Of Mooks, Plot Armor, and ttRPGs

Pretty much "yes" to all of those, unless there's something very odd going on.
But why? Why is a goblin always weak, but an elf could be anything? Why can't a goblin be powerful? Exactly how do you decide the power of each creature? You can't use the rules, so, what are you using?
While there's nothing to say one of the Goblins isn't a trained 14th-level Fighter, given that the PCs are meeting a Frost Giant the odds are extremely high they've already met and dealt with numerous Goblins in their previous adventures; and odds are just as high that 99+% of those Goblins were rather pathetic as opponents except when the PCs were still 1st level. So, Goblin = mook in the eyes of both characters and players, until and unless one shows it's somehow got more going for it.
Again, this is a common way for new players to get into trouble in my game. They would runs into the room and ignore the goblins. Oh, what, each goblin is a 5th level ice barbarian...well they players "never thought" that could "ever happen".

log in or register to remove this ad

Thomas Shey

I took "because GM" to mean "arrogantly unwilling to give reasons or listen to players' points, Do It Because I Said So In Dad Voice", which I assuredly wouldn't put up with either. Maybe I'm wrong about @niklinna's intent.

But yeah, if the GM ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. They're taking the trouble to run the game, one shouldn't as a player be belligerent.

I do expect the GM to listen and to at least be willing to consider changing their mind if it's called for. They're human too, and can forget or overlook things that have been established.

Also, as mentioned, in story games the GM's role is often a bit more circumscribed. The fiction is generally everybody's responsibility.

Well, like I said, I not only tolerate, but expect, and even kind of want to be called on it when I'm doing something dumb or that doesn't suit most of the group.

But that doesn't automatically translate to them wanting what I want, and well, if it matters enough to me I'm just not going to continue, whether they're civil and reasonable about it or not.

FATE was probably one of the earliest games of this ilk, potentially very lightweight, but infinitely extensible and only barely a 'game',
What, really? I think Fate is quite playable out of the box. It's true that you won't be doing anything fancy in terms of Extras, but not all games need them. (The maddeningly vague Extras chapter is one of my few complaints about the Fate Core book. That and the wretched index! It would have been better to trade vague advice for more concrete examples. The Toolkit books were better that way.)

My group started a sword & sorcery game with it while the Kickstarter was still going. We were able to fadge up a system for sorcery that was spooky and dangerous, and came up with a rule about money that suited the genre and called it good.

We were complete newbies, but it worked fine. It's hard to break Fate.

Though we did manage to do it, some years later! In the same game near its climax, we discovered that if you raise the skill cap to +6, things get rather wonky... At least if you're using the standard skill list.

Thankfully the game came to a natural end not long after that. After you've covertly taken over your native continent-sized empire to further a secret war against an ancient unknown menace, there aren't many more worlds to conquer. :) Not bad for a trio of tomb-robbing criminals!
Last edited:

I'm honestly curious, how do you know there are a lot of people like this? I'm sure there might be some out there, but I don't think I've met any.
Sure, kids are sometimes like this. They're excited by the idea of getting the rewards and want the status of playing high level PCs with all the iconic loot. They either quickly become bored of D&D and go on to other things that ACTUALLY impress girls, or it dawns on them that they're missing something in their play, that Monty Haul is not all its cracked up to be. So, you will see this, if you play with teens who have a little bit of experience with D&D, but not a ton. Even then, MOST of them are perfectly willing to play a bit more sophisticated game when the proper tone is set, there are a few more experienced players around to model behavior on, etc.

I mean, I started GMing when I was 13, I'm pretty sure I could write a 100 page treatise on the subject. I'd also note that it is actually LARGELY a D&D thing. Lets say you switch to Traveller. There isn't the same sort of iconic status gear, leveling isn't a thing, etc. Obviously kids are kids, but they're more likely to simply be engaged by the challenges when that stuff is off the table. Also, LITTLE kids, under 12, generally are just so into imagining off-the-wall stuff they aren't really engaged with that status game thing to nearly the same degree. Instead they might do things like want to play really weird characters and such, which I think is very cool.

Someone has to do it. Players refuse to do it themselves.

It would be great if 'player 1' would say something to three hour late 'player 2'....but even if they did, player 2 would just say "so what".

The DM has the power to penalize the player or kick them from the game...even more so if the DM is the host.

Ok, sure, you do that. The late players just say "oh come on relax your over reacting" . And they continue to do it each week. So, you just "talk" about it each week. I guess you might say that after 12 weeks you might finally do something. I'd say a good DM does something at week one.

