csroy
 member, 100 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 14:42
The price of defeat
Consider the following scene:

Baron a mighty warrior roars lifting his axe and charge the pair of orcs.

*dice clatter cries of happiness from the players*

With one mighty swoop Baron split one of the orcs in half... outraged the second orc lift his mean looking scimitar and slash at the barbaric warrior.

*DM dice clatter... critical hit ... rule-book shuffling*

The scimitar slice at Baron, amputating his left hand at the elbow...

At this stage Baron player goes OOC talking about how his character has just become unplayable and start talking about a new character.





Over my thirty years of RPing this is the phenomena I observed: when come to a major setback or obstacle (permanent maiming of a PC, major failure etc) many players would rather reboot (switching character or campaign).

On one hand no one like to play the outcomes of real failure and consequences of defeat (especially in a black/white gaming world where failure translate into the end of the world) but on the other hand, the greatest stories in RL are the stories about overcoming one failures of climbing out of the ashes of defeat and rebuilding one life.

Has anyone else encountered this phenomena and has anyone has any idea how to make the bitter pill of defeat sweeter for players so they'll not abandoned their characters/game?

This message was last edited by the user at 14:43, Wed 15 Mar.

badpenny
 member, 337 posts
 eats shoots and leaves
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 15:38
Re: The price of defeat
csroy:
Has anyone else encountered this phenomena and has anyone has any idea how to make the bitter pill of defeat sweeter for players so they'll not abandoned their characters/game?


I don't think you can.  At least not with a system that more or less has objective failure hard baked in.

Failure isn't fun.  Setbacks are.  You need a system that recognizes this.
Tyr Hawk
 member, 270 posts
 You know that one guy?
 Yeah, that's me.
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 16:28
Re: The price of defeat
So... this might get a little long. And by "might" I mean "will 100%, without a doubt, and absolutely." You have been warned.

Before anything else, let's consider what might be going on in the mind of the player. They've built a warrior. A person who has (presumably) dedicated their life to combat, and in this case it sounds like combat with a weapon that requires two hands. At this point, they've just become the futbol (or soccer, for those of you who call it soccer) player with only one leg and no such thing as prosthetics. What you've dedicated your life to is over. Done with. Period. Yes, you might be able to get by doing something similar in the case of the warrior, but in a general way your life as you knew it is over. And it's not just the life you knew. It's your future plans. It's your immediate character goals. Everything has to change, and it has to change immediately. There's no going back, and you're not even on the same path you started on so going forwards is an entirely different thing than it was before.

This is, to go to your own example, what people in real life face too. Some of them make something of it. They overcome their challenges and their hardships. They make the change and it's difficult, but they do it. Most people, however, don't. Many go on because they have to. They can't just abandon their life and start over fresh, but if they could? You bet your sweet patootie they would in a heartbeat. Even some of those people with the most inspirational stories you can imagine would've traded in their broken life for a brand new, fully healthy one if offered the option. Not everyone, no. There are people who want the challenge in their lives or who think it's necessary for them to become the best they can be, but they're the few, not the many.

But why? Well, not to get into much of the social psychology or real-world political issues, but disabilities (as they're most commonly called, not that I think the term is the best to use) are generally viewed as something terribly negative about the person. There has been a lot of effort to overcome the stigma, but when it comes down to it there's a reason TV shows and movies still capitalize on the shock factor of finding out someone's in a wheelchair, or missing a limb. And there are biological components to that, because we as humans know how another human is supposed to look (which is not to make a judgment call on what's normal in terms of race, or gender, or height, or weight, or whatever, just that there's a general definition of the human form). We can tell, without measuring, if a head is proportionately too small, or fingers too long. Within a certain amount of variation these things are fine, and the more you're exposed to the differences the more you begin to adjust your personal definitions of what we're supposed to look like, but we still have this innate definition.

Moving forwards from there (or perhaps backwards) we make it to the player who just encountered this life-altering deformation of not just their character's physical self, but their ideas and their dreams. It's a big pill to swallow, and bigger still when you have the easiest out in the world. Just walk away from that character and that life, anytime. No consequences, no penalties, just walk away, and often be allowed to walk back as something brand new.

As badpenny mentions, some of this is the fault of the systems we play. In DnD, the name of the game is heroic adventure, and the penalties one takes for losing a limb are pretty severe. As a fighter, you lose a ton of efficiency, and there's not really a mechanical way to get rid of all the Levels and EXP you spent on being a fighter. You might lose some of the feats that specialized you in your particular way of combat. You might have gained a prestige class you're no longer qualified for, and that's killed your chances at going into anything else for a while. And this isn't unique to DnD. Shadowrun doesn't refund your Karma because of a lost leg (though Shadowrun obviously has plenty of gear to make up for it), Anima definitely doesn't care without supernatural intervention, and L5R basically punishes you on top of that for needing to switch schools. The systems don't handle the loss well, so expecting the players to do so is a little bitter to swallow.

But it runs deeper than that. The stories we tell within our systems are a big part of this mentality. In a story of able-bodied heroes and villains, the one with the defect is seen as a weight pulling down the whole group, possibly even the whole story. I am reminded, however briefly, of the story of Batgirl as she became Oracle. Her entire role had to change. Her entire life had to change, and without a team of folks dedicated to making her useful still (both in-universe and out of it), she could've easily gone the way of the dodo. Luke Skywalker loses his hand and immediately gets a replacement. Without that immediate change to "just as useful," and without examples of how it's done within your story, the player has only their personal examples to go off of, and those rare examples mean it's not just difficult to think of how to overcome their particular challenge, but it might be impossible if they're only heard of such things in real life, and not in a magical fiction.

So, what are the solutions? Essentially it boils down to a lot of conditioning. You need to introduce enemies and allies and whomever else you can with disabilities they've overcome. If "I took an arrow to the knee and now my life sucks" is the example they see, it's the example they'll stick to. You, as a storyteller, need to bring in the villain who lost 30 years of being a fighter and still came back to become a decent opponent socially, or as a different kind of fighter. Maybe they're not at the level one would expect, or maybe they are despite all the shortcomings. Maybe that means you have to show them the sheet after the villain is through, letting your players see how the Level 6 Barbarian became an effective Barbarian 6/Thief 4, or whatever it might be. You need to be willing and able to effectively show that this is possible, or else your players are never gonna believe it.

You can switch systems to. Switch to a system where the failure is built in, and overcoming it is part of the challenge and the fun. Systems like Houses of the Blooded are, more or less, designed around failure and the beauty that comes from it. But those systems are few and far between, so it might just be finding (or inventing) the beauty in the failure in the system you're working with. It might also mean punishing players in the same way their amputation does if they bring in a new character. Don't let them run from the problem. their new character starts at Level 1, even in a group of Level 6's. Their new character must have a certain disadvantage that's not exactly a lost arm, but something similar. Make them face it down, or they'll just keep running for as long as you'll let them.

These things will scare away players. Some people aren't willing to give up the heroic fantasy of their dreams for the heroic fantasy that might be. Others will think you're being unfair because of how other games have played out. Some will even just quit because it's too hard, and they can't do it, just like folks in real life do with their own challenges. You will almost always lose players until it all comes together because until a lot of GMs are doing these things, those players who understand and are exposed to such things is gonna be a small number. You can advertise that your game is that way, but then you mostly have to expect the folks who are already comfortable with it.

So... there's no easy answer, but it's pretty much all gonna start with you. Start doing the things that make your players think it's possible, and recognize that it's gonna be a long, long road.

That, or require people read "The Killing Joke" and similar stories after a few sessions. ;)

Either way, best of luck.
Ameena
 member, 162 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 16:35
Re: The price of defeat
Maybe it would help if the playes knew in advance that they were getting into a system where that sort of thing was possible? If they know there's a chance their character could end up getting one of their limbs chopped off it might make it a little less difficult to deal with if it actually does happen. If it's not a system that has rules for that kind of thing but the GM wants to include the possibility anyway, they should warn the players about it before the game starts.
Sir Swindle
 member, 167 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 17:17
Re: The price of defeat
I had to retire a character in Edge of the Empire because he was maimed to the point that he could not reasonably adventure (several permanent stat reductions so not even an option to use a robot arm).

