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What is "grim and gritty" and "low magic" anyway?

Bendris Noulg

First Post
Yeah, I think your "levels" of GnG are fairly accurate. I'm also thinking that most people that want GnG in their games are likely aiming at Medium to High.

Unfortunatly, what most people fear (and thus what they rant against with "wide brush stroke" statements about GnG in general) is Uber.

(Personally, I'm a tad above High, but still not as deep as you've described Uber.)
 
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takyris

First Post
Whew. I'm glad my Uber check was over the top. I never got through a solid game of Phoenix Command, or whatever it was, so I never figured out exactly how many rolls were in there.

I think that if I wanna play superheroes, I go for Low, and if I want to play fantasy, I'm either at Medium or High. d20M plays like medium, but can play like high with a few alterations to the system*. D&D usually plays like Medium, but can play like Low if the DM messes around with the flavor text.

*: Mainly, making long-term consequences for injuries and having people take penalties if they get hit for Massive Damage. The former can often be roleplayed or rolled for when somebody gets nearly killed, while the latter can work as simply as "Every time you get hit for enough lethal damage to force a Massive Damage save, regardless of the result, you are at a -2 penalty until all damage caused by that attack is healed. When you drop to three-quarters, one-half, and one-quarter of your hit points, you take a cumulative -2 penalty. These penalties apply to attacks, saves, skill checks, ability checks, and pretty much any roll of the d20."
 

rounser

First Post
A recap?

1) Presenting challenges commensurate with PC level = Good.
2) Nerfing PC abilities to present viable challenges = Bad.

Therefore, I think we're back to The Hong Principle, whereby if you're nerfing PC abilities to present a particular type of challenge, the challenge is too low level for them. I bet it's hard writing plots to challenge Superman too...

On the other hand, a good deal of the last 12 pages is dedicated to proving that the scope of the stories you can run at high level is too small, and therefore campaigns that patch this apparent problem with the game are legit. And a handful of spells have been identified as being perhaps more trouble than they're worth in terms of the way they can potentially shutdown stories. But removing them is still considered somewhat bad, especially from the perspective of players - refer to (2).

Hmmm...
 
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malladin

Explorer
Bendris Noulg said:
Malladin said:
Plus all our takings go to ENWorld's continued upkeep.
Hmmm... That is interesting. How's that work exactly?
I get an itemised sales report and all the money that I take for DarkLore I save in my bank account. Every so often I send Morrus a cheque in the post (which reminds me, I need to send one now).

Cheerio,

Ben
 

malladin

Explorer
rounser said:
A recap?

1) Presenting challenges commensurate with PC level = Good.
2) Nerfing PC abilities to present viable challenges = Bad.
How about this recap:

1. Some GMs like their games to capture the feel and mood of the fantasy novels that inspire them to roleplay
2. Some players don't like having their characters pegged back a bit in order to achieve this.

Ben

PS Not trying to be obnoctious, more presenting an alternative that is equally valid (which is to say both are only partly true :) )
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
rounser said:
On the other hand, a good deal of the last 12 pages is dedicated to proving that the scope of the stories you can run at high level is too small, and therefore campaigns that patch this apparent problem with the game are legit.
I was with you up until this point.

If you were to say that the last 12 pages have been dedicated to discussing how high-level D&D becomes a significantly different game from low-level D&D, and that different people enjoy the aspects of one over the other.

When writing stories for Superman, you have a problem in that Superman started as moderately powerful, and then got more powerful over time, not unlike a PC. Eventually, he became so powerful that the only significant challenges that could be thrown at him were ludicrous or uninteresting. At that point, you have two choices, retool or restart. DC 'started a new campaign', so to speak, and rebooted Superman to match his late 1930s/early 1940s version. That lasted for several years, with him gaining more power each year, until we're where we are today.

Currently, DC is in the retool mode, which is like high-level D&D: changing the challenges so that they're not strictly combat-oriented. Dealing with problems that pure physical force alone cannot solve, relational difficulties, political dilemmas and so forth. The whole "President Lex" concept was a direct extension of that, and something of a retooling of the "Untouchable and powerful businessman" of the mid-80s reboot. Sure, Superman could kill Lex with a wave of his hand (or, as in the animated Justice League, with a blast of his eyes)...but it's not that simple.

