Unwanted outcomes

I can’t stop thinking about yesterday.

We met up early to mellow out and spend four hours rolling up characters, creating backstory etc. Level fours.

And then an hour of so of city politics and then out in the jungle and… first encounter torn to pieces by raptors. T_T Failed a surprise check. 24 attacks. With advantage. (I had given the other player the change to intercept any number of these but he declined. Saying “But then we both would’ve died!”)

I kept thinking about it all night and then all morning today.

Talk about the unwanted:(

No one at the table wanted this. I was in a bad mood about it right away. I offered to wrap the campaign up right then and there.

If we ever do manage to [deal with the main McGuffin] it’s gonna be cause for celebration for sure.

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Comments

  • edited June 17

    On Lumpley’s web page:

    If [the rules] create uncompelling unwelcome things, any sensible group drops them like the irritants they are.

    Last night, for a brief moment, I was thinking that I was done with D&D.

    But do I really want a jungle game where there’s zero chance of being torn apart by raptors?

    I honestly don’t know. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. It’s with trepidation I look at the Tomb of Annihilation book on my desk beside me. Almost trembling as I touch it.

    I think I did the right thing:

    • Offering to switch campaigns
    • Offering to switch game systems
    • Going through the encounter text together, showing module text and stat blocks
    • Calculating out the CR and intended matchup, retroactively
    • Comparing the raptors to other CR 1/4 XP 50 foes.
    • Rerolling the encounter but with the PC having the Shield spell up (still died)
    • Listening to, and holding, their rants on how un-thought-through, unfair, poorly designed etc the module is.

    All that but it still ended the same way it always does:

    See you next week.

    This is D&D.

  • edited June 17
    Ouch! Hours of prep and the optimism of a kick-off endeavour down the drain are a high price indeed. Hats off for paying up!

    Keep in mind what you are getting in return: a ton of suspense, a living, believable world and a great sense of accomplishment (should the players eventually survive or conquer the jungle). But I guess you already now that.

    A few sessions from now, the event will be part of your group's lore and everyone will feel that much more badass for sending more PCs into the jungle. And maybe you can go raptor-hunting some day.

    BTW, I absolutely love your practice of putting the fallout from such events - e.g. the bones and equipment of these poor PCs, right? - on your encounter tables (as you reported in another thread). Great link about 'the unwanted', too! Thanks!

    *-*-*

    I don't do signatures, but I'll quote from my (defunct) blog Out for Blood here:

    I want anticlimaxes.
    I want failures.
    I want death.

    I'm out for blood.
  • I personally would not mix deep character backstory (and the mechanical complexity implied by starting at mid-levels) with lethal play, but that's just me. I do not think that those two game elements are creatively compatible. You create hurt for yourself by establishing an expectation of character survival, without then backing it up with the system.
  • Yeah, the bones & gear go on the encounter table. And, the PC’s character sheet with his entire backstory goes up on the wall. I’ve read that post before, Johann. It’s memorable.

    I don’t want to be a killer DM, I don’t want blood. I joke around about it sometimes, but, some of these PC and NPC deaths have really been hard-hitting. I am a fan. I just don’t let that fandom interfere with the refereeing one iota. The gloracle willed this.

    Eero… dividing my answer up into two:

    Emotional and creative investment. Given the premise of running a game where BRD (brutal raptor death) is a possibility — and, again, that premise can certainly be brought into question — the option then becomes: should we just play dumb faceless meaningless redshirted disposable teens or should we invest in, feel, care about, risk, create, concern ourselves with the life and longings of these pawns?

    A strength of D&D is that it supports both. For every new PC you create, you can select how much you decide to care about it.

    Have I been having a somber and quiet day today? With a non-zero amount of weeping? Yes. But. That’s a strength of D&D, the… actually caring.

    Mechanical complexity vs lethality. Level four isn’t mid levels, is it?. It’s still “local heroes” tier. The rule in Tomb of Annihilation (and this rule comes from the module text, i.e. it’s not our house call) is that replacement PCs start at party level. We started with level 1 PCs, and they made it up to level 4 before they started dying. The lethality is… not really adjustable, given our choice of ruleset, module, and social contract. As noted, I brought both changing the ruleset, and/or changing the module, up for discussion. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t see how mechanical complexity inherently removes lethality. The module explicitly prehibits resurrection.

    Again, the idea of “do we even want to play a jungle game with an about 4% chance of random BRD?” is legit af. And I’m not sure about the answer. But if we do, adding mechanical complexity is adding agency. Shield spells, teleport, these choices were validated [as choices] by being proven wrong — they would’ve been good vs the assassin vines from last week but not enough vs a hord of tiny li’l hen-sized raptors. Abandoning your own friend, jumping out of the way letting 12 raptors eat him, and jumping on a horse to high tail it out of there: that choice meant that particular PC lived. But in the long run, karmically, and if the dead PC’s player is going to reciprocate, it could turn out to be a bad choice.

