Why the World Exists

Reynard

Legend
At most I'm altering and bypassing a genre convention that states that magic weaponry and equipment is to be found at random by scavenging amongst the dead, in contrast to the genre conventions of other styles of fantasy (such as comic books) where magic items are intrinsic to the wielder.

Absolutely true, but neither style of play or meta-genre is superior to the other. To me, though, the "super hero fantasy" meta-genre is less fun and will therefore obviously color my opinions on such matters. I for one don't think "carries two flaming scimitars" is a viable aspect of "character concept" in the same way that "desert dervish" is.
 

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Reynard

Legend
I consider the difference only relevant for metagaming, not for roleplaying.

Metagaming and roleplaying are not opposites; both exist in any given example or aspect of play. In fact, I'd go so far to say that they cannot be separated, nor can one exist without the other. Character sheets, dice, miniatures: these are all metagaming conventions. Descriptive "text", NPC interactions, funny voices: these are all roleplaying conventions. RPGs are a game genre that mixes the two -- not always in equal measure, but never* one without the other.

*At least, I have never seen an RPG that doesn't include both that still qualifies as an RPG, as opposed to a "wargame" or a "group storytelling activity".
 

FireLance

Legend
I am not saying that the game does not exist for the sake of the players, it obviously does. (After all, it, as a gaming device must have a pragmatic function. And that function is as a setting for imaginary action of the players through the agency of their character.) I am saying it does not exist for the sake of the characters, as in, it does not exist to service the wishes of the characters.
I'm glad that you're making a distinction between the player and the character, because wish lists are entirely a player issue. There is no realistic, in-game way for a character to make demands on the universe short of wishes and other similar magic. A character may voice a desire for a specific magic item, but from the character's perspective, it would be no different from me telling my wife that I would like to have a million dollars.
If the characters are supposed to be heroes, then to be brutally honest, heroes don't run around saying, "I want this, or I demand that." Heroes say I'll sacrifice for this and I'll risk for that. And just because they find the world not to their liking, doesn't mean they start demanding it had better become the way they want in order for them to do their job.
Again, the characters can't demand anything of the world. The players might make requests of the DM, but short of very specific in-game scenarios, e.g. the characters know that a certain temple has a magic item that will help them on their quest and issue an ultimatum that they will not embark on the mission if it is not given to them, this will not be played out within the game.
Now heroes, like anyone, have needs. They need certain things to operate effectively. But when they don't get exactly what they want that is never an obstacle to action. Nor is not getting your wish list in any way reflective of being a hero. But I can see the opposite as being suppressive of heroism. Getting what you want all of the time does not make you heroic, it can make you a lot of things, spoiled, self-absorbed, entitled, dependent, lazy. But I've never seen getting what you want all of the time make anyone heroic. Heroism is the opposite of being given things. It is earning things, and sacrificing things. You cannot encourage the idea of "getting what you want when and how you want it" and the idea of heroism simultaneously. One idea becomes more alluring than the other, or one idea becomes more important than the other.
So make your players earn the items on their wish lists before you give them to their characters. It isn't that difficult, you know.
 

Fenes

First Post
Well, let me clarify: Someone who can't play a character that fears death even though he knows that the character won't die is not someone I'll play a roleplaying game with. That's where I draw the metagaming line.
 

Cadfan

First Post
I for one don't think "carries two flaming scimitars" is a viable aspect of "character concept" in the same way that "desert dervish" is.
Bilbo and Frodo had Sting. Aragorn had Anduril, Flame of the West. Elric had Stormbringer. I could go on.

Wolverine has claws, Ichigo has Zangetsu, Li-Mu Bai had the Green Destiny Sword...

I'm sure these characters would have been just as thematic if Bilbo and Frodo had to deal with Stormbringer, Aragorn had triple claws that went *SNICKT*, Elric had Sting, Wolverine had Anduril, Flame of the West, Ichigo had the Green Destiny Sword, and Li-Mu Bai had Zangetsu.
 

Dragon Snack

First Post
It looks like everyone can agree with this statement...

This will undoubtedly make some people angry.
I almost didn't read your post because it started with this disclaimer, but I'm glad I did. While I could never subscribe completely to the latter ideas in a game world, I realize you're using absolutes in both cases.

I think it highlights something that had been bugging me about D&D (or maybe just my former group) for a few years. And an honest assessment shows that I was guilty of it myself as a player (although 'heroic fantasy' isn't as much of a draw for me as just 'fantasy').

I subscribe to FireLance's ideals, but something in me thinks that was your point after all...

Of course, I could be completely wrong.



