horus
 member, 101 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 06:20
Re: The price of defeat
engine:
I think what I'm poking at is that it's possible for a game to consist almost entirely of different "ways" that would all be interesting to the players, if not the characters. No one necessarily has to encounter an outcome that they don't enjoy.


Again, yeah, we agree in spirit.  Part of being a good GM is the ability to think on one's feet and use all the tools to provide a rich experience in the game.

engine:
Well, sort of. If one was going to be real about it, there wouldn't be any adventurers, not in the usual Tolkienish way. The premise of most games is preposterous, because without that it's just real life.


I get that, but I'm primarily a science-fiction gamer so maybe it's a difference of perspective?  (I have done fantasy in the past, but it's not my first choice.)

engine:
"What real adventurers should do" is not always the driving force. "Is it interesting while being plausible" is more what I go for, and what I hope my players go for.


I use the word "real" advisedly.  You know, as in "real men of genius"? (blink, blink)

engine:
Arguably. It's important to realize that how believable something is has a lot to do with how much the players want it to be believable. For some, Star Trek is ridiculous, and so every dramatic moment is also ridiculous. There are those that do vast amounts of work to fill in what the show doesn't, because they want it to be believable. They're bought in.


Yeah, I get that.  It's surprising, though, how just a little "grit in the gears" will make things seem more "real".  That's a matter of set dressing, though.

engine:
horus:
Me?  I'm the guy who will sometimes ask, "Hey, did you say that in-character?  Are you certain?" just to confirm I heard what I thought I heard before locking an action in and reacting to it.
My ideal (not always achievable) is that the GM doesn't need to ask that, because the players are interested in every outcome the GM might deliver - not because they are interested in every possible outcome, but because the GM will only deliver interesting outcomes (for whatever that means at a given table).


Yeah, I try to minimize occurrences where I have to ask, but I'm not afraid to do it if I feel the need to.  We are pretty much close enough to agree on most points here.

engine:
horus:
Yes, there are players in every group who play "to win", to become as powerful and as wealthy as they can, or to kill another player's character at every session to savor the schadenfreude.  We call these by many names, most of which have unpleasant connotations.
They don't have to be considered problematic, necessarily. I believe that unless a person is a sociopath, there is a type of game they would buy into and help make work, and other likeminded people to join them. There are games, or at least approaches to games, that are about "winning" and becoming as powerful and wealthy as they can.


You're right, of course.  Sometimes it's fun to let things run wild and free for a while, depending on how much tolerance the other players have for it.  I only consider a player problematic if their behavior affects the enjoyment of others adversely on a consistent basis.  Does that sound like a good objective criterion?

engine:
horus:
There are ways and there are ways of dealing with this, just as there are ways and there are ways of dealing with character death or debilitating permanent injury.
Or of making the stakes about something else entirely.


Steel sharpens steel, friend.  That's a line worthy of some contemplation. Thanks.

engine:
Mrrshann618:
This is the crux of my comment. What did the player expect? would a foot be any worse? By choosing to loose a limb they were voluntarily placing those feats at risk. This was a voluntary situation. This places the example of the instances I gave as a plausible end goal for the character.
Oh, I see. My apologies. I hope that part gets explained a bit further.


Yes, that's an interesting line of discussion.  I wonder, though, did this particular player even stop to consider impact to feats before making the decision?

Lots of other good stuff merged in this post, and my compliments to all participating.  Well Done!
engine
 member, 266 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 06:40
Re: The price of defeat
facemaker329:
I approached the game more like Space Hulk, if you've ever played that...
Yes, I have. That's a good example for this thread.

facemaker329:
The friend who introduced me to it gave me some great advice as we were setting up for my very first game..."Play to accomplish the mission, not survive.  If you accomplish the mission, you win.  If you play to survive, you won't accomplish the mission and you'll die anyway."  That's kind of carried forward into most of the rest of my gaming...I just tend to accomplish missions in ways that leave the GM saying, "Well, yeah...there's no reason that shouldn't work.  Okay...you get away clean," or at least without losing any major body parts.  Most of the time...*grin*
That's not how I expected that paragraph to go. I thought you were going to say that you play in ways that result in personal discomfort for your character, but that achieve the in-game goal.

facemaker329:
RE: suicide missions...if that's what the mission is laid out to be, then the bad stuff I'm talking about IS a natural part of the development.  I'm talking about things like a GM saying, "That was too easy, the dice were really lucky and they shouldn't be able to walk away clean from this...so here's another fifty bad guys who are armed to the teeth and more experienced that all the guys you just wiped out.  They probably won't kill you..." (yes, I've had vindictive GMs throw random crap at me in the past...)
Hm. I think I see what you mean, but it seems just as likely that the players might agree that something was too easy and that some new complication sets in.

facemaker329:
If the players were smart enough to find a way to get half the party back from the suicide mission, don't have them suddenly wander into a minefield just to keep the threat level high (unless they had to cross it on the way in...if they forgot it was there, it's their own fault.)  That's the point I'm trying to make.
Okay, I think I understand. My take on it was that if the players are putting effort into figuring out how to get back safe from a suicide mission, then they're not bought into the scenario. That's assuming that it is, in the setting, a real suicide mission and not just hype by genre-blind NPCs. Players in, say, on Only War game (from what I understand of it) might, if it looked like the actually were going to be able to hijack a transport and get back to base, suggest that they've spotted a valuable objective of opportunity that they can only take out by a kamikaze attack.