  • We've seen the rise of fiction, like Claremont's X-Men or Kirkman's The Walking Dead, where heroes can die. It makes you toss the book across the room in disgust. And. To keep thinking about it. :bawling:
  • 2097 said:

    We've seen the rise of fiction, like Claremont's X-Men or Kirkman's The Walking Dead, where heroes can die. It makes you toss the book across the room in disgust. And. To keep thinking about it. :bawling:

    Here's the core difference between creative media like the X-Men or The Walking Dead and traditionally architected role-playing games:

    I'm invested in a lot of different characters in comics or TV shows. None of them are particularly mine and I am invested in the overall environment.

    In D&D, I have one character. If that character dies, I have to stop playing – even if only a little while. I have relatively little investment in the environment as a whole because that's the GM's job.

    Eero pointed out that systems which tie deep character back story to mechanical complexity and high lethality the don't mix. This is absolutely correct. When you make things into a time sink for a player, expect to have players be annoyed and irritated when their time is sunk.

    But we have a ton of solutions to this sort of problem. The obvious one, the one that has been in play for literal decades at this point, and which was clearly a part of D&D at the beginning is to break the idea that one player has one character. "Troupe style play" may have come into the vernacular with Ars Magica, but the idea of having multiple men-at-arms, henchmen, hangers on – all of that has been a big deal historically.

    If you want high lethality, you have to look at games which do high lethality well – wargames. How do they do it? Well, rather than be invested in a single guy on the battlefield, one which can get destroyed at any moment with very little decision-making at the microscale which makes a difference, they get the player invested in a squad, or a platoon, or a company, or a lance, or a squadron, or some other accumulation of characters which generally start with less back story individually, but which accumulate story as gameplay occurs.

    You might lose your squad leader and that sucks, but the entity which the player is engaged with playing goes on.

    You created a situation in which you have a single hit point and when it goes you mourn your opportunity to play.

    It's no wonder that doesn't end well.

    You need to significantly change your approach to the way the game is realized if you want to have characters in a highly lethal environment which the players continue to engage with.

    You need either or more characters per player, or/and reduce the amount of player ownership and have the players more involved with the characters as a group, or in some way play to a more ensemble cast structure. Because otherwise this is just going to go the same way over and over.
  • Things like these are the ones that make me want to use balanced encounters. Then I use the stuff and get frustrated at the limitations and complexity, then I end up improvising stuff and stats on the spot but giving more chances to the players, telegraph a bit more the dangers ahead and using mostly stuff that kills NPCs after they have the chance to react.

    But I can't say it's totally illusionism free, sorry.
  • edited June 17
    "Pass this surprise check or die" is simply a shitty encounter.

    (I know that isn't literally the entirety of what happened, but it sounds fairly close to the players' experience.)

    @2097 I know your process necessitates a very wide range of potential encounters, and I think that's awesome, but I don't think it should include that.

    Being torn apart by raptors as a result of bad player decisions or of player gambles that didn't pan out, that's compelling unwelcome.

    Being torn apart by raptors regardless of player decisions is uncompelling unwelcome.

    What I do as GM is I notice a lethal moment coming, and I find some way to put some relevant decision to the players. "You notice that visibility here is terrible. If someone wanted to watch you or follow you or sneak up on you, you'd never see them coming. Do you want to do anything about that?"

    My impression is that that doesn't fit your process. I assume a better fit for your process would be to remove "surprise capability" and "massive damage per round" combos (or whatever the key ingredients are for uncompelling unwelcome outcomes) from your encounter tables.
  • edited June 17
    Just to follow up on the disposable character idea:

    The way this is functional is if player engagement with the challenge environment is continuous across a number of quick-to-create characters.

    Emotional investment (or lack thereof) in any given character is incidental. It's part of the package, but 100% beside the point.

    The point is to go poke a danger on the map, learn something about it through Character 1 getting shredded by raptors, and then instantly play Character 2, armed with the knowledge gleaned from Character 1's demise.

    My guess is that that approach is not the best fit for you and your group @2097 , but I just wanted to clarify what it looks like (at least in my experience) for the sake of contrast. Maybe you can steal a part of it, or feel greater confidence in fully rejecting it. :)
  • SMH at the suggestion to play games with LESS emotional investment

    As far as the suggestion on how to write better and more agential encounters, that's something i have in mind when i write modules but i didn't make this one
  • edited June 17
    Apologies for not reading @SquidLord 's post before I posted. Looks like many of my points were redundant.
  • I see that the thread is called "unwanted outcomes". So, by chance operation something happened the Game Master doesn´t like.

