren't the fundamental motivator of your games?
No the game does not do that. DM s do that. It's easy to throw BbEG when players go off course or DM has no other ideas.
 



Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:

Folks are getting personal. And I see instances of "Those who disagree with me have some character flaw" style posting, which does not fly.

Please, folks, keep it clean.
 
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As I said, I literally quoted Lanefan, who explicitly used the word "paranoia" to describe the feeling players should have. If that isn't explicitly doing that, I don't know what to tell you.

Lanefan said: "The characters should be somewhat paranoid, thus giving the players a taste of that only makes sense."

You said: "In D&D of even a somewhat "old school" bent, it has always seemed to me that the game outright encourages inducing paranoia in your players. Making them distrust every offer of allegiance, every kind gesture, every calm scene, every peaceful town."

I do not consider that to be "literally quoting".

ZakS, for example, explicitly said that to me on another forum, a long while back.

I don't believe this for two reasons. First, based on your previous "explict" quote from Lanefan. Second, I simply don't believe name dropping ZakS like this can be done for any reason but to intentionally stir up trouble.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Monopoly is old, yes, but ranking is not a sign of drowning out its innovation. For its time, every board game designer would agree, it could not be touched and indeed revealed the path of how to innovate for future games.

So, there's a point to be found here - games are technology. The fact that a game (or any technology) was "good in its time" is a historical note, but does not mean that anyone later would use it extensively.

The Gutenberg printing press was a truly awesome and transformative technology and design in its time. Its historical impact would be hard to overstate. However, arguing that's how we should print materials today would be a long row to hoe. We have likewise set aside the Model T, and few folks on these boards are reading them on a CRT monitor...

"It is old and formative," is a fine note for the study of history. It is not a support for continuing to do the same things as in yesteryear. Whenever you are looking at an old design, it also pays to note whether today we have better ways to achieve the same thing (for varying values of "the same thing" - which many in this thread seem to fail to recognize.)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It's probably worth noting that in board game circles, this is considered bad game design.
Yeah, well, board game circles aren't necessarily right when it comes to bad/good design. They may value keeping players engaged in a game rather than playing to eliminate them because that's the current Euro-game zeitgeist. But that also constrains what's possible in the design of games - and that's not necessarily good either.

Diplomacy is a great and well-designed game. It's just not the type of game everyone is going to enjoy - and that's fair. But disliking an element of the design doesn't mean that it's bad game design.
 

Lanefan said: "The characters should be somewhat paranoid, thus giving the players a taste of that only makes sense."

You said: "In D&D of even a somewhat "old school" bent, it has always seemed to me that the game outright encourages inducing paranoia in your players. Making them distrust every offer of allegiance, every kind gesture, every calm scene, every peaceful town."

I do not consider that to be "literally quoting".



I don't believe this for two reasons. First, based on your previous "explict" quote from Lanefan. Second, I simply don't believe name dropping ZakS like this can be done for any reason but to intentionally stir up trouble.
Since I don't approve of cross-forum drama, I won't dig up any quotes. I conversed with him, many years ago, about the nature of stakes and what made for good gaming; he openly and explicitly insisted that only character death qualified as a stake, and very specifically, it qualified BECAUSE it was the player risking their continued participation in the game. If you don't believe me, fine. You're entitled to do so. I only mentioned him specifically because he is, shall we say, a person of notoriety, and because I actually remember participating in the thread in question.

If you think what I quoted isn't explicitly someone describing something as "paranoia," I don't know what else to tell you. @Lanefan even came straight into this thread and didn't seem to feel I was misrepresenting their position when I did, in fact, use the exact words, "If I have misrepresented your position in any way, I welcome correction." If "The characters should be somewhat paranoid, thus giving the players a taste of that only makes sense" does not mean "...giving the players a taste of paranoia only makes sense," I really don't know what the sentence is stating.

