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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
No, dice don’t have caprice either. And yes, the difference matters, and is profound, not semantic.
Examples of capricious in a Sentence"

… every balloon voyage is a race between capricious winds and the amount of fuel on board.— Tom Morganthau, Newsweek, 29 Mar. 1999S

he is capricious, however, and is said to take bribes and wantonly peddle her influence from time to time.— Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone, 15 Dec. 1994"

That was from Merriam Webster. The following is Cambridge dictionary.

"capricious
adjective

US

/kəˈprɪʃ·əs, -ˈpri·ʃəs/

likely to change, or reacting to a sudden desire or new idea:
We have had very capricious weather lately."

If wind and weather can be capricious, so can dice.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Dice? Only in the short term, even if that sometimes feels like the long term. Wind and dice are actually a great example of capricious and not capricious respectively.
 

pemerton

Legend
Or presumably, an ability check to influence any one of those NPCs.
I tend to think of a reaction roll table and a CHA check as reasonably equivalent, because in my Classic Traveller game we treat the reaction roll table as a player-side mechanic where the player makes the roll and adds Liaison or Leadership or whatever as appropriate.

But I can see that there might be approaches to play where the contrast between them is greater than I tend to think of it as being.
 

Well if I hadn't already set up the expectations of how he'd respond based on what all the party's intel had told them, I could've had him show more mercy or laugh it off. But I feel like I was painted into a corner and a portion of the players unwilling to take it seriously were testing me. And yes, he was even planning on letting them go after the attack on him. Then they unprovoked attacked guards with lethal force in front of the townsfolk. So what's a leader (crazy or not) to do in that situation? If they hadn't escaped, I'd have had no hesitance in executing them at that point.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Players that test like that are asking for trouble. They're a lot like hitmen in movies actually, it doesn't really matter what happens to them, no one feels bad about it.
 



MGibster

Hero
Yes, I am familiar with him. But I don't think that means that he absolutely must behave in the way described in the OP every time anyone challenges him.
I don't know if anyone's arguing that he must behave in the way described only that it's reasonable.

Especially since he's used to arresting villagers. Not outsiders. Outsiders who may have obvious skill and power, and may prove to be either quite a problem for him, or quite a resource.
The baron is specifically described as having a brittle ego and lashing out against anyone who treats him with disrespect. If the PCs had just questioned his festival I probably wouldn't have had the baron call the guards to arrest them though later the guard's would come to kick them out of town. But since one of the PC's questioned the baron's right to rule, I would also have had him call for his guards immediately, and even then there would have been a chance for them to talk their way out of the situation. However, if the PCs had resorted to violence, by like, I don't know, trying to take him hostage, there would have been no way of placating the baron short of arresting the two PCs. I would have given the others the chance to get off the hook by speaking with the baron.

Of course, the baron is not all that tough in the grand scheme of things and it might have been interesting for the PCs to just kill him right then and there. It'd be interesting to see how the political side of things plays out in the village and it'd give Strahd a reason to pop by and look after the PC's actions.
 

MGibster

Hero
I'm a, "mature adults talk to each other," kind of guy. Resolving things IC is often a passive-aggressive route to misunderstanding and bad feelings all around at the table. You don't resolve questions like, "What are you expecting in the game?" by in-game action.
I'm an actions have consequences type of DM and even I endorse your message above. It's always best to talk to your players in order to avoid having them feel as though they're being retaliated against.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
Isn’t there a former Baroness working against the baron in Vallaki? She can hire/protect the party. Heck she even wants the mayor dead for his madness.

Now... the things she wants... “gulp”
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
He's the equivalent of a mayor of a town. He's virtually a zero level human, to put it in a context you'll immediately get. And he has a cadre of guards at his disposal that are probably pretty rank and file "human guard/bandit" types.
That's quite bit different than a King and his retinue, which is the context I first read this in (and which IMO would make for better discussion: attacking a King whose word really is the law is somewhat more all-or-nothing than attacking some minor local noble-wannabe).

Which now has me wondering: if he and his guards are so pathetic how did the PCs ever manage to blow their shot at taking him out?

Yes, I get that the end result is the same. Do you see how the means to that end is different for each example as I explained? How one will play out per the rules regardless of who is in the DM chair, and the other will vary wildly depending on who is in the DM chair? Would you agree with that? If not, why not?
System differences aside, I would agree with that; and go on to say it's not that much of a problem.