I think the difference might be that I am, at long last, terribly tired of player "cleverness" when it comes to subverting scenarios and I'm more interested in player cleverness when it comes to making scenarios do better what it is they are intended to do.

facemaker329:
Most GMs I've seen are really good about it...but I've crossed paths with a few who just...wanted the PCs to be miserable, apparently, or wanted them dead.
Yes, just as it behooves the GM to ask what kinds of failure the players would find fun, it behooves the players to get from the GM what kinds of consequences the GM plans to impose and how they intend it to be interesting. When a GM says stuff like "consequences will just be a natural result of character choices" I start looking for a polite way to exit. I don't see that as assurance of clever play getting good results, but of a warning that the GM is setting up hoops to jump through.

horus:
You're right, of course.  Sometimes it's fun to let things run wild and free for a while, depending on how much tolerance the other players have for it.  I only consider a player problematic if their behavior affects the enjoyment of others adversely on a consistent basis.  Does that sound like a good objective criterion?
Mostly it does, with a strong dependence on circumstance. Often, all it takes is for the GM to justify the "wild and free" player's actions in an interesting way (or at least a way that doesn't make things less fun for the other players).

I was playing a quick one-off D&D game with a couple of guys, and one had made an evil character. It was a one-off and so I didn't want to fuss about it, as long as he was going to participate in the adventure, which he said he would. During the course of a chase scene, the character literally stumbled across a beggar, and decided that he was going to kill him. Evil, right? And I said "Okay. In the confusion and chaos, no one sees you do it. What do you do next?" We carried on. The guards didn't show up to harass or attack the PC, and it never came up again.

If it had been part of a longer series of games, maybe it would have gotten implausible for his tendencies not to draw some consequences, but I like to think I could have allowed lots of little evil, if-ultimately-inconsequential acts to happen and kept everyone happy. Or maybe the authorities who step in are not the cops but the Cultists of Zehir who object to the killing of innocents that doesn't involve sacrificial altars. Then the paladin and cleric can still be ticked at the evil character, but the game is still likely to be fun for the players.

Someone intent on being disruptive will find a way to do so, but I've been pleasantly surprised how often someone just needs a little extra creative accommodation to have fun.

I'm straying a bit here: point is, consequences. They can very often be both plausible and enjoyable. Finding out how can be a fun challenge, but I recognize that not everyone wants to get into that. To each their own.
csroy
 member, 102 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 07:02
Re: The price of defeat
So let's assume this, the bad event (amputation, the town burned down etc) happened.

For our purposes assume the following:

  • The players knew what they were getting into (a system with critical hit location, the consequence of failing to repelling the invaders).
  • The GM did not plan on this event to happen, it just happen because RP choices (poor or not) of the players.
  • The GM and the game is not set on failure as a theme, nor is the GM seeking out his players (ideally he is working in cooperation with them).
  • Neither the GM nor the player are in favor of a RETCON



How would you deal with moving forward, as a player, as another player or as the GM?
Togashi Kenshin
 member, 3 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 07:24
Re: The price of defeat
My two pennies on the situation:

In that case several scenarios are possible:

1) The PC is given something that will allow them to continue being effective or to contribute to the party.
This is the biggest gripe I hear from players; their PC is gimped and is essentially a passenger or a burden to the gaming group. For example a D&D party has its primary fighter lose his sword arm to a gelatinous cube. He might receive a prosthetic like the Silver Arm of Nuada from Irish Myth, it's not quite as good but it will do. Maybe he suffers a -2DEX penalty to actions with that arm to represent that it is not as adept as his real hand but nothing too crippling. Another is a deal with a devil (or angel). Someone offers to cast Regeneration on the fighter for a favour to be paid back later. You'd be surprised just how much worse it can be to owe a good-aligned creature rather than an evil one. Evil creatures have selfish motives but good ones often have bigger issues that can easily put the PCs into a final stand.

2) The party is allowed to ameliorate their failure somehow.
They might have sacked the PCs' castle and burned their fief to the ground but some of the people remain; their families and primary servants were kept as hostages. Time to do your best Liam Neeson voice and get them back.

3) The PC is allowed to retrain.
Depending on the game and any attendant system, this might be a viable option. Given a time skip where the rest of the party are kept busy and have this PC retrain into another role where the injury will not be as severe.

4) The Bad Thing that happened happens to everyone.
In other words, welcome to Ravenloft! In some games it is appropriate that whatever happened is just ladled onto the other PCs. Not so much maiming but an event failure can have far reaching consequences that impact everyone. For example a wizard is arguing a court case about the Banishment of Arcane Magic from the realm. He has a good INT score, he has a sky high Knowledge: Law skill. And then he botches. Oh crap. Well the Wizard PC is boned but what about everyone else? Well the Clerics and Paladins of goodly faiths might protest this tyranny only to be outlawed themselves. The Thieves' Guild offers shelter for Arcanists because, hey if you make a living breaking the law you might as well have Wizards owe you a favour while you're at it. This is counterbalanced by the crackdown on the Guild of course. The fighter might be told to hand over all his magical gear or else. Everyone gets shafted in the end and the campaign now moves into high gear as the Mad King needs someone to stick a preferably magical sword into his face before he destroys the whole kingdom.

In the end my best advice is to keep the game fun for the player(s) and use the event as an opportunity. Yes the dice might have screwed over your players but that does not mean that you can't cheat. In fact if you subscribe to the idea that a GM is there to make the game fun for everyone, then you should cheat.
icosahedron152
 member, 732 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 07:49
Re: The price of defeat
Just wanted to add that my comment above, about walking out of the game, was based on the assumption of a realistic game as described. If my treasured fighter loses a limb and I'm expected to play a crippled character thereafter, yes, I'd walk.

However, if the GM explained that in the next town there is a 'good chance' (nudge, wink) that a wizard can be found who is capable of resurrecting lost limbs, then the amputation is not a permanent disability, but becomes similar to (perhaps even a description of) losing 90% of your hit points - you just have to play carefully until you're healed. Not a problem, I'd stay and play the game through.

Likewise, if I'd signed up for a 'brutal' game (unlikely but not impossible) I'd perhaps be willing to play the character forward to a point where he sacrificed himself for the mission.

It's a matter of expectations, as discussed above. Generally, if the players and GM are on the same page, the game works whether or not the pill is bitter. It founders where the GM and players have different concepts, or their concepts are not made clear enough.

Incidentally, I recall I had a disagreement with a contributor to this thread a while back on this same topic. It's obviously something that he feels strongly about, but he was somewhat less eloquent at the time so I was never really sure what the crux of the disagreement was. From the above, we seem to be broadly on the same page, so I feel it was perhaps more of a misunderstanding than anything.

