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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
We have different ideas of cool. Unavoidable traps with nothing but bad outcomes don't make my list.
I believe that @Lanefan is presuming the party could have avoided the town. I also expect he is working from a formulation similar to this: Unavoidable traps: not cool. Avoidable traps: cool. Avoidable traps that rapidly reduce the good options available to the party: really cool.

I think, though, that this might be one of those things that is clearly on The Adventure Path (and therefore really hard to avoid) that then works to rapidly reduce the good options available to the party. Players accustomed to Adventure Paths might (correctly) intuit that they're "supposed to" go to this place, but not have any idea what's there until they get there, at which point their options start dwindling rapidly. So, a trap that the party in principle could have avoided but in practice figured out they weren't supposed to. I think that's even worse than one they couldn't have avoided, personally.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I believe that @Lanefan is presuming the party could have avoided the town. I also expect he is working from a formulation similar to this: Unavoidable traps: not cool. Avoidable traps: cool. Avoidable traps that rapidly reduce the good options available to the party: really cool.

I think, though, that this might be one of those things that is clearly on The Adventure Path (and therefore really hard to avoid) that then works to rapidly reduce the good options available to the party. Players accustomed to Adventure Paths might (correctly) intuit that they're "supposed to" go to this place, but not have any idea what's there until they get there, at which point their options start dwindling rapidly. So, a trap that the party in principle could have avoided but in practice figured out they weren't supposed to. I think that's even worse than one they couldn't have avoided, personally.
Pretty sure the only avoiding @Lanefan had in mind was deciding to not go to the town. Also pretty sure this would be a blind decision absent any information. Had a few years of @Lanefan posts to know he's super stingy with information in game, so is very unlikely to telegraph a "bad town" in any meaningful way.

Not that that's bad, Lan clearly has fun, just indicating it's very much not my cuppa.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Pretty sure the only avoiding @Lanefan had in mind was deciding to not go to the town. Also pretty sure this would be a blind decision absent any information. Had a few years of @Lanefan posts to know he's super stingy with information in game, so is very unlikely to telegraph a "bad town" in any meaningful way.

Not that that's bad, Lan clearly has fun, just indicating it's very much not my cuppa.
I also get the feeling @Lanefan doesn't run (probably doesn't play, might not see the appeal of) the whole Adventure Path thing, either. There's definitely a subtext when you're a player in one, telling you where the adventure is supposed to go. I'm very bad at Adventure Paths.
 

I don't mind if they're going off the rails of the adventure path per se, but it's that I'm trying to run it using the module on a VTT, and not on a home F2F game I can easily adapt. So if the group wants to go to a new area not detailed in the adventure, to deal with different NPCs, face alternative challenges, etc, I can't easily change it in this format. Now given enough advance notice, I can make new maps, add new NPC stat blocks, etc, but we're all stressing out in our daily lives, I'm running a weekly session for them (instead of the normal biweekly or monthly) and I think going along with a general storyline the party agreed to play at the outset for the sake of DM sanity isn't too much to ask.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I also get the feeling @Lanefan doesn't run (probably doesn't play, might not see the appeal of) the whole Adventure Path thing, either. There's definitely a subtext when you're a player in one, telling you where the adventure is supposed to go. I'm very bad at Adventure Paths.
There's definitely a subtext that suggests if you're going to participate in an AP, you should make a character amenable to the AP's adventure hooks that take you into the overall story and look for ways to enhance and move the story along. I don't think that's quite the same as telling you where to go as much as you agree to be pulled there. Once you accept the premise that you should make a character who fits the AP's assumptions, I find the events of the AP will bring you along pretty well.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The DMG. It's full of advice on how the rules serve the DM, not other way around
This isn't a rules question, though.

how to change things
The DMG has a whole whopping paragraph on page 72 that tells you that you can do so.

