Technical play skill + setting/situation + narrative + player dissatisfaction

innerdude

Legend
There's definitely something to your thoughts there, @niklinna -- In the original Guild Wars 1, the height of the fun in the "campaign" missions came right around Level 14-15. It was the big boss run in the "wintery" area whose name eludes me.

You had enough skills at that point that you could use a variety of tactics, yet you weren't so overpowered that you had to be shoehorned into "high power" engagements every other minute.

Everything after that, scaling up to level 25, was really just an emotional letdown / downslope.

The thing I remember disliking about Guild Wars 1 was that the last 2 campaigns required hyper-specialization. And to a point, that's a test of player skill, right? Which shouldn't be a bad thing. I.e., how well have you incorporated your knowledge of your skills/abilities into your play?

But there was a definite lack of luster on the final 2 campaign missions, as I recall. Again, since specialization was key, you're forced into situations you haven't prepared for or practiced much of the time, or forced to use secondary classes that you wouldn't normally consider. Every combat becomes a brutal slog. Finishing the missions was really more a sense of relief than accomplishment.

Which leads into . . . .

Part 3 - Player expectations / player engagement

I can't help but feeling that a big takeaway from this experience is that as a GM, forcing the agenda becomes problematic at just about every level. The agenda for the final battle of Jedi Survivor is, "Fight this battle in the way we, the developers, have deemed to be the most enjoyable, challenging, and appropriate for the moment."

But what would that look like as a TTRPG mindset?

"You will engage in solving this problem using the methods and formulations I've devised, no more, no less."

"You'll fight this combat now because it's what I've determined is 'correct' based on setting and circumstance."

"Your attempts to sidestep this challenge will fail because this must be the challenge to be faced in the way I've set it up."

"My 'living world' turning of the wheel deems this is exactly what must happen, regardless of fun factor or engagement with player stakes."

One of the most beautiful things about the video game Deus Ex --- my favorite video game of all time --- is that it provided solution paths for nearly every character build. Hacking, sleuthing, combat, sneaking. There was always a way to approach a situation that fed into a character strength. Was it realistic, in the verisimilitude sense? Probably not, but it didn't matter, because my ability to engage the situation was meaningful. I didn't care that it was unrealistic that terrorists would leave random emails with passwords on the servers, because I was rewarded for taking a particular approach.
 

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innerdude

Legend
I for one loved the sniper GEP gun in Deus Ex. If there are no survivors, does an explosion make a sound?

Oh man, me too. The one level where you have to sneak onto the boat was some of the most sniper fun I've ever had in video gaming.

I would max my rifle skill and specialize in sniper every time, except your brother, Paul Denton, gets ticked at you if you go too far down the "cold blooded killer" route, for some reason.
 

innerdude

Legend
One other thing that came to mind about expectations of specialization --- In video games like Guild Wars or WoW, it's fully expected that you can just swap characters in a split second if the party needs something specific for a certain type of mission.

I can't imagine a TTRPG game group approaching characters the same way. "Well, for this mission, we'd really do much better if we had an elf druid rather than a tiefling fighter. Can you just pull out your elf druid character sheet and drop them in?"

Unless you're running your table in pure pawn stance, "gamist challenge mode," I don't think that would fly.

Besides which, in my experience character builds are often done with party synergy in mind. Your friend across the table takes one set of feats/edges/skills/powers because he knows it will synergize with my character's feats/edges/skills/powers. Unless you allow everyone to just swap builds on a whim like in WoW, that dynamic is gone, to say nothing of how "living world" proponents would be apoplectic at the very thought.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
One other thing that came to mind about expectations of specialization --- In video games like Guild Wars or WoW, it's fully expected that you can just swap characters in a split second if the party needs something specific for a certain type of mission.

I can't imagine a TTRPG game group approaching characters the same way. "Well, for this mission, we'd really do much better if we had an elf druid rather than a tiefling fighter. Can you just pull out your elf druid character sheet and drop them in?"

Unless you're running your table in pure pawn stance, "gamist challenge mode," I don't think that would fly.