I bring this up as it is a prime example that I probably hadn't made my concept clear enough, and it's vital that everyone knows they're playing the same game.

That's the spoonful of sugar you need.
Gaffer
 member, 1441 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 11:32
Re: The price of defeat
Rez:
Basically he acted like he was unstoppable and when he found out he could die-he bailed. Everyone was upset towards him after the game and he knew it.
*snip*
As for the Sith, he felt only he could take him on and ignored the group.


You know, that could have been the basis for some great role play. It's like Han taking his payoff and refusing to join the attack on the Death Star. Then he roars in at the last minute to save Luke and give him the chance to make his successful run.

This character could have reacted in all the same ways the player did, then showed up once the battle was joined to save the party. Epic.
engine
 member, 267 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 16:27
Re: The price of defeat
csroy:
[*] The GM and the game is not set on failure as a theme, nor is the GM seeking out his players (ideally he is working in cooperation with them).
I'm not sure I understand this stipulation. Is there a word missing?

csroy:
How would you deal with moving forward, as a player, as another player or as the GM?
I'm also not sure I understand, based on the stipulations, what is hindering or complicating the game moving forward. Is it that, despite all of the stipulations, one of the players "would rather reboot (switching character or campaign)"? If so:

I'd let the player switch characters, as quickly and smoothly as possible, to one that they felt like playing and was, presumably, not affected by the bad event (or I would go along with such a switch if I were a player). Obviously, a new character would not have suffered the injury that happened to the old character, or if it somehow had, could have been built around that to the player's satisfaction. A new character could also be one that is or feels unaffected by whatever other kind of failure had occurred. They're not from that city/planet, say, or they just take a different view of things.

If the character is, for the player, unplayable, then it has effectively just "died." When a character dies, I want a player to get a new character, as quickly and smoothly as possible. Obviously, the new character isn't dead, and it might not be hard to make a new character who isn't affected negatively by the death of the old one.

I'd personally be interested in talking to the player at some point about their decision. I'd want to understand what kind of a set-back or consequence they would be willing to play through so that as a GM or player I could send the game more in that kind of direction. This is because, as I would explain to the player, I prefer to play in scenarios in which the characters sometimes lose and then have to deal with that, just as I enjoy stories in which the characters have to deal with loss.

It might come out that this player and I have incompatible approaches, but I try as much as I can these days to be sanguine about different attitudes toward a game, even by people at the same table.

This message was last edited by the user at 19:37, Fri 17 Mar.

swordchucks
 member, 1355 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 19:12
Re: The price of defeat
csroy:
How would you deal with moving forward, as a player, as another player or as the GM?

If a shift is great enough that "what the game was about" or "what the character was about" changes, the fundamental question becomes "what is it about now?"

If the GM and player(s) can work together to figure that out in a way that they all want to play, then the game continues.

Example: The town is burned.  However, the PCs realize that most of the villagers were actually rounded up as slaves.  The game then becomes about the PCs rescuing the enslaved villagers.

Example: The fighter lost a hand.  However, the GM offers a possible replacement for the hand in fairly short order (long term goals rarely work in PBP) that will involve new character complications of some sort.

If they can't reach a consensus, it's usually best to start a new game or character.  The one-handed fighter doesn't have to vanish, but now he's an NPC training recruits to the city watch or something.  Similarly, the next game could be set in the next town and the new party goes to investigate what happened to the last town, etc.

If you don't have both the GM and the players on-board for the story... there's really not much point in it.

And next time, don't make failures that you can't live with a possible outcome.

This message was last edited by the user at 19:13, Fri 17 Mar.

NowhereMan
 member, 122 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 22:56
Re: The price of defeat
I know that this thread is more about defeats and failures in general, what I don't understand about Rez's particular example is what the player was thinking in taking the dismemberment option in the first place.

Unless said critical hit was likely to kill him outright (which is fruitin' hard in Saga), he had to have known that there was a hard 50% chance of making his character "unplayable". Though how he thought he was going to be any more combat-effective as a one-legged Jedi than a one-handed one is beyond me anyhow.
Rez
 member, 3573 posts
 So....yeah...sure.....
Sat 18 Mar 2017
at 02:06
Re: The price of defeat
Concept: He did NOT want to take the critical hit so he went for the dismemberment. Feeling like he could not play the character he quit the game instead of making a new character. If he took the hit he would have died. He wanted to play and decided that he could not because his character was unplayable instead of going through the one handed times and gotten a new hand (or perhaps gene splicing something new). He acted like a jerk. Everyone was hurt not just him but he acted like he was the only person dealing any damaged and didn't bother taking in the point of his character needed us and vice versa. So basically, he bailed.

If something happened like that in any of the games I run, I would allow the PC to make a new character or play it as is, allowing a quest or something else to regain the lost limb or whatnot :)
facemaker329
 member, 6900 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Sat 18 Mar 2017
at 05:39
Re: The price of defeat
If something like that happened to one of my characters, and I thought he was unplayable after the injury, I'd have at least had him go out fighting...a suicidal attack on the Sith to set up the rest of the team to kill him or something like that (it would be more in character for my typical SW characters to wade in with a thermal detonator and say, "Deflect THIS!" just before setting it off, actually...)

I mean, I can understand feeling like the injury would make the character no fun to play, to some extent...I don't agree with it, but I understand it.  But just walking away from the game over it?  It would take a lot more than just that to make me quit a game.
csroy
 member, 104 posts
Sat 18 Mar 2017
at 07:15
Re: The price of defeat
This statement "My character became unplayable because of X" is exactly what I want to challenge.

I think that most of us (me included) are too quick in jumping into that conclusion, a minor setback and we slap on the UNPLAYABLE label on our character. Many time, as per Rez story, the fallouts from our statement has strong impact on the rest of the group.

