Of Mooks, Plot Armor, and ttRPGs

I've heard stories of people doing this; its usually perceived as an excuse to "roleplay" everything, with the suspicion its a way to keep the spotlight on them All The Time.
I met a kid like that in high school. He'd make a big deal about finding an apple or whatever for his character and claim it made him a Real Roleplayer!!! While the rest of us were going, "We'd like to play too? Maybe get a word in edgewise?" Needless to say, he was only around for one session.
 
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It was not helped that Edwards and the Forgeites decided to lump genre emulation in with world simulation. I know I harp on this, but I don't think people understand how putting the former in with the latter seriously harms the utility of the term and model for a lot of people because reifying genre tropes is very much what they don't want to be doing. There's some attempt to distinguish between the two in terms of "process sim" and such, but it still requires people to embrace something as a superset of their preferences that seem very antithetical to those preferences to them.

(I'd argue that, in part, this is because genre emulation tends to weirdly be kind of a red-headed stepchild is focus discussion; GNS folks focused on narr didn't seem to want it, but neither do most people who think of themselves as focused on simulation. And it obviously doesn't, per se, have anything to do with gamism (though a gamist agenda can serve it).
Well, I haven't studied Ron's take on this well enough to be sure what he was thinking, but IMHO there is no such thing as 'world simulation', its such a totally impractical and unrealistic concept that it literally does not exist, flat out, never. I mean, I think it might be fair to say that people often BELIEVE they are doing it, but they aren't. They're doing some sort of other thing, often a type of gamism IMHO where everyone pretends there is a 'real world' and then conveniently contrives it to be the most satisfactory world in which the game can take place. So, I have always failed to see this criticism as having any actual teeth.

Now, I think there's the possibility of some level of process sim. Like, a game can provide a fairly realistic take on some specific thing, like maybe driving race cars. So the race car part of the game produces quite realistic results in a very narrow sense. OTOH all the PCs just happen to be F1 drivers and mechanics, and the rules for how their hot girlfriends (or boytoys, whichever) behave are perfectly silly. So, if you zoom out, there's not any real OVERALL realism there, and the world at large is simply a stage arranged such that the game works, so there's not really a 'world sim' at all.

I know this point of view riles up a lot of people with a certain slant on RPGs. I will just say, I'm not criticizing them exactly, I just see things differently!
 

The character is still playable, just less effective. Characters can take up to three Consequences - mild, moderate, and severe. (These can be physical or mental.) Each of these is an aspect that opponents can potentially use against you. Mild consequences go away very quickly, moderate ones after a session, severe ones can take multiple sessions.

We managed to turn Marco's severe consequence into a moderate one with healing. So for the next session, an opponent could have used his "Bandaged Gut" against him, which potentially could be rather dangerous. (It would have given a bonus to hit and wound him, perhaps, or the pain might cause him to miss a crucial bit of repartee. Which in our games can be lethal in itself!)

Of course he plays! He'd be chatting up the guards, trying to manipulate them, for example. Maybe he'd even learn something interesting in the process.

Plus, knowing our GM, all sorts of interesting things would have happened while he was in jail. Maybe a local noble makes him an offer he can't refuse or the like.

None of it was automatic. I said Jurgen was "pretty good", not that he was amazing. He had to make a roll to get Marco's wound on the mend, and it was not an easy one.

Marco had the Fate point no doubt from a Compel, but I don't recall what from and it would take us rather far afield at this point.

What sounds easy? Obviously I did a fair amount of compression. There were a number of 'rounds' of combat, but I don't remember all the details any more.

Never fails? Did you miss that Marco got caught by the guard captain? That he got humiliated and badly wounded? He did achieve his objective of not getting jailed, but it cost him. And yes, we did succeed in preventing the war, but that's because our planning, deviousness, and skulduggery paid off.

Ludovico's attempt to poison Chloe failed miserably. Worse, she managed to administer a sedative to him!

GM: "You start to go woozy. You have time to say a sentence or two before you pass out."

Ludovico, in his most charming tones: "It's been a pleasure meeting you at last, cousin!"

Thankfully Jurgen managed to definitively wipe the floor with Chloe's other boy-toy and burst in before she could do anything nefarious to Ludovico.