(I really hate 'reputation' points on message boards, but +1 rep anyway)
 

FireLance

Legend
Well, let me clarify: Someone who can't play a character that fears death even though he knows that the character won't die is not someone I'll play a roleplaying game with. That's where I draw the metagaming line.
Actually, I think a much better way to frame this discussion would have been to ask whether certain game conventions, e.g. wish lists and the presumption that the characters would be facing "balanced" encounters, serve to increase the difference between the player's mental state and that of the character's, whether this could cause the character's in-game actions to seem artificial and contrived, and if so, what can be done to counter it.

It is arguable that when a novice player, who is himself unsure whether his 1st-level character could defeat the enemies his party is facing, says that his character stays and fights, the action seems more heroic than when the same 1st-level character is played by an experienced player who knows that his PC has a good chance of winning the fight.

To take another example, if a character finds a magic item similar to, but less powerful than, one on the player's wish list, would the player's feelings of disappointment that he did not get the item he wanted color the character's presumed excitement at finding a magic item in the first place?

Assuming you agree with the design goals of more balanced encounters and wish lists in the first place, what can be done to make the player's mental state closer to the character's mental state, and presumably, make the character's reactions seem more realistic?

EDIT: Actually, I've forked this post off into another thread here, if anyone is interested in addressing these issues specifically.
 
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Hellzon

First Post
I'm sure these characters would have been just as thematic if Bilbo and Frodo had to deal with Stormbringer, Aragorn had triple claws that went *SNICKT*, Elric had Sting, Wolverine had Anduril, Flame of the West, Ichigo had the Green Destiny Sword, and Li-Mu Bai had Zangetsu.

Well, it's an interesting start of a campaign at least.
(But yes, give Frodo Stormbringer, taking it away from Elric, and you have two vastly different concepts indeed.)
 



Reynard

Legend
Bilbo and Frodo had Sting. Aragorn had Anduril, Flame of the West. Elric had Stormbringer. I could go on.

Wolverine has claws, Ichigo has Zangetsu, Li-Mu Bai had the Green Destiny Sword...

I'm sure these characters would have been just as thematic if Bilbo and Frodo had to deal with Stormbringer, Aragorn had triple claws that went *SNICKT*, Elric had Sting, Wolverine had Anduril, Flame of the West, Ichigo had the Green Destiny Sword, and Li-Mu Bai had Zangetsu.

There's a difference, I think between building a character concept that starts with an integral weapon, for example, and a character concept that requires somewhere along the way for the character to gain this item. But more importantly, it is something that I wouldn't want in the games I run, at least insofar as having a player say "I want twin flaming scimitars" but in game a pair of flaming scimitars showing up in the next level appropriate horde. If the player (and his character) really want a pair of twin flaming scimitars, I'm more than happy to provide them in the context of the setting (the great dervish demon slayer of the past used them and now they are buried with him in his grand tomb, or whatever). But it is up to the player to go get them (and convince the rest of the group that it will be worth their while to accompany him).

To be honest, I am far less a fan of the setting being "level responsive" to the PCs than I am to accomodating players in achieving certain goals or even finding certain items. If Jade Jaws the green dragon that lives in the Big Wood is an ancient wyrm, he's an ancient wyrm whether the PCs go pester him at 20th level or 1st. If the King of Long-goninia had a Vorbal Hackmaster +12, that's what's to be found in his tomb, regardless of whether the item is "too powerful" for the PCs when they find it. Relatedly, if the random treasure table comes up with a +1 scimitar when the group's fighter is specialized in the long sword, it remains a +1 scimitar. If the fighter wants a magic longsword, he'll have to go find one or wait for the dice to favor his character generation choice.

(As a quick aside, i always thought this was a good balancing mechanic for the exotic and often superior weapons -- they were less likely to show up on the random magic item chart.)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
First, starting a thread with "I know this is going to make people angry, but I'm going to post it anyway" skirts so closely to the obvious intent of EN World's rules (and the boundaries of basic courtesy), that I very nearly closed this thread on sight. If you know something's going to upset someone, don't post it.

I think that there's a basic logical fallacy inherent in this post. The first of the two premises (the world exists for the characters) is, indeed, an approach to running a game; it is not, however, as claimed, "in order to power up", it is "in order to have more fun".

A game which accomodates the PCs is more fun for the players, in my opinion. Who needs to know what the name of the innkeeper of Tavern #724a in pre-created village #49c enjoys for breakfast in the morning? If the PCs happen to interact with him, then yes, that information may become relevant; otherwise it is, in my mind, (a) wasted effort on the part of the DM who could spend his time working on the things that lead to fun for the players; and (b) not really of any interest to anyone, other than a particularly self-absorbed DM. One that, presumably, should be writing novels not D&D adventures.