The amputation is a classic example, even with a single hand a warrior is very lethal and effective. Sure for a time being he might get penalties to his attack but in most cases these are not deliberating penalties and as Rez had mentioned, that warrior is not working solo, he has a team with him that could compensate. Not to mention that we slap the UNPLAYABLE label most of the time before even checking that there are other options for recovery (as in Rez story).

I think that slapping the label does us injustice, we narrow down our character to a single narrow use as if he/she was a tool, if you had a sword and it broke it is reasonable to say it is useless and replace it but a character is far more versatile than a sword and most games (and players ingenuity) have ways to overcome such minor setback (in a game).

A more delicate example, is when several PC actions cause another player to announce that actions/words/etc of said group have made it impossible for his character to be with them.... but that is a whole different thread.

engine: what I meant was that in some games there is a theme that failure is part of the game (Torchbearer for example). Likewise some GMs seem to take it as a personal quest to have the PC fail (which is fine if both GM and PCs are cool with this).

EDIT: my point is that most of us are too fast in slapping the UNPLAYABLE label. Usually it happens just after the event happened. Without us even trying to see how playable the character is because what was really hurt was not the character but our very narrow concept of the character. Your PC could still be very badass one hand warrior it only mean you'd need to adjust and adapt for a new circumstance.

Consider that if instead of losing a hand, the PCs will be tossed into a dungeon naked and without their pet sword +4 bane s. everything. Would any player claim his PC just became unplayable because they lost all their gear?

This message was last edited by the user at 07:38, Sat 18 Mar.

engine
 member, 268 posts
Sat 18 Mar 2017
at 08:44
Re: The price of defeat
csroy:
This statement "My character became unplayable because of X" is exactly what I want to challenge.
I think you're welcome to challenge it, but I think that challenging someone who is currently holding that view about their own character is usually going to be more trouble and more frustration than it's worth.

csroy:
I think that most of us (me included) are too quick in jumping into that conclusion, a minor setback and we slap on the UNPLAYABLE label on our character. Many time, as per Rez story, the fallouts from our statement has strong impact on the rest of the group.
If the fallouts are a problem, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of fallouts occurring. To the same degree a player can be expected not to be frustrated with the disruption of their character concept, a GM can be expected not to be frustrated with the disruption of their game concept.

csroy:
I think that slapping the label does us injustice, we narrow down our character to a single narrow use as if he/she was a tool, if you had a sword and it broke it is reasonable to say it is useless and replace it but a character is far more versatile than a sword and most games (and players ingenuity) have ways to overcome such minor setback (in a game).
I don't think I've seen anyone here say anything counter to that. It's just that those "ways," that "potential," are not necessarily something the player is interested in at that time, or in that moment. Or perhaps ever.

csroy:
A more delicate example, is when several PC actions cause another player to announce that actions/words/etc of said group have made it impossible for his character to be with them.... but that is a whole different thread.
It's much the same thing, and the ways to address it are also much the same. But I agree that it's a different thread, one I'd happily participate in,

csroy:
engine: what I meant was that in some games there is a theme that failure is part of the game (Torchbearer for example). Likewise some GMs seem to take it as a personal quest to have the PC fail (which is fine if both GM and PCs are cool with this).
Then you have a firm grasp of the core of the issue: being cool with it.

csroy:
EDIT: my point is that most of us are too fast in slapping the UNPLAYABLE label. Usually it happens just after the event happened. Without us even trying to see how playable the character is because what was really hurt was not the character but our very narrow concept of the character. Your PC could still be very badass one hand warrior it only mean you'd need to adjust and adapt for a new circumstance.
As true as that may be, it doesn't really matter. Some people enjoy that kind of scenario, as we've seen in this thread, others don't. Some people like it sometimes and not others. If a person isn't into it, isn't bought in, then suggesting that they're being "too quick" in their choice doesn't strike me as a good way to convince them not to make that choice.

csroy:
Consider that if instead of losing a hand, the PCs will be tossed into a dungeon naked and without their pet sword +4 bane s. everything. Would any player claim his PC just became unplayable because they lost all their gear?
Yes, many would. And they wouldn't necessarily be wrong.

Related to buy-in is trust. Because we know there are GMs who just want to see the players crushed and embarrassed, we might need to know that our GM isn't one such before we'll take up playing a character we perceive as disadvantaged. And if we do trust our GM, we might be interested in our characters starting in a tough spot because we know the GM won't let us get too frustrated, or will anyway help us find enjoyment.

Also related is control. If a player has a lot of control trust is a) not as necessary and b) a bit more easily gained. A player who has the ability to modify the game directly, or make decisions about how events unfold, can be more at ease with misfortune. I know that's not a popular preference, but as I've said, I've seen players call down terrible outcomes for their characters when they had control, and really enjoy playing through those.

I don't like to min-max my characters. I don't like to take obvious, easy choices. I will make and play a character that other people would not want to play because they would deem it too weak, too "unplayable". I have my own limits, and I'm sure there are characters others would play that I would deem too "unplayable." There's no much anyone can say that is going to convince someone that they should play a character they don't want to play, and what there is boils down to trust-building. If I want to show that a type of character is "playable" and in what way, then all that's worth doing is playing that type of character and demonstrating it. But even that might not help, since I might be okay with something (say, missing a lot of attacks) that would drive someone else crazy.

The classic approaches DMs take is that they just don't let people get new characters, or they apply character creation rules. Me, I don't let people min max their ability scores in D&D; everyone has to use a standard array. It's my little way of trying to prove (mostly to myself) that characters built that way are "playable," but you know what? Some players grumble about it, and sometimes I think about not bothering. We can't often force people to like things, or even to take a chance on them.

Forcing players to keep characters they don't like is the other traditional approach for achieving the kind of thing you want, but it's pretty risky, even if you've gone over it with the players beforehand. If it's "play a character you don't want to play (for some indefinite amount of time until it becomes a character you want to play)," or "walk," it's all-too-often going to be the second choice.