    I remember an anecdote of John Cage. He composed his music by using chance operations. Once he said in an interview, at first he´d differentiated the results of his chance operations between favored and unfavored outcomes. Later he learned to accept every outcome alike. "Meanwhile I love all sounds", he then said.

    For my life this is an important story... even if I´m a game master.

    Maybe you want to become a Zen gamemaster... then you have to practice. Learn to accept all outcomes, if you use a chance operation. In the past I thought that this would be the goal to score.

    Today I look at the problem from another viewpoint because now I know that I´m no Zen gamemaster. There are some sounds I like more than others, I can´t change it... so why should I allow an accident to decide?

    Since I realized this, me and my players roll dice to a lesser extent... only if there really is no favored outcome. It seems to be good for our game. Most outcomes are wanted now.
  • edited June 17
    The quality of this encounter

    The same session also had an encounter I had written featuring one of the Fire on the Velvet Horizon monsters and it was more agential and the players navigated that one well.

    Like, this is "my fault" or "shitty" to the extent that the module is — a module that I did bring to the table and suggest, so, sure, feeling guilty about that.

    The encounter isn't just "3d6 raptors", it's pretty explicit about specifically what happens, what the chances for detecting them is etc etc. And, I went over it with the players afterwards as our debriefing.

    My house rule, which was in play, allowed one of the players to divide the raptors between him and his friend. So that's already more agential than the RAW. He chose 0 on himself and 12 on the friend.

    I asked the player if we should change ruleset, change campaign, and I also asked if I should remove that encounter. He answered "no", separately, for all three questions, and most emphatically on the last one.

    It's not my job to come up with solutions for the players but here are some ways this could've gone differently
    have NPCs and assign some the raptor attacks to them. Have higher perception as to not get surprised. Work better together and don't abandon each other. Or, do, prioritizing SOMEONE surviving from the party than risking EVERYONE. Have more players. This is tied in to the attendance problem. The rocks get punished b/c the flakes. Or, as they did — gamble that something like this isn't going to happen. It's a risk/reward and the reward of saving hench money for the risk of something happening they deemed worth it. They stayed along the coast for a four hex trip to a level 1 dungeon in order to get some easy gold. They gambled that nothing would happen during those four days. And, over 40 days in the jungle before, they've never met the raptors before so... [otoh, they're not super familiar with the coastal encounter table].


    And as far as "balanced encounters" go... I usually don't bother to calculate it out but I did retroactively and this particular encounter is considered good for four level 4s. (And they were only two.) The players doubted that, particularly they thought a raptor shouldn't be CR 1/4, compared to wolves, another pack tactics CR 1/4 creature with similar HP but with a prone condition and 7 dmg rather than two attacks 4+5. (Multiple attacks are more likely to crit and also have a higher impact on death saves.)

    And, like... that's the play culture. The players vs the module, and I'm the referee between them. This player is a true kitchen table spike, he doesn't want any shortcuts. He wants to earn his wins.

    Emotional investment, and zen

    Yamada Koun once said:
    If you cannot weep with a person who is crying, there is no kensho
    Doing emotional work is legit, even post-satori. (Not that the player was crying — he was upset, though.)

    and Paul Reps relays Zengetsu's advice:
    Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.
    Having your PC be a disposable redshirt is a way to avoid attachments. But it's not *living in the world*.

    But to clarify: we are creating more than one PC per player to have at the ready. Since we've had a string of PC deaths these last four sessions. This was our first day doing that.
    This player has an extra character, a sage goliath with negative int. I was just particularly attached to this eladrin wild mage. And the unusually short time he got to live once ventured out in the jungle, compared to the joy of rolling up lifepaths, siblings, teachers etc.

    Chiarina... you are right. But this is practice. It's so easy to flinch. Zen acceptance is difficult work. This isn't meant to be self-congratulatory. At all. I had a horrible session and I've had a horrible time moving on. But self-revelatory. I have struggled all day with the outcome of yesterday's session. And I'll hold it. And I'll do this work.

  • edited June 17
    Having your PC be a disposable redshirt is a way to avoid attachments. But it's not *living in the world*.
    Who said anything about having your PC be a disposable redshirt? Nobody said that. I certainly didn't say that.

    And I pointedly didn't say that increasing the number of characters at the disposal of a given player is a way to decrease attachment or involvement. Pointedly, and I can tell you this from long experience, it does not. There's a cogent argument to be made that it increases attachment, because it increases continuity. In a high lethality universe, if you only have a single pawn it is in your best interests not to get attached. It will be going away soon and there's no reason for you to care overly much. However, an organization, a group, a team, a squad – these things continue in the absence of any single agent. The loss of an agent becomes part of a story unto itself, because there are people left to tell it.

    There are two elements in play here: when your character dies, if it's the only one you have, you have to stop playing. You have already defined that the universe is going to kill your character.