That also was by no means guaranteed. Why are you assuming that because it was successful overall, therefore it was easy?
But more importantly, you played with SKILL! The overall victory in this scenario was far from assured, but the players had acquired resources, and made a plan, and had fallbacks, or at least thought on their feet. Now, lets compare that to some trad D&D fight, 99% of those fights the party wins. I mean, if you played 1e AD&D, where you probably need to win 5 or more fights to get a level, you better win 99% or the chances of ever getting a character to name level are zilch! Now, maybe there are extra tough fights, and if you are a bad player you will run into more of them, whatever.

I can assure Bloodtide that I've played 1000s of hours of AD&D and other flavors of classic D&D. I know absolutely every classic trick in the book, bar none. Bring it on! It isn't going to be ANY tougher than figuring out how to engineer the rise of the Wandering Souls crew of assassins to a position of power in Doskvol and enacting their final plans! Yeah, making 9th level in AD&D 1e can be fairly tough, but no tougher than BitD overall.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
But, and definitely not saying this to be critical, our ideas of what SIM is and can be are very different. I humbly submit that what you are calling sim, the 'simulation of real life' (at least some significant 'authentic' aspects of it) is simply beyond any of us, you, me, the greatest GMs, writers, etc. in all of history could barely do it, if at all. In terms of RPGs, the sheer complexity of the task of dealing with understanding a world and all the interrelationships and details that it would actually be made up of, and which would give it its realistic character, is simply unfeasible. What we ACTUALLY can accomplish, IMHO, is something like 'genre sim', that is emulating some particular genre in its style, tropes, and other characteristic elements. There may also be other possible flavors of sim in this sense, but they all share the characteristic that certain particular sorts of elements are being injected into the game for purposes of "making it like something else" (possibly another instance of an RPG as I would argue that modern D&D is often essentially a simulationist enterprise, simulating D&Ds of past decades).

Now, I think there are elements you are looking for that are specific. I am not so sure they are really 'sim', and in fact I almost think they might be described as a specific type of characterization. I say this because I don't think increasing the 'realistic nature' of this play is going to actually make it work better.
What I follow is what the Forge (which I really don't care for) refers to as "process sim", where you're trying to emulate a reality via the game rules. I am NOT looking for genre simulation, and rather hate the conflating of those two concepts that the Forge has proliferated. It can't be done perfectly, but it is a goal to strive for, and gamers do it every day. Please don't tell me that what I want is impossible and should be abandoned.

I don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
 

Ok, so now everyone knows and accepts that :
"lots of other games have negative consequences"

So back to the thread. To re re state:

Yes, I think far too many players watch all the fiction (TV and movies) and then set that fictional reality in thier head as the only way. Then when they want to play an RPG, they want to play out that fiction.

And this is the typical "geek/nerd" fiction seen in most movies, like Disney or Marvel ones. The main characters have Plot Armor and there is No Random Character Death. Even more often No Character Death at all. Nearly all foes will be mindless mooks that will be very easy to defeat. The Main Characters will Automatically Succeed whatever the story plot is of the fiction.

So many players, and more then a few DMs come to an RPG with this above mindset. They sit down and want Plot Armor, No Character Death, Mook Foes, and Auto Succeeding, just like a movie.

I say RPGs are special, different : you can have a much more exciting and more dramatic story...simply by not doing ANY of those above things.
 

And this is the typical "geek/nerd" fiction seen in most movies, like Disney or Marvel ones. The main characters have Plot Armor and there is No Random Character Death. Even more often No Character Death at all. Nearly all foes will be mindless mooks that will be very easy to defeat. The Main Characters will Automatically Succeed whatever the story plot is of the fiction.

So many players, and more then a few DMs come to an RPG with this above mindset. They sit down and want Plot Armor, No Character Death, Mook Foes, and Auto Succeeding, just like a movie.
THIS is your takeaway from my long example?! No Character Death, I'll give you. But Plot Armor, Mook Foes, and Auto-Succeeding?!

And you wonder why I say you don't listen. It's because you don't listen! There was no auto-succeeding in anything I described - not even a Fate point makes success automatic, just more likely. The foes were most assuredly not mooks! As for plot armor, Ludovico could easily have suffered a fate worse than death if Chloe's master got his hands on him! Marco could easily have ended up in jail.