Exalted 3rd has a pretty reasonable system for this (which is functionally cribbed from FATE) basically you can use taking a crippling injury as last resort damage reduction. It's your choice so you aren't supposed to feel like it was forced on you (since incapacitated isn't necessarily dead) basically if players feel like they are in control of their characters it makes things easier to take.

Of course in exalted, losing a hand is just an excuse to get a magic robot hand, so no big loss there.
csroy
 member, 101 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 17:44
Re: The price of defeat
Great feedback guy :)

Let me broaden the discussion, my point is not just about personal loss the affect a certain PC (lose of ability physical or mental) but on large scope setbacks such as:

  • The town you guarded was burned down.
  • The princess died when you tried to rescue her.
  • The invaders break the defense line break and the army is routed.
  • The king is dead and the pretender gets the crown.



The events doesn't need to be so monumental of course. Any setback the seriously threatened the player view of his character can cause such a crisis.

Please note, I am not talking about a planned event, I am talking about an outcome of events that the GM did not foreseen. His plan was for the king to be saved, the princess be saved and the invader defeated but luck of dice, bad choices or other event transpired to create a negative outcome.

The same could be said about the amputation example, that specific game was MERP and thus such nasty critical are known to happen (even for PCs at times).

Thinking about it I tend to agree with Tyr Hawk, IRL we can't reboot or switch we are stuck with what we have and we need to make with what life gave us but in the game, we can just change campaign switch character or even use the dreaded RETCON.

My thinking is that perhaps as players/GMs we are denying ourselves from great RP experience by not trying to deal with such setback and switching to a path with less obstacles.
facemaker329
 member, 6896 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 17:57
Re: The price of defeat
I don't think you can make that "bitter pill of defeat" easier to swallow.  It all comes down to how invested the player is in that particular character...if they feel enough attachment to 'soldier on' after that kind of a setback, they will, and if they don't, you can't really make them...if you force the issue far enough, they'll just leave the game.

As pointed out above, some people face these kinds of challenges in real life...and most either give up or just go into endurance mode...it's a rare handful that really strive to rise above it, which is why we find those kinds of stories so inspiring.  And it may be well within the character's background to say, 'Well, I'm a cripple...guess I'm all done..."  Other characters will see it as juwt another challenge to overcome...and only the player can decide which is which.

So, I'd encourage them to try and make something of the character...but I often make characters with significant physical flaws, anyway.  Trying to force them to keep going with a now-flawed character could be seen by some as similar to forcing them to play a character with non-viable stats, and can crwate a sense of antagonism and resentment...if you're gonna go that route, be sure you tell all your players up front that the game could be brutal and you expect them to play it out to the bitter end, or suffer significant penalties if they go back to the drawing board.

But unless you've got players that would likely go that route anyway, I thinkyou're setting yourself up for more headaches than you're solving.  After all, when a GM feels a scenario has run its course, the game ends or moves on, most of the time, regardless of the players' wishes...if the player feels their character has run its course, don't they deserve the same consideration?
Sir Swindle
 member, 168 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 18:14
Re: The price of defeat
csroy:
  • The town you guarded was burned down.
  • The princess died when you tried to rescue her.
  • The invaders break the defense line break and the army is routed.
  • The king is dead and the pretender gets the crown.


Oh in those cases your players are just being brats or at the very least there was a miscommunication about the tone of the game. If you screwed something up and a bunch of people died then a bunch of people died, deal with it. It's not like the world was perfect before that happened, otherwise you wouldn't be adventuring.

Heck, most of those are standard hooks for getting a campaign going.
*The town you guarded was burned down. Start of Wheel of Time
*The king is dead and the pretender gets the crown. Plot of G.I. Joe 2 (been saving that one)
engine
 member, 255 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 19:19
Re: The price of defeat
Great topic.

There are easy solutions, but not ones everyone enjoys.

The players are not necessarily being "brats" and they're not necessarily missing out on good roleplaying. Not everything is equally enjoyable for everyone, even if they are capable of doing it.

Ameena has the foundation of it: Players have to know what they're getting into and want to be getting into it. Most GMs seem to understand this and make it clear. This makes it more likely that their players will go along with a failure situation. It doesn't guarantee it, because people might still have different ideas about what is meant (maybe the player expected an outright death, but didn't expect maiming) and people sometimes think they're cool with something and find out when it happens that they're not.

If you don't let players know what failure could look like, then there's some chance that they'll go along with anything that happens, but I find that to be fairly unlikely.

You talk about a "plan." If failure of the plan is possible, then either the plan has to include what happens as a result of failure, or the table has to have an approach for dealing with it. If there is no plan for a particular failure mode, and people might not be able to deal with it, then that outcome has to be off the table.

Here we are at the first thing people tend not to like about this: taking things off the table. If the dice say it happens then it happens, is the approach many people want. Okay, but not everything is in the dice. Often, there's really only a narrow range of outcomes. For instance, in D&D, there isn't (outside of some specific monster abilities) a way to cause amputation, as described in the example. That outcome, while plausible, just doesn't happen without fiat. That option is "off the table," and no outcome of the dice (in normal combat) will result in it.

A GM can make this artificial, or realistic, and it helps that there be other ways to fail other than those that would be hard to deal with. For instance, the town wasn't burned down, but its protective artifact has been stolen/destroyed. Either the town never could have been burned down (because the GM simply decided that wasn't going to happen, i.e. the "artificial" way) or because the enemy didn't see it as necessary to their plan for the artifact and never intended to do it (a somewhat more realistic approach). The players can still fail, but it's not a failure they can't cope with.

But how do we know they can cope with it? Well, here's the next part that I find turns GMs off: Ask the players. "You're guarding the city from the enemy onslaught. If they punch through, what do you think would be cool to have happen?" The GM needn't leave it entirely open, but can offer some options: burned down, robbed, NPCs killed, city occupied, etc. If the GM is able to wing it, the outcome could be anything the players suggest.

The trick is that it has to be something. The players have to be up for some kind of consequence to failure. Now, as I said, people don't always know what they want, so they might get what they asked for and not like it. That might be an issue, but asking and getting buy-in up-front reduces that. It reduces other things too, such as the intensity of rules-lawyering to avoid the outcome. They said they'd be cool with it, so it's not the end of the fun (for the players) if it happens.

And that's part of why asking bugs some people: they (claim to) want not to know what failure looks like, and to be able to handle it, and they want to get into character and be upset just like their player is. In that case, I don't think a GM needs any of these solutions, because their players will probably actually be okay with whatever you do. In that case, none of this is about you.

So, basically, you have to find failure the players are up for. It's a good conversation to have, maybe more than once. If the players would bail out after any kind of failure, then maybe a roleplaying "game" is not what they're really interested in. That's fine, but a GM needs to know that upfront.

I know the idea of "fun" or "interesting" failure strikes a lot of people as odd. Okay, ignore this then. But for lots of people, there are ways they can fail that take the game in a cool direction for them. I often find that players are up for much worse failure than I'd ever dare impose, and their ideas improve the game in that way.

I have more to say, but I'll end it here. Please don't tell me this doesn't work, because it does work. If it doesn't work for you, or you don't have the issue it addresses, then we don't need to talk. If you are intrigued and have honest questions, I'd love to hear them.
silverelf
 member, 200 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 19:20
Re: The price of defeat
While I also see where everyone is going here, there is also the other part of Player Enjoyment. Since yes this happens in a game, and yes if we want to bring IRL into it, but we suspend reality to become these roles. To step into a place where we can combat dragons, cast magic, Etc.

So to me it's the question of how unhappy the player is, and what can be done to restore his arm ?

You see people loose limbs throughout games,
Theros Ironfield (dragonlance), Johnny Silverhand (cyberpunk) you know there are options, what are his ?