Paranoia, as defined on Dictionary.com, means:
  1. Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.
  2. baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
Given I doubt Lanefan is claiming the ability to induce outright psychiatric disorders, I think we can confidently assume the latter definition is in play: "baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others," coupled with some irrational fear (a more colloquial use of the term), e.g. the old joke, "it's not paranoia if everyone IS out to get you."
 
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So, there's a point to be found here - games are technology. The fact that a game (or any technology) was "good in its time" is a historical note, but does not mean that anyone later would use it extensively.

The Gutenberg printing press was a truly awesome and transformative technology and design in its time. Its historical impact would be hard to overstate. However, arguing that's how we should print materials today would be a long row to hoe. We have likewise set aside the Model T, and few folks on these boards are reading them on a CRT monitor...

"It is old and formative," is a fine note for the study of history. It is not a support for continuing to do the same things as in yesteryear. Whenever you are looking at an old design, it also pays to note whether today we have better ways to achieve the same thing (for varying values of "the same thing" - which many in this thread seem to fail to recognize.)
While true in one sense, the parts are what really matter at this stage in history. The use of cards in games which it introduced is still used today; its negotiation, open form, phase such in offering to trade "this for that" and in furthering bargains which could include free passes on paying for landing on one's properties, this whole non-linearized part, has been influential on many modern game designs to present, including in my view the more expanded conceptual re-ordering of it that constitutes a greater part of Diplomacy's system interface.
 

Greg Benage

Adventurer
Fear alone is, in all honesty, kind of boring. I mean, it's "exciting" in a certain sense, but at least for me, only because I want it to go away.

Trying to actually respond to the OP. You allow that fear (of character death) can be effective at producing certain behaviors, but argue that (for you) "fear is boring" and motivating only insofar as you want to eliminate it.

That's fair. I really don't get how anyone could argue with this. Don't play the game in a way you find boring!

What's most interesting to me is that I don't want to eliminate fear from the game, whether or not it's motivating. I've played fearless characters in "old-school" games (for a while...), characters who weren't at all motivated by fear (for example, a cleric who ardently believed his god would protect him and that heaven awaited him on the other side in any case), and perhaps especially for characters like this, I still wouldn't want player fear of character death to be eliminated.

For me, "motivation" isn't even the point--whether "fear of death" motivates or not, and how it motivates if it does, depends on the character. For me, there are two points. The first point of character death being on the table is to facilitate immersion. I can get into the head-space of a zealot who believes his god will protect him, and it's fun because I as a player know he may very well be wrong about that. I'm not a good enough method actor to be immersed in a character when I know for a fact that the character has script immunity.

The second point is a gamier one. One thing I really enjoy about RPGs in extended campaigns is character progression, both in the lit sense and the game sense. But even in the lit sense, what sets the RPG experience apart from writing a story is that I can't give "my guy" script immunity. Part of the enjoyment and satisfaction of progression in an RPG is the knowledge that the character might have been eaten by a giant rat the moment he set foot outside town. Progression is uniquely fun in an RPG, because unlike when I'm writing fiction, it isn't a given. That's what makes it a game.
 

Trying to actually respond to the OP. You allow that fear (of character death) can be effective at producing certain behaviors, but argue that (for you) "fear is boring" and motivating only insofar as you want to eliminate it.

That's fair. I really don't get how anyone could argue with this. Don't play the game in a way you find boring!

What's most interesting to me is that I don't want to eliminate fear from the game, whether or not it's motivating. I've played fearless characters in "old-school" games (for a while...), characters who weren't at all motivated by fear (for example, a cleric who ardently believed his god would protect him and that heaven awaited him on the other side in any case), and perhaps especially for characters like this, I still wouldn't want player fear of character death to be eliminated.
Which would put you in the group I mentioned, numerous times throughout my OP, that these thoughts do not apply to. And would mean that a healthy game culture would recognize that, for some people, fear in general and fear of character death specifically remain a vitally important part of the play experience....while also recognizing that other people, like me and my players, really won't enjoy the game as much if they are expected to play a game with fear in the central, starring role.