Some folks don't enjoy that style of play. That hardly equates to a limited scope. Still others can enjoy multiple play styles, and recognize the inherent strengths and weaknesses in each one.
 

Bendris Noulg

First Post
Actually, I must agree with this...
rounser said:
1) Presenting challenges commensurate with PC level = Good.
2) Nerfing PC abilities to present viable challenges = Bad.
The funny part is, LM/GnG games more often than not lower the power level associated to PC Level, and thus seek to present challenges commensurate with PC level on its new scale. On the other hand, reading the "how to" thread, I see post after post of arbitrary decisions resulting in "nerfs" in order to make high magic games work.

So, yes, I agree that rounser is correct in the first part of his statement; far more correct than he likely realised.
 

Orius

Adventurer
Bendris Noulg said:
Indeed, it's often the nature of most LM games to bestow the players with "upper level" items at "mid levels" (6-12) rather than a constant upgrading of items from minor to major.

I'd say that's really more a of a classic D&D thing, hearkening back to the days when groups would usually advance to "name level" and start over againwith a new group of PCs.
 

Orius

Adventurer
Bendris Noulg said:
Yeah, I think your "levels" of GnG are fairly accurate. I'm also thinking that most people that want GnG in their games are likely aiming at Medium to High.

Unfortunatly, what most people fear (and thus what they rant against with "wide brush stroke" statements about GnG in general) is Uber.

Well, for me the biggest problem with Uber is the insane number of dice rolls and detail, not necessarily flavor. That's way too much to keep track of in combat, and it would horribly bog the game. Yes, I know it was an exaggeration, but for me, I'd rather describe damage by comparing how much damage is done vs. number of hp the target has. If the damage is a small percentage of hps, then it's a scratch, a glancing blow, or a flesh wound. Medium percentage would be a more seerious, yet not-life threatening wound, and so on. A crit that knocks the target down to -10 hp would be a decapitation, a heart-piercing thrust or so on. This is just another thing a DM learns how to do with experience, IMO.
 

rounser

First Post
I was with you up until this point.

If you were to say that the last 12 pages have been dedicated to discussing how high-level D&D becomes a significantly different game from low-level D&D, and that different people enjoy the aspects of one over the other.
Eh, I think you're pussyfooting around the issue there. The drive of Wulf's argument was that you can't run as many kinds of stories at high level because PC abilities will defuse the plot, and he has a point there. Some others were saying that nerfing of some player abilities at high level to enable a wider range of stories is not a good solution for that problem, and they have a point too.

Mix in player memories of low magic being associated with control freak DMs wielding bad house rules, and our resident DMs running low magic games who claim they don't deserve to be tarred with the same brush as the deadbeats, and you get enough fuel for a thread this long. :)
 
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Brilbadr

First Post
I think the answer here is simple. You present your players with a book with the rules in before they agree to play and say "hey guys, what do you think of these rules-you'll notice that spellcasters are both weaker and more feared" (or whatever take on magic you want) If they say - nah, then fair enough. I think where people get upset is where the goal posts move, or where they didn't know where they were in the first place.

I know the book has spelling mistakes but..
Get Conan d20!
It will change your perspective on "low magic"
You can have mystery and spell casters. You just need to avoid having "Tim the Enchanter" remember him, out of Holy Grail. That is a 3.5 warwizard (minitures handbook). How mysterious? About as mystical as a flamethrower and a howitzer

I'll say it again. Read/Beg/Borrow Conan. Stop arguing. Go and get it now. :eek:
Actualy the barbarian class (the first in the book) is way over the top from my perspective and we actualy play with the standard 3.5 barbarian, but hey I think they wanted a Conan in every party. And the money rules are a bit "we are drunken barbarian idiots" oriented but hey, you take what you need. And you all need the magic system. Well most of you.
Go an get it.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
The only place I got upset is in the claim that normal magic limits story creativity, which is why I posted the how-to thread, which contains more than just nerfs and ways around the abilities for those who care to read it.