This message was last edited by the user at 19:21, Wed 15 Mar.

engine
 member, 256 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 19:35
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to silverelf (msg # 10):

Agreed. The exact reason for the dissatisfaction needs to be understood, and a method for addressing it laid out. If the only option is to deal with it, then explore whether the potential (not guarantee) for a great RP experience is worth the player's time playing that character. It might not be, in any given case.
swordchucks
 member, 1354 posts
Wed 15 Mar 2017
at 19:54
Re: The price of defeat
engine:
Not everything is equally enjoyable for everyone

This is possibly the most important thing about this.  There are at least eight types of fun, and games engage with them in different ways.  There have been academic papers written on it (check here for details: http://www.gnomestew.com/gener...-eight-types-of-fun/ ).  Different people have desires for different types of fun and different games offer different types in different ratios.  Even the same system can offer widely different fun-types in two different games.

Fundamentally, that just means that people enjoy different things.  Challenge is a type of fun, but it's only one of the eight.  Some people don't enjoy challenge much but still enjoy RPGs for a variety of other reasons.  This is, in part, why you see people crunching math equations to optimize characters and find the "best" character builds.  They enjoy other aspects of the game more than they enjoy challenge, and thus attempt to limit the actual challenge they will face.



To add an aspect to it, one of the items of advice you see frequently in newer games is that you should only roll dice if failure is interesting.  To expand on that idea, failure should only be a possibility if including it in the game makes it more interesting in some way.  To be even more specific, for outright failure to be possible, it has to be more interesting than having various degrees of success.

To use one of the examples, the PCs are guarding a town being attacked by monsters.  There's nothing wrong with, as the DM, presupposing that the town is going to not be destroyed.  What the PCs get to determine is how much damage it's going to take along the way.  Will the town be down to 20% of its population and eventually fold as people move away for safer places?  Will the town pull through perfectly and becoming a regional bastion?  Will it be somewhere in between?  By confining outcomes to "degrees of success" rather than a pass/fail situation, you make sure that the story is about the thing that it's supposed to be about.

To use a different example, the game Delta Green is about the human cost of fighting the supernatural.  As a part of that, terrible things are going to happen to characters up to and including insanity or death.  Characters will get chewed up and spit out.  That's what the game is about.  Even in a session where the PCs pull off a good ending, it still ends up eroding their sanity and their relationships with the people around them.  That's fine, too.  That's what the game is about.  If that kind of theme suddenly got injected into a typical epic fantasy game, it wouldn't work the same way and would probably upset quite a few people.
nuric
 member, 2926 posts
 Love D&D,superhero games
 Not very computer savvy
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 02:58
Re: The price of defeat
I agree with many of the comments above.

I've said for years that different people game for different reasons.

I tend to want to relax, have fun, and forget the stress of Real Life.
So unless a game with terrible losses and defeats is portrayed just right, it'll be no fun for me.  I'll just be depressed and frustrated.

I was running a superhero game years ago and two of the players were at each other's throats for the whole session.  One liked to cause the chaos and turmoil that he couldn't get away with in Real Life, and another just wanted to forget the turmoil and chaos of the outside world.
It was a miserable experience.
Tyr Hawk
 member, 271 posts
 You know that one guy?
 Yeah, that's me.
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 03:25
Re: The price of defeat
I'll admit, while I had some of this in mind, I obviously forgot to put in into my post (which was rushed, believe it or not). So, in a semi-reversal of my propensity for lengthy posts...
engine:
Agreed. The exact reason for the dissatisfaction needs to be understood, and a method for addressing it laid out.

^^ This.
engine
 member, 258 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 05:47
Re: The price of defeat
nuric:
I tend to want to relax, have fun, and forget the stress of Real Life.
So unless a game with terrible losses and defeats is portrayed just right, it'll be no fun for me.  I'll just be depressed and frustrated.
Entirely understandable.

When you play, do you want to have a feeling of some risk (if perhaps not much) of some kind of failure (though perhaps not terrible)? If so, do you feel like you get the amount of risk you want in your sessions? If so, is that risk "real," in that there's some series of bad rolls that could bring it about, or do you feel that your GM would let there be suspense but not ultimately allow the failure?

I ask these questions honestly, and not a judgment on your preferences. I have seen a lot of players appear to get very nervous about, say, their character dying, when there's a) almost no chance of that happening as a result of dice rolls and b) almost no chance the GM wouldn't fudge things. I am given to wonder how often people in those situations are nervous because they really think failure is possible, or if they are just trying to get into the spirit of things.

Tyr Hawk:
^^ This.

Thanks!
icosahedron152
 member, 730 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 07:07
Re: The price of defeat
I'm with Nuric. In RL you can get injured, get old and infirm, your home can be burned down and you can lose all your possessions, but these things are 'not fun'.

They are exactly the sort of thing I want to avoid in a RPG. When I play a game, I want to be in a world I have some control over, and I want to do things I can't do in RL.

If I were the player of that fighter in the OP, I'd want to reboot too.

Why? Because I chose a fighter for a reason. I wanted to be a good fighter, I wanted to swing my weapon and kill orcs, I wanted to defend the weak and helpless - I specifically didn't want to become the weak and helpless! A fighter who can't fight is a pretty pointless entity.

Could I play the character through? RP his life as a trainer of new warriors, perhaps? Yes, of course I could. Would I want to? No, definitely not.

If I wanted to play a one-armed Barbarian I would have generated one at the outset. I chose a fighter because I wanted to fight. If the GM doesn't let me fight, I'll go get another GM.
nuric
 member, 2927 posts
 Love D&D,superhero games
 Not very computer savvy
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 07:36
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to engine (msg # 15):

I get into playing my characters, perhaps too much so, so I get nervous about losing them very easily, I'll admit.
To me, moderate risk feels like edge of your seat excitement, because I lose myself in it.   I just get very attached to my characters, I suppose.

That being said, I don't mind a challenge, but situations that are too hopeless can feel less like playing a game and more like trying not to lose one.  The latter being no fun at all.

I was in a Dragonlance game years ago, and while it had the makings of an excellent game, the DM was distracted for long periods by Real Life, and evidently wanted to hurry things along when he was active.
Not once, but twice we were about to start a battle when he said "After a brutal battle, you were all overwhelmed and captured" and then restart the next chapter with all of us being prisoners and having to escape or be rescued.
Twice.
Sure, it might have gotten us closer to his bigger plot (which, sadly, we never got to because the next Real Life distraction caused him to end the game), but I felt like there was nothing I could do to change things, and it took all the fun out of the game for me.
Novocrane
 member, 326 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 08:36
Re: The price of defeat
quote:
In RL you can get injured, get old and infirm, your home can be burned down and you can lose all your possessions, but these things are 'not fun'.
I can find the bouncing back from loss or disability fun in a game, but if it's going to take weeks or months in which the character is mechanically invalidated (a distinct possibility in the slow pace of pbp), then it's probably going to take long enough to be a stress on enjoying a game focused on being awesome. If the purpose of the game is to play at a lower level and focus on aspects other than combat efficiency, that can be fun, too. Jarring from one to the other is not fun, though.

Character death, on the other hand, is relatively quick. Doubly so if each player character is part of a larger squad, and a new PC can be brought into play as soon as you write it up. This is something I've tried to find a GM for here, and I was surprised at how poorly the request fared; both in terms of GMs willing to produce that level of brutality, and players not undermining the stated goals.
badpenny
 member, 338 posts
 eats shoots and leaves
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 12:18
Re: The price of defeat
RPGs and fiction are different critters.  I like to RP the fiction, so a game like Fate is right for me.  I also like to RP in the superhero genre, where death isn't a thing.  (It might be a major plot point that you see in fiction to shake up the book, but it's hardly "final".)

With Fate, failure isn't a thing.  It's "success at a cost."  That's not the same thing as wandering through the plot always getting your way.  On the contrary.  It's about what you have to pay to accomplish the thing.

Say a spy breaks into an embassy.  Stealth has to be used to sneak past a guard.  You could roll and "fail."  What does that mean?  You're spotted and the alarms go off?  That might blow the entire caper from the get go.  That wouldn't happen in the fiction.  Secondly, that would make your spy look like a chump.