It's a bit too much "perfect world" to say most players...most people "do" anything when they should.
Honestly, do you basically GM for a reform school or something? I mean, OK, maybe there's a crowd of people like what you describe, SOMEWHERE, but frankly I doubt it. In fact one of my best friends actually ran D&D games in Juvie. It was a huge success, though I agree in that situation it is essential that the person in charge (DM or not) have control of the PEOPLE. I didn't participate in those games, for obvious reasons, but my impression was that the kids were pretty good at the table.

Oh sure, Monty Haul is a phase a lot of people go through, the age depending on when they were introduced to the game. I recall seeing it in junior high a fair bit.

In my experience, the phase is usually pretty brief. There's only so much thrill one can get by accumulating imaginary stuff with ease.

Funny story: I was a very serious and bookish lad, who read the rulebooks carefully and with attention. And I overheard some classmates talking about their Monty Haul campaigns, in which one kid said he had killed "three Tiamats!"

I said, puzzled, "But isn't there only one Tiamat? She rules the top plane of the Nine Hells."

Whereupon the other kid gleefully said to his companion, "Can you believe it?! He thinks there's only one Tiamat!"
Last edited:


This is interesting because, to me, it brought up the possibility/probability that there are games out there where your wealth isn't something owned, but something along the lines of political/social clout. Something where your ability to bounce back from defeats is based on you owing/being owed debts - you may have thousands of gold coins, but if your friend Countess von Orkenstein has been replaced and only your connection to her network was through her you may be SOL.
Burning Wheel is an example of this. It's also a feature of Torchbearer, although a bit less prominent in this case.


I have played a couple of PbtA games, know just a bit about FATE, and basically nothing about Stonetop, other than that posters who are known to be proponents of narrative mechanics-filled games seem to be fond of it.
The posters I see talking most often about Stonetop are @Manbearcat and @hawkeyefan. Neither is a proponent of "narrative mechanics-filled" games - I'm not 100% sure what a "narrative mechanic" is in this context, but I take it to mean something like "spend a point to make X true of the fiction" and the PbtA games that Manbearcat and hawkeyefan talk about typically do not have such mechanics.

The descriptions of the mechanics in Stonetop are very similar to those in Gygax's DMG: roll some dice, add some numbers, to get the result.

The difference from AD&D consists in the principles that govern the GM's statements about what happens next.

The factor that is most relevant to be me is that all those games, to my limited understanding, use game mechanics to facilitate telling a particular kind of story. This is a concept I don't generally find fun, so I am generally not interested in playing these games. If I'm wrong about that basic concept I apologize and will happily accept correction
Yet I feel we have had this same conversation dozens of times, your misunderstandings have been corrected then, and still here we are again!

The core of the difference between AD&D and Stonetop is not mechanical. It's about the principles that the GM follows.

If you try to apply the Stonetop principles to GMing AD&D, you'll quickly run into problems with some of its mechanics - they don't fit with the principles. The reverse is also true: if you try to apply AD&D principles to Stonetop, you'll quickly run into problems with some of its mechanics. In fact I've read posts about this very sort of issue on these boards - eg a GM who applied AD&D principles concerning GM authority over, and flowing from, secret backstory to adjudicate the DW move Discern Realities which then meant that they had no hard moves to make when their PCs failed Discern Realities checks.

But in both cases its the principles that are primary, and that create these constraints. And there are some RPGs in which a given set of mechanics can be toggled between principles: I've often posted that I GM Classic Traveller using a version of AW/DW/Stonetop principles. Cthulhu Dark is another example: it is written to be GMed using principles very similar to AD&D ones, but when I GM it I use principles very similar to Burning Wheel ones.

I am not asserting that there are no RPGs with interesting mechanical differences. Nor that some of those mechanical differences in themselves produce profound differences of play experience (compare eg AD&D, or Rolemaster, or Burning Wheel - on the one hand - to Marvel Heroic RP - on the other). But I don't regard Stonetop vs AD&D, or Burning Wheel vs AD&D, or even Cthulhu Dark vs AD&D, as examples of this. (Except perhaps in their lack of an AD&D-style spell system - but this actually means that they have fewer "narrative mechanics" than AD&D, given the way AD&D spells work!)

While I agree that simulation can never be perfect, I'm a whole lot more optimistic than the quoted post that it can be done well enough for rock'n'roll.

The goal isn't necessarily to simulate the fantastic reailty to a T, it's instead to simulate it to the point where the GM and players are all on the same page in feeling like the characters are inhabitants of an actual world or setting that exists beyond them and could in theory exist without them
By this measure, every RPG I've played since I was about 15 is simulationist. Which would make the term functionally useless.

What distinguishes Rolemaster from Burning Wheel is nothing to do with the "reality" of the setting. Certainly not its depth.

What distinguishes them is the principles that govern how what happens next is decided.

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases