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.
GreyGriffin
 member, 70 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Sun 26 Mar 2017
at 22:24
Re: The price of defeat
The systems that most people tend to play punish failure harshly, and most even discourage what I see as failure's most valuable byproduct: transformation.

Because most systems use incremental progression systems, taking a setback, especially a setback that hits your character directly and mechanically, has a real impact on your character over the short and long term.  Reinvesting resources in a new field is usually a gradual process of some kind, and in some cases (*cough* d20 *cough*) is pretty much impossible.

Furthermore, in games and systems where other players and characters rely on you mechanically, like a combat heavy d20 game, for instance, your character can easily become part of a mechanical cascade failure that results in bad consequences for everyone else.

That said, I think that immediately ameliorating the setback is the weaker solution, as a GM.  Allowing the character to suffer for a reasonable time, and to emerge from the crucible of disadvantage somehow transformed is ultimately a more satisfying conclusion.

Does the dismembered fighter learn a new fighting style?  Or, does he lay down his sword and become a statesman?  Does he stalk into the wilderness, seeking death and absolution for his own perceived failures?  At that point, does the player retire the character, even if he has turned his setback into success of a different sort.  The Statesman ex-party member could make an interesting NPC or narrative PC cameo.

This philosophy, that failure is an engine for change, extends even further out into narrative failures.  A town burned down, a hostage dead, a princess eaten by a dragon, can turn the world on its head.  The storytelling opportunities abound.

But this all intersects with player expectation and communication, and a bit of an admonition to DMs (and systems) of the past.  For players to really accept failure, they have to reasonably accept that failure is as fun, engaging, and interesting to play through as success.  Many players' (and characters') experiences with failure are litanies of suffering, of beloved characters impaled or emasculated, of long and expensive roads of recovery that left them behind the advancement curve of the rest of the group.

It takes work to make failure into a good play experience for a PC, and the burden of that work comes primarily from the DM's side of the screen, whatever you want to say about whiny players.  Extending the olive branch, letting them know that they won't be left behind, or languish in irrelevance, or death spiral around a civilization that hates them for failing to protect them, is important to communicate; but actually doing the legwork to actually meet that expectation, and not betray that crippled player's (or the now-homeless players') trust is more important.

And, with the narrative pacing of Play-By-Post games, even if you (the GM) intend to throw the players an upbeat after a few downbeats to let them mull over their loss, that can be a long time for a player (and/or character) to stew in that failure.

So it's a bit of six of one and half dozen of the other.  As with so much gaming advice, it'll take a good read of the table.  But it's a good idea to determine that level of trust and commitment, and work out the pacing to swing downbeats into upbeats... and to see how down you should beat in the first place.
Utsukushi
 member, 1405 posts
 I should really stay out
 of this, I know...but...
Mon 27 Mar 2017
at 09:11
Re: The price of defeat
This has been a really interesting discussion.  Thanks to everyone -- some very thought-provoking reading in here!

I find myself focusing mostly on... aw, I can't find it again, so I'm not sure who it was, but the comment that what could make a character `unplayable' is totally circumstantial and idiosyncratic.  I've let go of characters because I just kind of lost touch with them.  Still totally interested in them, nothing really bad happened, just... something I can't quite explain made me lose my sense of... of... shrug  But for all that I clearly can't explain it, let alone justify it, I wasn't having fun anymore.

On the other hand, I've had characters lose everything, and not lost interest.  I stayed in a game where my character was effectively `out' for almost a year in real time.  (I've seen several people stay in a game through several years during which their characters were statues, and in that game, I'm pretty sure I would have, too.)  Heck, I've had characters actually die and kept playing them.  And again, I can't really explain what the differences are.  Group chemistry is a lot of it, I think.  And sometimes, I don't know -- the character just still works.

But I really can't blame someone for not wanting to play a character who is seriously not going the way they wanted to go - whether it's a dual-wielding fighter losing a hand, or a troubadour who is just consistently unable to talk their way out of anything, or... whatever.

Now, losing a character to injury is, in almost any game I can think of, an odd example.  Almost every RPG has totally unrealistic advanced healing, whether magical or technological.  I mean, that was what made the "Arrow to the knee" line so jarring -- this was in a world where you've seen your own character walk around with fifteen arrows sticking out of their back (and two in their head!) and you know perfectly well that guard could have downed a healing potion (or eaten 15 cabbages in two seconds) and not even gotten twinges when the weather's about to turn.  And that's... most fantasy worlds.  Even the ones that make healing difficult rarely make it incomplete.  Even scars are a matter of style.

But in a whole LOT of this discussion, I see an important point being almost brought up and not quite.  We're talking about a character becoming unplayable.  Not a person becoming worthless.  The Wounded Fighter is an outright stereotype for a grizzled old innkeeper at a crossroad, after all - but unless the whole group is ready to transform their game from High Adventure to Resource Management, that's not an option to play.

So, yeah, transformation can be awesome - but within the limits of the actual game, the options for transformation are very limited.  "Playable character concepts" is a small subset of "possible people."

csroy:
How would you deal with moving forward, as a player, as another player or as the GM?

But, more on the actual topic for the thread...

I am increasingly a fan of bringing the players on-board for describing major failures.  I've seen it work well in several cases - including one recently where the GM mentioned what would happen when we lost a battle and half of us were like, "Um, it's been fun, but no."  So he just said, basically, "OK, then, the worst thing happens that leaves you still willing to play."  (He did it more gracefully than that.)  It worked well.  Bad things happened to all of us - arguably worse things, in several cases.  Just things that we, as the people playing our characters, were able to deal with having in our character's backgrounds.

So I think that can be a useful question.  "OK, then - What's the worst thing you're prepared to deal with here?"  True, there are probably a handful of players that will say, "Um, the bullet bounces off my forehead and kills the villain instead," but I think that's rare.  Most of us seem to quite like tormenting our characters - we just want them to stay ours.
Brianna
 member, 2116 posts
Mon 27 Mar 2017
at 23:44
Re: The price of defeat
I once had a cleric die, leaving me out of game for RL months, though only a much shorter time IC.  I waited it out.  I knew the other characters were lugging her body back to the city, our party was in good standing, not just with her temple, but with several others, and failing all else they would have tried to return her body to her family (once her temple pointed out who her family was, the party weren't aware).
Fyrerain
 member, 65 posts
Tue 28 Mar 2017
at 16:25
Re: The price of defeat
I had a thief in one of my games lose an arm, which was naturally a major handicap for such a character. The group wasn't high enough level, or wealthy enough to have access to regeneration resources, but I let the player know the thief's home guild was known to have ways to deal with such critical problems for members in good standing....

So when they got back to his city, he applied to his guild for aid. It cost him a few days "service" to a vampire. He came out of it with two arms, and a tendency to have nightmares.

Never did lose the nickname of "Slots," though.
facemaker329
 member, 6904 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 05:41
Re: The price of defeat
In a tragic case of having a character which was ill-suited to the party, I had an assassin in one game (back in D&D2E days), who was...I believe...the only member of the party who wasn't magicked to the gills in some way.  Everyone else had magic weapons, magic armor, or was some kind of magic user (cleric, magic-user, druid, etc).

First room we walked into was apparently empty, except for several statues.  This was enough to make the ever-paranoid mage don rings of invisibility and levitation and hide in an upper corner of the room, out of sight of everyone.  Being the most skilled at such things, my character scouted ahead...and, as a result, was alone on the far side of the room when a HUGE wave of skeletons attacked the group...and the statues came to life.  Or, at least, the giant raven statue that was right in front of him.

For the better part of an hour, my turn each round consisted of some kind of tumbling dodge between the bird's legs and an attempt at hacking at them...which did little more than create a few stone chips.  Everyone was highly entertained, however, at the increasing number of pock-marks in the floor where the raven's beak attempted to hit my character, and missed...but I'm sure you can see where this is going...

Eventually, the dice turned on me...and rather than yet another brilliant evasion, my character got a stone beak through his torso...a beak nearly as large in diameter as his chest.  As my character lay there, at death's door and extending a leg to cross the threshold, the magic-user intervened, with one of his precious horde of healing potions...which got the character back on his feet, but still left him powerless to effective do anything about the raven, which saw him get up and came back to finish him again.

And, this time, the dice did NOT allow for any entertaining evasive maneuvers.  Another beak to the torso, another trip to death's door...as the magic-user was preparing to use yet another healing potion, I said, "Look, if the rest of the party is still tied up fighting skeletons, we're gonna go through your entire stock of healing potions before anyone can actually do anything about the bird.  Save it, let me die, and fireball this half of the room..."

That was the last time I played D&D for over a decade.  Tried it a couple of times since then...the results weren't as gruesome for my characters, but they were about as entertaining for me.  So, I don't play D&D anymore...
Ameena
 member, 165 posts
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 14:02
Re: The price of defeat
Sounds like that's more down to the DM setting things up to go against you than any problem with the nature of DnD itself...
Sir Swindle
 member, 183 posts
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 14:10
Re: The price of defeat
quote:
Save it, let me die, and fireball this half of the room...