So, success at a cost.  A single guard spots you and you have to take the guy out.  The cost might be his death (which you have to live with).  It could be that he's discovered later and your caper wasn't entirely sanitary.  Etc.

Some people are just locked into what the game proscribes, e.g. the d20 system and its hardcoded failure.  You fail a Climb check by 5 and you fall.  To a lot of GMs they're going to run the scene just that way--with you falling.  Maybe you can catch yourself, maybe not.  There's a lot of YMMV.  But to me, that wouldn't be interesting--ever--to just have someone fall and take damage.

When it comes to combat, I like to think in terms of setbacks.  Since Arrow/Flash aren't going to die week to week on their respective shows, their plans to defeat the villain are simply set back and they get another shot at it next week.
engine
 member, 259 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 15:26
Re: The price of defeat
nuric:
I get into playing my characters, perhaps too much so, so I get nervous about losing them very easily, I'll admit.
That's understandable. How much (if at all) are you also concerned about sitting out of the game, either with a character "in the hospital" or while a new character is being created?

For a long time I tended to be more of the opinion that I wanted to stick with a single character. D&D, my gateway game, presented the concept of the character reaching all of these amazing levels, which I assumed were amazing mainly because of the journey it would take to reach them. And my game group seemed to take that line of thought too, with the GM wanting to see us grow more powerful.

But I've since learned that I came to the game (in the late 80s) at a time during a bit of a shift from the idea of disposable characters in a somewhat generic world, to long-lasting characters intended to be part of an unfolding plot. There's probably always been a bit of both in the hobby, and probably still is, but I know now that there are players who, though they try to keep their characters alive, will just shrug at character death and make a new one, or start playing one of the henchmen. I was once boggled by the idea of Traveller, in which characters could die during character generation. I get it now, sort of.

Nowadays, while I try to make characters I enjoy and could see developing, I try not to get too attached to them. I only partially succeed at this, but it weakens the hold that failure or potential failure has on me. In theory. I find that most GMs don't really seem to want to kill characters anyway, even when I tell them that I don't mind. Actually, I think some GMs and fellow players get a bit put off at my admission that I wouldn't mind losing my character, like I'm not really playing along with the concept.

nuric:
To me, moderate risk feels like edge of your seat excitement, because I lose myself in it.   I just get very attached to my characters, I suppose.
What if, as alluded to above, the risk was not to your character at all? What if the game was going to involve monstrous termites who would defend themselves, and knock the PCs aside, but really only wanted to devour the town? There would be a risk of the termites succeeding at this, but never a risk of your character dying. Could that be enjoyable to you?

More generally, could you see enjoying a game in which your characters could fail, but wouldn't die unless you took extreme steps to make that likely?

nuric:
That being said, I don't mind a challenge, but situations that are too hopeless can feel less like playing a game and more like trying not to lose one.  The latter being no fun at all.
That's an interesting phrasing. I think I see what you're saying, but with most games, one is "trying not to lose," at least from a certain standpoint. RPGs differ in that part of the point of the game is not to "win" but to see how they unfold. Is that what you're getting at? That if it's hopeless then you know where the game is going to go, unless you somehow stop it, as opposed to it being about just what happens next?

In any case, the issue of hopelessness is why I am very much a fan of alternative failure modes, devised around how the players "want" to lose. I can crunch the numbers to make a situation as fair or as biased toward the players as possible, but unless I am prepared to fudge things, a long enough string of bad rolls could result in the situation becoming essentially hopeless. I think we've all been in games in which the GM misjudged things, or the luck was just superbly bad, and then suddenly the enemies start missing, or go from being murderous to merely wanting to capture the PCs. I'd rather not fudge, so I'd rather start out with the enemies having a goal that brings them into physical contact, but doesn't require PC deaths or even captures, so that if I misjudged the enemy strength, they can just slap the PCs out of the way and then turn to their real task.

I'd also rather that the enemy's task be something the players, as "audience members," would be interested in seeing happen. Like when you are sort of rooting for the antagonist to succeed in a movie or show: man, bummer for the characters, but that was awesome.

nuric:
Sure, it might have gotten us closer to his bigger plot (which, sadly, we never got to because the next Real Life distraction caused him to end the game), but I felt like there was nothing I could do to change things, and it took all the fun out of the game for me.
It's telling, I think, that this was a Dragonlance game, because I'm told that Dragonlance was a definite milestone in the shift toward plots and long-lasting characters and away from quick and easy death: people really wanted games that developed like books, with their character as a long-lasting main character.

At the risk of saying stuff people already know: At some level, there's always going to be GM fiat. Something has to exist or happen that presents a problem for the players to solve or overcome. The classic is the captured princess, right? Something happened, mistakes were made, and then the PCs are asked to help make things right. They can fix the situation, but they couldn't have prevented it - and even if they could have it would have meant a completely different plot, or no plot at all. That's really all that is happening in the scenarios you described, except the people the PCs are saving are themselves.

But the really crucial difference I see is that the mistakes that resulted in that situation were, ultimately, made by the characters, even if it was "offscreen." They weren't brought in to correct someone else's failure, but are forced to deal with one that's their own "fault." Do you think this has any bearing on how you felt about those scenarios?

Thanks for responding to my initial questions, nuric. I hope you'll consider my latest questions.

Novocrane:
Character death, on the other hand, is relatively quick. Doubly so if each player character is part of a larger squad, and a new PC can be brought into play as soon as you write it up. This is something I've tried to find a GM for here, and I was surprised at how poorly the request fared; both in terms of GMs willing to produce that level of brutality, and players not undermining the stated goals.
That's interesting. I'm a big fan of 4th Edition D&D but one of the more frequent complaints I heard about it (true or not) was that it was now impossible for the characters to be killed. The people complaining felt like there was no risk. This was part of what made me realize that there were and are gamers who really enjoy the game when their characters can and do die.

At least in theory. I've had trouble pinning down people on how often they think character death should occur, and how often it has occurred for them, and what exactly they enjoy about their character actually dying. In a lot of cases I get the impression that the person wants death to be possible, but primarily only if a player is "foolish," which can mean always charging into combat, or taking on excessively powerful foes, or not taking basic precautions. They themselves would never do those things, but if they did their character would die and they would all but rejoice in that, because things would be as they should. Death is for other people.

I feel like I regularly see offers for games in which the GM talks about how death is a definite possibility for PCs. When I ask those GMs what the procedure will be in the event of a character death (will the player take up an NPC, or should they make a backup, or what?) a lot of GMs seem taken aback, as though they hadn't thought that far ahead, or they tell me not to worry about it at the moment. I'm left with the sense that these GMs only want to induce feelings of tension and impending doom and have no real intention of killing characters, other than to snap to attention a player they feel isn't engaging properly with the game.

So, it's an open question as to what degree players and GMs "really" want lethal failure in their games.

badpenny:
RPGs and fiction are different critters.  I like to RP the fiction, so a game like Fate is right for me.  I also like to RP in the superhero genre, where death isn't a thing.  (It might be a major plot point that you see in fiction to shake up the book, but it's hardly "final".)
I think the superhero genre and serialized shows like, say, Star Trek, are instructive when it comes to interesting failure. We know, at some level, that the main characters are not going to die, because that would massively disrupt things. DC isn't going to cashier Superman, just because "death is a definitely possibility" and actors sign contracts for a whole season. (Yes, many shows try to subvert things by killing off people we assumed were going to be regulars, or by taking advantage of real-life changes in jobs or health. Still.)

But Superman and Captain Picard have to be able to fail somehow, or there's no story. They probably have to fail a few times before the end of the story or episode, just so that they have somewhere to go, narratively. Picard might lose some security guards or an ensign, or might fail to save another Federation ship from the fate that will soon threaten his. There have been occasions, I believe, in which he has failed entirely and irrevocably, but in a way that didn't involve the death of any main character. Can we adapt that kind of thing in a fun way for our games?

badpenny:
Say a spy breaks into an embassy.  Stealth has to be used to sneak past a guard.  You could roll and "fail."  What does that mean?  You're spotted and the alarms go off?  That might blow the entire caper from the get go.  That wouldn't happen in the fiction.  Secondly, that would make your spy look like a chump.
Great example. Heists are, I find, a perennial problem with games. A single failure, or just a few failures, out of the many chances to fail, can bring the whole thing crashing down in a frustrating way - or, if they fail to, make the whole scenario improbable. If it fails, you don't get to the cool scenes with the vault, and the chase, etc., and the players don't get to feel like their characters are very capaple.