I'm not saying world-building is bad, per-se. A lot of DMs derive a great deal of pleasure from it, and it can enhance the imersion elements of a game. But ascribing nefarious motives to anyone who doesn't indulge in the process is plain wrong.

In my own games, I detail little outside of the immediate interactive sphere of the players. I try to make sure they are able to enjoy their characters as much as I possible can (which, yes, means saying "yes" a lot). To me, we're here to have some fun, not to run a scientific simulation of a fantasy world.

The stories accomodate the players' interests; why would I want to force five people to sit down and play a game contrary to their interests? Why would I not want to give them as much fun as I can?

The basic fallacy in the initial post is the equating of "fun" with "power-ups". Having your rogue do cool stuff is fun! Having your rogue count his rations is, for many people, not fun.

Both approaches are equally valid, and appeal to different people. There is nothng inherently wrong with either. I enjoy the first; others may enjoy the latter. But nowhere do I equate fun with power-ups.
 

Moon_Goddess

Adventurer
Supporter
I am not saying that the game does not exist for the sake of the players, it obviously does. (After all, it, as a gaming device must have a pragmatic function. And that function is as a setting for imaginary action of the players through the agency of their character.) I am saying it does not exist for the sake of the characters, as in, it does not exist to service the wishes of the characters.

If the characters are supposed to be heroes, then to be brutally honest, heroes don't run around saying, "I want this, or I demand that." Heroes say I'll sacrifice for this and I'll risk for that. And just because they find the world not to their liking, doesn't mean they start demanding it had better become the way they want in order for them to do their job.

Now heroes, like anyone, have needs. They need certain things to operate effectively. But when they don't get exactly what they want that is never an obstacle to action. Nor is not getting your wish list in any way reflective of being a hero. But I can see the opposite as being suppressive of heroism. Getting what you want all of the time does not make you heroic, it can make you a lot of things, spoiled, self-absorbed, entitled, dependent, lazy. But I've never seen getting what you want all of the time make anyone heroic. Heroism is the opposite of being given things. It is earning things, and sacrificing things. You cannot encourage the idea of "getting what you want when and how you want it" and the idea of heroism simultaneously. One idea becomes more alluring than the other, or one idea becomes more important than the other.


It seems like you read my post, but you didn't truely grok what I was saying.

Your tying player and character too close together. I am not Saraz, she is not me, I am not Larinza, either.

The game, the world of the game, exists for my enjoyment. Saraz doesn't demand anything, she doesn't believe there is a DM guiding her world and she doesn't actually believe in gods either so she'd never presume to ask for certain things to come to her. Now I, I am not Saraz, me asking for her to get a new orb does not make her less heroic.

My own hardships and it's relationship to my heroism, is beyond the scope of this thread, but I will never believe that me getting an imaginary orb for my character will affect my personal heroism quotient in any noticeable way. Saraz however has no idea that I asked for her to get that orb. In her point of veiw the orb is no different to her than the dagger that was randomly rolled, she finds them both in the same loot pile.


Do you get what I'm saying?
 

FourthBear

First Post
The 4E DMG.
Wish lists were specifically mentioned on page 125 of the 4e DMG. It should be noted that they are not proscribed as the necessary way of doing things, they are recommended as an easy and straightforward way of finding out the kind of magic items a player is interested in. I've read WotC adventures that have made the assumption that the reading DM has taken this advice as a default, however.

The Treasure section of the 4e DMG does also recommend tailoring magic items found in adventuring to the group, even if wish lists aren't used. This is explicitly intended to increase the chances that finding a magic item that the players will be excited by, rather than putting in a pile to be sold or disenchanted.

Like much of the 4e DMG, I think this is good advice for beginning DMs, who might not have the time, experience or inclination to simply look over the PCs and figure out what items would be most complementary. The wish list method recruits the players into figuring out the magic item lists, which I believe can be confusing in their size and variety.

Does tailored treasure result in rather coincidental events? Certainly. However, I'd rather deal with that than having to have more frequent sessions around the selling, bartering and disenchanting of high level magic items that no player has an interest in. It may be more "realistic", but I find it a time wasting nuisance. Unless you remove the ability to enchant, disenchant or purchase magic items, it's more often a speed bump until the players get what they actually wanted, a few levels later. I see wish lists less as a nefarious method to create spoiled players and more of a tool of convenience for the table. Much like how convenient items frequently show up in the fantasy story source material.
 