It has, I hope, shown that you can be just as creative and engaging in high power as in low power...it's just a matter of scale. On one end, the DM can reliably control and manipulate events to their desire because minor changes are significant (a +1 means something, it can be 'powerful'). At the other end, DM's need more major changes, and need to prepare for PC's 'outsmarting' them and taking their own route to the goals (a +1 is nothing, a +10 might be 'powerful').

Low magic/grim-n-gritty is first an issue of flavor, and second, and more subtly, an issue of DM control over the events in the game. Not all DMs enjoy rolling with the punches at high levels, not all can plan or free-form to that level, not all are happy with letting the players effectively 'cut out the middleman.' Not all players enjoy setting the stage to that degree, or feeling that powerful while still undertaking the quest.

Both are valid, and neither limits the creativity of a good DM in any way. You can have an arduous journey just as well in high-level normal D&D as you can in low-magic D&D, just as simply -- the high-level normal D&D arduous journey will have particular elements that not all DMs or players are comfortable with (such as requiring that each step on the journey be significant), however, just as the low-magic/gng D&D arduous journey will have particular elements that not all players or DM's are comfortable with (such as the risk to life and limb posed by nameless NPC brigands against the *heroes*). High magic games work just fine, and are capable of the same things as low magic, just with a different flavor, and it only ruffles my feathers when people claim they don't....

....and I will admit that Hong has a point....
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
rounser said:
Eh, I think you're pussyfooting around the issue there. The drive of Wulf's argument was that you can't run as many kinds of stories at high level because PC abilities will defuse the plot, and he has a point there. Some others were saying that nerfing of some player abilities at high level to enable a wider range of stories is not a good solution for that problem, and they have a point too.
Neither of which was the sole focus of the thread, as you were representing it.

Either way, this is the crux of what I'm not agreeing with...you say "less" and I say "different". Can you do a mystery at high level? Yes, but it will not be of the 'four people in a room, the door was locked, whodunnit?' variety. There are new and different kinds of stories that can only be done at high level to take the place of low-level adventures. There are not fewer types of stories, but if you only want to tell certain types of stories, then you will have a problem, becuase high level magic will sufficiently defuse those stories.

As PC has said, instead of nerfing character abilities, you require them. I certainly don't advocate removing players hard-won abilities, and I agree that developing solutions that deny them those powers to make the game work is a poor solution. That's not the same thing as saying that high-level games are less varied than low-level games. And many games will work at any level, such as the politics that occured in my game last night, which would have worked at 3rd level as well as 23rd level....but not the specific elements, such as the requirement that the PCs teleport to four different locations that are all over the world, for example, or the interaction with their ancient gold dragon mentor and the repelling of an invasion and the discussion of constructing a new mage's guild in the aftermath of the near-apocalypse. It's all relative.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Adventurer
Kamikaze Midget said:
High magic games work just fine, and are capable of the same things as low magic, just with a different flavor, and it only ruffles my feathers when people claim they don't....

They work just fine and are capable of the same things as low magic, except of course, for capturing the flavor found in the bulk of myth and fiction.

"Just with a different flavor" isn't something you can just wave off, it's the heart of the matter, or so I perceived this discussion.


Wulf
 

d4

First Post
Wulf Ratbane said:
"Just with a different flavor" isn't something you can just wave off, it's the heart of the matter, or so I perceived this discussion.
some people like original recipe, other people go for extra crispy. it's all a matter of taste.
 

Bendris Noulg

First Post
d4 said:
some people like original recipe, other people go for extra crispy. it's all a matter of taste.
True, and agreed upon several times already in this thread. To carry your analogy to the current point of discussion, however, it would be akin to saying that you can get original using the extra crispy recipe by virtue of saying that it's still chicken (which won't get you anywhere except my grandma complaining about crispy pieces getting caught in her partials).
 

Dark Jezter

First Post
Wulf Ratbane said:
They work just fine and are capable of the same things as low magic, except of course, for capturing the flavor found in the bulk of myth and fiction.

"Just with a different flavor" isn't something you can just wave off, it's the heart of the matter, or so I perceived this discussion.


Wulf
Folklore and mythology are also commonly filled with incestuous themes, but you don't see people scrambling to import those in their D&D campaigns. :p

At least, not in any campaign I've played in.
 

Altalazar

First Post
Dark Jezter said:
Folklore and mythology are also commonly filled with incestuous themes, but you don't see people scrambling to import those in their D&D campaigns. :p

At least, not in any campaign I've played in.

That is a very good point. I think perhaps that is part of the problem here - the great stories of myth often have a specific lesson to import - they are very specifically crafted to do so - and actual games where you have four or more players each doing their own thing just do not lend themselves to the kind of control necessary to craft a story of mythic proportions. Not unless the DM railroads could such a result be guaranteed. Which ties in again to the common complaint by those who dislike magic - that they have their options "limited" in making a plot - which to me sounds like frustration with attempts to railroad that get derailed by player's abilities.

If your plot requires players be absolutely unable to do something or require them to be absolutely unable to figure out something until times designated by the DM, it starts to smell and sound like railroading to me.

Now, this is separate from "grim and gritty," just to be clear.

Also, myths and legends often included larger than life characters - the stuff of epic level characters. Paul Bunyon, for instance.

I think if one is creative, one can craft just as fine a plot, magic or not. If there is an engaging story with interesting NPCs a night of fun can be had regardless of what level spells are tossed around.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
They work just fine and are capable of the same things as low magic, except of course, for capturing the flavor found in the bulk of myth and fiction.

Well, assuming that "the bulk of myth and fiction" has a consistent flavor (it doesn't), I thought I had shown that the plot points in these stories can still exist in high-level D&D, they'll just have different trappings. A mystery is still a mystery, wether it's four people in a room and one dies, or it's a grand interplanar conspiracy involving the deities that may threaten entire worlds. Some people more like the former, some people more like the latter, and they BOTH capture the flavor of a mystery. And arduous journey is still and arduous journey, wether it's a road full of brigands on the way to market, or an river through the heavens collecting the parts of a shattered deity. An assassinated noble is still an assassinated noble wether he died from a knife in the back and complications during surgery or by a Sphere of Annihiliation. They have different flavor, but the same basic points of plot and conflict. You can choose from either -- you are not 'forced' to play Low-Magic D&D at high levels just to replicate certain points of conflict between the PC's and their enemies.

"Just with a different flavor" isn't something you can just wave off, it's the heart of the matter, or so I perceived this discussion.

But what I'm saying is that they're both capable of the same basic structure of conflict and resolution. It's okay to differ on the enjoyment of the ways in which the means and ends are accomplished....it's okay to like nickel-and-diming food and hp more than nickel-and-diming third-level spells. The point is, they're both nickel-and-diming, and they create the same conflicts, the same emotions, low magic or high magic. Neither is 'better at nickel-and-diming' than the other, it just takes a different form in each, ones uniquely suited to the flavor that the DMs wish to capture.

To take the chicken analogy further, Original Recepie isn't any better at satisfying hunger than Extra Tasty Crispy....they do the same things in the end. Some would rather eat one, and some the other, but it's not like Extra Tasty Crispy has some key ingredient of hunger-absolving that Original Recepie doesn't. It just tastes different. It has different ingredients. It's not like Original Recepie can't sate your hunger, it's just that you'd prefer to have Extra Tasty Crispy, and I've never said that's wrong.
 

Bendris Noulg

First Post
Altalazar said:
Which ties in again to the common complaint by those who dislike magic - that they have their options "limited" in making a plot - which to me sounds like frustration with attempts to railroad that get derailed by player's abilities.
Well, we've got yet another insinuation that low magic equates to bad GMing, but I'll ignore that little gem of bigotry and address the relevant issue...

In my experience as a player, I've seen high magic used by GMs to railroad and screw PCs so often that I started GMing to provide my friends with a game that didn't include any of that nonsense, which inevitably led me down the road to low magic, and, I must say, I'm still a gamer because of it.

None of my players feel that their choices are limited or that they are railroaded in any regard. Indeed, what they see is options within a viable campaign world that they prefer over the other games available to them (most of which are "core" games). Sure, they aren't the same options as one would have in a high magic game, but options are there and choices are theirs to make.

Anyone that's experienced the opposite didn't experience a low magic game, they experienced a bad GM, and bad GMs are not unique to any form or flavor of magic.
 

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