My whole point, which I repeated several times, was that fear is vastly overrated as a game element (I specifically considered it as a motivator, but if you want to go more general, fine), to the point that it is treated as though it were necessary for a game to be a game, for a game to actually have stakes, for a game to be fun in any way whatsoever. I have, in fact, explicitly been told many, many, MANY times, not just that an individual person couldn't have fun in a game where characters can't die, but that it is IMPOSSIBLE. In this very thread, I've been repeatedly told that I'm trying to turn the game into a "participation medal" process, that absolutely no choices would matter in the kind of game I've described except the choice not to play at all, that what I'm describing could not even be called a "game," etc. It seems very clear to me that questioning whether death should always be part of the game draws an almost immediate response of, "Oh, so you want something where nothing EVER matters??"

For me, "motivation" isn't even the point--whether "fear of death" motivates or not, and how it motivates if it does, depends on the character. For me, there are two points. The first point of character death being on the table is to facilitate immersion. I can get into the head-space of a zealot who believes his god will protect him, and it's fun because I as a player know he may very well be wrong about that. I'm not a good enough method actor to be immersed in a character when I know for a fact that the character has script immunity.
It sounds, then, like you're saying you can't enjoy roleplaying a character if you are certain of what will happen to them. Why does "your character will not be Killed Off Forever" mean that you are now certain of the "script" for their life?

The second point is a gamier one. One thing I really enjoy about RPGs in extended campaigns is character progression, both in the lit sense and the game sense. But even in the lit sense, what sets the RPG experience apart from writing a story is that I can't give "my guy" script immunity. Part of the enjoyment and satisfaction of progression in an RPG is the knowledge that the character might have been eaten by a giant rat the moment he set foot outside town. Progression is uniquely fun in an RPG, because unlike when I'm writing fiction, it isn't a given. That's what makes it a game.
Again, see above. Why is death the only thing that differentiates uncertainty from "script immunity"? Just because you aren't going to be Killed Off Forever, doesn't mean you have any idea what hardships, lossess, or difficulties you will endure. I'm just telling you, you'll get to keep enduring whatever happens until it makes sense, to you, to hop off the ride.

Do you think books are dumb because you have confidence that the main character is unlikely to die in an unsatisfying way two chapters in? Or that video games are pointless and completely absent of character progression unless they're always played in Ironman Mode? This very much sounds like the attitude I'm challenging: the notion that the player can be confident they'll get to continue exploring a given character's story AUTOMATICALLY MEANS that the player thereby gains utterly unassailable, perfect confidence about exactly how every future situation will play out, no matter what.

Why is it that only and exclusively death qualifies for creating uncertainty?
 


Greg Benage

Adventurer
It sounds, then, like you're saying you can't enjoy roleplaying a character if you are certain of what will happen to them. Why does "your character will not be Killed Off Forever" mean that you are now certain of the "script" for their life?

I don't think I said that. I'm rereading what I wrote, and I really can't figure out where I said that. Or that anything I said "sounded like" that. I did say, in the section you quoted: "I'm not a good enough method actor to be immersed in a character when I know for a fact that the character has script immunity."

I can "enjoy roleplaying" a four-headed clown from the planet Zoon who believes it's a wedge of cheese. I might struggle a bit with immersion, though. Likewise, I can "enjoy roleplaying" a character doing things the world considers insanely dangerous despite the fact that I know the character can't die. There's not going to be much in the way of immersion, however.

As for your question about whether or not I think "books are dumb," I'm going to go ahead and say "no." If I did, I probably wouldn't read or write them. OTOH, I do think (1) fiction is more immersive when I don't know what will happen to the character, including whether they will live or die, and (2) RPGs are a more immersive experience than reading narrative fiction, in part precisely because of this distinction.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't believe this for two reasons. First, based on your previous "explict" quote from Lanefan. Second, I simply don't believe name dropping ZakS like this can be done for any reason but to intentionally stir up trouble.