Cadfan

First Post
There's a difference, I think between building a character concept that starts with an integral weapon, for example, and a character concept that requires somewhere along the way for the character to gain this item.
Of COURSE there's a difference. The difference is that D&D doesn't let you start with Stormbringer at level 1.

Hence the need to skirt genre conventions by discussing matters with your DM.
But more importantly, it is something that I wouldn't want in the games I run, at least insofar as having a player say "I want twin flaming scimitars" but in game a pair of flaming scimitars showing up in the next level appropriate horde. If the player (and his character) really want a pair of twin flaming scimitars, I'm more than happy to provide them in the context of the setting (the great dervish demon slayer of the past used them and now they are buried with him in his grand tomb, or whatever). But it is up to the player to go get them (and convince the rest of the group that it will be worth their while to accompany him).
Translation: Reynard :hearts: wishlists.

If you insist on visualizing wishlists as some sort of ridiculous characature of gaming in which a PC says, "I need a flaming vorpal greataxe +3, my +2 is too weak now," and the DM says something like, "Oh, ok, well, you see one in the gelatinous cube up ahead," then I'm not surprised you don't like them. But the way they tend to work tends to be more like what you described above, except that your example seems to suggest that sort of thing should only be done as sidequests. I'm not sure if you intended that, but of course there's no reason it has to be sidequest material only. If I know that one of my PCs has armor that's kind of obsolete for his level, and if I'm statting up a couple of NPC bad guys, its not THAT hard to make sure that one of them has good armor for the PC in question. Surely that doesn't break verisimilitude. He needed some kind of armor, and that one's as good as anything else.
To be honest, I am far less a fan of the setting being "level responsive" to the PCs than I am to accomodating players in achieving certain goals or even finding certain items. If Jade Jaws the green dragon that lives in the Big Wood is an ancient wyrm, he's an ancient wyrm whether the PCs go pester him at 20th level or 1st.
This brings up yet again the point I made in my first post. Jade Jaws ain't real. He lives wherever you, as the DM, say. He's whatever level you, as the DM, say. Your argument only makes sense if Jade Jaws has objective traits external to your decisions, which obviously he doesn't. You can't use the objective nature of the game world to justify your decisions about how to design the game world because prior to your designing it the game world has no traits at all, much less objective ones.

Now that isn't to say that there isn't sometimes reason to have Jade Jaws the ancient wyrm who lives in the Big Wood nearby, even though the players are first level. And if the players have enough information to make meaningful decisions (very key, this point), I suppose that if they decide to go suicide themselves in a futile battle of level 1 PCs versus Jade Jaws the ancient green dragon wyrm, then I guess that's what happens.

Though I generally find that players don't intentionally suicide the whole party fighting ancient wyrms they know they can't beat, so if they DO attack Jade Jaws at level 1, that suggests that they weren't as clued in to the whole "ancient wyrm in the Big Wood will kill you DEAD" thing as the DM probably thought.
 
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ProfessorPain

First Post
There is nothing wrong with players expecting opportunities to be heroic, but I agree with the OP's general point that the game world shouldn't be there to simply service their characters. Actually I noticed this problem emerge about 5-6 years ago in my own game. Prior to that I had never had players come to me with "Wish lists". People would occassionally tell me what they liked, would hope to see or encounter, and what they wanted; but they didn't have literal wish lists. Then I noticed players bringing me long lists of what they wanted in the game. Though I am a fan of 3E, I have to pin the blame on 3rd edition for this. The wish lists seemed to be a product of character builds, which were so essential to 3E. Players needed access to specific magic items, storylines, and experiences in order to make the character they had built via the multiclass/prestige class system of 3E.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Hmmm... I tend to prefer to look at this as, "The DM doesn't exist for the players."

Now, when I say it that way, the first thing that is going to happen is that someone is going to rightfully jump me, and say, "Of course the DM exists for the players."

And they'll be right.

But, in the same way that they are right that the DM does exist for the players, the players also exist for the DM. There is a mutual obligation between the players and the DM to create 'the fun'. However, neither the player nor the DM is the mere servant of the other. Thus, neither the players nor the DM fully exist for the other one either.

There is a mutuality - a back and forth, a give and take, a communion - between the players and the DM, and between the characters and the world.

The players aren't simply toys for the DM's amusement, and the DM isn't simply a toy for the players amusement. Everyone has a stake at the table, and frankly no one has put a bigger stake in to the game than the DM. To paraphrase the old saying about mother's, "If the DM isn't happy, then nobody is happy." The existance of the table depends on the DM more than any one player. If the DM loses interest in the game, then the campaign collapses and as often as not (in my experience) the group collapses.