Every game with my pathfinder group come down to me shouting this at the healer. Healing in combat is going to be the wrong decision 90% of the time.

It sort of is a problem with D&D, there is a reason most modern games call it 'incapacitated' or 'taken out'.
pdboddy
 member, 498 posts
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 14:21
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to Sir Swindle (msg # 70):

But the problem in facemaker329's post was not the healing, it was that his character was in a situation where they could not be effective.  His character laying at death's door is the same in any game, really.  Where as an assassin's effectiveness varies from game to game.
swordchucks
 member, 1358 posts
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 14:25
Re: The price of defeat
Sir Swindle:
Healing in combat is going to be the wrong decision 90% of the time.

Theorycrafters keep saying that, but my practical experience is that a strong heal delivered to the right person at the right time can much more useful than anything else.  Except for a few fringe cases that really can outheal damage, a character shouldn't be focused on healing as a primary combat occupation, but I'm starting to feel like the idea that you should never heal in combat is doing more harm than good at this point.  Instead, I think it's important to develop a tactical sense that helps you gauge when healing in combat is a good idea and when it's not.



The scenario described is part of why it seems that "scouting ahead" has become so unpopular.  I'm not sure if that's because of a shift in game design or that people have finally gotten used to the fact that it goes wrong often enough that it's not usually worth it.

I'm not going to try to analyze it in detail because we don't have details... but it sounds like it might have been DM fail on some level.
Utsukushi
 member, 1406 posts
 I should really stay out
 of this, I know...but...
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 17:05
Re: The price of defeat
Never split the party.

Isn't that a rule somewhere?  Scouting ahead qualifies.  That's what Henchmen are for. grin
pdboddy
 member, 499 posts
Wed 29 Mar 2017
at 17:07
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to Utsukushi (msg # 73):

Eeh, scouting ahead a bit doesn't count as splitting the party. :P
Kagekiri
 member, 172 posts
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 01:06
Re: The price of defeat
pdboddy:
Eeh, scouting ahead a bit doesn't count as splitting the party. :P



'A bit' being the point of distinction. Some of those '+20 to Stealth types' tend to forget that 20 plus a natural 1 still equals "ROLL INITIATIVE!" :)

Regarding the original topic:

I once played a character whose concept heavily involved protecting his little sister who was mostly helpless (expect when she became severely threatened and turned into a demon, but that's neither here nor there). After a particularly dangerous battle with a whole lot going on, all of us PCs were running away from the big bad only for me to realize, "Oh turnips! Where's my sister?!" The GM simply stared at me in shock (he'd forgotten too) and sadly shook his head.

I was crushed. Partly because I felt stupid for forgetting about her OOC, but mostly because she was so important to my character and intrical to his concept. Roleplaying the inevitable shock was easy because I, the player, also hadn't expected it. It didn't even occur to us to retcon it. It just felt right. After that my character completely changed. He had to. The thing that defined him so much was suddenly gone. Whereas before, he refused to kill or aggressively pursue those who sought him harm, he suddenly started attacking his foes without mercy, transitioning from hunted to hunter.

My point is that the nature of the loss makes a significant difference. Does it add to the character or take away? Does it motivate the player to develop the character into someone new and different or does it make them feel that the GM is trying to hedge up their way?

Expectations are probably the bigger chunk of the pie, but that's been covered pretty extensively already. Just my 2 cents. Good discussion everyone. I enjoyed reading.
facemaker329
 member, 6905 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Thu 30 Mar 2017
at 17:23
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to pdboddy (msg # 74):

Considering we were all in the same room (granted, it was a massive room...but we could see each other), I wouldn't call this 'splitting the party', either.  And, yes, my story is largely a case of differing expectations...I had played assassin characters before this game, with little or no magic and with great effectiveness...but the rest of the group was geared toward magical-powered mass mayhem in combat, and nobody thought to say, "That character might not fit in well with this particular group...and here's why."

And I wouldn't even say this experience killed my enthusiasm for D&D.  It had already waned considerably at this point, because I liked the relatively free-wheeling nature of AD&D, where you kind of had to have a GM make judgment calls and house rules about the numerous gaps in the RAW.  This just kind of left me feeling like my tastes in gaming and TSR's, and later, WOTC's tastes, had taken very divergent paths...and there's nothing wrong with that.  D&D does what it does very well...I just stopped caring much for what it does.