Mod Note:

@EzekielRaiden Raising that name around here, effectively suggesting "anyone who disagrees with me is like him" is not cool. Please don't do that again.

We expect at this point, all reference to that person will end in this thread. Everyone got that? Good.

@Deset Gled You know what else isn't cool? Reporting someone, and then engaging with then to publicly call them a troll. Because, if you are wrong about why they posted that, you just made things much worse. So, next time, if you see a problem, report it and then disengage. Your public attempts at junior moderating by accusation are not appropriate, and you should stop. Walk away from the thread if you must.

Overall, in this thread I see a perfectly valid opinion given and some questions effectively raised in the OP. And then what looks like several people who cannot seem to bear the idea of an element they like questioned jumping in and, by accident or desire, effectively gumming up discussion. This amounts to threadcrapping, and it needs to stop now.

If your basic reaction to this topic is to want to shout it down, or to prove the OP "wrong", or if it just makes you feel defensive, please go find another thread. This one won't be for you. And that's okay.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What's most interesting to me is that I don't want to eliminate fear from the game, whether or not it's motivating.

And that's fine.

If this thread started out, "Screwdrivers are not good at removing nails," would you feel a need to pipe up that you didn't care if screwdrivers were bad at removing nails, you still want them in your toolbox? Is it relevant to the nail-impact of screwdrivers, or what you can do to remove nails other than use a screwdriver? Not really.

However, there may still be something worth considering...

I've played fearless characters in "old-school" games (for a while...), characters who weren't at all motivated by fear (for example, a cleric who ardently believed his god would protect him and that heaven awaited him on the other side in any case), and perhaps especially for characters like this, I still wouldn't want player fear of character death to be eliminated.

So, let us talk a little bit about what fear or anxiety does tend to do to people. Specifically, fear and anxiety tend to make people play it safe. Broadly speaking, in humans (and mammals more generally - we share the same basic neurology), the more one has to lose, the more one will stick to tried-and-true methods when there is high risk involved. The basic response is "fight or flight", which are very basic choices, and not terribly creative.

So, for example, if on a software development project, the development manager yells at people when anything is even a little bit late, the developers will tend to actively avoid introducing things that might take a little longer, or that have risk of failure and delay, to avoid being yelled at. The result is a lack of innovation when folks don't feel secure. This is a fairly well documented effect - Google's Project Aristotle found that psychological safety was the #1 determiner for whether a team was going to be effective.

Let us consider that in terms of game design. I have a specific case in mind - the Sentinels Comics RPG. It is trying to emulate "Silver Age" comics, which, honestly, are kind of wacky. If people keep to "tried and true and safe" things in the game, they won't really get a Silver Age comics result.

So, the first thing towards this end in the design - permanent character death only happens when the player decides the time is right. A character can be beaten up seven ways from Sunday, be knocked out of a scene, and have other kinds of consequences, but unless the player says so, they'll be back. A mistake cannot remove their character from play in the long term.

This frees the player from a level of anxiety. There's a limit on how bad a choice can be, and they can feel more free to try wacky things that come to mind, rather than fear what happens if that wacky thing fails.

So, we then have a starting place for choosing what elements work for what you want in a game. For example - If, as a player, you are interested in what effective tactical choices you can make within a known rules framework, then enabling wacky ideas maybe isn't a big selling point. If highly out-of-the box creative thinking is what you are interested in, then this is far more attractive.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Yes, though I didn't mention it as it was much more a 3e thing than 1e, with which I was comparing.
Yea, I think it was intended as a way of replicating some of the level drain type feelings without the "oh %#@R I need to rebuild my entire sheet & need ten or twenty minutes" since recalculating con or something is easy enough to do in your head & since it will eventually come back given enough time there was no need to rebuild the character. In that light I think it was probably fairly effective at doing so



This is absolutely 100% applicable, yes. I have the same response to horror films. I am arguing against the idea that a "horror-film-like" mentality is the best means to achieve an enjoyable D&D experience, and especially that if such a mentality is removed, the game inherently becomes un-fun or pointless--which people have absolutely already made in this thread. I will, however, note that I don't think ALL "tension" is bad. Horror relies on a particular kind of tension and uncertainty, but there are others.