So, when I wanted to have a heist situation, I skipped most of the way to middle of it. Failure before that point wasn't going to be interesting, so it wasn't something we went into detail on. We narrated a bit about what their plan was, and then I decided that it was going to succeed and started them off in the vault with the item. Now, arguably, the players don't get to see their characters actually being cool, because they don't have the validation from the mechanics that their characters definitely can do the things we described them doing. But we get to the part of the caper that makes it a caper and get to have a fun and interesting time with that.

Now, some people do find flubbing a caper to be interesting, and it's an outcome they want to explore. More power to them, and I wouldn't have skipped what I did in my game if my players really wanted to play out the infiltration. Heck, we probably could have come up with ways for them to fail interestingly that didn't blow the whole plan or may the security seem improbably lame. So, I'm not saying that one should always skip certain failures, or take them off the table. I'm just reiterating that not every failure is always interesting or interesting to everyone.

badpenny:
When it comes to combat, I like to think in terms of setbacks.  Since Arrow/Flash aren't going to die week to week on their respective shows, their plans to defeat the villain are simply set back and they get another shot at it next week.
Yep. I dig those shows, but they often strain what little credulity they have in how they allow the main character to survive. If it were a game, I'd say the GM and players weren't on the same page about what to place at stake.
badpenny
 member, 339 posts
 eats shoots and leaves
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 15:43
Re: The price of defeat
engine:
badpenny:
When it comes to combat, I like to think in terms of setbacks.  Since Arrow/Flash aren't going to die week to week on their respective shows, their plans to defeat the villain are simply set back and they get another shot at it next week.
Yep. I dig those shows, but they often strain what little credulity they have in how they allow the main character to survive. If it were a game, I'd say the GM and players weren't on the same page about what to place at stake.


It's rather like the comic books: these things have been in monthly print for decades upon decades and you just have to keep coming up with crazy shiznat!

The TV shows have a weekly show to produce and you need to keep the rising action climbing until you're ready to pay it off.

From a game mechanics POV, I see a lot of Concessions (Fate term).  Either the PC would end up saddled with a lasting injury (Severe Consequence) or Collateral Consequences are at stake (bystanders).  Take the Supergirl scene where she could capture Mama Luthor -or- rescue the civilians from the crashing construction equipment.

Or the Arrow episode where Spartan looks like he's gunned down by Vigilante, but gets up at the end of the scene and talks about how he's lucky to have had super body armor on.  That's a clear use of a Setback (loss of agency to act; he was stunned until the end of scene).  The super body armor is just fluff to account for the Concession.  I'd argue this is how most of the characters shake off their injuries from scene to scene: they're never really taking extreme damage, but Conceding to avoid it.
engine
 member, 260 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 16:04
Re: The price of defeat
badpenny:
From a game mechanics POV, I see a lot of Concessions (Fate term).  Either the PC would end up saddled with a lasting injury (Severe Consequence) or Collateral Consequences are at stake (bystanders).  Take the Supergirl scene where she could capture Mama Luthor -or- rescue the civilians from the crashing construction equipment.
I don't see "collateral consequences" as distinct from consequences in general. Others might be hurt, but the consequences of this that have direct bearing on the character: loss of personal morale or confidence, a lost of trust from their allies. A nitpick on my part, but I get edgy about how "Consequences" are often taken to mean physical injury. What I like about Fate is that characters can be drastically disadvantaged without ever taking a wound.

badpenny:
That's a clear use of a Setback (loss of agency to act; he was stunned until the end of scene).  The super body armor is just fluff to account for the Concession.  I'd argue this is how most of the characters shake off their injuries from scene to scene: they're never really taking extreme damage, but Conceding to avoid it.
Loss of agency to act is a pretty icky consequence for a lot of players. That's really the foundation of this whole thread, in fact.

I don't think there's any question that that's what "Concessions" are about. The player decides to have the character lose and take a consequence at one level, rather than risk taking a much worse consequence (or perhaps a specific consequence that they'd prefer to avoid). But the character does lose, and does take a consequence which, yes, could be physical injury, but could also be damaged equipment, complications with the police, a mistaken impression of the situation, or anything else.

But I think I get and agree with your overall point.
Shannara
 moderator, 3718 posts
 Keep calm, drink more
 COFFEE!!!!
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 16:23
Re: The price of defeat
I once played in a tabletop game where my GM decided to bring my character into an existing party at a much lower level than the rest of the characters.  He gave said character a potion of 9 lives, 3 of which had already been used, to 'compensate'.

My character died 3 times in rapid succession, pretty much before he could scream and run away.  This was early D&D, people, and a monster that offers challenge to a 10th level party could kill someone half the level or less simply by sneezing in the general area.

After the 3rd death, my character refused to get off the ship.  "Sorry, no.  Wish I could help you, but ... no. If you need me, I'll be in my cabin.  Under the bunk."

Consequences cut both ways, and it's hardly surprising that when something happens that makes one have to reinvent the character they wanted to play and make it something they didn't sign on for, they say 'forget this' (or words to that effect).  Maybe their character goes and gets drunk for the next several years, until the game is over -- that's sometimes part of the heroic storyline, too.  (Caramon Majere in DragonLance?)

We're all here to have fun -- and if you don't have good reason (beyond 'I'd like this so they should too') to know that your players will have fun with it, then I'd say that you might want to sacrifice a bit of IC surprise to keep OC reaction from being a surprise that nobody likes.
engine
 member, 261 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 16:50
Re: The price of defeat
Shannara:
After the 3rd death, my character refused to get off the ship.  "Sorry, no.  Wish I could help you, but ... no. If you need me, I'll be in my cabin.  Under the bunk."
Interesting.

Was there any out-of-game discussion on this? Seems like none of that was the GM's intention, so I'd think the GM might say "Hm, I didn't figure that right, let's try something else."

Shannara:
I'd say that you might want to sacrifice a bit of IC surprise to keep OC reaction from being a surprise that nobody likes.
IC surprise has led, in my experience as both player and GM, to so much OC displeasure and boredom that I try not to bother with it at all anymore. I find I get just as much, if not more, surprise from open collaboration, believe it or not. That's a much different and rather more contentious discussion, though.
Rez
 member, 3567 posts
 So....yeah...sure.....
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 18:36
Re: The price of defeat
I was in a Star Wars game, I believe Saga in which the groups Duel-Wielding Jedi was attacked and lost his right hand.

The guy who was playing it handed his character to the DM and decided he didn't want to play because with the wound he could not duel wield.

Seriously. Game was over from then on.

Its star wars. Robotic Arm is possible. Genetic augmentation to make possibly a new 'limb' is a idea.
engine
 member, 262 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 19:13
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to Rez (msg # 25):

Well, how far was he from obtaining his new hand? In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke has his new hand within about 10 minutes of screen time, but it might have been days or weeks of his time. Meanwhile, even without one hand he was probably still pretty effective at other things like piloting, repairing, commanding, whining, and shooting. Would that have been true for this character, or was it pretty narrowly focused on that one function?

If the fix wouldn't have been immediate, how many combat situations were going to come up between this guy's amputation and the repair? In none of those would he be playing the character he clearly wanted to play.

If the fix would have been immediate then I guess I don't know what his real issue was. Hopefully, there was a conversation about it, and his position was understood. But all in all, I'm not entirely sure I blame him, especially if he was civil about it.
Rez
 member, 3569 posts
 So....yeah...sure.....
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 19:35
Re: The price of defeat
Oh he was not civil about it. He was upset and we were about to fight a Sith.

We all know he could fight one handed and was good with it plus the Sith had everyone else to deal with.

He played a serious Togruta Jedi Guardian. We had others who could pilot effectively or even better. He was the groups 'tank' so to speak. I played the groups 'scoundrel' so to speak. And we had a tech specialist with a droid. Someone else played as well but not sure what he was.

And it would have taken some time to get his arm 'fixed' but it was possible.

It happened just before the fight and honestly he throw a hissyfit. Its a game. Bad things happen. He was a Jedi but deciding not to play right before fighting a Sith which goes against his character? Everyone talked to him about it and he didn't care. I think he was very focused on his char and his abilities. Heck he had force powers, could fight better then any of us....

Anyways. My 2 cents. If I got a character that lost a limb, I would deal with it and find a way to fix it if possible. Or play around it. :)

This message was last edited by the user at 19:37, Thu 16 Mar.

engine
 member, 263 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 19:48
Re: The price of defeat
Rez:
Oh he was not civil about it. He was upset and we were about to fight a Sith.
Well, there's no excuse for that.

Rez:
Its a game. Bad things happen.
Not everything that happens in a game, particularly the bad things, are going to be fun for everyone, and not everyone will cope with them in the same way.

I'm not defending this guy, because it sounds like he was not nice about it, but he potentially has a point.

Rez:
He was a Jedi but deciding not to play right before fighting a Sith which goes against his character?
As you say, it's just a game. It sounds like he had out-of-game concerns that meant more to him.

Rez:
Everyone talked to him about it and he didn't care. I think he was very focused on his char and his abilities. Heck he had force powers, could fight better then any of us....
Yeah, a heavy focus on his character would tend to explain it.

A few more questions if you don't mind. I find this stuff fascinating:

I know it's Star Wars, but had limbs been cut off at other times? That is, did he know this was something that happened in this game? You didn't mention whether he took issue with how the mechanics played out or how the GM ruled, so it seems like he thought it was a fair outcome, just not one he wanted to cope with.

Had the game been going well for him up to then? Was he on-track to finish without a scratch?

Was the one who took his hand a significant foe, or just a scrub?

He could still fight, but could he take on this Sith you were about to face?

Was he a generally reasonable otherwise?

Thanks for letting me pester you.

Rez:
Anyways. My 2 cents. If I got a character that lost a limb, I would deal with it and find a way to fix it if possible. Or play around it. :)
Sure, and so would a lot of people. But not every player finds every consequence worth coping with. I think everyone has something that, if it happened to their character and even if it was iconic to the setting and didn't appreciably hurt the character's effectiveness, they'd rather not keep playing that character.
Rez
 member, 3570 posts
 So....yeah...sure.....
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 20:02
Re: The price of defeat
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.

Actually, no. The DM asked us if we get crit we could take the damage OR lose a limb.

He decided to lose the limb. The DM did it randomly and off came his hand.

Also he had ambidexterity/two-weapon fighting so it really didn't matter.

As for the Sith, he felt only he could take him on and ignored the group. My char could have done some damage and so could the tech specialist and droid but apprently he didn't care.

Overall in game? Yes. My character was a blood carver scoundrel/assasin working for the Jedi (this happened in the Old Jedi era).

Instead of making a new character, he bailed fully but later on when we decided to play a Wheel of Time game, he joined up.
horus
 member, 97 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 20:31
Re: The price of defeat
From my own experience, if a character is not killed outright there should at least be a path back to their former self, but older and wiser, or a path forward to a different but more satisfying outcome for the character and the player.

I've played for some GMs that were real {expletive self-censored} about it - folks who considered their day made when they got to inflict a TPK on a party.  Such individuals typically didn't hold my interest for long if that was all their games were to them.

I've played for GMs who couldn't bring themselves to kill when players richly deserved it.  I started out in that number.  (I've always been more about role-play than roll, prey.)

The worst of the lot, though, are those who maim or mutilate players beyond redemption then laugh and leave them to work out their own salvation.

From the GM's side of the field, I've been the guy who just couldn't say, "No".  A heart-to-heart talk from a fellow GM helped set me straight.  My players actually cheered my first kill in the session after that.  (I dragged an irresistible delayed action trap across the path of a problematic thief character whose interpretation of NG as an alignment was "Neutral Greedy".  The best part of it was he did it to himself...)

That brings me to this pass:  for every brush with Death there must be a way of escape, if only the player(s) involved have the discernment to find it.  For every maimed and mutilated character out there, there must be a way to move forward that will meet the player's needs - it's actually kinder for the character to die outright than to present the player with a character the GM knows they will no longer wish to play.

We're all here to have fun.  I firmly believe that's one of the reasons resurrection and reincarnation exist in so many fantasy settings.  It's the reason that a deadly game like Paranoia permits each character to have six clones.

Some wag somewhere (and I'm not sure I know who said it first) that how we die is equally important as how we live.  Characters who face certain death nobly and in the hope it will spare the lives of some or all of their comrades bring much to the game.  Characters who go howling down to a well-deserved defeat can also bring much.  It's all in how we play our games.
Mrrshann618
 member, 110 posts
Thu 16 Mar 2017
at 23:13
Re: The price of defeat
The loss of a hand is a common theme in many avenues of entertainment, and in each instance there was a "Way back".

Star Wars - Luke gets a new cybernetic/robotic hand
Ash (Evil Dead) - Lops his own hand off at the wrist and attaches a chainsaw
Captain Hook - Well, he has a hook for his hand.
Corum - looses an eye AND a hand, gets demonic replacements

There are several comic book characters that loose some sort of limb and go on to become better.

Personally turning around without even attempting to see if it would "improve" the character seems a bit off. I understand that some people only play to "win". But isn't RP/RPG's about conflict and conflict resolution in some manner? Doesn't each event that a character overcomes increase the story of the character?
engine
 member, 264 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 00:24
Re: The price of defeat
I'm not quite clear which answer goes with which question, but I'll do my best.

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.
This seems like the core of it: He didn't know or didn't believe that what happened could happen. I don't know how it was conveyed to him, or whether it was, but it seems like he believed the GM was bluffing.

Rez:
Actually, no. The DM asked us if we get crit we could take the damage OR lose a limb.

He decided to lose the limb. The DM did it randomly and off came his hand.
This confuses me a little. The choices seem to be: take a lot of damage or lose one of four limbs. Unless the damage would kill the character risking a maiming seems strange. And in any case, he seems to have gotten one of the two results that let him at least stay mobile. I think a lot fewer people would enjoy playing a character who couldn't really walk.

Rez:
Also he had ambidexterity/two-weapon fighting so it really didn't matter.
That seems like it would make it matter more since he invested in a skill set that is now partially useless. In D&D, that could mean a half-dozen feats or more, a focus on one ability score, and extra money spent on a second good weapon.

Thanks again for answering my questions. It seems like a calm talk with the guy (if possible) might have revealed a relatable reason for his reaction, but maybe not. I myself have known to be contrary and rude after a minor displeasure.

horus:
From my own experience, if a character is not killed outright there should at least be a path back to their former self, but older and wiser, or a path forward to a different but more satisfying outcome for the character and the player.
Generally, I agree. I like it in stories and games when there's the possibility for irrevocable change. Leia's failures led to the destruction of Alderaan and she didn't really have a way back to who she had been, once that occurred. But, of course, not everyone enjoys irrevocable consequences.

horus:
From the GM's side of the field, I've been the guy who just couldn't say, "No".  A heart-to-heart talk from a fellow GM helped set me straight.  My players actually cheered my first kill in the session after that.
This really highlights that it's about what people are interested in, and bought into. These players were glad that you'd killed one of them. It was an obvious failure for the character, but it improved the game for these players. What you describe doesn't sound like how I'd want my characters to die, and another group might hate that there was a party death at all, but it worked well for your group in this mmoment.

horus:
That brings me to this pass:  for every brush with Death there must be a way of escape, if only the player(s) involved have the discernment to find it.  For every maimed and mutilated character out there, there must be a way to move forward that will meet the player's needs - it's actually kinder for the character to die outright than to present the player with a character the GM knows they will no longer wish to play.
I cringe at the suggestion that all that's needed is for the escape to exist. I've seen too many GMs abdicate their role in the enjoyment of their fellow gamers by washing their hands of their failures, because the players didn't figure something out. Again, some players feel that that's righteous, but I wouldn't bet on anyone feeling that way.