    You have no room to look surprised.

    Interestingly, the "extra character" may have considerable grounds to get more invested in the struggles, strife, and tribulations that are actually occurring at the table because it doesn't have all of the psychological baggage for the player that remembering complicated life paths, siblings, teachers, etc. bring to the table. The only experience that will shape what you do are the high point elements that you had the time to illuminate roughly and the stuff that happens at the table with other players.

    I guarantee, the stuff that happens at the table is far more important than four pages of back story. For everybody at the table.

    The sooner that you can internalize that, the sooner that you can get on to enjoying engaging gameplay.
  • edited June 17
    2097 said:

    The encounter isn't just "3d6 raptors", it's pretty explicit about specifically what happens, what the chances for detecting them is etc etc. And, I went over it with the players afterwards as our debriefing.
    . . .
    I asked the player if we should change ruleset, change campaign, and I also asked if I should remove that encounter. He answered "no", separately, for all three questions, and most emphatically on the last one.

    Seems like the group (and you) are communicating well and agreeing on process and principles. Sounds like there was just a mismatch here between your group of 2 players and a module that expected 4. I like the solution you mentioned of filling in that gap with NPCs when necessary.

    I don't think you did anything wrong by failing to anticipate exactly how that encounter would go down. With 4 players, the failed surprise check would not have been the end of the world at all. And, as you said, that one check didn't remove all player agency. They had a significant say in exactly how it all went down (I apologize for inferring otherwise earlier).
  • For me the emotional reward in a meaningless TPK comes from process clarity: on one level we experienced a loss, but on another level we achieved an accomplishment by doing the painful and necessary thing in a pure way - in this way we have proven that it is not all talk, that the risk is real in the game, even in the face of the most horrible creative losses. Because the goal of play is to achieve the authentic outcomes, losing the purity of the process would be a greater loss than the creative destruction involved with a TPK is. This is why we stick to the purity in the face of loss: we can either retain our characters and lose our pride, or vice versa, and for the people who are even interested in playing hardcore that's not ultimately a difficult choice, even if it can be an emotional one. A set-back for character development, but a win in fostering the collective delusion about the "realness" of play.

    I've had similar quick and arbitrary-seeming deaths occur to characters who have been played to mid-levels (for me 4th is clearly mid-levels, even if that might be different in 5th edition) legitimately. It's big stakes, but we might as well stop playing if we didn't want to face it.
  • Why do I always get so defensive… #emo2097 #thinskinned2097
  • Eero, sounds like we're on the same page about this
  • SquidLord, I guess I just don't understand what you are trying to say. I'm sorry
  • tbh, the whole concept of the "rules for generating the unwanted" just doesn't sit well with me, but maybe it's me looking at it wrong.
    If we don't want something in our play, then why do we have something there to generate the unwanted outcomes. Why don't we just not include them, and just include things we do want in our play?
    I just don't get it...
  • Emma, we sometimes do play games that work like that, story games. Or, write novels where we can control everything that goes in there.

    But what's the appeal of games that introduce the unequivocally unwanted?

    I play NES games (badly). I've been stuck on level 2 of Ghosts & Goblins for probably 20 years. Every time I get a game over on it, it's unwanted. If I ever manage to get by that boss (the dual unicorns) it's going to be... I'm going to sing of joy.

    The way Tomb of Annihilation is set up, the chance for a wanted outcome is sooo slim. You are right to question its appeal.

    It feels like Russian roulette. So pointless, so brutal, so cruel. The game is so challenging and so random that it... I don't know why we return to it.

    We're banging our heads against the door instead of just... instead of just not doing that.

    Mark Rosewater once said that if a game designer would design a lamp, they'd make the lamp a challenge to switch on or off.

    The thing that makes this particular player the angriest is when he believes I've dropped a hint or a spoiler. He wants to earn everything. I can't even begin to understand this mentality. Except I feel similarly
  • I... that kind of confused me more. I'm so sorry.
    The Ghosts and Goblins thing especially, since tbh I don't feel like things like limited continues in video games are a good thing.
    In a lot of ways, it sounds like a description to me of not-great design that people retrospectively trick themselves into thinking they enjoy after the fact?
    But I also am likely totally misunderstanding, as I often am.
  • Emma, I suspect that one reason people tend to turn to roleplaying games for a kind of "creative expression" is because their structure usually offers a kind of foil, either in rules or in the actions of other participants.

    The "Czege Principle," the idea that it's not satisfying to unilaterally both create and solve your own problems, probably looms tall over this.