Thank you, genuinely. Because that is exactly what I'm railing at. The notion that it's only when you have the "thrill of death" that anything can ever matter.


I'm not the one claiming that the only way for D&D to ever be enjoyable to anyone is if it's always a tense, one-wrong-move-and-you-lose-everything experience. Others in this thread straight-up have. Who's badwrongfun arguing, in that instance?

I included an all-caps YMMV disclaimer. I'm not sure what more I can do besides abandoning critique of arguments entirely, which seems an excessive response.


Genuinely trying not to go straight into the salt zone here: You have incorrectly assumed that the only form of thrill comes from fear, and that the only form of loss is character death. I am saying that loss can be a host of other things, and that tension can arise from wanting to protect/nurture the things that excite you (enthusiasm) or that you have come to love (affection). I am very specifically arguing against the idea that ONLY death counts as loss and ONLY fear counts as thrill.


I feel very frustrated that you have misunderstood my argument in this way, as this is a very uncharitable reading of what I said. I am doubly frustrated because I tried very hard to explicitly state that this knowledge ISN'T a thing in my games. You DON'T know if you'll succeed or not. You DON'T know if you'll be able to protect the things you love or advance the things that excite you. I just don't include random, purposeless, irrevocable death. Perhaps the character does die, but Gets Sent Back, Gandalf-style--with a literal deadline and more questions than answers. Perhaps a valued NPC sacrifices their life to save them, and now the party must quest to resurrect them or honor their sacrifice in some way. All sorts of costs exist, and many of them are much more engaging than "your character is dead, everything they might have cared about or achieved is now dust in the wind. Try again? Y/N"


This would be a key difference between us, then. While I absolutely value emergent play (it's part of why I have forced myself to NOT prepare very much, to NOT hammer everything down, to rely pretty heavily on improvisation and adaptation), I'm interested in the stories of my players' characters. I want to see where they go--the ups and downs, the costs and rewards, the agonizing over difficult moral decisions, the righteous vengeance and the wise forgiveness. It's like having my own personal character-driven TV show. I don't want to hand things to my players on mithril platters, but I don't want them fearful that everything they've built will go up in a puff of smoke because of a couple bad die rolls. My players are skittish enough as it is.


Oh, I absolutely agree that "oh s**t moments" are memorable! Our party has absolutely had plenty of them. They just didn't include character deaths as a consequence. As one example, when the party exhumed the bodies of two individuals stricken by the Song of Thorns, a memetic virus and spirit of chaos and primal savagery. They performed an autopsy on them, and realized that the Song--despite being a spirit--literally transforms its victims into pre-sapient animals, modifying bone structure, muscle, brain tissue, the works. One of our players is an anthropologist by training, and was EXTREMELY disturbed by these revelations; it was an "oh shit, this thing is NASTY and SERIOUS" moment, despite involving zero danger to anyone in the party personally. They could see how terrible this could be if it wasn't contained or destroyed.


Agreed.


I may have problems with Paizo and PF, but I can agree with this. It's a struggle to find a way to make "contextual" options that can be shared across an entire system, which sounds like a contradiction. I, too, hope that we'll see more development on that front. I think 13th Age's Backgrounds and OUTs are good starting points for new design ideas in this space.


Also agreed.