People keep talking about how characters who have had "bad things" happen to them can still, maybe, potentially, be awesome. Maybe (possibly) even more awesome than what the player wanted from the character. But, unless there's a guarantee that the character will be more awesome, they risk playing a character they don't like and being not awesome at all, when they could be playing a character they don't like, and being baseline awesome.

I get the impression that you, and other GMs, would help the character be awesome, if the player chose to soldier on. If that's the case, then the "bad thing" isn't really, and never was intended to be, all that bad, but is just a motivation to try to achieve greatness in a particular way, perhaps a way preferred by the GM, and not the player. And some people would simply rather not take that dip in awesomeness. Some people want to just keep getting more awesome. Some people want to stick with a nice baseline for the whole time. Some people want to see the character degrade from the get-go. I can imagine an Only War player not really being jazzed about access to an amazing weapon, even if it was limited-use. That's not because the character would be "unplayable" but because it's not the path they want to be on. It's "unplayable" in the way they want to play it.

I'd forget about the label that's being used. It distracts from the underlying issues. What it comes down to is that they don't want to play that character, and the reason doesn't really matter. Some people don't want to drink coffee, even if they probably would get used to it, and even come to take comfort in it.
swordchucks
 member, 1356 posts
Sat 18 Mar 2017
at 17:49
Re: The price of defeat
csroy:
This statement "My character became unplayable because of X" is exactly what I want to challenge.

The problem there is that "unplayable" is undefinable (or, rather, its definition is so subjective as to be useless as a metric).  If someone feels a character is unplayable, there may be a complex web of reasons why that you are simply unaware of.  Maybe the character that just lost a limb is being played by someone that just lost their job and doesn't want to deal with pretend tragedy on top of their RL tragedy?  Maybe the player just lost a family member and doesn't want to deal with doing that in-game, too?

Even if it's nothing specific, a particular turn of events can simply hit all of the wrong buttons for a player.  It becomes the gaming equivalent of trying to convince someone to like a dish that don't enjoy.

In an ideal situation, the player could tell you why they feel the character is unplayable and a solution could be reached.  That's a rarer thing than one would hope, though.
icosahedron152
 member, 734 posts
Sat 18 Mar 2017
at 19:10
Re: The price of defeat
I think Engine and Swordchucks are absolutely right. My take is very similar:

Csroy, you are right that no character is absolutely unplayable, but you’re taking the statement too literally. Another way of saying ‘my character is unplayable’ is ‘I don’t want to play this character in this situation’.

Unfortunately, that is the primary reason why we play games - we want to play a given character in a given situation. If a GM offers a game in which we can’t play the character we want in the situation we want, generally we choose not to play that game.

What you are describing here is a situation in which the character and/or situation is materially different from the one the player signed up for. In short, you are now asking the player to play a different game. And like it.

If the player looks at the ‘new’ game and decides it’s something s/he likes better than the ‘old’ game, s/he may play on. However, I suspect that will be a rarity. Usually s/he will be frustrated that the ‘old’ game has abruptly ended and the ‘new’ game isn’t something s/he really wants to play. That’s why s/he walks.
Sorry, but I think you have very little chance of persuading the player to stay on board in that situation.

I think you’re asking the wrong question. The trick isn’t to persuade players to game on in the face of adversity, but to ensure that they don’t face adversity that they didn’t bargain for.

Keep within the limits of what they signed up for, because if you change the game, chances are you’re going to change the players, too.

And remember that, thanks to miscommunication, the game they thought they joined may not be the game you thought you offered. :)
Ameena
 member, 163 posts
Sun 19 Mar 2017
at 10:31
Re: The price of defeat
I've been following this conversation and it does seem like everyone's input basically boils down to what I said in the first place - it's all down to whether or not the players were aware of what they were getting themselves in for in the first place. If they knew that having body parts chopped off or characters killed or whatever was a possibility when they first joined the game and were okay with that, that should be enough. Because then they chose it, even if they didn't know for sure whether such things would happen specifically to their character during the game - they always knew it was a possibility.
swordchucks
 member, 1357 posts
Sun 19 Mar 2017
at 18:09
Re: The price of defeat
Ameena:
it's all down to whether or not the players were aware of what they were getting themselves in for in the first place.

It certainly helps, but it's not foolproof.  For one thing, PBP pace can be slow.  You got into a game six months ago knowing you might lose a limb, but then you played that character for six months and had some RL crap happen and when you do lose that limb... you might not take it so well.

Similarly, the abstract knowledge that something horrible might happen and actually having it happen are two different things.  I play a great number of RPGs where character death is right there in the rules.  That typically doesn't stop me from being a bit upset when it happens (unless I directly and intentionally caused the death).
Gaffer
 member, 1442 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Mon 20 Mar 2017
at 03:24
Re: The price of defeat
From the time I first sat down in a basement with two friends and the OD&D rules, we were all about the stories we would tell. Maybe because we all loved swords and sorcery fiction or because we were all adults already. And the stories included loss. Maybe not usually to the protagonist, but how did we know which of our characters (we played two each at first) was really the Aragorn and which might be the Boromir? So we took the bad with the good and when a character went down, we hoisted a mug to his memory and soldiered on.

Of course that was also (mostly) before computer RPGs and MMORPGs and before TSR and WOTC nerfed (my opinion) D&D into Monty Haul territory. By then we were on to Morrow Project and Dragon Slayer (which had a whole-page chart of critical hits that--I think--started off with "Disemboweled! You are standing with your entrails wrapped around your ankles" or words to that effect) and Call of Cthulhu.

Which is all to say, I guess, that we were real gamers in those days, not like these kids today who let a little thing like an amputated hand cool their ardor for the fray.

Note: The above is kind of tongue-in-cheek. Kind of.
engine
 member, 269 posts
Mon 20 Mar 2017
at 14:26
Re: The price of defeat
swordchucks:
That typically doesn't stop me from being a bit upset when it happens (unless I directly and intentionally caused the death).
Thanks for being willing to say that.

It's definitely not a guarantee, even when there's much more communication and discussion that in a typical game. To paraphrase Ameena, if I may, even if we don't know for sure that someone is going to respond unfavorably to a consequence, we should always know that it's a possibility.