    Being forced to deal with things they would not otherwise willingly engage with is a fast track to the kind of adversarial reckoning a lot of people want from the sort of creative endeavor they use roleplaying for, probably.
  • Ghosts & Goblins has unlimited continues, it even saves the weapon (I love the little fire weapon). You can just keep trying. Dying is still unwanted though :bawling:

    Why humans seek out challenge and respond to challenge with stubbornness... I do not know. :bawling:

    And why humans pepper the challenge with risk... that makes even LESS sense to me. And yet I do it. I encourage it & enable it.

    Emma, I think you and your group have roleplaying figured out, using games like Chuubo's. It's coherent, it's pleasurable, the outcomes are interesting, there is a challenge element, there is uncertainty.

    And why I am in the green wet disease-ridden raptor-infested infernal arboreal hellscape of Chult when I could be cozying it up at Stacey's HSP, I... I just don't know.
  • And that's why Ghosts & Goblins was a bad analogy — unlike D&D, there's no risk (well, there's a significant risk that I'll mess up and forget pressing select to go to continue. That has happened but luckily the first level is easy and I'm stuck at the second level).
  • Ah, that makes sense!
    I personally find problems most satisfying in roleplay when you created them yourself, and find it unsatisfying when I'm having to puzzle out the solution to a problem someone else came up with.
    I find solving problems extremely uninteresting, but am extremely interested in telling the story of how my character solves them, which is harder to do when someone else put the problem there because they have their own notions of how the problem works, so then you don't have control of your character's story completely for the duration of the problem.
    So I think that's a big part of why I'm confused here, although the Czege Principle thing does help a lot.
    Could you possibly expand the "adversarial reckoning" thing? I'm not quite understanding that, but I want to.
  • edited June 17

    I personally find problems most satisfying in roleplay when you created them yourself, and find it unsatisfying when I'm having to puzzle out the solution to a problem someone else came up with.

    A third type of problem are emergent problems. Problems that just are created on their own when processes interact. Those are my faves

  • In life meets situations where one has to choose between different actions under limited information, uncertainty, and sometimes stress.

    Sometimes these are simple problem-solving situations - when moving, what kind of apartment can one find, how much stuff one wants to move with, and will it and oneself be transported there? This combines time, money, logistics, personal skills and emotional issues.

    Sometimes these are adversial situations, though modern society does try to make explicit adversiality rare. Sports and other games are a typical example, as is high-stakes enterpreneurship and many aspects of politics.

    Simulating these and practicing the type of thinking required to succeed in these situations is a reasonable use of roleplaying games. This requires some amount of unwanted, for if all outcomes are equal, the entire exercise is void.

    (It is, of course, possible to do many other things with roleplaying games.)
  • Could you possibly expand the "adversarial reckoning" thing? I'm not quite understanding that, but I want to.

    I just meant it as someone/something that goes around shooting down your ideas, telling you why they won't work, pointing out the other things that might happen as a consequence that you didn't think of, etc.... Not necessarily because they hate you and want to see you fail (hopefully not, anyways!), but because they want to provide "the proper amount of difficulty" to make success worthwhile. Or something along those lines, anyway.

    That's not to say that people aren't capable of stumping themselves, or that given the opportunity everyone would just be a static self-indulgent lump that never left their comfort zone, just that having something actively pushing against you makes the preconditions for that kind of dynamic push-pull appear much faster.

    But you're right, "What have I got in my pocket?" style problems are just wildly unfair and unfun, and this sort of antagonistic creative drive definitely relies on a sometimes rather narrow sweet-spot. But too tight and you risk the loss of agency because things are either too easily gameable or too restrictively unwinnable. I think it's a constant problem in this style of gaming.
  • edited June 17
    2097 said:

    I personally find problems most satisfying in roleplay when you created them yourself, and find it unsatisfying when I'm having to puzzle out the solution to a problem someone else came up with.

    A third type of problem are emergent problems. Problems that just are created on their own when processes interact. Those are my faves

    I was actually including that as part of the category of problems someone else came up with, so emergent problems were already covered, but I realize I made that terribly unclear, because most don't categorize the system in the same category as like the other people at the table, but...
    Thanuir said:

    In life meets situations where one has to choose between different actions under limited information, uncertainty, and sometimes stress.

    Sometimes these are simple problem-solving situations - when moving, what kind of apartment can one find, how much stuff one wants to move with, and will it and oneself be transported there? This combines time, money, logistics, personal skills and emotional issues.

    Sometimes these are adversial situations, though modern society does try to make explicit adversiality rare. Sports and other games are a typical example, as is high-stakes enterpreneurship and many aspects of politics.

    Simulating these and practicing the type of thinking required to succeed in these situations is a reasonable use of roleplaying games. This requires some amount of unwanted, for if all outcomes are equal, the entire exercise is void.

    (It is, of course, possible to do many other things with roleplaying games.)