It's a careful dance. I have personally been very lucky, in that my players have responded much more positively than I ever dared hope to several NPCs I've introduced. Part of it is just that those NPCs are actually useful to the party, but part is also that the players were On Board for two of them being in a relationship. I've found a big part of setting the stage for player affection (for my group, at least) is just to show NPCs being relatable people with a skill to offer, and saving the "help us plz" for after a baseline rapport comes up. Offering a little witty humor now and then also helps! :p


Perhaps. I've actually found affection to be an extremely strong motivator in my group, mostly because the party is really good at finding communities that look to them for leadership and guidance, and the player(s) in question have zero problem with getting on board. For example, our party tiefling has taken multiple actions I would not have expected, due to deeply caring about people to whom he has a familial and/or philosophical connection. He became half-devil (as opposed to merely a tiefling) due to wanting to save a group of people who had collectively made a protect-us-from-horrible-things bargain with his (yet-to-be-determined) devilish ancestor, siphoning off their devilish essence, even though he HATES how manipulative and bastardly devils can be and wants nothing to do with them personally.


I mean, I literally quoted a person who used that exact word. And I have seen plenty of others, here and elsewhere on the internet, who either used that exact word, or said things functionally equivalent to it (something like "if the player isn't constantly in fear of


Perhaps I did not specify finely enough. I have absolutely seen (and been) a player having to sit out for 2-3 sessions or more, because there weren't henchmen around to step up or it didn't make sense to find a replacement yet. If that isn't losing your ability to participate, I don't know what is. And, as noted, I have had multiple people tell me that that's the whole point of character death--costing the player their participation in the game. ZakS, for example, explicitly said that to me on another forum, a long while back.


As I said, I literally quoted Lanefan, who explicitly used the word "paranoia" to describe the feeling players should have. If that isn't explicitly doing that, I don't know what to tell you.


I'm honestly not entirely sure what you're saying here, Tetrasodium. Also, I made this a General D&D thread since I didn't specifically mean to discuss 5e alone.


As above: I emphatically DO NOT wish to remove loss from the game. But "chance of injury" is not at all the same as "chance of loss," and a key part of my argument is that a lot of people, for a very long time, have been equating those two in a D&D context. Equating "your character may, and indeed almost certainly will, suffer loss, hardship, and difficulty" with "your character is at a very real risk of irrevocable (or at least not short-term resolvable) death basically all the time" is exactly the problem. The two are NOT one-to-one equivalent.


My experience, particularly with OSR things, has been that a player whose character dies does nothing (except make jokes and comment on the state of play) for the rest of that session. And possibly for multiple sessions thereafter. Hence why I said what I said.


Mr. Kuntz, I genuinely respect your contributions to gaming, but again, I feel very frustrated by this severe misinterpretation of what I said. I understand that you are mostly choosing to disengage with the thread, so if you do not wish to respond to this post, I would not hold it against you. But I emphatically reject the notion that I am advocating anything that lacks "challenges and uncertainty." Yes, I am saying that (character) death is severely over-emphasized as a potential cost. It frustrates me greatly that saying that gets transmuted into "oh, so you want a game where the players just succeed at everything they do, every time, always?"

I completely agree with you that an "Adventurer" that never experienced challenge or uncertainty would not deserve the title! I'm not saying that that is what should happen in any game. (I mean, if a group really wants that, more power to them I suppose, but it's definitely not for me.) I'm saying that the culture of D&D has falsely treated "death, particularly the ever-present threat of character permadeath" as being the ONLY form of loss, of "challenges and uncertainty," and that I think the hobby as a whole--but obviously not every single individual table--would be better-served by emphasizing a wider spectrum of losses, challenges, uncertainties, by considering other motivators besides fear (and very specifically the fear of character death).


I was told it is not possible to "win" D&D. Would you disagree? If you agree, does that mean D&D isn't a game? You can certainly lose, in lots of ways. I find losing-by-character-death is highly overvalued, and other forms of losing are often neglected or forgotten.


Completely agreed. When making changes to a game, you have to expect the unexpected. Consequences almost always spiral out from a change, and sometimes what seems like a small tweak has vast impact. Focusing challenge, hardship, loss, and uncertainty away from character death requires effort to keep things exciting and engaging. I have found that effort is not a burden, though, and its rewards are rich.