Reply to Gaffer follows. Tongue in cheek noted.

Gaffer:
how did we know which of our characters (we played two each at first) was really the Aragorn and which might be the Boromir?
If those were the only two possibilities, conversations like this might never happen. As I noted above, Boromir didn't even exactly lose, if his goal was to kill enough enemies to enable his allies to survive.

It's just that there are so many other opportunities and ways for "bad things to happen" that not only might a character not be Aragorn or Boromir, but they might fail even to amount to Fatty Bolger, repeatedly and, possibly, perhaps not even entirely due to their own mistakes, especially if there's a lot of randomness in character or challenge generation. That's not how everyone wants to spend their time.

Gaffer:
So we took the bad with the good and when a character went down, we hoisted a mug to his memory and soldiered on.
Understandable. I often wish I had started the hobby with that approach. You mention video games and many people prefer to play them on hard or even "ironman" modes, even if they have to make things harder themselves. I have some questions, though:

Was dying the only "bad" that really existed for characters? Or, could characters experience loss in ways that still left them able to continue on and fight at full capacity?

When a character died, how was the player supplied with a new character? I've been told that the option was often to pick up a henchman to play. If that wasn't an option, how did your group handle it? Was the player with the lost character just out of the game for a while, or were they brought back in a matter of minutes?

How frequently did the group experience a death in the party?

Was the loss of a character looked down on as an act of poor play?

Did everyone handle the loss of a character gracefully? Were there ever arguments over rulings, or hurt feelings? I don't mean this as a judgment; we're all only human. I could believe that there were never any negative reactions, as you imply, but I wanted to ask.

Thanks.
One thing I realized this weekend is that GMs are often trying to elicit a very specific set of emotions from the players. They want death to matter, but they don't want the player so affected that they lose interest in playing. They want the players surprised, but not to feel tricked or cheated. They want people to have fun, but not to be goofy. They want the rules to be important, but they don't want endless arguments about getting everything right. They want players invested in their characters, but they want them to adapt easily to changes in status of those characters. These are all fine lines to walk.

Meanwhile, there's a tendency among players not to let their reactions be predictable, or manipulated. And this isn't necessarily because they're bratty, or entitled, or spoiled, but because gamers are often smart, creative people and smart, creative people often don't like being predictable and manipulable. On the flip-side, when a smart, creative person is actively interested in having their reactions toyed with, and is involved in composing the things that will do so, amazing things can happen.

All in all, GMs give themselves a hard row to hoe when they are trying to elicit specific responses. Some can do it, and probably with regularity, but we shouldn't imagine that it's easy to the point of happening on its own.
Gaffer
 member, 1444 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Mon 20 Mar 2017
at 22:41
Re: The price of defeat
engine:
Boromir didn't even exactly lose, if his goal was to kill enough enemies to enable his allies to survive.

Agreed. When I was in the GM seat, I always tried to make sacrifices count for something. I used the Aragorn/Boromir reference as a quick example.

I also cut a good deal of slack in chargen to make sure every PC had the potential to be a hero, reducing randomness while still using the basic game mechanic. I also never rolled random encounters. I wanted our stories to make sense.

engine:
Was dying the only "bad" that really existed for characters? Or, could characters experience loss in ways that still left them able to continue on and fight at full capacity?


Oh, we had characters who got cursed with 'stone leg' which they turned into an advantage by dropping from walls to drive their stone appendage into their enemies. There were other partial disabilities and characters wound up retired with an inn to run or light duties with a comfortable seat in the great hall. We also had characters later on who lost spouses and children. Sometimes they died for revenge on the perpetrator. And we had characters who chose to make a suicidal rush or last stand for the good of the party.

engine:
How frequently did the group experience a death in the party?

When a character died, how was the player supplied with a new character?

Was the loss of a character looked down on as an act of poor play?

Did everyone handle the loss of a character gracefully? Were there ever arguments over rulings, or hurt feelings?


I'd say we had a death or disability every four sessions on average, a session typically being 4-6 hours. Sometimes we lost a couple the same night, sometimes almost everyone died.

We would roll up a new character by the end of the session, I think. OD&D was a pretty quick chargen process. One house rule we used was that replacement characters were introduced at the same level as the lowest survivor. Being level one in a party of 4-6th levels sucked too bad.

We never judged each other's quality of dice rolling, which is mostly what combat came down to.

As I say, we were adults when we started and this was all just fun for us. No one found their self-esteem in the RPG. And we'd been friends for years at that point. The rules were too simple for much lawyering and we always let the GM make the call. Although we did have side debates about stuff. I remember once scaling a six-foot privacy fence carrying a 25-pound bag of kitty litter to demonstrate that a hill giant COULD climb a wall carrying an unconscious dwarf.

As for eliciting/manipulating player emotions, yeah, I've done it, usually by accident.

Like when the party had killed a couple of werebears, only to have their cubs come snarling out of the den. They caught them and then had to decide whether to kill the little tykes. Some real tears were wiped away around the table.

All in all, we were pretty casual about the game. It was a vehicle to get together with friends and have fun. There were a lot of ooc jokes and wisecracks, but never enough to derail the story.

The rules were always the framework for the story, not a straitjacket for the players. The GM always played fair and the players always gave appreciation for the work that went into being GM.

I miss those games and I miss those people.
facemaker329
 member, 6903 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 21 Mar 2017
at 06:44
Re: The price of defeat
You've just described the majority of my gaming career...not the specific events, but the attitudes toward the games.  My circle of friends did RPGs the way some people do poker or bridge nights...the game was a reason to get together, but half of the fun of playing was enjoying the people you were playing with as much as the game itself.

And, as a result, there was a lot of 'Yeah, I'll keep playing this character in spite of this gruesome event that just happened' that took place in many of our games (especially the Marvel Super Heroes game...playing the X-Men during the height of the age where they were half-jokingly referred to as 'the Angst Men', and our GM looked for every opportunity to put us on the spot...)