    That makes total sense for playing to understand the explore those kinds of situations!!
    The fact that that sort of stuff is realistic is actually another reason why I don't like it, because I'm explicitly not simulating reality when I roleplay; I'm simulating story logic.
    Thank you so much for the explanation though, because that's a line of thought I hadn't really considered at all before! :)
    yukamichi said:

    Could you possibly expand the "adversarial reckoning" thing? I'm not quite understanding that, but I want to.

    I just meant it as someone/something that goes around shooting down your ideas, telling you why they won't work, pointing out the other things that might happen as a consequence that you didn't think of, etc.... Not necessarily because they hate you and want to see you fail (hopefully not, anyways!), but because they want to provide "the proper amount of difficulty" to make success worthwhile. Or something along those lines, anyway.

    That's not to say that people aren't capable of stumping themselves, or that given the opportunity everyone would just be a static self-indulgent lump that never left their comfort zone, just that having something actively pushing against you makes the preconditions for that kind of dynamic push-pull appear much faster.

    But you're right, "What have I got in my pocket?" style problems are just wildly unfair and unfun, and this sort of antagonistic creative drive definitely relies on a sometimes rather narrow sweet-spot. But too tight and you risk the loss of agency because things are either too easily gameable or too restrictively unwinnable. I think it's a constant problem in this style of gaming.
    That's totally understandable!
    I think some of my confusion comes from the style of roleplay I'm interested in and how it conflicts with all of that as far as concepts.
    In the way that I play, if something was shooting down ideas, we would remove it from the table, whether it be a mechanic or some particularly grumpy person, because our primary goal in roleplay is to express our ideas and explore exactly the things we want to explore in play - nothing more, nothing less. Which requires pretty absolute agency, with everyone working together, and the rules working as our tool to accomplish what we're trying to accomplish.

    We also though specifically strive to be challenged emotionally by our play, just like how we're all fans of fiction that challenges us emotionally, so we very much get outside of our comfort zones without anything telling us we have to, because that's just the kind of fiction we're interested in generating.
    I can totally understand the value of having some outside force to help with that if a group isn't good at expressing their goals or whatnot though! :)

    (I also just actually don't get the concept of "the proper amount of difficulty to make success worthwhile, but that's another story altogether.)

    [I'm also thinking that there's a significant level where my confusion is based in the fact that I seem to on some level just not "get" emergent narrative/play-to-find-out at all, no matter how much it's explained to me.]
  • edited June 17
    b
  • I was actually including that as part of the category of problems someone else came up with, so emergent problems were already covered, but I realize I made that terribly unclear, because most don’t categorize the system in the same category as like the other people at the table, but…

    That’s totally fair but then specifically that subcategory of that category is my fave.

    [I’m also thinking that there’s a significant level where my confusion is based in the fact that I seem to on some level just not “get” emergent narrative/play-to-find-out at all, no matter how much it’s explained to me.]

    Not sure if you don’t get how it it works, or if you do get how it works but you don’t get the appeal.

    Like I’ve got a pretty clear picture of 90s style play but, like you, I am baffled as to the appeal.

    And this remind me that these raptors aren’t just about the challenge. They’re about the… about the “this is how this jungle works”, they’re a part of it and of the jungle’s consequence engine.

    IDK I’m pretty conflicted about the whole thing

  • (I also just actually don't get the concept of "the proper amount of difficulty to make success worthwhile, but that's another story altogether.)

    I put it in quotes precisely because it's something I think I can identify but which I also think is very nebulous and maybe not exactly what I think it is? There needs to be a difference between the outcomes of different choices or else the choices themselves don't matter.

    Quoth 2097: "Shield spells, teleport, these choices were validated [as choices] by being proven wrong."

    I wonder if there's not some interesting psychological drive that makes us feel the need to experience tangible differences between supposedly different objects? Or maybe some of us are involved in a dubious interrogation of game systems to see if we're not being bilked into believing they're more complex than they really are? Do we really need twelve minorly differentiated polearms? What if we're torturing ourselves because we desperately want to believe that the slightly improved chance to knock a rider off his horse could actually matter. The rule is there, it tickles my imagination, and I'll suffer a hundred TPKs if for only once it becomes significant in play, God help me.
  • edited June 17
    yukamichi said:

    (I also just actually don't get the concept of "the proper amount of difficulty to make success worthwhile, but that's another story altogether.)

    I put it in quotes precisely because it's something I think I can identify but which I also think is very nebulous and maybe not exactly what I think it is? There needs to be a difference between the outcomes of different choices or else the choices themselves don't matter.

    Quoth 2097: "Shield spells, teleport, these choices were validated [as choices] by being proven wrong."