Besides which, in my experience character builds are often done with party synergy in mind. Your friend across the table takes one set of feats/edges/skills/powers because he knows it will synergize with my character's feats/edges/skills/powers. Unless you allow everyone to just swap builds on a whim like in WoW, that dynamic is gone, to say nothing of how "living world" proponents would be apoplectic at the very thought.
To be fair, the video game and table top are doing very different things. The video game is a set challenge solution that players can face 24/7 repeatedly. TTRPG play is much slower with a bigger focus on character. The GM in a TT game can make the challenge flexible for the group as is.
 

Pedantic

Legend
One other thing that came to mind about expectations of specialization --- In video games like Guild Wars or WoW, it's fully expected that you can just swap characters in a split second if the party needs something specific for a certain type of mission.

I can't imagine a TTRPG game group approaching characters the same way. "Well, for this mission, we'd really do much better if we had an elf druid rather than a tiefling fighter. Can you just pull out your elf druid character sheet and drop them in?"

Unless you're running your table in pure pawn stance, "gamist challenge mode," I don't think that would fly.

Besides which, in my experience character builds are often done with party synergy in mind. Your friend across the table takes one set of feats/edges/skills/powers because he knows it will synergize with my character's feats/edges/skills/powers. Unless you allow everyone to just swap builds on a whim like in WoW, that dynamic is gone, to say nothing of how "living world" proponents would be apoplectic at the very thought.
I think the correct videogame comparison point is something more like a roguelike than an MMO. The play loop is about approaching a challenge with a character/resources that are an amalgam of your past choices, and having to adapt those to find a solution, and you only really get to do it once (albeit, TTRPGs tend to be calibrated so that you don't entirely restart on failure). You're generally not dissolving and reforming parties in TTRPGs, you're usually sticking with the same group, and the party itself functions as the roguelike "character" equivalent.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
This thread has reminded me of the Thief video game remake and how disappointing it was.
You are supposed to be this super sneaky thief. The game allows you to be a thug and fight a lot if you wish, or be a ghost who is never seen. Numerous cutscenes have the BBEG sneaking up on your character. It really annoyed me and was jarring compared to the gameplay.
 

innerdude

Legend
@payn --- your comment kind of goes back to my thoughts on player expectation, and the idea that you want to be good at what you're good at, right?

In my head this is kind of a "neo-trad" sort of headspace. In the past I've used a player who says "I want to be Batman!" as an analogy.

The player who "wants to be Batman" really does just want to be Batman. (S)he isn't interested in playing a "gimped," lesser, unrealized version of Batman---or at least, only early on in character progression until her/his vision of Batman is met.

Anything that disallows the player to "realize" their character concept becomes a barrier to fun.

Now obviously this is contextual. "Wanting to be Batman" doesn't mean that the GM / player dynamic should always be about the player feeling awesome. But it should some of the time. And if the GM is making rulings that lead to in-fiction situations where Batman isn't being awesome, it had better be for a darn good reason with a darn good set of stakes at hand, with a darn good payoff for the player later.

Interestingly, there's an intersection between skilled play and "neo-trad" that I'm not sure I'd fully grasped before. The difference is really in the player motivation, and the level to which a GM allows flexibility in player action declarations. OSR skilled play doesn't care if Batman gets to be Batman, but it does care if Batman has stuff to contribute to the success of the engagement at hand.

Neo-trad says Batman has to remain Batman, and the best way to be Batman is to do Batman-y things and do them well.

The types of things both players will say probably sound a lot alike at the table. They'll just be coming from slightly different motivational / contextual spaces.

So I think I'm stumbling into another "learning" from Jedi Survivor ---

4 --- Character Realization.

GM-ing activities and techniques should, as far as possible, allow for players to achieve character actualization. This can be achieved by providing situations, challenges, and engagements that accord with:

  • Character build
  • Tacit / unstated goals based on character build
  • Explicit / stated goals identified by the player
  • Stakes within the setting / conflicts that speak to the above
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski


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