How to go about it, though - how to know when you might want to, what to consider as you do so - is notably lacking. It quickly goes into adventure creations - it has less than one column on general adventure structure, a couple of pages each on very high level approach to a couple adventure types. But it never links those points on creation back to addressing what you see as flaws or ill-fitting points in a published work.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I feel like there's room for a short 3PP monograph here, titled something like How to Hack Your Module. Something that explains maybe what to look for in an AP, common issues, a little bit on massaging the CR to work with your actual party, and a longer bit about how to adapt to the changing fiction on the fly. I know, I know, someone is going to say, yeah Fenris, you should get right on that...
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
There's definitely a subtext that suggests if you're going to participate in an AP, you should make a character amenable to the AP's adventure hooks that take you into the overall story and look for ways to enhance and move the story along. I don't think that's quite the same as telling you where to go as much as you agree to be pulled there. Once you accept the premise that you should make a character who fits the AP's assumptions, I find the events of the AP will bring you along pretty well.
Yeah. Then the logic holes start to accrue and I start to ask questions. I start to behave in ways the writers didn't anticipate--not out of malice or a desire to break the AP, but because I think differently than the writers presume players will. Present me with smugglers and I want to know why they're smuggling. I mean, sure, they're trying to make a profit, but are they trying to get around taxes/tariffs/duties, or is there some officially-mandated middleman with monopsony/monopoly power they're trying to get around, or are there sumptuary laws in effect that the people resent, or are these products flat illegal here, or is there something else? (The NPCs weren't able to provide an answer ...)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I also get the feeling @Lanefan doesn't run (probably doesn't play, might not see the appeal of) the whole Adventure Path thing, either.
As the entirety of a campaign? Not for me, no.

I'll bake an AP-like series now and then into a bigger campaign, mind you, but even then if the PCs decide to go off the map then so be it - I have to adapt.

There's definitely a subtext when you're a player in one, telling you where the adventure is supposed to go. I'm very bad at Adventure Paths.
Me too, particularly if the AP's underlying premise doesn't hold much appeal and-or isn't clear. But if the AP's premise is engaging - or if the characters themselves are fun and engaging enough in their own interactions that it doesn't really matter what we're doing in the bigger picture - then I'll happily ride the rails. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah. Then the logic holes start to accrue and I start to ask questions. I start to behave in ways the writers didn't anticipate--not out of malice or a desire to break the AP, but because I think differently than the writers presume players will. Present me with smugglers and I want to know why they're smuggling. I mean, sure, they're trying to make a profit, but are they trying to get around taxes/tariffs/duties, or is there some officially-mandated middleman with monopsony/monopoly power they're trying to get around, or are there sumptuary laws in effect that the people resent, or are these products flat illegal here, or is there something else? (The NPCs weren't able to provide an answer ...)
...or how do I get in on the action? :)
 

Hriston

Adventurer
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.
Agreed, and I didn't mean to suggest a contrast, but rather to point out that a mechanic as fundamental to 5E as an ability check can be used to determine the reaction of an NPC. You don't need to import mechanics from other games or editions to do so.

Curiously, 5E's social interaction rules have the DM assign a starting attitude to NPCs, either friendly, indifferent, or hostile, the same categories that appear on the AD&D encounter reaction table. It's basically a formalized way of setting DCs for Charisma checks to influence the NPC. It's something I'll roll for at the beginning of an encounter using the probabilities from the encounter reaction table, so in my game there actually is something of the contrast you suggest. The "encounter reaction" roll sets the starting attitude which then determines the DCs of any Charisma checks.

To bring this back to the OP, though, I think there may have been some room in the scenario for testing the loyalty of the burgomeister's hirelings using the Loyalty rules in the DMG, which is something else I like to use in a way that harkens back to AD&D.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The DMG has a whole whopping paragraph on page 72 that tells you that you can do so.
Two of those paragraphs are applicable, but I do agree that there could have been more. That said, the DMG advises DMs to make the game their own and that the rules serve them, not the other way around. With that in mind, many portions of the DMG not explicitly mentioning published adventures become good advice to the DM on how to make the module better.

I think there is sufficient information in the DMG for DMs to realize that they can change published adventures and give them tools that they can use to do so.