    I wonder if there's not some interesting psychological drive that makes us feel the need to experience tangible differences between supposedly different objects? Or maybe some of us are involved in a dubious interrogation of game systems to see if we're not being bilked into believing they're more complex than they really are? Do we really need twelve minorly differentiated polearms? What if we're torturing ourselves because we desperately want to believe that the slightly improved chance to knock a rider off his horse could actually matter. The rule is there, it tickles my imagination, and I'll suffer a hundred TPKs if for only once it becomes significant in play, God help me.
    Hmm, that's interesting.
    I've never personally felt that, so I don't quite understand it practically, but I understand the general idea of what you mean.
    I've never really felt the whole thing about the outcomes of a choice, but that's because making choices isn't really something I care about in play. To me, the other outcome doesn't exist, because it didn't happen, so then it's not real in the story-space.
    It's a vague nothingness that doesn't exist unless it appears on-screen, like everything else.

    For me, the idea of those kinds of choices just breaks my immersion in a story unless it's a story where a major character has some sort of retcon ability (whether it be rewinding time, changing reality, etc) and those outcomes are explored on screen, or if you write a bunch of AU stories with the same characters that are effectively "This is what would happen if instead of Luke joining the Rebellion, he had joined the Empire" or whatever.

    So that's kind of why the whole concept of "making choices" in roleplay just generally doesn't interest me a lot, and why I don't at all get the concept of possibility of failure being needed to validate success.

    I think some of that is also maybe a thing of the fact that in the main game I play, players can always define the outcome of their own actions as far as pass-fail, with it just being a choice of which best fits the story you're telling with the situation. (With a couple of edge case exceptions where someone else has the ability to override those decisions, like the Ace's Tragic Flaw ability that allows others to declare something fails when the Ace's Complex Issue is at 1+, but like I said, those are considerable edge cases, and even then, the player playing the Ace has significant options to negate that).
  • Yukamichi that was a great post. but haunting
  • The solution to the raptor jungle
    does not have to be mechanical. It could also be some sorta diegetical solution based on fictional positioning.


    Emma, I think what appeals to me is the holodeck nature of RPGs. letting things have consequences, seeing what would happen. it turned me off at first because i thought the amount of prep and technical know-how was impossibly overwhelming. and when i learned how to do it i was overjoyed

    but i sometimes long for holodecks where the change of random BRD (brutal raptor death) is even lower than 4%.
  • edited June 17
    2097 said:

    The solution to the raptor jungle

    does not have to be mechanical. It could also be some sorta diegetical solution based on fictional positioning.


    Emma, I think what appeals to me is the holodeck nature of RPGs. letting things have consequences, seeing what would happen. it turned me off at first because i thought the amount of prep and technical know-how was impossibly overwhelming. and when i learned how to do it i was overjoyed

    but i sometimes long for holodecks where the change of random BRD (brutal raptor death) is even lower than 4%.

    The holodeck thing makes sense! Thank you for that explanation!
    Which like, gets into the thing I was saying about a lot of my confusion definitely being a result of radically different playstyles, because for me, consequences and world simulation are about the last thing I'm interested in in play, you know?
    Thank you so much for that explanation though; it really made what you're talking about (and your playstyle in general) really click for me (well, the world simulation stuff; the emergent stuff still confuses me a bit, but I don't think that's something I can understand).

    Also, question: Would it be impossible to just rewrite the table to not include the BRD, since the BRD is an issue in this situation? And then maybe when the PCs can handle it a bit better, the original table with the BRD could be added back in? Although at that point it's more just BRF (Brutal Raptor Fight) instead of BRD (although I guess it could still theoretically be BRD at that point, if they get really unlucky in the fight).
  • Emma, about choices... you DO make choices: when you are setting up your arcs. Right?
  • edited June 17
    2097 said:

    Emma, about choices... you DO make choices: when you are setting up your arcs. Right?

    Yeah, I make choices then.
    That's just more up-front outside-of-play choices though, so that's where I really strongly make the distinction.
    The difference between choices-in-play and choices-to-set-up-play.
    There's also the fact that choices when setting up arcs don't have consequences. They're just choices about what you're going to play out.
  • But if you were deprived of such choices, wouldn't the game lose a lot of its appeal to you?

    That said, I think when I see something like Chuubo's, I see a game made for people who really love fiction and who want to keep on spinning on that fiction or similar or different or unique

    and I think for me that of story creation and story logic and story experience is different from D&D. I love such games too, and, I've even introduced some hybrid mechanics to get some of those qualities in, but it's not the main draw of D&D for me. The main draw is to see world logic (even though it's a weird world with zombies and dinos and fey) have precedence over story logic. In a world where you can turn a leather ribbon into a Hold Person spell... can you survive it when skeletons can stir awake and shoot arrows at you? Etc. It's not realistic but... it's a lab. It's a place for us to run experiments. To see if our wits and our luck can make us heroes or if we end up dead in a cold wet cave.