There are a lot of factors that influence how willing someone is to 'tough it out'.  Childhood heroes?  Well, one of the first 'grown-up' book series I read was Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novels, with John Carter's repeated declaration, "I still live!" as his first line of countering whatever calamity was creating the plot for the story (even when John Carter wasn't the one saying it...a couple of the stories were other characters who'd picked up the quote from him.)  How many Conan stories involved Conan being beaten, imprisoned, poisoned, wounded, or in some other way pushed to the brink of death, only to have him claw his way back to vengeance and victory?

They make for an interesting contrast to the cinema action heroes of the 80's and 90's, who seemed, largely, to find themselves in a trying situation...but they were never actually that badly hurt (with the exception of John McClane in the first Die Hard, who got run through the wringer...*grin*) so they were pretty much always operating at full capacity and just mowed down the bad guys as they went from fully-capable-but-disadvantaged to victorious (lookin' at you, Arnie...Commando was ludicrous in that regard).

So, who was the primary inspiration for people?  Was it someone who was dropped naked and unarmed in the middle of an alien landscape and learned to not only survive, but rise to the top?  Or was it someone who, regardless of the insanely large odds stacked against them, never suffered anything more than a relatively trivial flesh wound?  Because if they grew up thinking of the second as the norm for fictional heroes, then, yeah, something like losing a limb actually is pretty devastating.  How could Arnie save his daughter if he didn't have both hands to throw sawblades like shuriken?  Rambo couldn't kill all the bad guys if he didn't have one hand for the trigger and another hand to feed the belt into the machine gun he was hip-firing...

And then you add on all the extremely valid real-life factors mentioned in the posts above that might be influencing how they feel.  And the question of why they're gaming comes to relevance, as well...was the dual-wielding Jedi above being played because the player wanted to see a storyline develop?  Or was the character a proxy, allowing the player to vicariously overcome all the obstacles that he felt encumbered his day-to-day life?  Because if the character was that kind of a cathartic outlet, then, yes, having him disabled 'ruins' the illusion that was created.  Real Life crashes in and reminds the player that sometimes, circumstances are beyond his control and they WILL win, and the character becomes a galling reminder.  Someone else might make the same character, more or less, and play it in the expectation that something bad is going to happen to the character (because if you spend enough time fighting other peoples' battles, bad things happen to you), and would keep playing without a second's hesitation.

You can't predict how defeat of a character is going to affect the player.  You can guess, you can anticipate and plan...but in the end, the only way you know is if something bad happens to the character and you see how the player reacts.  And, frankly, trying to come up with ways to 'lure' a player into continuing to play a character he no longer enjoys kind of defeats the purpose of gaming, for me.  I play to have fun...when it stops being fun, I stop playing, because at that point, it's not a game, it's a chore, and I have enough of those in my life already.  So far in my RPOL experience, the only time it's gotten to the point where it stopped being fun were occasions when the GM pretty much arbitrarily killed my character (after putting me through a week or two of futile efforts to prevent it).  And I'm not the sort that would just run out on my group without a second thought, especially at the beginning of a major encounter...because part of the fun, for me, is helping the others have fun, and I'm just conscientious enough that I'd loathe myself for leaving the group stuck like that.  But that's just me.

You can try and convince someone that the crippling (to their perception) injury their character just suffered isn't the end of the character...but if they've already made up their mind that it is, for whatever reason, you can't change their mind.  And as others have mentioned, if they've decided the character is no longer to their tastes and you insist that they continue playing it...well, they're gonna walk.  There's no contract that requires a player stay in the game, any more than there is that requires that a GM continue running it.  This is a hobby, a diversion, for most of us...and when it becomes a tiresome diversion, we'll go find something else we enjoy more.

So, yeah...run your game the way you want to run it.  Be up front about how you're going to run it.  Let your players know.  That way, you end up with players who want to be in a game run that way.  And if they change their mind?  Allow them the graceful exit.  If playing a character with some significantly impaired capacity doesn't appeal to them, don't try and shame them, trick them, or cajole them into it.  That's not why they're playing.  The game has to remain fun for them, as well as you.
Gaffer
 member, 1445 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Tue 21 Mar 2017
at 15:03
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to facemaker329 (msg # 59):

facemaker:
And I'm not the sort that would just run out on my group without a second thought, especially at the beginning of a major encounter...because part of the fun, for me, is helping the others have fun, and I'm just conscientious enough that I'd loathe myself for leaving the group stuck like that.  But that's just me.

This exactly.

And I think the attitude/expectations described are why I have gravitated to Call of Cthulhu and feel the best roleplayers are at my con tables. In CoC, the premise going in is that the characters ARE NOT ready to kick butt and take names. Rather, they are (at best) ordinary people with a couple of core competencies, who will blindly (at first) stumble into cosmic horror and try (often futilely) to counter the forces of evil.

For me, THAT'S roleplaying.

This message was last edited by the user at 15:07, Tue 21 Mar.

engine
 member, 273 posts
Tue 21 Mar 2017
at 15:56
Re: The price of defeat
Thanks for the responses, Gaffer.

Gaffer:
I also cut a good deal of slack in chargen to make sure every PC had the potential to be a hero, reducing randomness while still using the basic game mechanic. I also never rolled random encounters. I wanted our stories to make sense.
Cool. You might already realize this, but "making sure every PC has the potential to be a hero" is basically what I have felt has been behind various official modifications to games.

Did you or the other GMs ever take in player input (either explicitly or indirectly) when deciding what would "make sense"?

engine:
We would roll up a new character by the end of the session, I think. OD&D was a pretty quick chargen process.
With 4-6 hour sessions, was there any kind of an effort to limit chances of dying in the early part of a session? Or did that tend to happen naturally, with things paced so that the danger happened toward the end? Or was there a way to bring a player back in (say during a real-world break) if there was an early loss?

Gaffer:
One house rule we used was that replacement characters were introduced at the same level as the lowest survivor. Being level one in a party of 4-6th levels sucked too bad.
I think this was a common D&D houserule, and I think that's why it became an official rule in later editions.