It also implies that every situation should have a way to "solve" it. Some switch, real or metaphorical, that if they find it and flick it the challenge is ended happily. I feel this doesn't account for situations that have an element of randomnees, such as dice-influenced combat. The chance to win might slip away without the PCs really doing anything wrong. Then the GM better hope that the failure mode is something everyone will find interesting, because it's on its way.

And keep in mind that this is not just about death and maiming. To refer back to Princess Leia: she doesn't get wounded until Return of the Jedi, but she suffers loss (often permanent) and setback at a nearly constant rate throughout the movies. And when she is wounded, it's not severe.

A player's character is generally going to be the thing they care most about, but it's also their interface with the game. Damaging it or putting it out of commission can amount to removing the player from play in a substantial way.

horus:
We're all here to have fun.
Yes, by playing the game. Being removed from play, means the player is not playing the game, and it's hard to expect that to be fun for them.

horus:
I firmly believe that's one of the reasons resurrection and reincarnation exist in so many fantasy settings.
Indisputably. But plenty of groups constrain those options severely, to bring about the kinds of failure they enjoy.

horus:
Some wag somewhere (and I'm not sure I know who said it first) that how we die is equally important as how we live.  Characters who face certain death nobly and in the hope it will spare the lives of some or all of their comrades bring much to the game.  Characters who go howling down to a well-deserved defeat can also bring much.  It's all in how we play our games.
Yes, but both of those examples assume that the player is bought in to what's happening to their character. If the noble character happy about having his moral code come calling? Does the howler agree that this defeat is "well-deserved"?"

Assuming the noble character is bought-in, I'll note that death is not failure for that character in that situation. Failure would be death for everyone but them. Just in case I hadn't made my point about how "failure" is not a synonym for "death."

Mrrshann618:
Personally turning around without even attempting to see if it would "improve" the character seems a bit off. I understand that some people only play to "win". But isn't RP/RPG's about conflict and conflict resolution in some manner? Doesn't each event that a character overcomes increase the story of the character?
Even if that is what it's about, the point remains that not all conflicts and resolutions are interesting to everyone.

Your examples are fine, but they miss the point. If someone doesn't enjoy having their character's hand cut off - well, they shouldn't assume the GM is bluffing about cutting it off, but - none of those examples are likely to change their mind. This thread is about how to make the "bitter pill" sweeter. Almost certainly your fellow player is going to be aware of your examples, so bringing them up probably isn't helping. Just because a maiming was cool in some instances doesn't mean it always is, or ever is for some people.

Without knowing why someone doesn't like something, and assuming they're just not thinking about it in the right light, I don't see such a situation really going anywhere.

Besides which, the whole thing can potentially be avoided if the GM and players understand what kinds of failures they think are cool and which they don't.
horus
 member, 99 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 02:00
Re: The price of defeat
In reply to engine (msg # 32):

I think we are all dancing to the same music, but maybe some of us are taking different steps in the dance.

Where we disagree may mainly be my failure to express adequately (my old mind tends to wander and digress....).

A lot of it boils down to a clear understanding among all members of a group, players and GM alike, and some maturity and civility at the table, especially when things do not go "your way".  (It's, if anything, even more important for the GM than for the players.)

Part of the GM's responsibility is to make the action at least somewhat believable, to get his/her players so immersed in the setting and their roles that they feel what is happening in the game to an extent.  Set also the expectations, and the rules of play as clearly as possible where they vary from the system in use.

I didn't mean to imply there was a secret switch that could be flipped in every case (even if, in review, it looks like that's what I did).  Sometimes avoiding difficulty is just what real adventurers should do.  To quote an old Discordian proverb:  Grasshopper always wrong in argument with Chicken.  Other times, because of the sequence of events, they may not even have that option.

You're entirely correct in your statement regarding what happens once the action starts.  Death of one or more characters may become inevitable depending on what and how many they face.  The dice fall how they may.  A competent GM will help make sense of what happened, though, and try to give the players a fair shake through it all.  How the characters die, how their players handle their deaths, will depend in large part on the believability of the situation.

There are GMs who enforce a strict "no tap-backs" policy on player actions because they want their players to think before speaking.  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.  (Yeah, I'm aware that, in so doing, I create a Schrodinger's Cat situation that gives the player some wiggle room - that's why I don't always do it.  Above all, I try to be fair.)

I also didn't mean to imply that a GM who lives by the creed of Karma always has clean hands.  It's all too easy as GM to withhold information players should have because "they didn't ask" or, "they didn't look" and let them twist or flail when common sense argues otherwise.  It's all too easy to take what players say in jest as their next action and then chant that "no tap-backs" rule.  It is a game, and games should have easily understandable rules and codes of conduct.  The GM is more than a combat engine - he or she brings fairness and rightness to the game.

Our environment here at RPoL helps greatly in separating OOC from IC actions and words if a GM knows how to organize a game.  Again, it's about setting clear expectations.

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.

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.
Mrrshann618
 member, 111 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 02:05
Re: The price of defeat
engine:
Rez:
Actually, no. The DM asked us if we get crit we could take the damage OR lose a limb.

He decided to lose the limb. The DM did it randomly and off came his hand.
This confuses me a little. The choices seem to be: take a lot of damage or lose one of four limbs. Unless the damage would kill the character risking a maiming seems strange. And in any case, he seems to have gotten one of the two results that let him at least stay mobile. I think a lot fewer people would enjoy playing a character who couldn't really walk.


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.

Now I know no GM or player can read minds. However "pouting" about getting your choice is makes me say "it is a bit off"
Novocrane
 member, 327 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 02:08
Re: The price of defeat
I'm just surprised no one thought, "Hey, you could strap your light sabre to your stump until you get an opportunity to do something else."

engine:
The people complaining felt like there was no risk. This was part of what made me realize that there were and are gamers who really enjoy the game when their characters can and do die.

At least in theory. I've had trouble pinning down people on how often they think character death should occur, and how often it has occurred for them, and what exactly they enjoy about their character actually dying. In a lot of cases I get the impression that the person wants death to be possible, but primarily only if a player is "foolish," which can mean always charging into combat, or taking on excessively powerful foes, or not taking basic precautions. They themselves would never do those things, but if they did their character would die and they would all but rejoice in that, because things would be as they should. Death is for other people.
Can't speak for anyone else, and it doesn't feel appropriate for all games, but I want (for instance) Only War to be more of a meatgrinder in pbp than it otherwise might be. Being on a massive scale battlefield is foolish, and characters are going to die. The last OW game I was in, I wholly expected my first character to die when caught in the open under enemy sights. Bullets pinged off their armour, blades did tiny amounts of damage, and the result was unexpectedly like being hit with nerf weapons. The props on a stage fight were revealed for what they were, and my dive to prone under enemy fire seemed foolish and overreacting by comparison.

"Don't worry, enemy damage will go up when you upgrade your gear!" ... everything clicked together at that point; the player that mentioned even 'regular' death would only be every few weeks, group preoccupation with reducing damage (I thought we'd be facing tougher opponents for sure at that), etc. There would never be a landing at space-Normandy. No Black Hawk Down-esque death spirals as more troops are thrown at a situation. 'Friendly' artillery fire was never going to scatter onto our position before we switched to another squad or regiment. A glut of personalised gear meant we'd never need to use an ally to climb over razor wire. The group was more comfortable turning the page back to D&D after the initial pre-game enthusiasm.

This message was last edited by the user at 03:56, Fri 17 Mar.

facemaker329
 member, 6897 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 03:45
Re: The price of defeat
A lot of it comes down to expectations...at least, in my mind and experience.

Case in point...back in college, I was sharing a house with a bunch of other people.  We were all gamers.  Luckily, one guy really liked running games, since most of the rest of us preferred playing, so he was kind of the designated GM.