    And like, writing stories where people overcome odds and end up heroes is appealing.
    Writing stories where people succumb to odds and end up dead is also appealing.
    But... exploring, experimenting, rolling dice, trying your hardest to apply your own wit and ability, to see which of those two outcomes happen... that has it's own special flavor of appeal.
  • edited June 17
    It actually wouldn't really lose much appeal without those choices, as long as I was given interesting pre-made arcs to work with, because for me the primary interesting thing is telling the story, the craftsmanship of how we do it, etc, you know? I enjoy writing my own stories and playing through them, but I would also be generally equally happy playing through someone else's story, as long as the story was good. (I mean, that's basically what the Chuubo's modules do, and I really really love the Chuubo's modules).

    Chuubo's very much is a game made for people who really love fiction and want to keep spinning on that fiction, ye. There's a really good quote from Jenna where she describes Chuubo's as being built on the fanfic impulse, and talks about how Chuubo's is close to the media fandom like how wargames are close to the military fandom.

    It is very very much different than what DnD does, with DnD being closer to the military fandom than the media fandom.
    The experimentation thing actually makes a huge amount of sense to me; thank you for explaining it that way, because that makes a lot of sense.

    I just tbh can't really get the appeal of finding out which outcome happens. I can't really even get the appeal of multiple possible outcomes. Like, I get that it's just a playstyle difference, but I guess I can't really wrap my head around the appeal of simulation of world, because that kind of simulation just seems wholly uninteresting to me, and like it would only really appeal to maybe historians? Or just generally people who don't care about characters, maybe?
    ...I'm being a bit incomprehensible, aren't I?
  • it's like our little ant farm or doll house
    except with BRD
  • That makes sense!
  • For the challenge-oriented gamer, there is a paradox present. The potential undesirable outcome creates the tension that allows the potential desirable outcome to exist. Thus, the undesirable outcome is truly a desirable outcome, even if in the moment it feels undesirable.

    More succinctly: failure can be fun.
  • Failure is my favorite, tbh. I'm a bit of a major flashlight dropper. I also don't play in challenge-based games though, so that kind of very much informs my interests there.
    I want to be able to fail whenever I want, just like I want to be able to succeed whenever I want.
    And I don't want consequences that I didn't specifically put there myself, because I'm just there to tell my character's story, and I want to be able to pick and choose what fits their story, instead of having consequences foisted on me. I want to choose whether or not I even show the outcome, or whether working on the action is just its own end, narratively, with it just being a something to be doing in a scene that's realistically about something else - just color and imagery and symbolism instead of something that matters how it turns out.
  • That's not real failure, though - it's just play-acting. Not that there's anything wrong with playacting, but it is fundamentally different from competitive psychology, so it can be misleading to call both by the same name.

    In case there's a person out there who wonders whether they're really failing or just pretending to fail in something, I think it's pretty easy to figure it out by looking at your motivations and reaction to the failure: if you're not disappointed, it wasn't real failure.

    I suppose it would be useful to have distinct terminology for competitive games with "real" victory and defeat, and story games that enable players to immerse in the feelings of victory and defeat in a safe and ironic way. Both deal in loss and gain by fictional characters, but that's how far the similarities go.
  • @ Eero: I agree. But in the eyes of a narratively thinking person, it´s no difference if you´re failing competitively or you´re just pretending to fail. In any case: the flashlight is dropped. That´s the story.
  • Yeah, that makes sense. I was just thinking of it from the perspective of "my character does not succeed at x thing" and then what that means is different in the context of whatever game is being played.
    I think really the term of "failure" is probably fine, because it's contextualized by the game you're playing, you know?
    Like, in a game like Chuubo's, nothing happens to your character that you don't approve of, so failure only has consequences you're happy with.
    Whereas in a game like Lamentations of the Flame Princess for instance, the consequences of failure might be death, so then consequences are very different.

    Basically, failure is the same basic concept in all kinds of games I mean. It's all "your character doesn't succeed at the thing they were trying to do". It's just the consequences that are a variable.

    I think if you're looking for a term for the competitive stuff, "win" and "lose" might be better than "fail" and "succeed", because at way more gets at the concepts of what's being talked about, whereas "failure" implies something that can be either IC or OOC or both at once in some games, you know?
  • chiarina said:

    @ Eero: I agree. But in the eyes of a narratively thinking person, it´s no difference if you´re failing competitively or you´re just pretending to fail. In any case: the flashlight is dropped. That´s the story.

    Exactly! That's kind of what I was trying to get at, but that puts it more simply!
  • I'll add that the mirror story happened relatively recently in my rpg life. Who knows where I would've ended up? We were dissatisfied with trad and Fate, Gumshoe and BW. We did like Fiasco. Then this overstrict take on the OSR - and I was late af to that party - melted my mind.
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