Frankly, if this post has reference to my game, I find it quite insulting.
 

I say RPGs are special, different : you can have a much more exciting and more dramatic story...simply by not doing ANY of those above things.
One more thing, and I have done.

I spent countless hours playing B/X, AD&D, and similar games in the 80's and 90's. I've played your way A LOT. I had fun doing it, too.

I've seen the question from both sides. You haven't. And I'm telling you right now that the story games I've played are FAR more dramatic than anything I played from 1981-2000.

I've had much more fun, too. You are quite free to disagree and to keep playing what you're playing. But again, you've seen one side and I've seen two. Kindly stop condescending to me the way you're doing.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Well, my example was a railroad of no character death.

But that’s not a railroad, either.

I mentioned Tales From the Loop. The PCs are young kids, maybe 10 to 13… the rules state that the PCs cannot die. It’s not what the game is about. The PCs can certainly fail. I think you’re conflating success and survival but really, survival is just one example of success. There are others.

I also mentioned Spire. That game has potentially severe consequences, including character death and similar consequences that effectively end the character’s story. One of these, interestingly, gives the player the choice: the character will die, but they get to take one last action with a bonus because it is the last thing they’ll ever do OR they can deny death and come back to the world of the living, but changed, always changed.

One PC in my game got that and decided to come back changed, and the impact that decision had on the campaign was drastic. Far more severe than any PC death I’ve ever seen.

Ok? There are many other lesser bad things that can happen to a PC other then death. Assuming your game both has negative effects and the players/DM have chosen to use them.

I don’t consider all consequences as lesser than death. My example above from Spire involved a radical reinterpretation of the PC. I expect many players would not have been on board with the change and would have opted for the death and to then make a new character.

I'm really not clear on what "system says" even is.....

How do you determine if an attack succeeds in D&D? You roll a die, add a bonus, and try to meet or exceed the target’s AC. That’s the system determining results… “system says”.

When it comes to non-combat in D&D, things can potentially shift much more into the “GM says” sphere.

So I imagine uncertain social interactions?

Yes. Uncertain, with the outcome determined by the system.
 

THIS is your takeaway from my long example?! No Character Death, I'll give you. But Plot Armor, Mook Foes, and Auto-Succeeding?!

And you wonder why I say you don't listen. It's because you don't listen! There was no auto-succeeding in anything I described - not even a Fate point makes success automatic, just more likely. The foes were most assuredly not mooks! As for plot armor, Ludovico could easily have suffered a fate worse than death if Chloe's master got his hands on him! Marco could easily have ended up in jail.

Frankly, if this post has reference to my game, I find it quite insulting.
Like I said before, if I'm talking about your game I will call it and you out by name.

I'm first talking about people that are locked into the Cinematic Circle : they want to watch the same basic movie story plot over and over and over again. It's bad enough when they can't see it, but it's much worse when they say things like "all movies suck". And someone like me points out, well no, it's you that are choosing the same type of movie over and over and over again.

Then, second, these people come to gaming and play the Cinematic Circle STYLE in whatever game they play. Sure it's what every one wants, and if everyone is happy, it's fine. But all too often, again, they will start to complain how things are wrong, "the game is broken" and such things because they don't like it anymore. And again, someone like me points out, well no, it's you that are choosing the same type of game play style over and over and over again.
 

Like I said before, if I'm talking about your game I will call it and you out by name.
Right. After you just got done saying how easy everything sounded, and made a snarky comment about Jurgen being a 20th level healer. (Never mind that a medium-level cleric can wipe out any amount of injury, no muss no fuss!)
I'm first talking about people that are locked into the Cinematic Circle : they want to watch the same basic movie story plot over and over and over again. It's bad enough when they can't see it, but it's much worse when they say things like "all movies suck". And someone like me points out, well no, it's you that are choosing the same type of movie over and over and over again.

Then, second, these people come to gaming and play the Cinematic Circle STYLE in whatever game they play. Sure it's what every one wants, and if everyone is happy, it's fine. But all too often, again, they will start to complain how things are wrong, "the game is broken" and such things because they don't like it anymore. And again, someone like me points out, well no, it's you that are choosing the same type of game play style over and over and over again.
And who exactly are these people? Why are you bothering to bring them up? Your post rather seems to come out of nowhere.
 

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