Gaffer:
We never judged each other's quality of dice rolling, which is mostly what combat came down to.
Cool. I know other groups tend to prefer that combat be more about inventive ideas that don't necessarily involve dice. For instance, the GM might have put in loose rock formations and hinted heavily about their lack of stability and how something beneath them would be crushed, expecting the PCs to knock them into the charging dragon. Players who didn't key in and assumed that the only option was to fight and assumed (wrongly) that the dragon was something they could take on (for why else would the GM put it against them?) might be surprised to find that they were quickly dispatched, and disheartened to find that it was more of a puzzle than a fight.

On the flipside, a GM who had created a fight the PCs could handle easily, but saw it ended quickly when granting a player request for a clever idea might be the one with mixed emotions.

Gaffer:
Iremember once scaling a six-foot privacy fence carrying a 25-pound bag of kitty litter to demonstrate that a hill giant COULD climb a wall carrying an unconscious dwarf.
I will never see dwarves in the same light again.

Gaffer:
Like when the party had killed a couple of werebears, only to have their cubs come snarling out of the den. They caught them and then had to decide whether to kill the little tykes. Some real tears were wiped away around the table.
Aw.

I think I've managed to get my players to think something was cool, but I don't think I ever achieved scary or surprising or bittersweet.

Gaffer:
miss those games and I miss those people.
I can understand, and I'm envious. I play today despite my early gaming experiences, not because of them. The potential I sense behind all the rigmarole keeps pulling me back in.

Thanks again.

facemaker329:
So, who was the primary inspiration for people?  Was it someone who was dropped naked and unarmed in the middle of an alien landscape and learned to not only survive, but rise to the top?  Or was it someone who, regardless of the insanely large odds stacked against them, never suffered anything more than a relatively trivial flesh wound?
Well, Star Wars, basically. That's mostly the second concept you describe, despite some of what Luke, Han, Artoo and Threepio went through. The enemy nearly always missed, and there was almost no blood. The blood from the arm on the cantina floor might be the only sign of it from the first three movies.

At the same time, I was a Tolkien fan, but that's also one in which injury wasn't a big part of it. People got tired and hungry and bruised, but anything really debilitating tended to be part of a large plot point. I'm thinking here of Frodo's Morgul wound, and Gandalf "dying."

I didn't read any John Carter until late, but I would tend to put him in the same category. He'd mow through dozens or hundreds of enemies and become exhausted, but never seemed to suffer a concussion or broken arm, let alone a gut wound.

I'm having trouble think of fiction I've read, let alone enjoyed, in which a character is significantly hurt and powers on. The Princess Bride does it well in a few parts. Maybe some Westerns or war movies. I feel like there were some darker 70s movies that involved a wounded hero, who tended to die right after plugging the rat who done him wrong. When I was young, those turned me off.

The concept I can most relate to is the idea that a character isn't a "hero" until they've survived. I haven't played many games like that - I can't really recall any - but I sort of like the idea. I prefer the "roll first, then fictionalize" approach in general. I don't want to talk about how the sword came down and chopped the beast's head off, until the dice show a hit with enough damage to kill it. By the same token, I shouldn't want to talk about a character who is a hero with a destiny until that character survives and fulfills his destiny. Maybe you're Luke, maybe you're Porkins. Lets roll and find out.

But as much as I could get into that concept, I think it tends to have too many logistical problems for me these days, the main one being the time commitment. But if anyone can advice how to run or play in such a game (preferably with a modern system), please message me.

Thanks for the interesting discussion, in any case.
C-h Freese
 member, 256 posts
 Survive - Love - Live
Tue 21 Mar 2017
at 16:56
Re: The price of defeat
Expectation, in the end that is the core.
Some times what is expected is surprising.  My favorite game is D&D, so many would think about their games and figure they have an idea what I expect.

Do they think "Chainmail", "Original", "Basic", "First edition", . . .

  I consider myself a traditionalist from the Origin of the D&D spectrum, The player Character was a Hero, and the Levels were what made them different from the normal people.

  Some of the normal people were "normal" some Normal; elves, dwarves, orcs, kobolds, etc, where fantastic races.
  In Chainmail the original wargame rules that D&D came from the Heroes had two levels, Hero & Super-hero, Mage & Archmage, etc.

   They worked from there to first edition; with it's zero level characters, monsters, and even Normal fantastic monsters of great power.  And it's special Heroes living the life if champions of the people [some group anyway; yes even the Assassins (the champions of those who had or felt they had, No Good Way Out.)] from first level to people who could rival Superman, Batman, or even Thor in their world as Super-Heroes.

   But then they [the Game Designers] left the Hero/Fantasty Dichotomy, and got rid of the Heroes, leaving everyone a member of a fantastic race whose special powers were what used to make the special few.. Heroes.

But how does that deal with expectations?
  In later edition games I still expect my Character to be a champion of some part of a group of some kind. I prefer to start at first level to allow the characters growth on society, I expect to roleplay with those npcs who mean something to the PCs, and I expect my character to die a heroic death [which may be an annoyance to other players].. since the PCs are no longer designed for heroic lives.
JxJxA
 member, 183 posts
Wed 22 Mar 2017
at 02:26
Re: The price of defeat
For me, I see getting involved in tabletop games as sort of a social contract that outlines what players and gms should and should not do in order to have fun. That includes defeat, and the boundaries are going to be different depending on groups and playing styles.

For example, I'm one of those people who gets attached to his character. I like playing that character over a long period, giving it a chance to grow with the adventure. Character maiming or death isn't really fun for me as a player or a gm, so I prefer to play and run games where player failure means the gm gets to take more control over narrative and gives the players either a difficult obstacle to face or harrowing choice to make. It keeps the story going, but also calls out the price for defeat.

That being said, if there is an understanding at the beginning of the game that character maiming and death is a very real possibility, a player makes that choice for it, and then up and leaves the game, then that's a pretty lousy move by the player in question. The silver lining to it might be that you got rid of a game problem, though.