How to go about it, though - how to know when you might want to, what to consider as you do so - is notably lacking.
Experience makes a big difference. A new DM will have a more difficult time recognizing when and how to make these changes. After some experience, though, it becomes much easier.
 

pemerton

Legend
Huh, chaochou is complaining about the whim of the DM but apparently you'd rather submit to the whim of the dice? I dunno - which is more predictable to the players giving them a chance to make meaningful choices?
This goes back to my question: what is the job of the players?

Is guessing/inferring what the GM has decided will be the realistic response of the tyrant, or the guards, a meanngful choice? It might be meaningful inference, but if the inference is performed successfully then where is the scope for choice?

Another way of thinking about "meaningful choice" is this: do I go along with the tyrant, or do I scornfully throw his offer back in his face? That's a choice about what sort of person I (as my PC) want to be, and what sorts of things I want to do. And if I choose to be the sort of person who scornfully throws the tyrant's offer back in his face, should it follow without further chance for action declaration that my PC is dead?

Should the game be a puzzle? A game of following others' leads? A chance to express the personality of one's PC? These are real questions.

As for the role of the dice - I think of them as a way of randomising outcomes. Roughly speaking: the players want their PCs to succeed; it's the GM's job to establish opposition or adversity; the dice roll tells us, on any given occasion, which it is. That's pretty much been their role since D&D was invented. I don't understand why you would denigrate the use of dice in the way that you do.

Playing the mad tyrant according to his well-known personality quirks of being thin-skinned and arresting malcontents or rolling against a list that might make him play completely against personality or include things not at all causally related to the players' decisions like guards being drunk? How are the PCs going to guess anything rational if that's the alternative.
Although you refer to the PCs I think you mean the players. The PCs are making guesses only in imagination. The players are actually deciding what moves to make as they play the game.

And you seem to be assumng that it is the job of the players to guess, or to infer, what it is the GM has in mind. That's one way of playing the game. I don't quite see why you would describe the resulting choices made as meaningful. Putting the right number in the sudoku box is a choice, but it's a meaningful one only insofar as if I do it wrong I won't solve the puzzle. Is RPGing puzzle-solving?

As for the idea that a reaction roll might make the tyrant play competely against personality: does this tyrant never laugh? have no friends? who knows everything about a person? In the real world people surprise us, surprise themselves, change even. In fiction the same is true: Saruman was good but turned to evil; Denethro was good but turned to evil; Boromir was good, and died good, but on the way through suffered a fit of evil madness. Gollum nearly spares Frodo - in another world he might have. In a RPG how to we model these aspects of character?

As for the drunk guards, how are the players meant to judge that there are guards, or are not? That they are sober or drunk? That they are loyal or rebellious? I don't see how the guards' drunkenness - were a roll of dice to suggest that that was the case - would be some sort of distinctly aribtrariy or unknowable input into the situation.

having the guards arrest an insolent PC isn't the start of violence in this scenario. The PC could have gone along quietly and plotted a daring escape, but like a lot of players do, they overreact when faced with their PCs losing any sense of their physical freedom
This thread is the second in recent times where an OP has explained how s/he had guards arrive to tell the PCs what to do, with the result that the PCs fought their way to freedom, or tried to. In both cases posters referred to the players as having instigated violence. In both cases my response is the same: if the GM in a D&D game has armed NPCs tell the PCs what to do, under (express or implicit) threat of violence, it is the GM who has instigated the violence.

D&D is a game which puts interpersonal violence front-and-centre of both its action resolution mechanics and its fiction. It takes its genre inspiration from fantasy stories in which the protagonists fight rather than surrender. If the players have their PCs surrender to the demon on the 10th level of the dungeon just because the demon tells them to, would anyone consider that good or sensible? In the OP's scenario, how are the players meant to know they can plot a daring escape? The GM hasn't told them that the guards won't kill them. No mechanic is being used to determine what the guards or the king will do with these prisoners. Many posters in this thread are saying that escape would be unrealistic, and that once the guards turn up the execution should simply be narrated by the GM as the inevitable outcome of the players' choice to oppose the tyrant.