This resulted in us playing a wide spectrum of games...but for purposes of this discussion, I'll focus on two.  We played a lot of Star Wars (the old D6, WEG rules, back when they were still in print), and we also played a D6 adaptation of Aliens.  Aliens is, I think, the only game I've ever played where they specifically state that all players should start with multiple characters...because people are going to die.  Ironically, the only character to survive that group was our sergeant...who broke her ankle getting out of the APC while it was still moving.  And, initially, she was really frustrated by that...until it became apparent that the only reason the mission was going to succeed was because she could make it back to the ship to nuke the site from orbit.

But we all knew, going into the game, that characters would, indeed, die.  And they did, some of them gloriously, and some of them with little more that a surprised cry before it was too late (I had a heavy gunner who took rear-guard as the squad was getting out of an elevator, and an alien jumped on top of the car just as it was stopping.  When the squad came back around, all they found was one foot and a bit of the leg above the ankle, on the edge of a smoking, acid-burned hole in the floor of the elevator...)  So, nobody freaked out about dying...it became kind of a contest, of sorts, to see who could have the most heroic, cinematic death (Corporal Hudson would have fit right in with our group...)

Same group, same players, same GM...Star Wars.  I don't think any of us played with the thought that 'I can't die in this game', but we also understood that, short of gross stupidity on the part of the player, the odds of dying were incredibly slim...because it's not that kind of game.  We could have turned it into one, had we so desired...but if we wanted a lot of bloodshed and death and disfigurement, we played Aliens (or Dark Conspiracy, which had its own twisted way of handling things...)

So...it's not necessarily about the game.  Or the GM.  Or the players. As long as everyone's on the same page, going into the game, and has the same expectations of what can happen...then you'll end up with players (assuming they're honest about it) who are going to play their character through good times and bad.  But if they aren't expecting 'bad times' to be an option, having them come up can feel like a betrayal of trust, of sorts..."This isn't what I signed on to play!"  By the same token, just because you, as GM, have said that 'bad times' are possible, don't try to create situations to inflict them...they should come along as naturally as the good times, and if the players are smart enough or lucky enough to avoid them, let it unfold that way (one of my favorite GMs skipped almost half a published adventure, one time, because someone in the group was smart enough to search, specifically, for a method to prevent the creation of the scenario that the second half of the adventure was built around...not through any familiarity with the storyline, just...the group was that thorough about covering their tracks.  The flipside, however, was that one of the characters in the group wound up being on the top-ten most wanted list for the Empire, because he did NOT take any kind of preventive measures and was therefore the only person in the group identified in association with the events...)

Some people turn to RPGs for escapism, and they don't want that kind of 'bad' in their RPG life.  And there's nothing wrong with that...it's the way they want to play.  If that's not the way you, as a GM, run your game, you should make that known up front, so they (and you) aren't disappointed when it comes along.
engine
 member, 265 posts
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 04:56
Re: The price of defeat
horus:
A lot of it boils down to a clear understanding among all members of a group, players and GM alike, and some maturity and civility at the table, especially when things do not go "your way".  (It's, if anything, even more important for the GM than for the players.)
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.

horus:
I didn't mean to imply there was a secret switch that could be flipped in every case (even if, in review, it looks like that's what I did).  Sometimes avoiding difficulty is just what real adventurers should do.
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.

"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.

horus:
How the characters die, how their players handle their deaths, will depend in large part on the believability of the situation.
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.

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).

horus:
The GM is more than a combat engine - he or she brings fairness and rightness to the game.
Agreed. RPGs work because they are tailorable, on the fly.

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

horus:
here 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.

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.

Novocrane:
Can't speak for anyone else, and it doesn't feel appropriate for all games, but I want (for instance) Only War to be more of a meatgrinder in pbp than it otherwise might be.
This was a great example, thanks. Sometimes if the game isn't brutal, that's what's disappointing. This is important to realize.

I think that some games, particularly the various incarnations of D&D, have in their attempts to be broadly appealing, not made adequately clear what their intent was. I know that when I started, I saw that everything had stats to let you know how hard it was to kill and how much it could hurt you, and so I assumed that the game was primarily about fighting various things. But that was only part of it, and so my group and I had to adjust some things, like starting hit points, to make the game do better what we thought it had been designed to do.

Years later, I was keyed into the concept that, no, it's not about fighting everything, but about picking one's battles, maybe not fighting at all, and making off with the treasure, which tended to be a richer source of XP anyway. I'm not entirely convinced that that was the whole intent either, but my point is that people can read the same set of rules and come away with drastically different ideas of how its designers meant it to be played.

I can't really think of a single game older than about 2005 that does much in the way of addressing what we're talking about here. WEG Star Wars talked a lot about tone and fudging and making the players sweat before ultimately succeeding and surviving. It wasn't until 4th Edition D&D that the DMG suggested, hey, maybe set things up so that the PCs can fail, but that failure doesn't bring things to a screeching halt.

If just one of the games I played early on had said something like "Characters are expected to die and here's how we intend for that not to ruin the fun" instead of patching things with Raise Dead and leaving it for each table to figure it out, I think I would be a lot less frustrated with this hobby.

facemaker329:
But we all knew, going into the game, that characters would, indeed, die.
...
Same group, same players, same GM...Star Wars.  I don't think any of us played with the thought that 'I can't die in this game', but we also understood that, short of gross stupidity on the part of the player, the odds of dying were incredibly slim...because it's not that kind of game.
Two great examples. Thanks. The Aliens game sounds like it worked in part because there wasn't (correct me if I'm wrong) much sting to death. You knew not to get attached, and though you fought hard, you let them go when the game called for it. Do I have that right?00

facemaker329:
By the same token, just because you, as GM, have said that 'bad times' are possible, don't try to create situations to inflict them...they should come along as naturally as the good times, and if the players are smart enough or lucky enough to avoid them, let it unfold that way
Maybe. I think we've seen here that that varies. A suicide mission seems entirely appropriate for Only War. The players can approach it cleverly, and probably would have to in order to succeed, but there would be no way not to make it a suicide mission. That would be baked in, and the players (if they understood the game) would eagerly shepherd it in, when it was time.

If players are maxing out their cleverness to avoid there being a real likelihood of "bad things," that's usually when I pause the game to find out what kinds of "bad things" would they spend less effort on trying to avoid, so I can prepare those instead of the stuff they keep sidestepping.

facemaker329:
Some people turn to RPGs for escapism, and they don't want that kind of 'bad' in their RPG life.  And there's nothing wrong with that...it's the way they want to play.  If that's not the way you, as a GM, run your game, you should make that known up front, so they (and you) aren't disappointed when it comes along.
Agreed. I think most of us are in violent agreement here. I like wrestling with the ideas, though.
facemaker329
 member, 6899 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Fri 17 Mar 2017
at 05:56
Re: The price of defeat
You are correct about Aliens...but, then again, the explicit direction to start with at least two characters (many of us had three) was kind of a really big hint that we should expect to say goodbye to most of them.  Plus, we'd all seen the movie (repeatedly)...we knew what happened to the Marines that landed there.  I can't speak for anyone else that was playing, but I approached the game more like Space Hulk, if you've ever played that...

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*

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...)

If I'm sneaking around a Star Destroyer (staying with my preferred setting), I expect a lot of security checkpoints, random traffic, etc...and if I botch a check and/or fail to take precautions, I expect to face a whole lotta trouble.  But if I was smart enough to shanghai the first stormtrooper I came across and dump his body out an airlock after relieving him of his armor, I don't expect every Imperial officer I pass to demand an ID check.  That's the kind of thing I'm talking about...if it makes sense for grim and frightful things to happen, let them happen...but don't MAKE them happen just because you don't think the situation is grim enough.  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.  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.  And that sucks the fun right out of the game, when there's no plausible reason for your character to be locked up right away...and then shot.  (Yes, I was in a game where the entirety of my one-week tenure was spent trying to explain that I was NOT a mutineer, to a military officer who didn't even check my ID to verify who I was before he ordered me shot.  Suffice it to say, I didn't stick around to try my luck with another character.)
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.
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.