Physical stuff like dealing with a trap plays out by the mechanics we use to replace doing it for real. But social stuff not so much, and as the mad tyrant is a character his reaction to being threatened is going to come under 'social'.

Each DM who runs that module is going to, from the information given, develop his-her own idea of what makes that mad-tyrant guy tick and play him accordingly. One DM might play up the 'mad' aspect and have the guy start giggling uncontrollably at the sight of a drawn weapon. Another DM might play up the 'tyrant' part and have him sic his guards on the PCs at the very first sign of disrespect. A third DM might see him as a typical bully - all bluster and no real bravery - who at first sight of a weapon drawn against him breaks down into a cowering mess.

All are valid; though I suspect the 'average' of all might end up trending a bit toward the 'tyrant' version.

Hell, some editions said we didn't "need" skills.
To the extent that 3e-4e-5e took them, I'd agree. :)

I think that people have mentioned that mechanics can help in these cases because so much of what happened was well within the power of the DM to determine.....and yet, the DM is at least partially dissatisfied with the end result. But there were many points where he had influence on how things would play out. Plenty of them. So being dissatisfied with the end result, to me, indicates that something should have been done differently.
This to me conflates two separate and disconnected issues: mechanics use and end satisfaction.

Sure, what happened from the NPC side was completely within the DM's power to control. And in hindsight maybe the DM wasn't too pleased with what he-she did with it and how it all shook down - we've probably all had those moments more often that we'd care to admit :) - but that's much the same as a DM making any other call and later realizing it could have been done better: live with it and move on.

Had some systemized mechanics been used there's nothing saying they couldn't have led to the exact same outcome, and what then? Does the DM blame the mechanics for leading to an unsatisfactory result?
 
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Isn’t there a former Baroness working against the baron in Vallaki? She can hire/protect the party. Heck she even wants the mayor dead for his madness.

Now... the things she wants... “gulp”
Yep. And earlier in the same session they went to talk to the Burgomaster, the same hot-headed player scoffed at her idea to work together and said he didn't want to put "the greater evil" in power, effectively ending negotiations with her too. The party tried to talk down the affront but basically told her, "we're going to go talk to the Burgomaster and see if he's really that bad." And then the exchange I described in the first post happened immediately afterwards.
 

That's quite bit different than a King and his retinue, which is the context I first read this in (and which IMO would make for better discussion: attacking a King whose word really is the law is somewhat more all-or-nothing than attacking some minor local noble-wannabe).

Which now has me wondering: if he and his guards are so pathetic how did the PCs ever manage to blow their shot at taking him out?
They absolutely could have, had they been working together and not with different goals in the encounter. Had they discussed it before going there, saying they were going to attack him and be done with it, they certainly could've pulled it off and been justified in doing so. My issue wasn't "was the action right or possible to do" it was "how do I (as the DM) maintain some believability after a brazen insult to an unhinged ruler and failed assassination attempt?"
The crazed mayor was even behaving cordial and polite to his guests until things went to pot. The hot-headed player just completely snapped out of the blue when the mayor was describing how his festival was going to bring happiness to the people of his village and drive away evil (a crazy idea, but one the party knew he had been advertising throughout the town.)
At this stage, I'd say the party has severely mucked up their chances of finding allies in Vallaki (if you know the adventure). The one group in the village who could possibly side with them (the wereravens) probably won't want to side with such an unstable group who blurt out the first thing that pops into their heads, thus completely outing them to the nefarious agents of Strahd.
But basically we have two loose cannons (my longtime friend - the hot-headed player, the sorcerer who blasted everyone as soon as he came back after missing a session), two players who want to proceed with caution and get invested in their characters and try to behave realistically, and a third player who's just there for fun and wants to keep the party together (the would-be assassin).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm an actions have consequences type of DM and even I endorse your message above.
Yeah. These are not at all exclusive things. Talk to your players, work with them so that everyone's on board with the expectations and genre conventions. Then, you are well set for "actions have consequences", because the players are making informed decisions.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
But basically we have two loose cannons (my longtime friend - the hot-headed player, the sorcerer who blasted everyone as soon as he came back after missing a session), two players who want to proceed with caution and get invested in their characters and try to behave realistically, and a third player who's just there for fun and wants to keep the party together (the would-be assassin).
Maybe they need to split the party when they try to engage in ways the loose cannon/s can foul up? The groups I GM for do that, though that's more about dealing with two things at once than keeping Team Getting Into Trouble away from Serious Interactions.
 