How are the players exepcted even to recognise that surrendering is a "meaningful" option?
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm not going to roll dice to determine how an NPC reacts to an insult, to see if the guards answer the call of their boss, or even how the guards are going to respond. I'm going to play the "king" as I think a power mad egomaniac would react to the situation.
This is why the notion of "meaningful choice" is in my view inapt. This approach to play requires the players to work out - by guesswork or inference - what the GM has in mind in order to have their PCs succeed at their actions. It's RPGIng as a type of puzzle-solving.

Apparently you'd rather have the events play out in some randomly-determined way that might or might not be coherent with prior events and descriptions.
This is how we work out whether or not a PC beats an orc in a duel. Why is it acceptable there but objectionable in determining whether or not the steely glare and cutting words of a PC cow a NPC. In LotR Aragorn wresteld with Sauron via a palantir and drove him to strike earlier than he intended, with fatal consequences for the latter. How would you do this in a RPG? Woudl the GM have to decide whether or not it is consistent with Sauron's character to feel threatened by Aragorn?

If the DM must roll to determine how the NPCs react, does that mean that players must do so as well?

Does my bard need to roll to see if he's in the mood to flirt with the barmaid? Should the fighter roll to see if he feels like stepping between the wizard and the ogre?

That sort of thing works for a game like Pendragon (within its own context), but is quite atypical for D&D.
It's not atypical in D&D for the referee to use a dice roll to find out how a NPC reacts. For over a decade the published rules included a reaction table and morale rules. (In D&D these were a semi-integrated system, although I suspect many players did not use all the elements of it, which seem to have been written up more on a conceputal basis than with an eye towards actual play.)

As for the comparison to players: the role of the players and the GM is not the same. To give just one example: If a player wants his/her PC to have a sword, s/he (at a minimum) has to change the number in the GP box on his/her PC sheet. A GM can just add a sword to his/her NPC's equpment list. It's seems absurd to me to express some sort of surprise that the two participant roles might operate under different constraints.
 

pemerton

Legend
Flipping through the module, I see on page 105 that it discusses possible reactions by the Baron. While it does not appear to specifically contemplate the PCs accosting him in the manner described, it does say: "If the characters get on his bad side, the baron accuses them of being 'spies of the devil Strahd' and sends twelve guards to arrest them, seize their weapons, and run them out of town."
If that's the case, then why in this thread is everyone taling about execution? Where did that come from?

I still find that a bit aribtrariy without a resolution framework, but it lacks the finality of an execution and is in that sense less objectionalby arbitrary.
 

pemerton

Legend
Well the dice are by definition random. I didn't say they were necessarily incoherent; I said they might or might not be. In some circumstances--such as combat--they represent uncertainty and/or imperfect knowledge. In this situation they remain only offer the potential for incoherence (the guards, guarding the notoriously irrational Mad Tyrant, are drunk?).

Really, though, I was reacting to your refusal to acknowledge the metaphor language of the dice having whims.
The metaphor is not interesting in this context, because we are talking about game play. Tossing a coin to see who gets the choice to bat or field in cricket might involve metaphorical whims, but it is does not involve literal whims which is why that is the method used rather than having a person make the decision. Likewise in lotteries, bingo, some systems for resolving tied elections, etc. Randomisation as an alternative to fiat works precisely because a coin toss or a die throw does not literally involve whim or caprcie.

As to the claim of incoherence, how is it incoherent for the guards to be drunk? Sam and Frodo esapced Cirith Ungol because the guards all killed one another in a fight over treasure - was that incoherent?

Why should the GM's desires for the scene be treated as perfect knowledge? Conversely, why is the GM not permitted to use perect knowledge - eg this orc captain is undefeatiable, just as the tyrant is uncowable - to resolve combat?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
This is how we work out whether or not a PC beats an orc in a duel. Why is it acceptable there but objectionable in determining whether or not the steely glare and cutting words of a PC cow a NPC?
Because in 5E the DM gets to decide. Maybe he's decided the Mad Tyrant is too Mad (MAD I TELL YOU) to be cowed. In combat I believe the DM has a good deal less freedom to opt-out of die-rolling. There are people who like to roll for social skills; there are people who don't. Either approach can work, but neither is mandatory in 5E.