This, definitely. Though in my case, I run a world which is bright, but under threat: less "points of light" in a vast tapestry of darkness, and more...light and darkness about equal in influence, currently, but the latter poised to destroy the former....unless heroes rise to make a difference. Inattention and neglect can be just as dangerous as failure, because dark forces are surging back into power. It is not really possible for darkness to totally snuff out light, but things might suck for just as long as they've generally not sucked very much (that is, centuries to millennia, depending on the severity).


Agreed. Character death (that isn't reversed) permanently ends change and development. Hence, when I do consider death as a consequence, I prepare for making it yet another journey. The journey ends when we as a group decide it ends, but there's no guarantee the course will be easy, nor that it will go even remotely as planned, nor that the party will even get to where they originally planned to go. Those are all sources of challenge, loss, and uncertainty that are much more interesting to me than cutting the thread and ending a character--and I think they would be more interesting to other groups out there too, if more DMs considered something other than "your character died" as the weapon of first and last resort in terms of creating tension and hardship for the characters.
dungeon crawl classics is usually shortened to DCC like d&d or pf, it's relevant for being largely geared towards near drinking game-esque "funnels" where
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then runs through a meatgrinder type adventure that in more than one case is literally a converted 1e/2e adventure known for being a meatgrinder when it was aimed at much higher level character, the fun is everyone trying any wacky thing to maybe let most of the group (and maybe yourself!) survive somehow handling in the module. Since it's reasonably well known with what seems regular freerpgday representation in many flgs shops it's a good shorthand way of describing what is practically a dcc funnel in all but name which we can all point to as a common frame of reference not possible with a reference to something only one person in this discussion can speak on with experience like "one poster's hypothetical game style as interpreted by a third party". If you want to have a discussion about fear as a motivation it's probably not a bad idea to consider game systems like paranoia & OSR style retroclones of old editions that shine a spotlight various aspects of it for ease of discussion.

It's fine that you "don't want to discuss 5e alone" except limiting the scope of discussion to exclude all of the ways fear of death can provide a net benefit to the game so you can reenact the same contrived whiteroom used to get rid of those over the years leaves little room for any actual discussion other than the harm that comes from the narrowly allowed path of discussion.... It's different if you want to talk about fear of something specific, but @Deset Gled covered how your missing the mark on accomplishing that back in 108

For example I greatly enjoy working together as a group to coordinate so as to minimize risks & maximize everyone's capabilities in combat as well as doing the same for the world & environment both as a player as well as a gm when my players do it. Without some level of the kind of fear present in older editions over the consequences & risks that stem from succeeding poorly at those things however there is no incentive or impetus to bother doing anything but brazenly faceroll through everything in the path as expending time & resources on those more involved strategies is a suboptimal waste of time & resources
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If you think what I quoted isn't explicitly someone describing something as "paranoia," I don't know what else to tell you. @Lanefan even came straight into this thread and didn't seem to feel I was misrepresenting their position when I did, in fact, use the exact words, "If I have misrepresented your position in any way, I welcome correction." If "The characters should be somewhat paranoid, thus giving the players a taste of that only makes sense" does not mean "...giving the players a taste of paranoia only makes sense," I really don't know what the sentence is stating.

Paranoia, as defined on Dictionary.com, means:
  1. Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.
  2. baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
Given I doubt Lanefan is claiming the ability to induce outright psychiatric disorders, I think we can confidently assume the latter definition is in play: "baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others," coupled with some irrational fear (a more colloquial use of the term), e.g. the old joke, "it's not paranoia if everyone IS out to get you."
I think you're taking my original statement way more seriously than it has any right to be taken. The very fact that you're now hauling out dictionary definitions is proof positive of that. :)

When I talk about inducing a bit of worry or fear or paranoia or whatever you want to call it in the players I'm assuming that such is coming from empathising with what their characters are feeling; because the characters, if they're the least bit wise, should certainly be feeling such things every time they go adventuring. Or - and even better - ignoring any such feelings and throwing caution to the wind. :)
 

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