From my perspective, if a player were to hand me a list of goodies that he wanted, I would find it inherently antagonistic. I find it to be the same quality of anti-social play inherent in a DM that changes the adventure because the players are winning too easily. I find it to be the same quality of antagonistic play as a DM who invents strings of unavoidable zany traps to show off, or who has pet NPC's that are effectively his all power, immortal player characters.

A player that demanded of me that they be given something, that the world conform to their wishes for power and influence and 'the win', is basically saying to me, "I don't trust you. I think you are just out to screw me (like all DM's) and so I demand authority over your world. I'm going to set the terms of the game that you must abide by, and you exist merely to provide me with validation of my awesomeness. Moreover, if you don't, then I'm going to throw a temper tantrum." Maybe that isn't how it is intended. Maybe the player has very good reasons to distrust DM's and think that they are just going to screw him. But whatever the cause of the demand, it would seem highly antogonistic to me. It would seem to me as a DM much the same that a DM turning to me and saying, "No, your character doesn't want to do that.", would seem to me as a player.

Basically, for me, the DM never tries to play the player's character for him, and the player never tries to run the world for the DM. The player is free, and the DM is free. Neither is the slave of the other. The DM's responcibility is to the player, but not to grant them any particular preconcieved notions about how the world should work, what they should find, or anything else. The player's responcibility is to the DM, but not to act out scripted parts, to be puppets in the DM's preimagined narrative, or to do exactly what the DM would do in the same situation.

When I see critics of the OP's post, almost always they seem to have this idea that either the DM is the player's whipping boy, or else he's this tyrant that is out to screw them. I'm not out to screw them. If anything, the player's are enjoying amazing plot protection, huge destinies, and advantages that are virtually incomparable compared to 99.99% of NPC's in the world. I want the players to win, to succeed, to become famous, to become powerful, because a story that involves growth and change is more interesting than one that doesn't. I want the players to have fun. That's what keeps the game going, and excited involved players are far more entertaining to me than players that are just going through the motions.

But none of that implies to me that I have to give the players exactly what they want down to the particular magic item. A player that feels that they can't have fun without getting precisely that 'perfect' magic item is to me no different than a DM who feels that they can't have fun unless the players are helplessly toiling against the DM's all powerful traps and NPC's with no chance of success except what the DM stoops to give them.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Fancy logic, but you're taking theoretical extremes and then extrapolating back to apply your reasoning to the completely benign. If I've got a player who's vision for that character is, amongst other things like personality and physical appearance, a desert dervish wielding two flaming scimitars, I'm not "reducing adversity" if I provide him a means to actually obtain said scimitars.

Part of the issue comes from how the DM provides that means. Do you look at a player's wish list and concept and draw from that list when building the treasure parcels that the PCs will encounter wherever they go? Or do you provide a means for the PC with a particular hankering for an item to research ancient legends and find a likely place for said item to be?

I think there's a real difference in those two methods.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Long ago in a magazine called Dragon they presented the First Rule of Dungeoncraft:

Dungeoncraft said:
Never force yourself to create more than you must

Its a simple rule to force DMs to remember who is the PROTAGONIST of the story, the PCs. (Note: not hero, not most important, but whose eyes the story will be seen).

The first example Jack7 laid out was just that: Focus the story (and thus the game) around them. Bob the fighter will find a magic bastard sword because, well, he's specialized in bastard sword, not halbred. There is no point to rolling up a staff of the Wilderness for a druidless party. If no one can wear heavy armor, that +5 Plate is just so much GP (or residuum in 4e).

Still, it extends beyond that. Things happen simply because the PCs are there. Why are bandits attacking the town of Restenford? Because the PCs just entered the town or Restenford. Or they are from Restenford, heard about the attacks, and decide to defend their home. Etc. No one cares of Restenford has a bandit problem unless it involves the PCs somehow. Few DMs would bother to create a bandit problem in Restenford unless it was supposed to involve the PCs. While sometimes grander plots exist beyond the scope of what the PCs are doing (Oh noes! the King is really a vampire!) Events that happen when the PCs aren't involved are wasted thought.

The trick is to make Restenford's bandit problem LOOK like a natural, random occurrence WHILE actually making it about the PCs. That is the key to good DMing. However, it doesn't make the world a simulation, it still only matters because the PCs are going to get involved in it.
 

ProfessorPain

First Post
The above poster makes some good points. Something people often overlook. Players enjoy the game less, if the DM just says yes to all their requests. As a player, if I get everything I want, there its like finding a cheat on a video game. It gets boring really fast. If the setting always bends to my will, there really is no challenge. It is reverse railroading.
 

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