If that's the case, then why in this thread is everyone taling about execution? Where did that come from?

I still find that a bit aribtrariy without a resolution framework, but it lacks the finality of an execution and is in that sense less objectionalby arbitrary.
The text of the adventure doesn't cover what happens if the PCs try to kill him. I think execution is a reasonable extrapolation.
 
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aramis erak

Adventurer
How are the players exepcted even to recognise that surrendering is a "meaningful" option?
Surrender is ALWAYS a meaningful choice. It's often a quite suboptimal one, tho'.

Surrender as the guards pile in is probably meaningful in a very negative way - character incarceration. If the guards were injured or the king was, it may be a terminal choice. But it's ALWAYS meaningful, as it results in either capture, or a round of post surrender unopposed combat, possibly execution.


Also, your definition of off-screen and mine are obviosuly utterly different. (I wasn't going to reply on just that point.) For me, off screen/off camera mechanical resolution means literally, "Not in a scene, and handled by abstract mechanics." Since you think that's on camera, that renders a huge gaping communications failure point because we are not speaking the same dialect.

The direct film equivalent of the Winter Phase for me is, We see Sir Guy and his lady in the fall, her sewing. When the commercial break is over, we're looking at snowmelt, and his lady is gravid with child, and they're both in new clothes of the fabric she had before the commercial, and a subtitle reads "4 months later..."

That is how I read the winter phase. A fade to black with the innuendo and/or obvious results later being the equivalent of "roll for horse, child, and wife survival, child birth, harvest and income." If it's relevant to the players, one can explain the results narratively, but there is absolutely ZERO need to do so. We can just pick up with the search for the new wife if the old one died, and the kids seldom matter until their 12th birthday...
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The metaphor is not interesting in this context, because we are talking about game play. Tossing a coin to see who gets the choice to bat or field in cricket might involve metaphorical whims, but it is does not involve literal whims which is why that is the method used rather than having a person make the decision. Likewise in lotteries, bingo, some systems for resolving tied elections, etc. Randomisation as an alternative to fiat works precisely because a coin toss or a die throw does not literally involve whim or caprcie.
If the DM cannot decide, or chooses not to decide, randomizing options is a valid way of deciding. If the DM can decide and does, so is that.

As to the claim of incoherence, how is it incoherent for the guards to be drunk? Sam and Frodo esapced Cirith Ungol because the guards all killed one another in a fight over treasure - was that incoherent?
So, Tolkien was a scholar, and he put a lot of thought and work into his setting. He was neither a master of prose nor a particularly good storyteller. I don't remember LotR being particularly coherent--I remember lots of "singing," and I remember a sense that everything putatively important that happened, I learned about by one character telling another.

Why should the GM's desires for the scene be treated as perfect knowledge? Conversely, why is the GM not permitted to use perect knowledge - eg this orc captain is undefeatiable, just as the tyrant is uncowable - to resolve combat?
I don't get the sense that the DM had any particular desires for this scene. I get the sense that the DM and a couple of the players were expecting a scene of negotiation, which a player got bored with and disrupted; the DM was wrong-footed and didn't have a lot of guidance from the published adventure, and what happened, happened.

One of the many things that dice can represent in TRPGs is imperfect knowledge. It's why players are willing to accept that their characters don't always "give their best effort" (max the roll). While in 5E, the DM can decide whether an ability check needs to be rolled (can determine auto-success or auto-failure) they cannot do so with attack rolls--and a nat 20 is a success regardless of the target's AC. Deciding the orc captain is unhittable is against the rules of the game; deciding he cannot be placated is not.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If that's the case, then why in this thread is everyone taling about execution? Where did that come from?
People like killin'.

I still find that a bit aribtrariy without a resolution framework, but it lacks the finality of an execution and is in that sense less objectionalby arbitrary.
I would run this with the DMG's social interaction rules which would lend it some structure. If the players are just talking to NPCs, that to me is exposition or possibly color and no mechanics are necessary. If either party wants something from the other that it might not get, then the social interaction rules come into play.
 

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