I want to follow up on the discussion we had a couple of months ago over here
, about old-school gaming, "challenge-based adventuring", and how to deal with GM fiat.
I've been thinking about this some more--and I really appreciate all the stuff that Eero wrote on that issue, both here, and at his blog/website. I'd like to continue that conversation, because I played in this style recently and ran into some of the problems I remember as being inherent to this style of play. I'm looking for some more good stuff from Eero, since he's been dedicated lately to describing this style of play, but anyone else is welcome to chime in, of course.
I recently played a game of Red Box D&D, and had a very good time. However, there were still some awkward moments arising from GM-determination "fiat", and I'd like to hear your take on the situation.
In this particular game, a group of characters encountered a monster far beyond our ability to defeat. The monster was chasing us through some caverns, and the only obvious exit was a steep chute we had climbed down by letting down a rope. The rope was still there, so it could be used to climb up, but the chute was pretty steep.
The DM asked us what we were going to do: this giant monster is chasing us, and we've run into this dead end. Everyone else decided to try to climb up the chute. I imagined seven people trying to climb a rope simultaneously, and figured that going that way was certain death, so I jumped into the river and hid underwater, holding my breath.
However, the DM's vision of the situation was clearly different--the roll he called for the others to climb the chute was a very easy one. They made it out, no problem, while I was stuck, alone, wet and out of breath, stuck in a cave with this machine of death.
This experience was frustrating, because I felt like I was making smart choices (indeed, in this situation I thought at least half the others would be eaten before they could get far up the chute), but, in fact, turned out to be making a really stupid decision, because I was unaware of the details of the fiction in a way my character would not have been.
That's a perfect example of how "GM fiat" can ruin a "challenge-based" scenario. There's been a whole lot of, "well, if I'd known that was going to turn out like THAT, I would have..." whenever I've played in this style.
How do you avoid this kind of situation?
Is there a lot of table chatter, discussion of odds, etc, at the table? How extensive is the "negotiation" you're describing?
In other words, how clear are the "stakes" of any given point of resolution? Because in the traditional, old-school RPG way of play ("rulings, not rules"), that's not a popular practice. Rather, the aim is to keep the game moving quickly, make rulings, and see how they turn out. But whenever I play that way, I run into problems like the one I mentioned in this post. (Which would have been much more of a problem if, say, my character had died because of that decision.)
I look forward to your responses!
(Edit: If anyone doesn't understand where I'm coming from with this thread, click through the link I included in the first sentence of this post and go read the last three posts of that conversation for some context. It HAS been two months, after all...)