Yeah. These are not at all exclusive things. Talk to your players, work with them so that everyone's on board with the expectations and genre conventions. Then, you are well set for "actions have consequences", because the players are making informed decisions.
Yeah, we had a discussion of that before we started the campaign, but perhaps it wasn't stated emphatically enough. Hopefully the email after the last session got the point home (I'll find out at tomorrow night's session, I guess). If not, I'll suggest transitioning to either a different adventure to fit their play style or encourage one of them to DM. I know that two of the players emailed me separately to complain about the actions of another two players, and that's not a formula for a happy group.
 

Maybe they need to split the party when they try to engage in ways the loose cannon/s can foul up? The groups I GM for do that, though that's more about dealing with two things at once than keeping Team Getting Into Trouble away from Serious Interactions.
Right. I suggested the two more cautious players to sign in for a solo (duo?) gaming session, full of roleplay, to try to smooth out what happened in the town and to try to create relationships with the NPCs that their characters already know. And if not that, maybe just a simple "tell me what you want to do" email and I'll handwave it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This has the hallmarks of a common problem, both in printed adventures and in homebrew: the personalities involved are meant to be an interesting encounter but are written in a fixed state, leaving no real out from the initial situation. Here, Vallaki is meant to be in flux -- there are factions vying for control and looking for the PCs to be the fulcrum. The problem is that none of them are appealing and any attempt to strike a different option leads to a fixed outcome of alienation from the town. Overthrow the Burgomaster? Can only be done by violence, and if you don't have the Lady's support, the town turns on you. Even standing up to the Burgomaster has a scripted event where the townsfolk support the Burgomaster. The same townsfolk that are oppressed by him.

I understand that Barovia is meant to be dark and dismal and twisted, but this is a no-win situation for the PCs, especially if approached via the social pillar. It either forces you to accept a bad status quo, work with worse people to start a new, worse status quo, or do what PCs do -- fight, which is a very bad option.

I so wish adventure designers would stop thinking they're so clever by putting in these 'compromise' situations. So many don't play to compromise, but to triumph over evil, and these things always cause problems.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Forcing players to choose between two unpalatable options is fine, especially at the outset. It often results in pretty good roleplaying and some deep thought. Consequences that matter, right? If they decide they want to fight, that's awesome, I'd probably pick that option, but you need a plan in place. If you just rush in tromping about in your big boots, you're decidedly less likely to get what you want.

The scripted responses in the module are a tool, not an inevitability. Actions on the part of the PCs can and should change the fiction state, and it's on the DM to work that out. It would be nice if the writing supported what that might look like, but it's not exactly rocket science. You shouldn't treat the module like a straight jacket.
 

This has the hallmarks of a common problem, both in printed adventures and in homebrew: the personalities involved are meant to be an interesting encounter but are written in a fixed state, leaving no real out from the initial situation. Here, Vallaki is meant to be in flux -- there are factions vying for control and looking for the PCs to be the fulcrum. The problem is that none of them are appealing and any attempt to strike a different option leads to a fixed outcome of alienation from the town. Overthrow the Burgomaster? Can only be done by violence, and if you don't have the Lady's support, the town turns on you. Even standing up to the Burgomaster has a scripted event where the townsfolk support the Burgomaster. The same townsfolk that are oppressed by him.

I understand that Barovia is meant to be dark and dismal and twisted, but this is a no-win situation for the PCs, especially if approached via the social pillar. It either forces you to accept a bad status quo, work with worse people to start a new, worse status quo, or do what PCs do -- fight, which is a very bad option.

I so wish adventure designers would stop thinking they're so clever by putting in these 'compromise' situations. So many don't play to compromise, but to triumph over evil, and these things always cause problems.
Good post and thanks for the context.

Again, this goes back to “if all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.”

If D&D had robust, player-facing mechanics that allowed players to make informed decision-points, engage noncombat action resolution mechanics with teeth, and feel the weight of those decisions/actions and their mechanical output (including quantitative gain and fallout) within a complex faction game inside a sandbox setting, “resort to violence and engage the combat mechanics” wouldn’t be as commonplace.

Or we can just keep blaming players (when the reality is, this “always degenerate to violence” paradigm doesn’t happen in games that feature the above tech/ethos).
 

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